Monday, September 28, 2009

Constructive Criticism: Be Specific, Be Kind

The correct use of punctuation and grammar is especially important when distributing marketing materials to prospects and clients. Improper use of punctuation and glaring typos can quickly turn a prospect's interests elsewhere. So I try hard to proofread anything before I send it out and often have a second set of eyes double check.

However, there are still times when something slips through the cracks. Perhaps we meant to type 'an' and instead typed 'and'; it may be we used a superfluous apostrophe. We get so excited about our topic that we type up that blog entry and post it and then we realize we made a typo. It happens to all of us and these occasional slips are not the end of the world, though we may feel they are at the time. But if our material often has they same type of mistakes, we may need to consider what we can do to change that.

As embarrassing as it is to have an error pointed out, I appreciate it when one is kindly brought to my attention so I can correct it and work harder not to allow the same type of mistake in the future. When a mistake is brought to my attention, it helps me stay on my toes and proofread my work with a more critical eye. In my coaching practice, I help other virtual assistants pay attention to the details of their written materials and when it's necessary to bring a mistake to their attention, it's with the goal of helping them present themselves in the best possible light to their prospects and clients.

Recently I posted an article on a local online paper and shared the news with many other virtual assistants (VAs). One of the VAs sent me a message to let me know of typos and grammatical errors she found in a particular paragraph of the article. Her message did not point out any specific errors and she concluded by saying perhaps I needed an assistant to help me proofread.

Since none of us like to have errors pointed out, my first reaction was to get defensive. But if there were errors, I did want to know about them so I could correct them if possible and be more careful in my proofreading in the future. So I pulled up the article so I could find the errors. When I couldn't find any, I asked two other people to review the article and they couldn't find the errors either.

Now I felt defensive and offended. Not only could we not find errors, this person had framed the message in such a way that it felt she was attacking me; not that she was trying to kindly help me. To make it even worse, the subject line of her email to me had a typo. I took a moment to calm down and thought perhaps she saw something we missed and I really did want to know what the errors were so I could fix them. So I replied and let her know how much I appreciate it when mistakes are pointed out so I could correct them. I explained that my husband had proofread the article and couldn't find the errors. I asked if she could give me specifics so I could correct them; otherwise, I stood behind my work. I chose not to point out in my reply that her subject line had a typo.

Unfortunately her reply stated that if I didn't know what the errors were, she didn't have time to go back and find them and point them out to me; that if I didn't see them, I should stand behind my work. This reply really made me upset. If she had been willing to give me specifics when I asked and I felt her motives were because she actually cared about me and my work, I wouldn't have felt so offended and upset.

After typing up a scathing response, instead of sending it, I deleted it. There's no sense in throwing mud around; no good purpose would have been served. Instead, I chose to write this blog post. My purpose in writing this post is to emphasize the importance of being specific and kind when offering constructive criticism.

How can you offer kind and specific criticism? If the roles had been reversed, here's how my message would have read:

Dear Mary (name has been changed),

I saw your article posted on your local online paper about the virtual assistant industry. Congratulations! The article was interesting and it's good to see more people becoming aware of the need for virtual assistants.

As a fellow VA I know you always want your marketing materials to be the best. I did note a typo in paragraph two (you typed 'and' when you meant to type 'an') and a small grammatical error in the third sentence (give specific example). I know how challenging it can be to proofread and catch everything.

Congratulations again on the great article!

Your fellow VA,


What are your thoughts on this? Was I too quick to be offended? How would you have handled this situation?

To every VA out there - Keep up the good work!

Friday, September 25, 2009

4 Online Marketing Tips

1. Social Networking - Use social networking responsibly. It can be addictive and time-consuming. I suggest joining Twitter andFacebook and perhaps one more specific to your industry. Maintain a complete and updated profile. Then start connecting with people. Don't just connect for the sake of adding another contact. Really take time to get to know the person you are connecting with.

2. Blogging for Business - Schedule time to create blog entries. Start with two entries per week. Don't forget to go out and contribute valuable comments on other blogs in your industry. I'd recommend trying to make two valuable comments per week to begin.

3. Newsletters
- Your newsletter should provide interesting and valuable information. Stick to a consistent schedule of sending it out.

4. Articles - Write interesting and informative articles. These can be used in your newsletter, on blog posts, posted on your website and submitted to article directories.

What's your favorite online marketing tip?

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Build Relationships to Develop Loyal Clients

The key to word-of-mouth referrals is to build relationships that develop loyal clients. When your clients trust you and know your customer service exceeds their expectations, they will go out of their way to promote you and your services to others.

So how can you build relationships that develop loyal clients? You begin by giving your prospects something of value. Provide a free report and valuable information in a newsletter. Your newsletter should not just be an ongoing pitch of your services. Provide something of value - tips, advice, and resources they can use in their business. This helps build trust in your expertise.

Once a prospect becomes your client, continue providing valuable information. Let your clients know of any specials or events that may interest them. Connect with them on Facebook and comment on what they are doing.

What do you do to build relationships and develop loyal clients?

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

All Moms Work: Juggling Homeschooling and Growing A Home-Based Businesses, by Sue Canfield

All Moms Work: Juggling Homeschooling and Growing A Home-Based Businesses, by Sue Canfield

Give More to Get More

Would you like to get more clients? Then consider giving your prospects something more - for free.

Before a prospect becomes your client, they need to come to know and trust you. One way they can learn more about you is if you give them something of value absolutely free. Sure there will be those who accept your free gift and not use your services. But those that are truly interested will be impressed by the trust you extend in giving them something of value. Those are the ones that will become your clients and word of mouth referrers.

You may choose to give a free report to prospects that sign up for your newsletter. When you sign up for my newsletter, you'll receive a 3-page report detailing 9 specific reasons to hire a VA, 4 Income Generating Tasks to delegate to a VA, Can I Afford a VA? and How do I find the right VA for me?

If you really want to give something away for free, offer a free report on your website and do not require an email. I offer a list of 30 Projects a Virtual Assistant Can Do in One Hour.

What can you give away?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Take 5...Minutes to Connect With Your Target Market

It's easy to feel overwhelmed with all the various ways to market on the Internet. Because we are so busy, we may feel there's not enough time to make real meaningful connections with our target market using social media.

Why not just Take 5? Take five minutes a day and do one of the following five things to connect with your target market.

1. Direct message (DM) a contact on Twitter. Perhaps you noticed they just posted a new blog entry you enjoyed reading. Let them know with a DM.

2. Send a message to a connection on Facebook. Did one of your clients just announce a new service or product? Send them a message and congratulate them!

3. Comment on a blog post. You should be following blogs relevant to your industry. Take 5 minutes to make a meaningful comment on a blog entry and add value to the conversation.

4. Write a short blog post. Take 5 minutes to write a short blog post with the top 5 tips on how to... Not every entry you post needs to be a novella.

5. Send an email. Have you recently met someone at a networking event that you would like to follow up with? Send a brief email asking when would be a good time to chat for 10-15 minutes by phone to learn more about their business.

You know you should market your business every single day. On those days when you just feel too busy and overwhelmed to do that, keep this list handy and remember, Take 5...

What can you do in 5 minutes to connect with your target market?

Friday, September 18, 2009

What Are Your Target Market's Greatest Concerns?

Who is your ideal client?

What are their greatest 3-7 concerns?

What solutions do you offer?

Write up a report based on the answers to these questions. You'll have a great start to creating your core marketing message.

Our Commonsense Virtual Assistant Coaching Program can help you identify your ideal client and core marketing message. Learn more about how you, the virtual assistant, are now a business owner, not an employee.

After listening to Sue & Joel's feedback about my site I was amazed at what I got from the consultation. They helped me clarify who my target market was and to make that obvious on my website. Making the changes they suggested will help me connect with the right people.
—Collette Schultz
Virtual Dream Office Services

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Typos in Your Marketing Materials?

It seems that due to technology, text messaging, trying to squeeze lots of information into 140 characters on Twitter, status updates on Facebook, etc., that we've become very sloppy spellers. I see typos more and more often in marketing materials.

I have a strong belief that we need to present ourselves as professionals - and that includes correct spelling and proper grammar. This is especially important in our marketing materials. Often, business persons hire a virtual assistant to help them write articles, post information on their website, and create other marketing materials. These business owners expect a level of professionalism that includes correct use of the English language - and no typos!

You may feel that posting a quick tip on Twitter or updating your status on Facebook doesn't require correct spelling. However, it is a reflection on you and your business. More and more this is how your prospects are going to find you and you need to make a good first impression.

So take the time to spell our 'you' instead of using 'u' and proofread your marketing materials before sending them out. Get a second set of eyes to review your materials also. It's very easy for our eyes to see the same mistake over and over and not catch it.

One aspect of our virtual assistant coaching is to review all your marketing materials. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you present your virtual assistant business in a professional manner.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Being Self-Employed Makes You an Entrepreneur Not an Employee

The virtual assistant industry is growing rapidly. Just about anyone can say they are a virtual assistant. You have a computer, internet access, and the desire to work from home. Voila! You're a virtual assistant.

But is that enough to succeed as a virtual assistant? Do you have what it takes to run a business?

Yes, a virtual assistant is a business owner. Successful business owners need to have good business sense. As a business owner, you, the virtual assistant, need to understand what it takes to run a business.

That's why we've published The Commonsense Virtual Assistant - Becoming an Entrepreneur, Not an Employee. Read more about the book and order your copy for only $19.95 (shipping included).

We share more than 50 years of experience working with small businesses. We love teaching others how they can have the deep satisfaction we get from our work and the life it allows us.

Learn more about us at

Monday, September 14, 2009

Quick Tip: Electronic Signatures

Here's a quick tip for getting contracts signed - electronically. This will save you time and money. Get your contracts signed without having to print them out and mail them. No more waiting for the signed contract in the mail.

It's legal to use electronic signatures, also known as e-signatures. There are several tools you can use. I recommend EchoSign. It's quick, easy, and provides both parties a signed pdf for their records.

Best of all, you can use it free for up to 5 signatures a month. Check it out!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

4 Ways to Attract Clients to Your Virtual Assistant Services

In any industry, one of the main challenges is attracting new clients. How can you attract new clients to your virtual assistant services? There are several steps you can take to increase your prospect's interest in contacting you. Here are 4 suggestions:

1. Be authentic. In everything you do, say, post on the internet, make sure it's authentic, honest, really you. As a service provider, you are your business. Prospects want to know who you really are. So be sure to inject your personality in everything you do - authentically. Prospects will be turned off immediately if they see you are not who you portray yourself to be.

2. Connect personally. Again, as a service provider, you are your business. That means your prospects want to know about you; they want you to tell them about yourself. For that reason, I strongly encourage you to post your picture on your website and profiles; let your prospects and clients know that you are a real human being. Write a bit about your background, your hobbies, your interests, why you became a virtual assistant.

3. Narrow your market. Here's an area that can be very challenging, especially if you're just starting your VA business. You may think that to get started you should offer your services to everyone. It's important to narrow your market and be very specific in who you target so your prospects know you are the person they should be working with. Once you've defined your target market, hang out where they hang out - online or at networking events. Find their pain points, offer a solution, and your target market will choose you!

4. Write articles. This is a great way to attract clients specific to your niche. It may seem like a huge task to undertake if you've never written an article before. Consider what solutions you offer clients and then create a top 5 solutions list and write a short article. If you need additional help in learning how to get started, just let me know. I have lots of great information to help you get started in article writing.

These are just a few of the many ways you can attract clients to your VA services. What ways do you use to attract new clients?

Contact us for your free 30-minute VA coaching call and let's discuss specific ways you can attract clients to your services.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Focusing on a Niche Means More Profit

We're coaching a virtual assistant right now helping her to clearly define her target market. She feels that her business will make money doing administrative work for small business owners, male or female, ages 25-60. Great! So every business owner from 25-60 should be knocking down her doors, right? Wrong!

There are now many virtual assistants providing all kinds of services to business owners in many industries. Why should they choose this virtual assistant over another one? What makes her and her services unique?

However, by focusing on a niche market, you can narrow your target market and the probability of being found - thereby creating more profit to your business as a virtual assistant.

Creating a niche market means knowing exactly who to market your services to. Your prospects will more readily find you because you've identified that they are who you want to work with.

What niche have you created in your virtual assistant business and how has it increased your profit?

Friday, September 4, 2009

Word of Mouth Referral Grows Client List

Exactly one year ago this month I signed on a new client that I had met briefly at two local events. After a very short period of time, this client was impressed enough with my services, and trusted me enough, that he referred me to two of his business partners.

I've enjoyed working for all three of them and it impresses me that the two business partners are people I've never met. Yet with each I have developed a trusting relationship to the point that they have each entrusted me with sensitive information. One of the business partners then referred me to one of his clients and she (I'll call her Mary) and I began working together the first of this year.

But the story doesn't end there. Now 'Mary' and I have been working together for nine months or so and again quickly developed a very trusting relationship. Thanks to her word of mouth referral, I just signed on another new client that I've never met.

So in exactly one year, and due to word of mouth referrals, from that one client I have gained an additional four directly as a result of his word of mouth referral.

So how can you develop trusting relationships and word of mouth referrals? Everything I've learned has been thanks to my coach. Together he and I now coach other virtual assistants to help them learn how to develop the same kind of trusting relationships with their clients and increase word of mouth referrals.

Contact us today to schedule your free 30-minute coaching consultation, no obligation.

And let us know what you do to create and maintain trusting relationships and word of mouth referrals.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Free 30-Minute Phone Consultations for Commonsense Virtual Assistant Coaching

I'm very excited to offer free 30-minute coaching calls for our virtual assistant coaching program. I've had many virtual assistants come to me for advice who then implement my suggestions and are very grateful for the ideas I've given them. It's the reason I decided to create and launch this coaching program - to help new and struggling VAs learn the skills to become business owners.

However, some wonder if they really need a coaching program or if we're the right coach for them. That's why we offer a free 30-minute consultation, no obligation. Once you've scheduled a consultation, we send you a questionnaire and ask that you return it before the day of your call. That allows us time to review what your most urgent need is in your business. We are then able to spend the 30 minutes most efficiently.

During the 30-minute call we address your most urgent business challenge and provide you with a specific action or strategy you can implement immediately in your business. Then we take just a few minutes at the end of the call to review our coaching program so you can determine if it's right for you.

Here's what one virtual assistant wrote us right after her free 30-minute phone consultation:

"Thank you for talking with me today. It was the best 30 minutes I've had with a business coach!

"The questionnaire you sent me prior to the call, really made me think about how I'm marketing my business. I always heard that you should have a niche, but I really didn't understand the value until you explained the importance of setting yourself apart from others.

"I can't wait to make the changes you suggested and watch my client base grow!"

Sara Gaffney, 101 Virtual Assistant

Contact us today to schedule your free 30-minute coaching call and take action now to grow your VA business!