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Should You Call Yourself A Virtual Assistant?

Have you ever felt uncomfortable with the thought of calling yourself a virtual assistant?  Have you been told that using this title means you’re subservient to your clients?  Not an equal, not an entrepreneur?

I’ve been getting asked this question a lot lately.  I have decided to record a video blog to give you my opinion on why you should or shouldn’t call yourself a virtual assistant.   Whether you choose to call yourself a virtual assistant or not you’ll want to check out my video below to hear what I think about calling yourself a virtual assistant.

Click on the video below and after you’ve watched all the way through this super quick video make sure to leave me a comment below.

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I look forward to seeing you in the comments, friends!

Rock on,

Reese

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I took a walk down this swanky gentrified street in Jerusalem known for it’s cafes and restaurants. Most of the joints on this street have given their storefronts a total facelift while others, well…haven’t.  Like the falafel joint. Now I love a good falafel and in these parts of the world we have some of the best.  But what happens when a tourist comes to town and walks down this swanky street.  Do you think he/she will be attracted to the hole in the wall falafel joint?

I’ve got a point here. Stick with me.

What would you do? Would you go into the dowdy looking falafel joint  or would you be attracted to the joint with the beautiful awning and gorgeous windows with pretty people sitting inside the cafe sipping their cappuccinos?

My guess is you’ll overlook the falafel joint. So what does this have to do with your website? Well if you haven’t put two and two together yet let me enlighten you.

Your business is working online, right? And this business of yours….it’s sole purpose is to attract customers so you can sell them your stuff right?

Ahem. RIGHT?

Right.

So it goes without saying that without a beautiful store front, you’re not going to attract clients. Period.

One of the biggest problems I see in my online community of virtual assistants is that many new VAs and some more experienced VAs don’t realize just how important good website design is and why bad website design is bad for business. I say this because as a virtual assistant coach it’s my job to review my clients sites and I can tell you that 70% of the VAs I work with don’t have the kind of websites that will help them build a profitable business.

Here are some examples of bad website design.  Do not be one of them.

A smart website design can make a huge difference for your business but design alone won’t do the trick. You have to combine great design with great content.

Okay, hang on a minute. You’re thinking “Reese, you’re overwhelming me over here. I need a beautiful website, killer content…I don’t know where to begin!”.

Well, what can I say, I like to get people out of their comfort zones and push you to do things bigger and better.

I want to get you thinking about your online presence because guess what people? You’re doing business online and with the competition out there if you’re website isn’t attracting attention than you’re just another fish in a vast ocean.

Ask yourself this.  Is your website just another same-sy. What’s a same-sy? It’s a word I just made up. Here’s the definition from the Reese Ben-Yaacov International Dictionary:

same·sy
adjective

1. Identical, not different.
2. Copies another’s dress, ideas, or behavior
3. Imitation, like Spam

I’ve noticed that there are a lot of VA websites that look like they were thrown together in a day.  Virtual assistants are saying the same thing and their sites, while “slightly” different are all sort of the same boring set up and same boring content.

It’s shake up time.

Since most of us are bootstrapping our start up process it’s important to know where to find affordable resources to help with websites, copy writing and graphic design.

Below I’ll introduce you to some of the best online resources I’ve found that will help you build a killer storefront for your virtual assistant business . With the help of the below tools you will attract prospects to your virtual doorstep. Once they are at your doorstep your content needs to hold their hand and invite them in.  Good Design/Good Content = WIN.

Don’t believe me?  Maybe you’ll believe Forbes?  They’re preaching the same thing.

Here’s that list.

Website Creation

Strikingly

Super simple and fun website creation that will make it look like you hired a designer.

SquareSpace

Another great website builder that’s gaining a lot of popularity. I see more and more SquareSpace sites popping up and they are beautiful to say the least.

Wix

One of the most recognized website builders.  Quality sites with good support.

Rocket Spark

Amazing company, amazing founders (I met one of the founders recently) and amazing offers.  They are a website builder plus you can add on logo design, copy writing, SEO help, and if you need your own photographer, they’ll even recommend one depending on where you are in the world.  Rocket Spark is great for those in the UK and New Zealand as they are a New Zealand based company with offices in the UK.

Elegant Themes

Choose from thousands of beautiful themes at a very low price. Want to know my personal favs? Let me know in the comments.

Copy Writing Help

A Course About Copy

AWESOME free tutorial vids on how to write one of the most important pages on your site.  The about page.

CopyBlogger

One stop shop for all things copy writing.  Has a free copy writing course and tons of information on how to persuade with writing.

Graphic Design

99Designs

Crowd sourcing design. Create a contest for your project, set a price and a dozen or more artists will submit their work for your review.  Pick the best designer for your project.

Fiverr

Great for getting logos or graphics for your site at a super low price as well as a ton of other offerings (my hubby bought me a happy birthday song sung by a guy in hot pink bikini bottoms – umm, weird)

Canva

design your own stuff, for free!

PicMonkey

another DIY design site

And last but certainly not least……..

Brandgasm

This is an awesome course that is a DIY design and copy writing kit that makes your website look like you hired a pro.  This kit was made for beginners in mind.

A Splendid Start

This option is unique from the options above.

A Splendid Start is an amazing option for those that  just don’t have the time or energy to do it all alone.  This option is half DIY and half designer created.  It’s catered to business owners like us VAs who are just starting out and have a tight budget.  A Splendid Start is part branding class and part web design service and as a result you’ll be getting the best of both worlds.

Did this blog post incite you to make some changes to your website?  Tell me about it below in the comments.  I want to hear from you.

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PayPalAlternatives

When working virtually you need to be able to offer your clients convenient payment methods. Most people know and trust PayPal because it’s one of the oldest online payment providers and the most widely used for millions of people around the world.

There are however, several alternatives available.  Read below to find the the best alternatives for PayPal for virtual assistants.

Dwolla

Dwolla is attractive because it offers free transactions for $10 or less or a $0.25 transaction fee for anything over $10. You can send money to anyone even if they don’t have a Dwolla account but they will need to create an account to collect the funds.  When you sign up for Dwolla you have to connect your bank account as the transfer of money is solely from bank to Dwolla and vice versa.  In other words, no credit cards. What’s unique about this service is that if both parties have a Dwolla account, then money can be spent easily through their name, Facebook ID, Twitter handle, LinkedIn profile, telephone number, or email address. This is the only drawback of using Dwolla because it means having your clients create an account in order to pay you and this is another step for them.

Stripe

Unless you live in the U.S and Canada you can stop reading right here as it’s only available in these countries (Stripe is coming to the UK soon. Stripe is comparable to PayPal across the board.  They both take a 2.9% plus $0.30 processing fee for each transaction. If you need to refund money to a client PayPal takes a transaction fee for the refund and with Stripe there is no refund transaction fee.  Stripe’s users claim that Stripe’s customer service is far better than PayPal and because Stripe financially backed by former PayPal founders you can bet they will continue to up their game and strive to offer the best service that continues to compete with PayPal.  In short Stripe has the same pricing as PayPal but you can process credit cards right from your site unlike PayPal which sends you to their site for processing. Last but not least unlike PayPal, Stripe holds your money for 48 hours before it will become available.  Consider this when making a decision.

Payoneer

Payoneer is an Internet-based financial services business that allows users to transfer money and receive payments through re-loadable prepaid MasterCard debit cards. Payoneer works as an alternative for wire transfer services and online payments that provides users with refillable debit cards. The cards are issued through Mastercard and can be used at ATMs or at the point-of-purchase. You can withdraw money from your debit card directly to your local bank account.  This is a great option for virtual assistants who live in countries where PayPal is unavailable.  There is an annual fee of $29.95 and transaction fees of $3.15.  While expensive if this is your only option, it’s better than none at all.

Paymate

Paymate is an option for Australians and New Zealanders. Paymate works by crediting funds directly into recipients bank accounts. Paymate enables sellers in Australia to accept payments in AUD, USD, GBP, EUR and NZD while sellers in New Zealand can accept payments in NZD. With Paymate you get your money in your account within 1 business day.

Payza

Payza is offered in over 200 countries worldwide and accepts 22 currencies.  You can invoice your clients directly with Payza.  You get paid directly into your Payza e-wallet account.  You can withdraw your money to your bank account either by bank wire, bank transfer or with Payza’s prepaid card that you can use anywhere in the United States where Visa is accepted.  To receive funds into your Payza personal or business account you will be charged a fee of 2.50% +$0.25.  Starter accounts pay no receiving fees on up to $400 USD or equivalent/month or $2,000 USD.

Venmo

To use Venmo you need to download their smartphone app.  Users transfer money for free from one account to another and sending money is as easy as it gets. Venmo is only available in the United States and if you’re funding your account with a credit card there is a 3% fee.

Square

Like Venmo, Square requires you to download their smartphone app.  Creating an account is easy.  Once you’re account is open Square will send you their Square reader (credit card swiper) and then you need to download the Square Register.  These two work together so that you can swipe credit cards using your smartphone and the money is applied to your bank account minus a 2.75% processing fee. While this option is incredibly useful for many things, I think that as virtual assistants we won’t benefit from the ability to swipe credit cards.  This is a great option to offer our clients, instead.

What online payment processor are you using and why?  Also if you’d like to see a PayPal alternative added to this list leave it in the comments below.

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The Tools That I Use To Run My Virtual (1)

Some time ago I published one of my most popular blog posts Must Have Software For Virtual Assistants.  It was such a hit that I decided to publish Must Have Software For Virtual Assistants Part II.

I get emails nearly every week asking about the programs, apps, software, etc., I use. I’m always happy to lift the curtain to give people a peek  but I figured instead of answering each email individually, I’ve decided to write this blog post.

So without further adieu, here is the list in no order of importance.

Email: Gmail  and Google Apps for Business

I adore Gmail – not just for the easy-to-navigate interface, but because it’s so easy to organize! You can also add fantastic apps like Boomerang to make managing your overflowing inbox a breeze and Rapportive for helping me see who I’m emailing with.

 Document Sharing: Google Drive and DropBox

Google Drive (formerly known as Google Docs) is an online software suite similar to Microsoft Office.

I use it to create action plans for my clients, as well as saving all my client specific information. It’s easier than DropBox and accessible whether I’m on my desktop computer, my laptop, or someone else’s computer.  It’s pretty much vital to any virtual assistant.

DropBox is another must have document sharing software.  You can save any type of file to DropBox.  Just create an account and share folders with your clients and you have a great way to share files/folders instantly.

Merchant Services: PayPal

PayPal is the golden standard.  Your clients don’t have to have a PayPal account to pay your invoices with PayPal.  All they have to have is a valid credit card.  It’s a simple and easy way to start taking payments as a new online business, and I recommend it to everyone starting out.  

 Invoicing and Accounting: Freshbooks

Freshbooks has a ton of features.  From time tracking, invoicing, and accounting this is an all-in-one solution that I’ve been using since 2008.  I’ve researched competitors and I’ve always come back to Freshbooks.  Freshbooks is free for just one client (bummer), after that it’s $19.99 for their seedling plan.   I have to offer up an honorable mention to another invoicing and accounting tool called Harvest.  While I don’t use Harvest many virtual assistants swear by it so check both options out.

Online Conference Calls: Skype or Google Hangouts

I’ve been using Skype for as long as I can remember.  It’s super reliable and you can share your computer screen with for free during your call.  That said, Google Hangouts has been amazing and I’ve got to give credit where credit is due. What I love about Google Hangouts is you can add up to 10 people to the call at no extra cost.  Both Skype and Google Hangouts have smart phone apps so you can hold a conference call from your phone when you’re not at home.  Super helpful when you clients need to talk you when you’re not at home.

Project Managment: Asana and RedBooth

I’ve been using Asana for awhile now but I’ve also used RedBooth (formerly TeamBox) and I love them both.  Whether you have one client or several you must use a project management software to stay organized.   If you have virtual assistants that you sub-contract work to you can add them as team members to both platforms and have complete visibility as to where things stand with each project/client.

Shopping Cart Software: eJunkie

This is my number one recommendation to people starting out online who want to set up shop quickly and easily. For $5 a month e-Junkie lets you sell your digital products and programs simply by creating a new product, uploading a digital file or pointing to a page on your site for a program and naming your price.

Then you can choose from a range of payment methods like Google Checkout or PayPal and embed that code straight into your website o ensure people can `buy now’ and setup a simple affiliate program.

This is a great suggestion to clients who want to sell stuff online and want you to manage everything from the backend.  Super simple and cost effective.

Domain Name Registration: GoDaddy

I’ve been using GoDaddy since I created my first website.  I only use them to purchase my domain names.  I never use them for hosting.  See below for my web host recommedations.

Web Hosting: HostGator and BlueHost

I’ve been using HostGator for awhile now and I’ve got no complaints.  They give you a variety of plans to chose from and allow you to upgrade at any time.  I went from their Hatchling plan of $3.95 per month to their Baby Plan when my traffic increased.

BlueHost is what my clients use to run their WordPress sites and I love their customer services and ease of use.  Highly recommend!

Email Marketing: MailChimp

I’ve been using MailChimp for a few years now and I love it.  They offer a free plan for up to 2,000 subscribers.

I recommend it to anyone starting out in email marketing because it’s so simple to use, and easy to navigate. You can create campaigns easily and setup autoresponders to go out automatically each time you get a new subscriber to welcome them.

Online Photo Editor: PicMonkey or Canva

Whether I need an image for a blog post I’ve just written or my client needs an photo touched up for his/her website I use PicMoney or Canva.  PicMonkey and Canva are favorite tool for entrepreneurs because they are both easy and quick, allowing you to add text and overlays to photos for blog posts. If you can’t afford Photoshop check them out.

Website Creation: WordPress.org

I love my WordPress website and I firmly stand behind this platform and encourage other virtual assistants to set up a WordPress site.   WordPress offers thousands of free themes.  Once you’ve loaded up your  theme WordPress sites are easy to update.  If you can use Microsoft Word than you can add a new page on to your WordPress site.  There are plenty of free tutorials on YouTube on how to get your WordPress site online but I’d recommend checking out Lynda’s WordPress Tutorials.  They are free and have various skill levels starting from beginner to advanced WordPress training.

My new favorite WordPress theme comes from Elegant Themes and is called the Divi Theme.   Divi is a great theme because it’s responsive across all devices (phones, tablets, etc) and is super easy to use.  Divi is the next theme on my list to buy as I’ve been playing around with it on client’s sites and I love it.

 

What software are you using to run your virtual assistant business?  List your suggestions below in the comments so everyone reading can benefit.

See you in the comments!

Rock on,

Reese

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