Work at Home Life

Virtual Assistants, Joining Forces, and Reinventing Work At Home

What Does the Last Quarter of 2010 Look Like for YOU? October 4, 2010

Filed under: Learning By Example,Work at Home — Amber Whitener - Virtual IT Assistant @ 9:08 am
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Not to short change you or anything, but we only have three more months left in 2010. Some people might see that as a bad thing, but you know what? The end of the year is here. It’s not time to be shocked about how fast this year has flown by; it’s time start making sure that your 2010 goals are to be met or even exceeded!
Quarters Add Up
My goals for year 2010 were/are to:

  1. Finish college: This is my very last week. I am 90% finished with my final project! (YES!!!)
  2. Send my son to a good preschool: He loves it, but he doesn’t have to be there 45+ hours every week thanks to my virtual job.
  3. Take care of business while juggling work, school, and family: Now that goals one and two are being met, from now on I am going to be able to focus on Virtual IT Assistants! Before the new year, I am definitely going to overhaul a lot of my web presence and get to accept new clients. I am SO excited about my plans!! It’s going to be awesome!!
  4. Post on Work at Home Life every Monday: I have done this, and some of the posts have turned out to be some of my favorites. Your responses let me and the girls know that we are helping you and our message is coming across well. We have loved all the feedback. So, thank you. 🙂

Well, that’s enough about me. What about you? There are lots of holidays and school functions coming up soon, but what are you going to do to grow your business? Three months doesn’t seem like much time, but all of those quarters add up.

“If time be of all things the most precious, wasting time must be the greatest prodigality.”

– Benjamin Franklin

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Making the Most of Networking August 26, 2010

Filed under: Work at Home — cmvanvleet @ 2:35 pm
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In the spotlight today is Virtual Assistant, Charity Van Vleet of Eagle Eye Web Services.

When I started working from home years ago, I never expected to find value in networking. That was what employees did and I wasn’t interested. I expected to be at home, in my comfy clothes, music blaring, not a care in the world, while doing what I loved. I quickly realized I would be out of business if I didn’t make some changes. No one knew about my business! Even though I did hundreds of proposals in the beginning, had a website and an active Social Media campaign, and was in search engines, I still wasn’t getting the steady volume of work I wanted. Sure, my business was doing well but I wanted more than to just do well. After some trial and error, I found face-to-face networking to be a vital and crucial part of my marketing strategy that revolutionized my client base. Here’s four quick tips which have helped me make the most of my networking time and money.

Keep your focus: Networking by itself won’t pay the bills, but can generate additional clients and revenue over time as well as invaluable business contacts for services your business needs. Start small, with one or two groups and don’t over-commit. A local Chamber of Commerce can be an excellent source of business and community involvement. An industry specific networking group in your area would be a good choice as well. Try to keep your networking groups to no more than 3 – 5 high quality groups and cultivate relationships with the members. Attend regularly and get to know others. Also remember to set a networking budget and include membership fees, meals, gas, mileage, parking, tolls, and advertising costs (for those flyers and business cards you’ll be handing out).

Work the room right: Networking is a skill that’s built over time. Cultivate conversational skills by focusing on others and asking open-ended questions. Seek to learn all you can about other people and other industries. Don’t rush from person to person collecting business cards (I see this often and it is extremely annoying. Don’t do this. Ever!). Focus on meaningful conversations and finding common ground. Consider your meeting a success if you have 2 or 3 solid contacts that you’re excited to connect with. Don’t try to push a sale. It’s okay to plan some icebreaker questions in advance like, “What do you do?”, “Where are you from?” “What do you like most about what you do?” “How did you start your business?” Then just relax, and let the conversation flow naturally.

The Three F’s: Follow up, follow up, follow up. Don’t waste your networking time and money by neglecting the all-important step of contacting those people you had a conversation with. So often I send emails to people I met or call them and never hear from them again. Schedule a one-on-one appointment to find out how you can help them with their business. If it’s too difficult to do a face-to-face appointment, then schedule a phone conversation. Make it clear that you’re interested in getting to know them better and want to learn how you might be able to help them with their business. Go beyond the one-time sales element and build a relationship. That will bring you more sales as well as respect in the long-term.

Forget about Competition: Someone there does the same thing you do? Don’t skip them! Befriend them and offer to collaborate. Everyone’s skills are unique and so is their knowledge. Use that as an opportunity to trade tips and tricks, work together on big projects and subcontract overflow work. The possibilities are endless!

Charity has over 15 years of business experience and owns Eagle Eye Web Services. She is passionate about small businesses and their owners, focusing on helping them grow and stay profitable.

Website: http://www.eagleeyewebservices.com
Blog: http://www.eagleeyewebservices.wordpress.com

 

Policies for Time Management??? March 24, 2010

Filed under: Learning By Example,Organization Tips,Work at Home — Jennifer Gallaher - VAbyJen @ 4:32 pm
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Many of you may not know this about me, but I am an avid Real Simple magazine reader. The magazine contains tons of tips to help simplify your life, whether it is for work or home life. Then I came across an article, “How do you say no to people who want too much of your time?” answered by Julie Rottenberg, who is Real Simple’s etiquette expert and it really got me thinking. Julie talks about having policies in place to help manage our time.

Hmmm….Policies for time management? The concept sounds pretty silly to me. But, the more I thought about it, the more I really liked the concept. In our daily lives we are constantly bombarded by things or people who require more time and attention than we may have to give at any given moment. Julie Rottenberg calls them “Time Suckers.” Some examples may be: 1) Running into an old friend while on your way to meet a client, 2) Constant requests to join various groups or clubs for which you either have no desire or time for or 3) Television on “for noise” while working at home. I don’t know about you, but I’ve been caught up in all three of these examples at one time or another, as well as many others. It’s called life. But that doesn’t mean things can’t change.

So, I have decided to do an experiment.  I am going to create and implement a few policies and for the next 30 days I will try my best to follow them.  Here is what I’ve come up with as starters:

  • I have a standing play date for my son every Thursday.  I am going to create a recurring appointment in my Outlook calendar for the next month for this and come rain or shine, I will keep that appointment (that is of course, if my son stays healthy).
  • My hours of operation are supposed to end by 5:00 pm PST.  However, I tend to put certain small tasks off until later in the evening, like sending out daily reports to clients.  I am going to create a daily reminder in my calendar that will alert me at 4:30 pm PST each day to start wrapping up all work related tasks and projects.  This will not only force me get those reports out on time, but will show my family that I mean business when it comes family time.
  • When I run my errands throughout the week, I inevitably run into other moms that I know.  I say “hello” to be polite, but keep going.  I know that if I stop, I’ll get caught up in a conversation that I won’t be able to get out of.  My goal here is to not only wave hello, but to acknowledge the person in a way that lets them know that I do want to get together, but not at that particular time.  Then call or email them later in the day with some dates/times I do have available for that long overdue chat.

What policies can you enact today to help get your time management under control?  Let’s do this together and see what our results are in 30 days.  Good luck!

Tweet: Policies for Time Management
 

In Honor of St. Patrick’s Day-Go Green! March 17, 2010

Filed under: Learning By Example,Virtual Office Tools,Work at Home — Jennifer Gallaher - VAbyJen @ 3:17 pm
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Happy St. Patrick’s Day to you!  I hope you all are wearing some type of green, I know I am. After all, I am of Irish decent.  However, I was thinking that while we may all wear green each year, we may not all practice being green.  To that end, I would like to offer up a suggestion.  Why not stop and take stock of your office or work space and see where you can go green?

Start off small so that you don’t get overwhelmed.  For starters, take a look at those paper files or piles, if you will.  Do you really need all that paper lying around or can you create data files and then recycle all that paper?  I did just that a few months ago.  I scanned in all my paper documents creating .pdf files, and then added all my newly created files into the appropriate client folders on my computer.  But, I didn’t stop there.  I bought a portable external hard drive from Newegg.com  to back my files up to, twice a week.  This not only saves me time, but cuts down on the amount of paper (no more piles) that I use on a daily basis.  Now, I only print documents that are essential for me to have a hard copy of, which incidentally, also cuts down on the amount of space I need in my file cabinet. 

“What did you do with all the paper files”, you ask?  I turned it into scratch paper for my kids and me.  I am notorious for grabbing the nearest Post-It pad and scribbling little reminders down.  So, I hid the unopened packages of Post-It Notes and have strategically placed small stacks of the scratch paper around my office and home so that I grab them first.  When homework time rolls around and extra paper is needed for math scribbles, we reach for the extra scratch paper.

As I look around my office, there are plenty of other ways that I can “green” up the place and believe it or not, I have set a goal for myself that within six months, I will be a completely green VA!  My thought is this:  If we as VA’s can find creative and inexpensive ways to go green for ourselves, what an asset we would be for our clients!  We could not only show them what a “green” business looks like, but we can also offer up suggestions to help them in the transition as well, thereby, perhaps finding a bigger pot at the end of both of our rainbows! 

 

Helpful Microsoft Outlook Tips February 24, 2010

Filed under: Organization Tips,Virtual Office Tools,Work at Home — Jennifer Gallaher - VAbyJen @ 5:32 pm
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So, I am loving Microsoft Outlook again.  Since things are getting pretty booked up around my house, I thought it best to start utilizing this wonderful program again.  Only this time, I am determined to use more of the features Outlook has to offer.  This way, I can coordinate both my home life appointments along with my professional appointments.  And….I can add all the love to-do tasks that need accomplishing.  😉

For now, I thought I would share a few tips I found, and have actually used, on how to make life easier when using Outlook.

Creating/Using Email Template in Outlook

  • To save an email message as a template in Outlook:
    • Create a new message and enter the subject and content as usual.
    • In Outlook 2007, click the Office button and select Save As.
    • In Outlook 2003, select File | Save As from the menu.
    • Select Outlook Template under Save as type, in the Save As dialog.
    • Type the desired template name under File name.
    • Click Save.
  • To compose a message using the new template:
    • In the Outlook Inbox, select Tools | Forms | Choose Form from the menu.
    • Select User Templates in the File System under Look In.
    • Double-click the desired message template.
    • Address, edit or change verbiage if needed, then send.

Importing Contacts from Excel or a CSV File into Outlook

  • To import contacts from a CSV file or from Excel into Outlook:
    • Select File | Import and Export from the menu in Outlook.
    • Make sure Import from another program or file is highlighted.
    • Click Next.
    • Now make sure Comma Separated Values (.CSV) is selected.
    • Click Next.
    • Use the Browse button then select the desired file.
    • Choose Do not import duplicate items.
    • Click Next.
    • Select the Outlook folder you want to import the contacts to. Normally, this will be your Contacts folder.
    • Click Next.
    • Click Map Custom Field.
    • Make sure all columns from the .CSV file are mapped to the desired Outlook address book fields.
    • You can also create new mappings by dragging the column title to the desired field.
    • Click OK.
    • Then, Finish.

Creating an Email Signature in Outlook

  • Create an Email Signature in Outlook:
    • Select Tools | Options from the menu in Outlook.
    • Go to the Mail Format tab.
    • Click Signatures under Signatures.
    • Click New.
    • Create a name for this signature.
    • You can also set up different signatures for different purposes, like a specific one for work emails and one for personal emails.  Just make sure you name them accordingly so you can choose the correct signature when creating the email.
    • Click Next.
    • Then type the text you would like to see for your email signature.
    • This is also where you would format the font itself, the font size and color of text.
    • You can also select your business card to add under vCard options.
    • Click Finish.
    • Then, OK.

As I continue to re-learn Outlook and find more useful tips, I will share them with all of you.  I encourage you to try these tips for yourself and share any new ones that you may have found.  Let’s help each other become more organized!

Helpful Microsoft Outlook Tips
 

Blog Tip Suggestions February 17, 2010

Filed under: Web and Blog Site Tips,Work at Home — Jennifer Gallaher - VAbyJen @ 4:11 pm
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We here at The Work at Home Life blog are not the only bloggers, by far.  Many of you that read our blog are bloggers yourself.  Whether you blog for a living, blog as a way to promote your business or blog as just a way to have your thoughts heard, nine times out of ten, you will or already have experienced a mental block.  I have and I know I will at some point again in the future.  Then I came across an article with some pretty interesting tips and I thought I would share a few with you.

  • Tell a story from childhood.  What a great way to give your readers insight into the real you!  You can cite a particular experience you had as the “mini you” and how that has shaped you into the wonderful person you are today.  I know we all have at least one defining moment in our lives that could serve as inspiration to others.
  • Tell a secret.  Yes, I said a secret.  But then, others will know right?  That’s the point.  Keep it in perspective, but give your readers an idea of what makes you tick.  Something that you did to help advance your career or business…nothing illegal or immoral, mind you, but something that may kick start someone else’s creative juices.  Let your readers know that thinking outside of the box is not only okay, but encouraged.
  • Argue with yourself.    If you have changed your mind about the role that Facebook or Twitter plays in social media today that re-blog about it.  Link to an old post of yours and debate your new position.  Explain to your readers why your opinion has changed.  Maybe you have gone through further training in your industry or gained a better understanding of the situation as a whole.  Whatever the reason, allowing your readers to see your updated perspective shows you have grown as a person and you’re not afraid of change. 
  • Write a “For Dummies Post”.  Sounds silly, right?  But how often have you come across others that are either interested in what you do or are just starting out and are looking perhaps for a mentor?  Wouldn’t it have been easier if there were manuals or step-by-step instructions around when you first got started with your profession?  Why not help someone out?  Write a simplified post for those who may not be as familiar with your profession or the subject you chose to blog about.  Not only will you be educating a “newbie” but it will also force you to get back to the basics.  Everyone needs that from time to time, right?  After all, if balancing work and family is your goal, then going back to the basics may just be what’s needed.

Whatever the reason for the mental block, rest assured it will pass and ideas for your blog will again flow.  Just because this may be part of your job, there is no reason why it can’t be interesting and fun, right?

 

As Entrepreneurs, What Can We Learn From Olympians? February 15, 2010

Filed under: Learning By Example — Amber Whitener - Virtual IT Assistant @ 2:44 pm
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This past weekend the world has tuned in to watch the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Canada.  We watch the best of the best athletes compete for bronze, silver, and gold medals.

You can’t make it to the Olympics without:

1. The Big Dream – It starts with one person who aspires to be the best in the world at his or her sport.  Once you know what you love to do and decide that you are the best at it, then you are ready to prepare for competition.

2. Daily Practice and Preparation – Being this good at what you do is not just an 8 to 5 job.  You take every opportunity to grow and try different moves and push the limits: Higher, Faster, Stronger!  You have to take care of yourself and make sure you are physically and mentally ready for any competitor’s challenge.

3. A Genuine Belief in Yourself – If you don’t have the confidence in your ability, how can the whole world?

4. The Best Coaching – You get to a certain point in your career where you realize that you need the best coach and training your money can buy.  You must invest in yourself as you cannot do this completely alone.  Training vs. proper training can be the difference in placing or not placing in the Olympics.

5. Unstoppable Endurance – Even qualifying for the Olympics requires a minimum standard of performance.  The true test is to keep your performance high, from start to finish.

Our message to all Virtual Assistants, Virtual Business Owners, and Entrepreneurs:

“Find what you are great at and go for the gold.”

Our best wishes go out to all of the Olympians and their families during these winter games.

We want to share our sympathy to the family of Nodar Kumaritashvili, the young Olympian who passed on far too soon.  He will be remembered always.

 

 
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