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Posts Tagged ‘Virtual Assistance’

Working With A VA-Third In A Three Part Series

Posted by collinsadmin on February 26, 2008

Working with a VA – When It Doesn’t Work Out 

There may be occasion when the client or the VA feel that there is a major compatibility issue between them and when/if that time arrives it should be dealt with professionally. If compatibility is a problem then both the VA and the client will feel increasingly frustrated, and work will be impaired – this can be harmful for both the client’s and the VA’s business.

If it doesn’t work out, the following standard of professionalism should be observed:

  • Both parties should give each other a reasonable amount of time to discontinue working with one another.
  • The client should pay any remaining fee pertaining to work that has already been done by the VA.
  • Once payment is received, the VA should return any and all materials provided by the client, and when necessary, facilitate a smooth transfer of needed information to another VA.
  • Emotions should not overcome either the VA or the client in which either party starts to spread rumors or complaining publicly about either one.  This is both unprofessional and may result in legal action if harm is done to the business of the other.
  • The client should seek out another VA if they believe that those types of services could benefit them.  

No one wants to have a business association that just does not work out. But sometimes it does happen. Keeping things professional, and following through on the details helps to avoid personal trauma, and potential legal liabilities due to harm that is caused to the business of another.

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Working With A VA-Second In A Three Part Series

Posted by collinsadmin on February 26, 2008

Working with a VA – Once The Contract Is Signed

All VAs should have a contract outlining their processes, their liabilities, their confidentiality pledge, what is expected of the client, warranties, return of materials, terms of the contract, payments and any other issues that are necessary for that particular situation. The VA should then go over the following with their clients:

  • Instructions on how to get files from point A to point B.
  • Any usernames and passwords that are required for back office access.
  • If necessary, begin learning new software required to manage documents and projects.
  • If required, invoice for first month’s retainer. Retainers are standard in the industry, and may be required for many months.
  • Ask if there are any questions, comments or concerns.
  • A contract WILL contain legal language. It cannot protect your interests if it does not!  

The First Work Assignment 

Once the contract is agreed upon and signed by both parties and the necessary information is given, now is the time for the actual work to begin. By following the next set of procedures, it helps to ensure a long, successful partnership with a virtual assistant.

  • The VA and client should be prompt in returning phone calls and emails (24-48 hours).
  • The VA should be willing to send updates on projects when/if it is requested.  The client should also be willing to send updates quickly if they require additional or different information than previously discussed for that particular project.
  • A VA should be able to supply clients with some type of documentation showing exactly when and how long a project was worked on, when requested.
  • A VA should address any concerns, comments or questions promptly with the client should the need arise.
  • Both VAs and clients should take suggestions with an open mind from either party. A good VA will make suggestions to help you, while still listening to how you do business. 

The first few assignments are a time of getting to know one another, testing the waters, and learning a new way of working, for both parties. Patience with one another helps to facilitate the process of growing into a strong working team.

Once a VA is found to satisfy your needs it can become an extremely profitable and smart business move. Working with a VA not only relieves your stress, it also helps take some of the anxiety away that comes with running a business and being a solo-preneur.

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Working With A VA-First In A Three Part Series

Posted by collinsadmin on February 26, 2008

Working with a VA – Before the Work Begins 

Many business owners do not understand how to work with a virtual administrative assistant (VA) – it is a fairly new industry, and involves fairly contemporary use of technology.  While many different variables can occur with each process there are some standards within the industry for working with a VA.

Before work can even begin, a virtual assistant should offer a consultation.  This consultation should be about learning about the potential client as well as giving the potential client the ability to learn about the VA.

 What a VA hopes to achieve 

  • Information about the potential client’s business such has what type of business, how long been in business, where the client would like their business to go, etc. This helps the VA offer more personalized service.
  • Challenges that the business is trying to overcome such as marketing, competition, administrative etc. This helps the VA know what services will benefit you most.
  • What the business owner expects from their virtual assistant. This information helps the VA meet those expectations more precisely.
  • The client’s personality type and compatibility, so the VA can work with the client more successfully.
  • Closing the deal – the last point of this meeting is generally an agreement to work together, if such a decision has been reached.

     What a consumer should hope to achieve 

  • Information about the VA’s background such as business, experience, history, client satisfaction, etc. This may have been given earlier, but here you have a chance to ask specifics.
  • How to work with a virtual assistant. A VA will let you know if they have an online back office for your convenience, whether project documents are typically emailed, and how, or in what manner project specifications are delivered and returned.
  • What to expect from the VA such as communications, project updates, etc. They may have a policy for deadlines, and usually have a policy for issuing updates or reports. You’ll also learn their billing and retainer policy.
  • The VA’s personality type and compatibility. You’ll learn whether you can work with this person, or if they just drive you nuts.
  • Getting the biggest bang for your buck. A good VA can offer suggestions for streamlining the work to keep it as affordable as possible.

Once the initial consultation has taken place it is then the VA and the clients’ responsibility to decide if the VAs services can benefit the client, if working with a VA is a right step for a client, if the clients needs are something that the VA can address and provide solutions for and most importantly if there is compatibility between the client and the VA.

Compatibility between the VA and the client is extremely important because if there is an issue of trust, micromanagement, or just two completely different personality types there may be issues in the future and then both the VA and client will be frustrated and nothing will get accomplished.

An initial consultation can take place over the phone, in person, or occasionally, by email. It is an important first step in beginning to work with a VA.

Working with a VA is not just a quick 10 minute process. It takes planning, consideration and dedication.  VAs are there to help businesses succeed for the long haul.

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Client/Investigator Privilege

Posted by collinsadmin on January 21, 2008

Investigative professionals and associations have very strict codes of ethics.  In general they are the same with a few additions and/or a few deletions but what seems to always remain the same is confidentiality. All investigative professionals whether it be private investigators, judgment recovery, bail enforcement agents, collections agencies, or repossessors have the obligation to provide client/investigator privilege. So where does the breach of client/investigator privilege end and normal everyday business begin?

Some would say unless the person who knows anything about the case is licensed in that field, it would be considered a breach of privilege.  This is a legally untenable position, which, if applied to all situations, would have the majority of professionals in trouble. It would eliminate the possibility of all of the following situations:

  • Unlicensed office secretaries, receptionists and assistants.
  • Unlicensed internet service providers.
  • Unlicensed photo developers.
  • Unlicensed sub-contractors of any kind.
  • Unlicensed computer repair techs. 

The standard consensus about breach of client privilege is, as long as somebody is doing work for the investigative professional, it is not a breach of confidentiality.  Sometimes business owners need to seek the help of outside professionals. It is both ethical, and good management to do so. The key is to select outsourcing professionals who are trustworthy, and who understand and respect the client confidentiality standard. 

Here are a few tips for increasing security when working with third party professionals:

  • Do a thorough background check on those whose services you utilize
  • Check references
  • Interview the person
  • Go with your gut feeling – often this is based on subtle, unexplainable reactions to body language, verbal inflection, or wording that you cannot pinpoint, but which all originate from legitimate informational sources.
  • Start with small tasks which are not highly sensitive. Work up to more confidential tasks as trust develops, and not before.
  • Create a good contract, which spells out your expected level of confidentiality, and their status as your representative for the tasks in question (so you have legal proof that they are acting on your behalf in the jobs in question). 

Ultimately, investigative professionals as well as other small business owners need to do their own due diligence before hiring anybody.  If the company being considered for hire won’t allow any type of “investigation”, run as fast as you can in the other direction.  If they won’t let potential clients do reasonable background checks (in relation to the confidentiality of the job in question) then they have something to hide.

Confidentiality is a serious issue. But the law provides for assistants and other helpers. Choose wisely, and your business can grow smoothly through any phase, even when the amount of work you need assistance with is small.

Posted in business, Confidentiality, Credit and Collections, Judgment Recovery, Virtual Assistance | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

A Few Ways To Use A VA For January 14th’s National Clean Off Your Desk Day

Posted by collinsadmin on January 11, 2008

Many small business owners work late into the night just trying to see the top of their desk, getting to the point where they see a small square of the desktop and feeling as if they accomplished something; only to come back in the morning to see that the ever elusive messy desk fairy has struck during the night. After letting out a huge sigh of disbelief, they sit down at their desks and gradually one by one start going through every post-it note, scribble paper and other papers hoping to find that one little square of desktop once again. This gets frustrating and overwhelming.

Being that January 14th is National Clean Off Your Desk Day, small business owners could always spend this one day a year and forward all their calls to voicemail, lock their doors and post a sign that says do not disturb but chances are potential clients will just go to a competitor and what about those other 364 days a year when their desk is cluttered.

Maybe they should think of hiring a Confidential Virtual Assistant. A Confidential Virtual Assistant can assist in keeping small business owners’ desks cleared by:

  1. Taking those scraps of papers and organizing them based on importance in an easily accessible computerized document where each task can be marked off as it’s completed
  2. Any papers that have daily reminders can easily be computerized so it automatically pops up on the clients computer when it is turned on
  3. Any correspondence that needs to be sent to clients, a CVA can very easily type it up and send it to the business owners clients.

The list of ways a CVA can help keep that desk cleaned off is endless.  Using a CVA would allow that desk to stay clean and clear for more than just one day.

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Confidentiality and the Virtual Assistant

Posted by collinsadmin on September 24, 2007

Confidentiality is of huge importance to the small business owner in this ever changing technological society.  Every day, secrets are exposed, online and off, through carelessness or harmful intent. Confidentiality and trust have become major issues in outsourcing work of almost any kind.

I repeatedly hear the questions, “How do I know you won’t sell the information I give you to somebody else?”, and “How do I know you will be careful about protecting my information from exploitation?”  These are valid questions, which should be asked of ANY assistant, whether they are in your office, or outside your office.

Virtual assistants are small business owners who have worked hard to get their business off the ground.  They have spent hours and hours researching their industry, creating a website, creating logos, and marketing just like you have. It could take months maybe even years before their business is thriving, and they have invested heavily to get that result. It isn’t just a job to them. It is their passion, their life, and their livelihood. No thinking business owner will risk their hard work over an issue as important to the client as confidentiality. If an in-house assistant is careless about confidentiality, they may receive a reprimand or lose their job. If a VA is careless, they lose much more, because they are much more dependent upon their reputation to secure additional work – there are no laws which say you cannot tell someone EXACTLY why you fired them.

Information must be protected from accidental loss, as well as from carelessness and outside threats. A computer virus is costly to both the client, and the virtual assistant, but the virtual assistant has the most to lose. They lose time, may have to spend money for repairs, and they lose credibility, and if important data is lost, they must make restitution to the client. Anti-virus, anti-malware, and anti-spyware software are essential components on the computer of any virtual assistant. A firewall, encryption software (for encrypting emails on request), and security passwords are also basic elements that a virtual assistant installs and uses.

Print information is just as vulnerable as the technological information. The simple precaution of shredding and then burning all sensitive documents when the project is completed ensures that the information is destroyed in a way that cannot be reconstructed. Sensitive documents can be protected during the project, by storing them in a locked cabinet. The key is kept with the VA.

If you have confidentiality concerns about hiring a VA, here are some questions you can ask them:

  • 1. How do you secure confidential information on your computer?
  • 2. How do you secure confidential printed documents?
  • 3. What do you do with confidential documents at the conclusion of an assignment?
  • 4. What is your policy in regard to sharing information between clients?
  • 5. What do you consider to be confidential information?

The answers to these five questions will give you valuable information in regard to selecting a diligent and careful assistant, so you can begin to build a long term relationship with a professional who will aid you in growing your business.

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Virtual Assistant Pricing

Posted by collinsadmin on June 4, 2007

There has been a lot of buzz on a few forums that one of the biggest objections to hiring a virtual assistant is the price.  While I understand the concern, there a few things I want to throw out there explaining why the prices are what they are.

One of the biggest misconceptions is that a virtual assistant (VA) is only a secretary. If you think that, then you are still in the mindset of employer and employee. While some VA’s do provide general secretarial help there are others who are more specialized in their practice.  Such as web design, transcription, internet marketing, bookkeeping etc. With this in mind, the ones who provide general secretarial support are also business owners.  Being a business owner, they know what is needed to be successful. They are there when you need somebody to bounce ideas off of, show you ways to better enhance your business etc. Also, knowing the costs of retaining new clients are extremely high, the VA that you work with will more than likely be in it for the long haul. This means, they will not just walk away when something “better” comes along.

As stated in previous articles that I have written, hiring an in-house assistant is actually more than you think. Sure it seems like it is a lot less than hiring a VA but one thing you have to take into consideration is that when hiring somebody in-house after taxes, legally required insurance, break time, productivity (or lack of) you are paying at least double their salary. Not to mention the purchase and servicing of computers, printers and other technological items. 

Here is something to consider if your CPA only charged you $10 dollars per hour, what kind of service would you expect to receive? My guess is pretty poor service.  The chances are you probably wouldn’t get your taxes done on time, and if they were done on time, you could probably expect a visit from the IRS because something would be amiss, or your books would be a mess.  Sure they have a degree in something but why aren’t they just considered good in math? I will tell you why, because they have been around for a long time and you expect them to be good at what they do so you are willing to pay the higher price.

It’s the same concept for a VA, they are professionals who take business extremely serious and they will give you the kind of service that you expect for what is charged.  They are just a new and different type of industry. 

Surf the net for a virtual assistant that you might be interested in working with and have them do a small project for you and if you don’t like what they do or how they do it, then just don’t send them another project.  It’s that simple. The best part is, if you decide not to work with that VA you have found out immediately and you don’t have to worry about any type of retaliation from them (as long as you paid them) such as a lawsuit.

Tracy

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