Wednesday, December 23, 2009

M is for Money

Balancing FinancesHow much can you really expect to earn by becoming a virtual assistant?

How do you make sure that you get that money?

These questions are VITAL to ask and answer yourself before ever considering work at home. The whole invoicing and money exchange can really get tricky. Of course, all jobs require different amounts of money per hour. So, let’s use nice, even numbers for our example. If you charge $20 per hour (for something like data collecting/entering/interpreting or market research etc.) for 3 hours per work day (and as a stay at home parent, you may not want to schedule yourself for much more than 3 to 4 hours daily at first) this would be the kind of income you can expect working Monday through Friday: about $15,600 per year. And that's if you are good at keeping a good client base going.

( $20 an hour x 3 hrs. a day x 5 days per week x 52 wks per year )

After paying state and federal taxes on your misc income, this really isn't much, but it can be comparable for a part time job outside the home.

Let’s face it. . . .that can seem like chump change when there are scam artists out there saying they make $10,000 a month part time right? However, when you consider not having to put your 2.5 children in day care for $150 a week (per child) and that ½ kid will be 250 per week when it turns six weeks old and goes to daycare because that’s when society decided was long enough for the baby to be with its mother. If this was your scenario (2 or three small children in daycare), you could save an extra $500+ on daycare every week!

Another big question is: Can I get anything done with my kids at home?
The answer is: Absolutely.

Why do you think they keep ratios for kids to caregivers at 4:1(or more)?
Because children need to have adult interaction, but they also need to be able to play alone at times. It's really good for them and you!

The more VA’s that succeed will encourage more companies to employ Virtual Assistants or Consultants. So, work ethically and you will get the financial reward you deserve! Here are the rules I work by:

1. I never charge my client for time I spend learning how to do something. For example, if some system is upgraded and I have to go and read the "how to" page, I don’t charge my client for that. That is my time that I spend learning my trade. And, most likely that same week, I will use the same system for another client, so why would I charge my first client the time it took me to figure something out?

2. Download an invoice template from Microsoft’s free templates page to use to invoice your clients, Or you do a search on invoices to see what services you can use and track online. KEEP TRACK OF THESE. You will definitely need them when you are filling out your 1040 Schedule C documents for the IRS!

3. Sign up for account with PayPal so people can pay you online, or require payment via check within the week the project or task is due. Some VA's charge an upfront fee and then bill the rest at the end when the solution has been satisfied. Someday, when you are more established, you can setup and get payments via credit and debit cards. If you think you are ready to research this option, you could go to Google checkout and see their setup for credit card transactions.

My best advice is to encourage you to start small, be honest, and learn to work smarter not harder.

There was a really fabulous article in the December 2009 issue of "The Virtual Entrepreneur" called: The ONE Self-Sabotaging Thing You Do Every Day That Keeps You From Making 7-Figures In Your Business page 16-18. It's quite insightful.

If you have any advice or questions, you are always welcome to leave your comments.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

L is for Linked IN

Linked People
Linked IN is really the "facebook" for business connections and associates. This is another social network tool of the trade to get your name and purpose out there. (It really is all about who you know and who knows how great you are. ;) Your profiles need targeted traffic and a focused message as much as your website does.

This social profile will allow integration with your business blog feeds, resume' sharing, and so much more.

If you are already on Linked IN, join Groups that you would fit into or research apps that could showcase your work online. If you are certified in anything, see if there's a group where only certified professionals are given access. This builds your network and your credibility at the same time!

Linked IN profile

Get connected and recommended at LinkedIN.

Social Media Minute by the Virtually Assisting You's Facebook Fan Page: (12/21/2009) LinkedIn Q & A can be useful in figuring out new angles to take in your marketing plan, that can be used for your products/services.

On a side note, here is another business focused social networking site I like: ecademy. They even have an SEO guide for members. This SEO helps you get found and get some good backlinks to your website. The free profile is definitely sufficient for newbies. They have powernetworker and blackstar memberships that can be useful, however, they could be a waste of money if you don't know how to use the services properly.

ecademy profile

This is a site to sign up for if you have an official business name: Merchant Circle - I don't have much of an opinion on this one yet except it looks nice and will help you connect with businesses in your area.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

K is for Kids

Do you want to have more time with your children, pets, and partners?

Seems like a simple question right? Unfortunately, life isn't that simple most of the time. No matter how secure you are in your decision to be a stay at home mom or dad, you will most likely have a hint of doubt about your decision at some point.

There is an idea shared among some obtuse professionals which implies that somehow, you are less of an asset of society if you choose to stay at home with your children. When, in fact, I can't think of a more valuable contribution to make than to raise the future of mankind. (LOL, sort of. ;) Regardless of how peers may tease you a bit about "sitting at home watching talk shows and eating bonbons," we all know how far this is from the truth.

Your Life Up Till Now

The typical working adult in America works from 8-5 Monday through Friday. The average commute time is 25 minutes to work then of course you have to have 25 minutes to get back home. We try to get our 6 to 8 hours of sleep every night. We have a lot of responsibilities to take care of in our 24 hours.

This leaves very little time left over to spend with our families. No wonder we are chronically fatigued, the divorce rate is high, and supposedly working parents only spend 19 minutes with their children every day. We barely have enough time to floss let alone fit in any down time!

5 quick tips for time management

* First, understand how much you can handle. (Work during nap time, when they color, you schedule, etc.)
* Second, be careful what you promise (To kids or clients!). Say what you mean and mean what you say. If you say in a minute, that means 60 seconds, not 10 minutes.
* Three, automate everything you can.
* Four, learn your optimum time periods throughout the day to get the most done. It's different for everyone!
* Five, limit your time on the computer – I strongly recommend 2 hours a day max for the first few months. You will be more productive if you limit your time on projects. It's worth the effort to make sure your life stays balanced. The main point in working at home is to maximize your time with your children (quality, not just quantity). No kid wants to be raised by Nick Jr. You know the difference in just being there and being present there with your kids. Your clients deserve your best as well. It is very possible to do this right, so start off having the right habits!

Great Expectations
When you begin the process of fitting in a work schedule in your home work schedule, you must take small steps. You are probably not going to start out making $100,000 a year. However, I believe you should establish challenging goals. As long as you leave room in your plans for adjustments.

According Google’s neat little insights page, the number of people searching for “real online jobs” has risen +90% in the past 12 months! And many of those people will be bombarded with garbage and get rich quick scams. This is sad. But it will only get better if real information becomes available before the false information. That is the goal of this blog. We have the technology to do it right, we just need to share the “know how”.

If you have anything to add to this information, please do we give full credit to resources.

Two Links Work at Home Mom sites that have interesting articles for becoming a Virtual Assistant.

How to become a Virtual Assistant

A Story of How She Became a Virtual Assistant and got it all together

Sunday, November 22, 2009

J is for the Jobs

There are a number of odd jobs Virtual Assistants end up doing, some are fun and some are kind of tedious. This is a list of jobs that almost any starting out VA or consultant can do. These are the kind of jobs you can do until you find your specialty:

* Data entry
* Editing articles
* Gift orders and/or wish lists
* Remote PC support
* Research target markets for advertisers
* Travel Arrangements
* Setup business facebook profiles,
* Writing articles / freelance writing
* More standard Virtual Assistant services

Experience will teach you how to do these this in the most efficient ways possible. Make your clients happy because they won't have to do these jobs. DON'T take on more than you can handle. Your goal should be to become efficient in a specific area to be able to market yourself and streamline your business. Your clients will be your most valuable source of advertisement.

What titles have you had in the past? This is a list of occupations that quite easily transfer to the virtual world. If the title has a * next to it then it is one of the occupations highlighted in an article dated 7/29/09 called: 10 Best Work at Home Jobs and if you are interested in the options you have doing this job online, simply click on the article link and read more about it.

*Administrative Assistant/Secretary (commonly called Virtual Assistant)
*Call Center Representative
  Chef or Baker (You can make cooking videos on YouTube)
  Criminal Profiler
  Data Entry Specialist
*Franchise Owner
*Freelance Writer/Editor
  Fashion Designer
  Graphic Designer (Artist)
  Historian (e.g. Ancestry)
*Medical Transcriptionist
  Marketing Expert
  Market Researcher
  Project Manager
  Researcher for data of any type
  Social Network Addict (I use "addict" in the lightest sense of the meaning :)
*Technical Support Specialist
  Therapist and Advisors
*Travel Agents
*Web Developer / Designer

Other Valuable Work at Home Articles for Virtual Assistants

10 VA Skills: HOW MANY DO YOU ALREADY HAVE? article date: 9/3/09

Could you be a virtual administrative assistant? article from the "Chicago Sun Times" dated 9/9/2009

The Virtual Assistant A Team: The Helpers to Business Success

This is also an extension of my blog post: Virtual Assistant Jobs

Sunday, November 15, 2009

I is for Instant Messengers

These can come in handy when you are working for some clients and business associates in real time. And almost all of them can log your conversations for referencing later if necessary. As you begin to network with other VA’s and build teams, collaboration via chat can save time in a way that e-mail cannot match.

The best instant messengers are:


AIM pro

Yahoo! Messenger


This is a great tool under Google business apps:

Google Talk

Google Talk

Windows Live Messenger

There is a program called Trillian that has a free base version. With Trillian you can chat on Windows, iPhone, and their web based platform. Supports Astra, Windows Live, Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo, MySpace, AIM, Email, Google Talk, and others. The professional version costs $25, and if you're interested in this tool it might be worth is because when I tried it and I had issues with logging my conversations. And of course, I had a client that logging came in handy (you know, the busy type that was only online for a little bit every other day, so there was no asking to ) so I didn't use it much.


Other chat programs worth mentioning:

ICQ - haven't used this one in a long time

Pidgin - supposed to be able to support most other im programs but apparently has known issues with yahoo

Meebo - going to look into this one more

Jabber - recently taken over by Cisco

If you have an opinion of any of these chat programs, let us all know. Leave a comment.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

H is for Histats has a traffic analysis tool that I have used for a long time to monitor the traffic on my website: I kept it because it gives the option to add code to my site and it produces this cute little button on my page that shows the world how much traffic I have had.

How many visitors: visitors
how many page views: views

You can reset these numbers back to zero at any time.

Google Analytics Preview

Google Analytics

Like Histats, Google Analytics records:
  1. Daily Stats
  2. Number of Visitors
  3. Location of Visitors (Country)
  4. Traffic Sources
  • Direct Traffic - they typed in your URL in their web browser.
  • Search Engines - they did a search for something and you were the chosen result.
  • Other Site - social network profile, backlinks.

  • * I also attended the webinar Advanced Marketing Analytics (AZ501) at Inbound Marketing University Professor: Avinash Kaushik of Google and author of Web Analytics 2.0. Visit Avinash's blog for more in depth info on how to really measure your website's effectiveness.

    You'll definitely need to get one of these traffic tools for your website! If you don’t have a website yet, stay tuned for the "W is for website". Our web presence is the virtual equivalent of our first impression. It’s how we tell our stories, sell our stuff, share our info and offer contact info to our new clients. It's best to plan it thoroughly! So, if you haven’t already, start thinking up a unique and memorable name. This could also be your business name that you were thinking up earlier. You can go online and buy a url at or When you register your domain, find out if your registrar has a free traffic monitoring tools (e.g. godaddy analytics )

    * Beware of some of those super cheap domain registration providers! You may be registering your site without actually getting rights to it! There are lots of resellers out there who basically charge you like 4.99 a month to register and host your site through them, but you are not the actual owner. It's like lease a site. Sure it's cheap now, but when you want to purchase the site when your business is established you'll end up paying a much higher price.

    How many people are clicking on your shared links?

    You can also monitor traffic from shortened urls. The following excerpt is from: URL Shorteners

    The reason why is my favorite URL shortener: I can log in and see the traffic for each my shortened links. I use twitterfeed to automatically change my blog post URLs to addresses for twitter updates (because of the 140 character rule). When I log into I can see how much traffic my blog posts are getting from twitter!


    * Make sure you create an account and sign in to before you shorten any links you want to track.

    Wednesday, October 14, 2009

    G is for Google

    Google Logo It is true that Google is a huge operation. The capabilities of their network can seem staggering to a new comer. However, Google is a fabulous organization, they offer so many resources for us work at homers. Not only do they have a pretty great search engine, but you should sign up for an iGoogle account and access Google apps which include tools for documentation, email, request for information and contact forms. They are available for personal or business use. Google also has a lot of great website tools including: Adsense, Adwords, Analytics and last but not least are Webmaster Tools that you can use for bringing, monitoring and sharing traffic with your blog or website.

    In a nutshell:
    Adwords Adwords are advertisement for your business. They are definitely worth looking into if you are wanting to utilize SEM (Search Engine Marketing). As with almost all good advertising, it comes with a price. You definitely want to get your website established, and get your market research done before delving in to a powerful tool like Ad Words.

    piggy bankAdsenseAdsense is an account that you setup and get code to put into your website to display little ads (from those people who use Adwords) of related content on your site, and then you get a little money for it each time someone clicks on your Google ads. But Beware: Do Not Click On Your Own Links. Google will know. Visit this post at for even more information about Adsense: Making Cents of Adsense

    Webmaster Tools Webmaster Tools include:

    Site configuration
    Submit sitemaps, verify a crawler has access to search and index your site, and other settings here.

    Your site on the web
    Top search queries (what did someone have to type in to bring up your site in a search), Links to your site (which sites are linking to you), Keywords (the ones found most on your page) , Internal links (which sites are you linking to from your pages)

    Crawl errors (which you want to get fixed so google will visit you.), Crawl stats (the last time a Googlebot visited you), give HTML suggestions if your site code needs to be reexamined.

    Labs allow you to fetch site info as a Googlebot and give malware details

    Other search engine's Webmaster Tools:

    You will also need to create accounts and submit your website to use these tools.

    bing logo
    Bing Webmaster Tools(Similar to Google's webmaster tools minus a few features.)

    yahoo logo
    Yahoo Site Tools (Yahoo is definitely the most thorough search engine when it comes to finding all of the sites that link back to you.)

    Google Analytics Analytics measures how much traffic your website gets. And traffic monitoring conveniently leads me to my next tool.

    Friday, October 2, 2009

    F is for Facebook

    This post is actually about facebook and myspace. These are two of the biggest social networking sites on the internet. (Don't worry, I'll get to Linked IN and Twitter later.)

    myspace logo


    My first social networking profile ever was on myspace. I began actively using it around September or October of 2006. Since I tried this one first, I'll start here. Myspace still has a small hold on the entertainment industry's social network. However, a lot of everyday users have slowed or stopped using this service altogether. The problem with myspace has simply been that they threw in the profile 2.0, and really changed the way people were once able to update and personalize their profiles. It seemed like a lot of people jumped ship then, and went to our "Plain Jane" yet beloved facebook. :) A prime example of how drastically changing a good thing can go bad. Still, I provided the examples below, to show that they really wanted to make it more customizable.

    Check out the following profiles:
    1. SAMPLE 1 - nice example of what that "profile 2.0" thing is good for. Nice huh?
    2. SAMPLE 2 - good example of a myspace splash page linking to a main website.
    Myspace should have seen the complaint emails coming, when they introduced this profile upgrade. You had the option of either choosing among about 8 profile themes or learning CSS (or hiring yourself a web or style sheet developer.) Since this transition, they have added a few more profile themes to choose from. :)

    A side by side comparison: Coca Cola on Social Media (I love you Diet Coke! :)
    MySpace Page vs. Facebook Fanpage
    They are really very comparable. Aren't they


    I didn't have a profile on facebook until September of 2007. And I have probably used them both the amount even though I've been on myspace longer.People also switched over to facebook due to the many options available like facebook fanpages (see my two pages: Business2.0 & Work at Home Parents)and the fact that when you first signed up, it "judged" whether you were putting in a real name or not (no funny characters or curse words here). Inevitably, this meant that looking up people to find and reconnect with on facebook was much easier. Never-the-less, I think that trying out both networks is a good idea. Facebook has become a wonderful mix of business and pleasure. They also made a smart move by making it available to the masses, not just the college students. (But you have to start somewhere right?) Anyways, I encourage you to go do some research, be adventurous and see if you can find anybody you knew or join a group to find people you want to get to know.

    Social Netiquette

    In conclusion, I would like to share some professional social netiquette rules to keep in mind. Please do not take this as a complete or concrete list. I am not any kind of authority on etiquette. In fact, I am usually the clueless one -LOL. But seriously, consistently professional web presence is very important, and I am welcoming anyone who has another list of rules or additional info then please share with us.

    1. Beware of what you post on your profile. Don’t put anything on your profile you wouldn’t want your clients or partners to see. I am not trying to say "be fake", I am just trying to say "be selective" with your pictures and posts, etc.

    2. Beware of what applications (apps) you use, because a lot of them require you to allow them access to your profile and will post things on your profile or even your friends' profiles. :{ (And for security purposes, watch out for those apps that ask for access to your profile info, friends, etc.)

    3. Try to keep business at a minimum on your personal profile.(No more than maybe one business post a day on your personal profile) That's what facebook business pages and groups are for. If all of your high school and college buddies want to know about your business, they'll join your group or "fan" your page.
    ( **Here is where I should apologize and sincerely thank all my friends that have let me spam them to get my facebook vanity URL's** :) - I love you guys!

    Effective communication depends on your situations and relationships. Just remember we are all different, and when you read something on a screen, it's difficult to guess or interpret the tone of voice or facial expression behind the posts and messages. It's natural to assume the worst or to want the instant gratification of an immediate response to your posts and messages. I am here to tell you, this isn't always the case. Stay positive and know that just like you get busy, so will the people in your network. Have fun with it, and keep it real.

    Wednesday, September 23, 2009

    E is for Email


    This one is very important, so pay attention. Email is the single most important tool that you will use in your new virtual office. You will use it for communication, record keeping and scheduling. The biggest and best free e-mail providers are yahoo, hotmail, and google’s gmail.
    Even if you already have an e-mail address, you really should set up a separate e-mail account for your work at home. You are less likely to miss important messages from clients when they are not mixed in the same inbox as your friends' forwards and your J Crew e-catalog subscription right? At first, you probably won't have your own domain. However, when you do, I recommend utilizing an e-mail address at your domain. E.G. My work and my assistants' addresses are all

    Suggestions for choosing your email provider and address:

    1. Look for a service that gives you lots of space.

    2. Utilize the calendar and keep track of appointments and schedule updates for clients.

    3. If you don't have an e-mail address through your web host, then choose one of the free e-mail providers above, but choose a professional username. It'd be difficult to take seriously someone with an e-mail address like: "" or "". Use something like ""
    See what I mean? :)

    D is for Documentation

    Setting up your virtual filing system for all of your job listing interests, e-books and self written how to’s should be one of the first things you do when beginning online job research.

    google accounts
    I love Google for the very reason that I can use the following tools to keep track of many important business documents:
    1. Google Library Google's book search - with this, I have compiled quite an extensive library of e-books and business articles for small businesses and consulting.

    2. reader Google reader keeps track of blogs I follow. (I recommend following Chris Brogan and CopyBlogger if you're into social media and blogging for business.)

    3. And Google docs help me keep track of important documents. You can read, write, search and share all kinds of helpful office documents and templates.

    4. Google Calendar is a great way to track when, how much and even where you do things. If it is a task you only do quarterly, bi-weekly or annually you should simply setup a recurring reminder!

    Keep documents like e-mails that contain vital business information and file them in virtual folders for each client and business partner. The most important part of consulting is keeping track of your time and there are so many tools that can help you organize your information. My advice: try them out.

    What tools have you found that work well for you?

    Tuesday, September 22, 2009

    C is for Craig’s List

    Thanks to Craig’s list, there is a wealth of businesses that can advertise jobs they need to be outsourced. And they can do this for free! So lots of businesses do it! Go to find your location, and then the city closest to you and start from there. Look under jobs, there are lots of great Virtual Assistant tasks under “Gigs”.

    If you don’t see anything you are qualified to do, then look in other cities in the state or surrounding states. After all, virtual assisting doesn’t look for work within commuting distance. But when you begin telecommuting work, you have to start somewhere right? When you get in your VA groove, you will be capable of having clients all over the world.

    Even if you are not ready to start consulting right away, this is a good place to start online job research. It's smart to start locally, there are lots of companies that put ads in local papers, even free local papers to find qualified professionals for consulting work.

    *Note - is the only site I've had luck finding virtual work. If you know of others, please leave a comment and share it! Thank you.

    Monday, September 14, 2009

    B is for Balance

    I wish I had more wisdom to share in this area. Balance is an important skill to master. In fact I was in the middle of a client's project when I meant to post this. I didn't get around to it until today, but prioritizing is part of the deal. We all have our to do lists, and the trick to getting it all done is one thing at a time right? So easy to say, much more difficult to practice "getting it all done" effectively. Let's start with health.

    Breakfast is Fuel / Lunch is Business / and Dinner is Romance.
    I wish I could remember where I heard this, but I love this little saying. Here’s why: You have to plan your day. There is a time to worry about work then there is a time you need to be present with your family. If any of us could figure out how to do this all the time, we would live in a perfectly balanced world.

    Scheduling work is vital for work at home parents. If you do not limit your workday, you'll end up either working all the time, or not working all the time. Either way is not a good way to run a virtual business. Limit your work day to 2 to 5 hours in a day. And don't feel like you should only work one shift. I am more productive when I split my days. I work a few hours in the a.m. then I finish and plan work for the next day later (sometimes too late) at night when the house is quiet.

    (If there is such a thing!) Anyone who stays home with kids know's that you have to provide undivided attention to the little people to teach, play, and love. That's your most important job, and you will not be happy unless you are able to meet their needs. But it is also an important part of development for them to learn to play and entertain themselves sometimes.

    Now. . . on to some more technical stuff.