Why You Will See Virtual Services Growing in Importance in the Future (Guest Post)

August 6th, 2014 by Sue Canfield

Savvy entrepreneurs don’t need a pep talk on the importance of utilising virtual services to grow their businesses – they’re already using them, many of them for quite some time now.

In the US alone, one in three workers is reported to be working freelance according to The Freelancers Union, between 2009 and 2013, 15 percent of national job growth was in temporary employment and by 2020, over 50 percent of all working professionals are expected to be working as freelancers.

Virtual services are no longer limited to admin and related tasks and we can expect to see the number of business organisations utilising virtual services increase as the years go by; in fact, the number of business organisations using virtual service providers has increased at such a rapid rate it’s surprising there are many about that aren’t yet utilising virtual services to their advantage.

virtual reality

Image credit: University of Salford Press Office, license Attribution 2.0 Generic

Major corporations weren’t the first to utilise virtual services but many, including the likes of Apple, Chevron, Dell and Hewlett-Packard, have taken to them in a big way, here are three reasons why.

There’s a lot of money to be saved

Hiring, not to mention firing, employees is a costly endeavour so why not do away with hiring in the first place?

In addition to avoiding the recruitment process – advertising, screening, interviewing, trialling, etc. – you can also do away with fulltime wages, benefits, health insurance, workspace and related costs by hiring someone by the hour or project.

Outsourcing to talented freelancers helps you to cut costs, provide more cost-competitive products and services and maximise business profits. As Susan Saurage of Saurage Research in Houston Texas notes, “I want to draw on the right people when I need them, but I do not need them 40 hours a week.”

The most talented individuals are now accessible

The pool of talent continues to swell as more and more talented individuals leave the corporate world and become freelancers, enjoying the many benefits afforded to them by working at home.

You can access top talent from all four corners of the globe on outsourcing platforms like Elance and oDesk, freeing your business of geographical restraints that once forced business organisations to base themselves in major cities where talented individuals once migrated to in droves.

With outsourcing, it no longer matters where your business is based since you can access top talent wherever you are – all you need is an internet connection and the right communication platforms, i.e. videoconferencing, VoIP, social media, etc. Says Gary Swart, oDesk’s CEO, “Now, the Internet can bring the work to the worker, rather than the worker to work.”

This trend also has benefits for business organisations that need talent for specific projects whose skillsets lie outside their organisation.

For instance, should your business require the talents of a software developer, an editor or an article writer with particular skillsets, you can connect with them online, discuss rates and terms and hire them for the project, providing your organisation with fresh perspectives and filling in the knowledge gaps it needs to compete on the same playing field as larger, better funded business organisations.

However, there’s an inherent need to source the right people and you therefore need to be discerning, “You need to find partners who share your values, and it is really important to talk about these values upfront,” says Susan Abbott of Abbott Research.

Risks can be mitigated to a great extent

In addition to avoiding the costly recruitment process and no longer having to fork out for fulltime wages and benefits like health insurance, you’re also empowered to avoid the legal conundrums businesses face when they hire fulltime employees.

What happens if the economy slows down and business dwindles? You’re still obligated to pay fulltime wages and benefits and that could destabilise the financial security of your organisation, so by hiring freelancers by the hour or project you’re better able to mitigate risks and weather periods of financial turbulence.

This has proved especially advantageous for businesses that experience peak demand and corresponding seasonal slumps, because their ‘freelance roster’ empowers them to take on more staff when demand is high and reduce their numbers when demand is low.

This not only helps them budget for wages and manpower hours, it also empowers them to budget for the amount of office space they hire, the amount of equipment they need to purchase and maintain, and also engage in more accurate financial forecasting.

It’s safe to say that we can expect to see virtual services growing in importance for the abovementioned reasons and many more, “We think we’re at the tip of the iceberg,” says Swart of oDesk, “We anticipate 5x growth in five years,” and he’s not alone there – many businesspeople believe freelancing and virtual services are the way of the future.

Author Bio:

Juliet Martin is a freelance writer for Regus UK, a company that provides small to large businesses with quality meeting venues and office spaces. They also have virtual solutions to offer.


Top 10 Online Tools for Virtual Assistants

August 1st, 2014 by Sue Canfield

I'm often asked to recommend tools that a virtual assistant should for their business. Here are my 10 favorite tech tools to use in my business.

1. Basecamp - https://basecamp.com/: This is a very simple, web-based, project management tool. You can store files and create task lists with due dates that can be assigned to different team members. You can share folders with clients or choose not to show certain files to clients. It also has a calendar. There is a free trial and the basic monthly fee is $20.

2. Dropbox - https://www.dropbox.com/: This is a file-sharing tool that can be synced with your computer. You can share links with colleagues and clients and invite them to a shared folder. It's very easy to use and serves as a good backup for files. There is a free version as well as a more robust paid business version.

Top 10 Tech Tools for Virtual Assistants
3. Google Mail, Drive and Calendarhttps://www.google.com/: I use Gmail for all my email needs, as well as all of Google's tools such as Drive, formerly known as Google Docs, and the calendar. With Drive you can create documents, spreadsheets and presentations. These can be shared and downloaded. You can upload your Word documents and Excel spreadsheets also and they convert very nicely. The calendar can also be shared so other team members know your availability.

4. Skype - http://www.skype.com/: This free tool can be used to speak with anyone else who has a Skype account. For a small fee, you can make calls to landlines and cell phones as well. There is also video conferencing. There are also free tools you can use to record your conversations if needed.

5. Jing - http://www.techsmith.com/download/jing/: Jing is a free tool that allows you to create videos and take screenshots. This has been very usefuly in my virtual assistant business to show a client or team member where to find something on a web page or to provide instructions. Videos are limited to five minutes.

6. Evernote - http://evernote.com/: The free version of EverNote has been plenty for me. I can synch it across all my devices - computer, phone and tablet. I can keep track of notes and to-do items. My lists can be updated from any device and then synched so it's available on all of them. There is also a great search feature. Now if a client calls while I'm away from my computer, I can just make a quick note of it in EverNote on my phone.

7. WordPress - http://wordpress.com/: If you don't yet have a blog and, you should set one up at WordPress. It's easy to use and the perfect way to show off your expertise.

8. EchoSign by Adobe - https://www.echosign.adobe.com/: The free version of this web-based tool has been all I've ever needed to get contracts sent and signed by all parties. The perfect tool for any virtual assistant who needs to get their contract signed quickly to commence work.

9. QuickBooks Online - https://qbo.intuit.com/: A great tool I use to track all my income and expenses. I can use it from anywhere since it's a web-based tool.

10. HootSuite - https://hootsuite.com/: The free version of this tool is all you need to manage your entire social media presence from one place.

What are your favorite online tools?

Social Media Management in 10 Minutes a Day

July 21st, 2014 by Sue Canfield

You can get a lot done in just 10 minutes a day on Twitter. I recommend you determine your priorities and focus on using your 10 minutes each day on those priorities.

ten minutes a day on twitterOne of my clients wanted to make better use of his 10 minutes a day on Twitter. So we came up with this process:

Twitter Notifications 

  • Goal: to find retweeters and favorite-ers to thank them and/or follow them.  If time is limited, focus on the “Notifications” List.
  • Thank the user for favoriting or retweeting you. If favorited, see if it's someone you want to follow and follow them back.

 Twitter Messages

  • Check for messages and reply as appropriate.

 Twitter List(s) and Retweets

  • Review list(s) and find appropriate post to Retweet.

 Twitter Post

  • Post an update with a shortlink and appropriate image.

If you spend just 10 minutes each day doing these simple things, you'll find your social media presence is much more effective and productive.

Using LinkedIn Groups

July 18th, 2014 by Sue Canfield

LinkedIn groups can be a great source of connections, information, and a way to showcase our expertise. You can join up to 50 groups; however, I suggest you concentrate on no more than five to get started. Choose groups that have lots of recent activity.

using LinkedIn GroupsOnce you've joined a group, take advantage of the Discussions. Participate by adding valuable comments. This is one way to showcase your expertise without promoting a specific product or service. Start your own discussion. Ask a question that encourages interaction and builds a conversation.

Grow your network by connecting with other group members you're not yet connected with. Send a personal message, something like:

Hi [name of group member],

We're both members of [name of group]. I enjoyed your comment in the discussion [name of discussion]. I'd like to connect with you.

Your Name

Make it a goal to invite one new group member each day to connect and you'll find your network grow quickly.

"We're Not a Match"

July 16th, 2014 by Sue Canfield

Have you ever had to let a client or a subcontractor go? How do you handle it?

Over the years I've had to let more than one client go and more than one subcontractor. It's never easy. It's always an emotional process for me. I hate disappointing people. In the past, I always wanted to explain in detail why we couldn't work together any more.

We're not a match

Then my husband and I learned the best thing to say in any situation where you know it's not a good idea to either start or continue a business relationship. You simply say, "We're not a match". 

There is no explanation. It's not about assigning blame. It's simple that "we're not a match". And it's all from your perspective. The other party may have felt it was a match. But if you don't, then "we're not a match". 

The reason we use this when letting a client or subcontractor go is because invariably, no matter what, the other party wants to know "why"? The truth is you don't need a reason. You don't need to give a reason. When you give a reason, it's the other person's natural inclination to reply with their 'reason' why your reason isn't valid. But any reason you have is valid - to you. And that's what matters.

So next time you need to let a client or subcontractor go, just say, "We're not a match". It won't be easy and they may be left wondering. But you'll feel a great sense of relief knowing that the people you are working for and with absolutely love you! I know that's true in my case.

I love all my clients and all the subcontractors I'm currently working with.