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Contemporary VA's Blog by Rachel Braam, Office Manager - 3d ago

A big part of keeping your business in a creative mindset starts at the top. How creative are you as a small business owner? Typically, creativity is a useful, perhaps essential, characteristic of being a business leader. We all get bogged down in the minutia of daily issues, focusing on tasks and work, rather than remembering what the company began as – an exciting new venture with new ideas and such promise! If you’ve found your business getting stale, stiff, and lacking motivation, take a look at how excited you are to come in to work every day. Not so much? Get your head back in the game before finishing this blog by doing as suggested in this article.  After you’ve taken a break, continue on to get your creativity back for you and your employees.

Practical Approaches to Creativity Boosting

Not everyone gains creativity in the exact way all the time, but there are a handful of things that many execs, artists and other creative people try in order to stimulate the brain for thinking creatively. None of these are complicated and all are worth trying in some way:

  • Lower Your Lighting – Forget about a classroom model with straight lines of square desks under bright, clinical ceiling lights. That may people see better, but it’s not a great environment for creative expression or thinking. Low, ambient room lighting from table level might help you feel free enough to try new things. Lowering stress is also a part of many creativity building exercises. Ceiling lights are stressful and makes us feel exposed, so a big no-no for most creative thinkers.
  • Exercise – You can work out at the end of the day or go for a swim in the morning before showing up at your desk, exercise during your work day is the real deal. Studies link getting sweaty with having a fluid, creative brain full of new ideas. What kind of physical activity can you do or provide onsite in your company during brainstorming sessions?
  • New Experiences – Instead of spending company perks on “stuff” why not gift your employees with new experiences? Travelling for short trips or taking remote vacations has been linked to helping the brain think in multi-directional ways for problem-solving. This ability is an essential aspect of thinking creatively. Short on cash? Make the trips local but emphasize new experiences.
  • Ambient Noise – Complete silence does help focus, which is great for analytical tasks but terrible for creative thought. It’s important for the creative mind to wander to new places, and ambient music or sounds allow that.
  • Start With Parameters, Not a Blank Page – This may seem counter-intuitive but staring at a blank page and begging for it to speak to you is every writer’s nightmare. Having a few topics, lines of dialogue or a prompts of some kind can get your juices flowing. Art is the same, as is problem solving. Find some parameters to get started and loosen them as needed once your brain starts turning.

photo credit: elisa_piper

The post Ways to Keep a Creative Mindset appeared first on Contemporary VA's Blog.

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Chances are, if you’ve worked hard and risked a lot to start or run a business in your community, then you are likely a true expert in your field. You have a great product or service, and you have many satisfied customers to show for it. None of that does your company any good unless it translates to more business. Word of your quality service or product needs to get out so that customers know you are indeed the right company to go to if for great quality and service at a fair price. Customers need a company that operates with integrity. Let them know that you are the ones to contact when they wish to be educated or need help solving a problem. You need to be known as their personal & trusted local expert and social media can get you there.

Ways to Be Their Expert

In order to position your company as the local expert in your field, start by building a company website. It doesn’t need to be expensive, flashy or loaded with features. What it does need is to be functional with all links working, look pleasing, and include contact information for your services and products. You should also be able to update it regularly. Having a website presence on the internet is your base to launch your social media platforms. Try to post content that does more to establish your expert status in the field rather than try to sell your products or services directly. Nobody will tune in to a site which is one big commercial.

  • A blog is usually included on a dedicated page of your website. It can be written by the owner by name or posted as a general article for the business without a byline. In the first case, the owner is presented as a specific expert in the industry. In the latter case, the business is held up, and anyone can write it. Your blog can then be automatically posted through linking the site page to your social media account. Tips for blogging.
  • Post Industry Material – Your company website can have many types of educational material posted as industry or company material: FAQs, links to interesting articles on other sites you are affiliated with or find interesting, as well as dramatic or humorous, industry-related photos  Your followers might share or re-tweet these to other people on their friends list.
  • DIY or Catalogs – If you have a service oriented business, such as plumbing or construction, you may want to demonstrate easy DIY repairs or maintenance that you feel every homeowner should know. Create helpful videos to teach your followers what to do, posting them on your site and linking the page with that video to your social media newsfeed. Product catalog photos or videos could also show off your expert workmanship or wares.
  • Testimonials and Reviews – There’s no better place to post the testimonies and stories from satisfied customers than your site, which again, should be linked along with photos in your album of previous jobs.

photo credit: lexly87 aka Duc N. Ly

The post Become the Local Expert in Your Field with Social Media appeared first on Contemporary VA's Blog.

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Contemporary VA's Blog by Rachel Braam, Office Manager - 2w ago

Whether your company is new, or you are trying fresh strategies to promote your existing brand, it’s important to take a look at the essential marketing tools at your disposal. While it’s true that many of these tools today revolve around digital approaches, there’s real value in some older, tried-and-true tools, such as custom business cards. To be sure you know the best way to create yours, check out this article.

Marketing Tools at Your Disposal

There are 2 basic approaches to promoting your brand throughout your community – online / digital, and traditional. Depending on your company and your industry, a healthy mix of both could be included into your small business’s best marketing strategy. Most of these essential tools for marketing can be managed by your virtual assistant.

  • Direct Mail & Newsletter Emails –  The goal of both of these essential tools is to make sure people new to the neighborhood find out that your business exists, while keeping your brand at the top of the  minds of current residents. In both cases, getting street and email addresses from local directories of new home buyers, people in a certain age range, or from your school district could be helpful. Update lists as you go to develop a valuable client list over time.
  • Ads from TV, Radio, Print and Social Media –  Ads for local cable and radio might get a little pricey, butcould also be the best way to connect with older-aged customers. The large generation of Boomers retiring now prefer low-tech methods to get their news and entertainment. Retirement homes, life insurance, vacation destinations and health alert devices certainly benefit from the traditional marketing avenues. By adding social media ads, businesses have the potential to reach a wider variety of age groups. Ads on social media are also less expensive.
  • Websites and Social Media Profiles –  Your business website is not only your home-base of operations on the internet but allows your business to come up in searches like Google. Additionally, your website tells your business story where customers can check out prior jobs you’ve done, products you sell, read testimonials and find contact info. Your social medial accounts can develop your brand further by linking your interesting content from your website. Over time your followers can get to know you as the area expert in your field, the company they can turn to when they need your products or services.
  • Local Networking –  Join local expos, business chamber and otherwise connect with area businesses to reach out in marketing, community and charity events. Become active in food drives and anything else that supports your community interests, while sharing photos and articles about these events on your website and social media. Allow followers to post photos of themselves on your site and pages, thus creating more original content at no cost to you.  

photo credit: le-topographe

The post Essential Tools to Get Your Brand Out There appeared first on Contemporary VA's Blog.

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Contemporary VA's Blog by Rachel Braam, Office Manager - 2w ago

When you run a small business, it’s easy to feel like there isn’t enough time in the day or days in the week to get everything done. From digital online presence, to regular marketing, bookkeeping, sales and inventory or providing services, is it possible to get everything done without having a huge staff or brick and mortar to run? Of course it is, especially for certain types of businesses.

Technology today has done us the great service of making available remote workers, otherwise referred to as Virtual Assistants, or VAs. Like any other great ideas, VAs can be super useful or can seem like a frustrating waste of money. The issue is knowing how to best utilize any utility or employee. A Virtual Assistant is a combination of both, so you have to know how to use them and how NOT to use them to get it right.

Don’t Make These Mistakes With Your Virtual Assistants

For the uninitiated, a virtual assistant can do anything from secretarial and admin work to graphic arts and copy writing. They can schedule your work life, proofread, edit, and do research. They are great for customer service and all things bookkeeping, and they do it remotely. Those who hire them need to avoid a few traps to get the most out of their services. Mistakes are made when you…

  • Aren’t sure what to have them do

Although many VAs will have a good idea of what they can do for your business, it’s not their job to figure that out. Decide what tasks you really want from them before they are hired. Read this article for ideas on what you should delegate to your VA.

  • Don’t have an organized system

Part of knowing what they should do is having procedure for getting tasks done. Create a policy and Procedure document or booklet for them to refer to. They are the task-doers and you are the strategist.

  • Hope they can read your mind

Make sure your VA has a clear understanding of what you want and how you want it done, complete with dates and formats. Once you develop a strong communication and working relationship, it may seem that your VA can read your mind, but they need clear instructions and specific guidance up front.

  • Neglect to review their work or give feedback

Once they’ve turned in assignments, they need feedback regarding their task. Was it what you intended? If they make mistakes, give them the chance to adapt. A correct job needs positive feedback and issues need to be addressed for course correction. Your instructive feedback is a tool to help them do the best they can for you.

Even the best VA relationships take time to cultivate, and your goal should be to help them know what you want so you can retain that same VA for a long time. It saves you money, frustration and gets more work done if you don’t constantly have to find a new VA.

photo credit: thirdblade

The post Avoid These Mistakes When Using VAs appeared first on Contemporary VA's Blog.

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Contemporary VA's Blog by Rachel Braam, Office Manager - 3w ago

It might be easy to imagine hiring a virtual assistant for general office administration tasks for your small business. Companies with brick and mortar often have accountants, bookkeepers and data entry done remotely by outsourced or subcontracted remote workers. Even though business owners must get products and services coordinated, use social media and marketing, and deal with high level decisions, they often don’t choose to hand off writing tasks to remote workers, currently referred to as virtual assistants, VAs. They naturally convince themselves that any writing or messaging from the company needs to be done by an officer, but this is just not true. With a little guidance and feedback, a VA can be an excellent resource in writing all kinds of business copy, saving time and worry for the execs. The writing might be higher quality, as well.

What Copy Writing Can a VA do?

Literally any writing assignment an owner might imagine needing to write can be done by a VA. Here are some common examples of assignments that can be taken off an owner’s plate for a very inexpensive rate by a skilled copy writing VA:

  • Press releases

Any interaction with ads, print publications, and event info that needs to be distributed, companies do still send out press releases. They need to be done is a professional format with impeccable grammar. This kind of writing is not where you want a lack of care. An example of common press release mistakes that your VA will know to avoid can be found here.

Subscribers to your emails, potential new customers and current customers should receive regular correspondence in order to keep your products and services on the top of their minds. You want the best quality writing and editing for these mass correspondence pieces. These areas are great tasks that a VA can not only handle for you but do so in less time than many business owners might take, and marketing flair and professionalism.

  • Blogs and articles

We hate to break it to you, but many business blogs are not written by the owners of the business. A VA who is properly trained and acquainted with your company and industry can save you tons of time and stress by writing informational and practical guides to useful topics that your followers will care about. These articles and blogs are posted on your website, giving site visitors an ample variety of topics to peruse, establishing your company as the “go-to” source for that industry. Linking this content to your social media drives followers to your site, which is an important part way of increasing foot traffic and future sales for your company.

Allowing yourself to delegate company writing jobs to a VA can not only save you time but assure regular contact and updates with your customers. Regular posting schedules show that your business is active, that you care, and gives a professional impression.  

photo credit: Lukas834

The post Types of Copy Writing for Your Business appeared first on Contemporary VA's Blog.

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It’s a common theme that entrepreneurs and business owners put a lot of hours in to make their business work. Hiring a good VA can take some of your daily tasks off your plate, but even then, owners often spend too many hours on the job. While hard work is certainly a virtue, not caring for yourself so you get burned out is not. Not only can “burning out” or focusing only on making your business work hurt your relationships and your health, eventually, it will hurt your business. Sometimes a little effort on your part to de-stress after work will help. Burn-out on the job isn’t helped by “doing more.” Ever hear the phrase, “work smarter, not harder?” Taking care of yourself is part of how that works.

Ways to Get Healthy on All Levels

De-stressing is great but creating a regular lifestyle of well-being requires regular, conscious effort. If you think you’re doing “OK” in taking care of yourself, ask yourself if you’re following these steps in self-care:

Busy people tend to eat too much fast food on the run. Unfortunately, junk food/comfort food doesn’t provide adequate nutrition or fuel to do all that your body needs to do. Real food requires some thoughtful planning. Pick a day for food prep and have prepared or planned-out ingredients with ready-to-eat items in the fridge so your cravings don’t lead you astray. Your mental clarity, mood, memory and sleep will improve with a few lifestyle changes.

  • Daily Physical Exercise

Getting a gym membership isn’t a bad idea, but seriously, taking a 30-min walk before, during, or after work would likely be a big improvement in your physical activity ratio. Mix it up with other activities, like bike riding, dancing, weightlifting or swimming. Any physical activity done every day can get your heart pumping. If you currently have time for your Facebook newsfeed or watching Netflix, you can make time for a short jog. Staying active contributes to mental clarity, innovative and creative thinking as well as general physical health.

  • Quiet time

When’s the last time you allowed yourself quiet time to read or just be alone? Journaling, painting, drawing, writing a poem, or doing anything contemplative and thoughtful can recharge your batteries.

  • Socialize with people outside of work

Build relationships with people from church, your neighborhood and extended family. Volunteer in your community or join a local club or team. Find ways to interact with people who can support you outside of your business.

  • Sleep

Although sleep should probably be the first priority in your health, it’s often the last consideration. When there isn’t enough time in the day, many busy people steal extra work time from their precious sleep hours. It’s a bad habit that will catch up with you sooner or later. Sleep deprivation is the #1 reason for poor performance and low productivity.

Take care of your business by taking better care of yourself. You will get a great return in every aspect of your life when you invest in yourself.

photo credit: ravalli1

The post Taking Care of Yourself Will Help Your Business appeared first on Contemporary VA's Blog.

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Contemporary VA's Blog by Rachel Braam, Office Manager - 1M ago

How on Earth do you get everything done, especially with limited active employees, or maybe none at all besides yourself? Virtual Assistants can handle just about any type of task necessary in an office. They can literally keep your “Office” running on a daily basis, which gives the owner a lot of flexibility in where they can work from, or in taking time off. Working with VAs can make it possible for a self-employed business owner to go on a vacation without the business falling apart.

Tasks That Can Be Delegated to a VA

Most small business owners try to do too much but they simply don’t have the time. Understanding just what tasks your VA could learn to take care of can better inform an owner what tasks they can and should let go of in order to make the most of their own strengths. Tasks easily taken over by VAs include:

  • Email, daily correspondence and mass mailing

Most newsletters, mass mailings and mass emails are not so personal that you need to write them, yet it takes up your time. Allow a VA to get to know your company and purposes for the correspondence and they can take this tedious chore off your hands. They can set up a schedule and write much of it ahead of time, while setting a program for scheduled posting or sending.

Having VAs for customer service can be a Godsend. Since they work remotely, you can have a few covering the phones  around the clock, depending on your business. Taking receptionist messages, dealing with client concerns and orders as well as making follow-up and schedule reminder phone calls or emails covers a lot of useful office-work ground.

  • File management, bookkeeping and data entry

Database and bookkeeping tools make these kinds of organizational tasks very easy to keep up with online. Your VA can do these jobs literally any time of day or night as their schedule requires

  • Creative graphics, copy writing and editing for website and social media

Creating content for marketing, flyers, press releases, and even running your website and social media are valuable tasks that are more than administrative.

Knowing some of the tasks that could be covered by a VA helps a business owner choose carefully what to delegate and what to allow themselves to do. Repetitive or tedious tasks should probably always be delegated. With the proper training, communication and patience, a great virtual staff can run their office while the owner focuses on doing their business, or perhaps, even taking a vacation.

photo credit: Iaia Quarchioni

The post Keep Your Office Running with a VA appeared first on Contemporary VA's Blog.

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In general, using social media has become a necessary part of any marketing plan for small businesses. There are several social media platforms to choose from, and many companies try hard to keep up with at least two or three at a time. Social media can be a great way to connect the public with your website, which otherwise might get little traffic if people don’t know its out there. Linking your social media accounts to content on your website is a great start. For more on how social media helps your business, check out this article.

Facebook- the Social Media Giant

As mentioned, there are many platforms to choose from, when it comes to creating profiles for your business to interact with potential and existing online customers. While some businesses struggle to keep up with many, it can be tough for business owners to follow and maintain one such account, never mind three. Tracking, posting and interacting with customers on your social media is a great job you can give over to a virtual assistant. Whether you use a VA or not, however, you might want to focus mainly on one platform, and in that case, Facebook might be your best choice. Here are a few facts about using Facebook as your social medial platform for business:

  • Facebook has a huge reach

The March 2019 number of active worldwide Facebook users is up to 2.38 billion. The next highest is YouTube at 1.9 billion and then Instagram, also owned by Facebook, at 1 billion. The numbers cut considerably downward after that, so Facebook is clearly the queen of the social media network platforms and cannot be dismissed or ignored.

  • Facebook pages

Creating a page for your business was introduced a few years ago as a business upgrade from the previous “group” utility. Though groups are still used, they tend to be used for social organizations to interact on a personal level around a common interest. Pages were specifically designed with business and promotional needs in mind. They are also free to create, so everyone should have one. Followers can “like” your page and content, driving algorithms and creating analytics. Businesses have control over their content, rather than followers or members (as in groups.) Page owners have access to statistics regarding the dates, times and numbers regarding how people visit and interact with their business page.

  • Advertising and analytics

Once a business has a Facebook page, they can pay a nominal fee for Facebook ads. The analytics provided help create posting schedules and inform the best times for posting when followers are morel likely to be online to view them. Facebook ads can also be boosted, and focused targeting sends your ads to other demographics that may be more likely to become future customers.

Your VA can not only create your Facebook page, but maintain it, and even create content, such as blogs, articles, graphics and images for your website which can be linked to your Facebook page. So much marketing power with little financial investment and very little time taken from a business owners day.

photo credit: Got Credit

The post Why Using Facebook for Business Can Be a Big Deal appeared first on Contemporary VA's Blog.

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You might have noticed that home-based businesses are becoming far more common, and that for home-based as well as brick and mortar companies, hiring virtual assistants is becoming a noticeable trend. How might your business might benefit from working with virtual assistants? Your immediate ability to benefit may be affected by your industry.

Industries That Commonly Use Virtual Assistants

Due to their unique characteristics and needs, certain industries have taken the lead in hiring and using virtual assistants on a regular basis. Some of those industries are:

  • IT Companies – The IT industry is literally made for virtual assistants since just about every basic task these businesses work with can be done remotely. They were the first companies to create remote work environments.
  • Finance and Accounting professionals – So many numbers and data entries, and so little time. Accounts payable and receivable, reconciliations, and updating customer information for bookkeeping software is incredibly labor and time intensive. Skilled Virtual assistants can make short work of these arduous tasks.
  • Real Estate and Property Managers – There’s a lot of paperwork, scheduling, marketing, social media, lead generating, and catering to customers involved for the sale of just one property. Real Estate agents and brokers are often sole proprietors who need more time than they have to manage many accounts. Get more info about the benefits of Real Estate Agents Hiring Virtual Assistants.
  • Marketing Companies – Marketing companies understand the need for the very skills that virtual assistants offer for website copy, editing, blogging, graphic arts, social media and related ads, internet research, and mass emailing.
  • Attorneys – Being overworked is common for attorneys in large or small firms. They are focused on dealing with cases with no time or interest in daily office duties. Attorneys know from the start they need help and benefit greatly by outsourcing office administrative tasks to virtual assistants.
  • Entrepreneurs – Single business owners and small firms often opt out of the expense of brick and mortar buildings or HR departments. Today, they might work from a mobile office or their home. They appreciate and understand the simplicity and security of working with a trusted individual or team of virtual assistants for paperwork, marketing and details so they can focus on growing their business.

The truth is that most, if not all, types of businesses could, at least, reduce operating costs by having a virtual assistant. Daily operations can be entirely by remote assistants, saving money, time and stress for small and larger businesses. Virtual assistants, with their wide range of skills and availability, appear to be a trend that will only grow over time.

photo credit: startupphotos

The post Businesses that Benefit from Hiring Virtual Assistants appeared first on Contemporary VA's Blog.

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Outside of customer letters and general reporting, today businesses are expected to have an online social presence. Your website might be beautiful and user friendly, but your pages have to say something that your potential customers want or need to hear. If you need help with that, you might want to brush up on the Basics of Writing Copy for Your Website.  Your website should post interesting content about your industry that establishes you as a leader in the field, but what do you do if you aren’t much of a writer or you simply don’t have the time? Having a virtual assistant or team can solve this problem.

Virtual Assistants Have Great Writing Skills

A small business’s lack of skill or time to write great copy doesn’t mean your company website has to go without. Of course, it’s important to use proper spelling, grammar and syntax, but there’s a lot more to great writing than the mechanics of written language. Here are some of the types of writing your company needs that can be done for you by virtual assistants:

  • Blogs, Web Articles, Web Copy, Ebooks, Ezines – Though many might assume company staff always writes their own blogs and copy, blogs are outsourced to professional writers all the time.Today, business blogs are often more about educational and practical topics than personal, answering questions and giving guidance to an audience about products, services, business or life tips. There’s nothing wrong with your virtual assistant writing for your company as long as they are presenting your material in line with your company philosophy and practices. They might also be able to express what you mean better than you can, and that voice can be quite authentic.
  • Reports, Press Releases, Newsletters and Promotional Emails – When left to busy CEOs, these critical types of communication can sometimes be hurried or read like a text book. Dry or boring content doesn’t bring followers to your website or social media. Virtual assistants who specialize in writing creative business copy can reinvent your data, vision points, and event news, presenting them as fresh and relevant headlines to your customer and industry audience.  
  • Editing – When blogs and written communications must originate from a busy owner or staff member, there is a solution for you, too. If you’re concerned that your writing style or skills are a little rough, having your virtual assistant perform professional editing to your own writing might be just what you need. Keep that authentic voice, experienced expert tips and personal touch, while presenting a professional and clear message which represents your brand well.

Hiring a virtual assistant to write content and copy for your business documents and website can save time so you can focus on developing great quality products and services. Having a virtual editor can allow you to be an authentic and creative writer who presents yourself, your company and your material in an interesting and professional manner.

photo credit: freddie boy

The post Virtual Assistants as Copy Writers and Editors appeared first on Contemporary VA's Blog.

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