Dawn At Your Service’s Blog

Subcontracting for Other VAs – Pros and Cons

One of the things I love best about sub-contracting for other Virtual Assistants is they GET IT!!! They know the business. They know the pet peeves. “Client training” is unnecessary. Virtual assistants know there is generally a 24-48 hour turn around (based on the type of assignment). They do not expect e-mail replies immediately. They are usually not demanding and totally respect your working hours. They know in life crap happens and don’t expect you to be at their beck and call. They understand what it’s like to run a business from home with kids, Dr’s appointments, cheer leading practice, parent teacher conferences and all of the other regular demands of parenting.

The learning curve as far as getting to know their business (which of course is a requirement in this line of work) basically only consists of knowing their personal policies. There may be a little learning involved as far as getting to know their clients’ businesses or project management software they use. But working WITH another VA is way easier than jumping on board with a client whose type of business you’re not familiar with. (An example for me would be an insurance agent.)

Notice how I stressed the word with above. A big pet peeve amongst the VA industry is being treating like an employee. We are not employees, we are partners. We own our own businesses and pay taxes too. Virtual Assistants are not employees, we are independent contractors working together with other independent contractors/small business owners to collaboratively increase success. Virtual Assistants get that and it’s motivating to work with people in the appropriate mindset.

Virtual Assistant’s are usually amazing planners and organizers, therefore there is rarely a need for rush projects. And again, I understand that life happens so when another VA is in a jam, I’m more than happy to help them out with a rush project to meet a deadline if my schedule allows. But overall, when subbing for another VA, things usually run pretty smoothly. Assignments are given with ample amount of time to complete. We share the same goals and lifestyles so we often develop strong and close relationships. At the end of the day it’s almost like having a co-worker only they’re usually on the other end of the country. 🙂

There are a couple of cons though. Naturally you’re working for a lower rate, therefore you’re making less money than you would be doing the same thing for a regular client. The way I look at it is, I didn’t do any of the marketing to get the work, I don’t have to deal with the contract or billing and invoicing which are all non-billable hours. So in my mind, it evens out.

One thing I have noticed is when Virtual Assistant’s are looking for a subcontractor (unless you personally know them), although they KNOW subs are not employees, I have found it common for them to have a hiring process when it comes to beginning a new working relationship. Sometimes their RFPs look like job postings requiring a lot of questions to be answered (i.e. job interview type questions) and wanting references. I know myself like many, many others wouldn’t bother responding to an RFP that looks like a job posting even if we are qualified. It’s insulting. I can totally understand that you want to be sure that the person you bring on board is qualified, reliable and efficient. But post what skills you need and save the rest for a casual phone consultation.

I’d like to close by saying I have truly been blessed with my clients. Overall almost all of my ongoing clients are very respectful of my time, hours and family. They are more than understanding!! Whether regular clients or other Virtual Assistants I work with, I’ve enjoyed having them as a part of my life. I work with some absolutely wonderful people and I thank God for it everyday!

October 21, 2010 Posted by | Business Management, Work From Home | , , , , , | 4 Comments

Illinois Virtual Assistants Connection

A few months ago I went to a meetup for Virtual Assistants in Illinois that was organized by Cindy Bruce of Essential Office Solutions through Virtual Assistant Forums. We had a fantastic time talking about how our businesses evolved, successes, failures, resources, client relations, challenges of working from home and how we could gain from our meetups.

Cindy Bruce, Kathleen Vargas of The Office Virtuoso, Kathy Watkins of Turnkey Virtual Assistance, Doreen Patrick of Virtual Business Partners and I decided to formally develop a professional networking Virtual Assistant Group named Illinois Virtual Assistants Connection (ILVAC for short). Our intent is to share knowledge and experiences at all levels of self-employment, educate each other of new resources, technology and best VA practices, build solid business relationships, as well as join together in collaborative efforts for referrals and project outsourcing. Of course we also want to have fun, fun, fun!

We’ve all put a lot of time and effort into building our group and are proud to say it’s steadily growing and we are getting great feedback. Members are enjoying our group, expanding their knowledge about the rapidly growing Virtual Assistant Industry and personally, I’ve learned something new at every meetup so far.

Illinois Virtual Assistants Connection has a lot of exciting things coming for the group. We are planning  a holiday party, Lunch-and-Learns, and our biggest baby of all…an ILVAC Conference for Spring! I have never planned a full fledged conference before. It is so exciting!

There are no profits involved for the ILVAC Core members other than the rewards we gain from building relationships and helping others.

If you’re a Virtual Assistant or aspiring VA residing in Illinois, please join us at Illinois Virtual Assistants Connection and become a part of our future success!

October 27, 2009 Posted by | Business Development, Business Management, Business Operations, How To, Marketing, Work From Home | , , , , | Leave a comment

Free Resources for Virtual Assistants and More

Some people are anal about sharing trade secrets. I’m all about sharing knowledge and helping others succeed.

There are so many free alternative resources out here in cyberspace that it blows me away! Thank goodness for Delicious bookmarks! I will continue to edit and update this post as I continue to learn more about what is available, my experiences with the resources and/or any changes in availability. There is an extensive thread on VA resources on Virtual Assistant Forums and more here (not sure if you have to be a member to view).

Accounting
Quick Books Simple Start

Administrative Resources
Google Docs-A convenient way to share documents and calendars (I wish Google had more color coding options with the calendar)
Dictionary.com-Have to throw this one in….don’t know where I’d be without my thesaurus!
OpenOffice.org-Free open source alternative to Microsoft Office
Microsoft Office Online-Free templates of pretty much anything you can think of, along with free website hosting and sitebuilder

Billing
CurdBee-Online billing for small business owners and freelancers.

Blog Resources
blogger.com-Free Blog Site
BTemplate-Free Blogger Templates
WordPress.com-Free Blog site
WP Generator Blog-Word Press Theme Generator
WP Classic-Free WordPress Themes
Artisteer-Free platform to build custom WordPress (Joomla & Drupal) Themes (Free Trial Only)
Twitter Image.com-Free Twitter Backgrounds
freeCSS Templates.org-Free CSS templates that require a link back (I think you can use these CSS templates for most web design programs.)
13 Premium-Like WordPress Themes That are Free and Stunning
Free Themes Directory– WordPress themes. At the time of this post, Free themes Directory states they have 791 themes!

Fax
Fax Zero-Free Internet faxing in the U.S. and Canada-Fax 1 document (max 3 pages), 2 free faxes per day

File Storage, Management & Transfer
Mozy.com-Back up space free for 2 GB
4Shared.com-Back up and shared space free for 5 GB
YouSendit.com-Large file transfers-send only Free version maximum 100 MB
Zamar-Free file conversion
Firezilla-Free FTP Solution-Transfer >4GB
Altools.com-They have a few great PC utilities but I use alzip to unpack zip files

Miscellanoeus
Filehippo-Yeah….I don’t know where to stick this one. It’s a site loaded with free software. Basically a very extended version of this post.
VirtualAssistantsGuide-Looks like I stumbled upon someone else with the same idea 🙂
Tiny URL-I use this URL shorten tool all of the time.
Smashingapps.com– Awesome array of free resources and online tools dedicated to web designers and developers, but useful for all!
Shoestring Small Business-Business resource guide. This site has a products and services directory of free and low cost business tools. One thing I like about it most is it’s also a free business-to-business directory. Good quality directories are great for search engine juice and exposure!

Photo Editing Software
10 Excellent Open Source and Free Alternatives to Photoshop-Thank you Daniel Shain for this resource. I love Gimp! It rocks!
Photoshop Alternatives: Another 14 Free Image Manipulation Tools-Thank you hongkiat.com

PDF Creators-Converters
PDF 995
Primo PDF
NitroPDF
PDF Converter-PDF to Word/Excel (Only allowed one every 30 mins so make sure to get it right the first time!)

Project Management
Ace Project-BaseCamp alternative. Up to 5 users, 5 projects and 50 tasks
1st Manager.com
DotProject-Open source project management software
Client Spot– Up to 5 users and 2 projects

Publications
OpenZine-Create a free online magazine

Remote Access
Logmein
Real VNC

Screen Shots
Gadwin PrintScreen 4.3 freeware-Make sure to download the correct (free) version
FireShot-Firefox print screen extension for Mozilla users

Stock Images
100 (Legal) Sources for Free Stock Images-Thank you Laura Milligan for putting the time into this!

Time Tracking
myhours-Time tracking system that I use daily. It allows me to run reports and export time sheets to Excel.
Cashboard-Financial time tracking software that allows unlimited invoices, estimates, payments and one employee log-in.
ManicTime-Time tracking system that logs computer and application usage.

Twitter
Twitter Buttons -A variety of Follow me coded images.
TweetDeck– Organization interface for twitter users-Makes it a whole lot easier, but can be distracting.
Twellow– The Yellow oages for Twitter users-Great way to follow interesting people and target audience by category. Just Don’t spam….we don’t like that.

Video & Conference Calling
Skype-a head-set is recommended to improve sound quality
ooVoo – video chat & conferencing up to 6 people (make sure to review system requirements)

Web Design & Development (Some template/CSS sites are listed under Blogs Category)
Open Source Flash Projectsa lot of great resources, especially for the more advanced web developer.
CMS Made Simple-Open Source Content Management System
FreePHPLD Templates
Joomla-Content Management System that is a bit more advanced than CMS Made Simple.
NVU-HTML/WYSIWYG Editor
Max’s HTML Beauty-Free wysiwyg editor that color codes HTML/PHP Code
FavIcon From Pics-Display your picture or logo in browser tabs or address bar.

March 27, 2009 Posted by | Business Development, Business Management, Free Resources, Work From Home | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments