Tuesday, 5 September 2017

5 Soft Skills for Virtual Assistants

Awesome Communication Skills
Most people that have worked in admin roles, or as an Executive Assistant, have great communication skills, however as a VA, where there is less face-to-face time with a client, your written and verbal communication skills need to be well above average and into the exceptional range.  Most clients are terrible at communicating what they really need and often their instructions are ambiguous and confusing.  That’s where you need to be great at paraphrasing and getting to the root of what they really mean instead of what they “think” they said.

Great at Juggling and keeping organizing
Think back across your working life.  If you have had roles where you have reported to numerous bosses or worked for a few different departments of a company then you are going to be great at juggling the tasks of a virtual assistant .  If you like variety, then this is the job for you.  VA’s are super organised as we are working for many clients at the same time and it’s important to keep everything running seamlessly.  You want every client o feel like they are your only client and that they have your full attention at any given moment.

Techie Skills
Now it’s true that it is the advances in office technology that have made the job of Virtual Assistant possible and for that reason VA’s have acquired a reputation as being very tech savvy and up to date with all the latest apps, software and gadgets to automate our lives.  Whilst this is true of some VA’s, not all of us are Technological experts.  At the end of the day, you can only be as tech savvy as your clients and if you happen to be working for a client who can barely send email, then being up with the latest gadgets and tricks is not really going to help.  But it certainly is a help if you like technology and finding new ways to use it.

Like solitude
Working as a VA does have it’s downside and it’s upside.  If you like living in your own head space and peace and quiet,  you will absolutely love working as a VA.  Depending on your point of view and where you sit on the introvert/extrovert scale, VA work can be a little isolating.  Introverts love it,  but extroverts soon suffer from people withdrawal.  They miss the banter with work colleagues and daily hubbub of an office, but extroverts don’t despair. That doesn’t mean you can’t be a VA, that just means you need to have plenty of coping mechanisms in place.  Join a business breakfast group, organise a once a month catch up with other VA’s in your area.  Get out and about to networking  events , or consider a co-working space to keep you energized.

Be a Great Sounding Board.
Being in business for yourself can be daunting.  It is also daunting for your clients, who also have moments of doubt and lack direction.  This is where sometimes a VA is a great sounding board.  Because we are also in business for ourselves, we “totally get it” when a client just needs to mull over an idea with someone to decide which direction they want to go in.  Whilst a great business coach will help you with this also, the relationship with a client and a VA is very personal  (much like an EA/PA and their boss) and sometimes you both just need a friendly ear and to be a sounding board.  I never mind lending an ear to this type of conversation. Remember this works both ways.  I’ve learn’t a lot of f my clients over the years and vice versa.

The Exceptional Assistant
Want o find out more or join me on the next Virtual Assistant Introduction Program.  Sign up here:


Sunday, 27 August 2017

The Lifesavers and Timesavers

The Lifesavers and Timesavers

Virtual Assistants have a reputation for being very tech savvy.  It seems to come with the territory and the nature of how we work.  However, trust me, not all of us are up with the latest gadgets and apps on the market.  At the end of the day, we can only be as tech smart as the clients we work with. There are millions of apps, and sites out there that make useful tools but here are just 5 of my all time favorites and they are not just for VA’s.

You know the ten thousand things you are trying to keep straight in your head and all those “To Do” list you keep writing and losing?  Remember The Milk helps you keep track of those and keeps them handy in one little app.  You can set up schedules for ongoing tasks and little reminders for one of jobs.   Whilst there are lots of apps and software that does the same thing, I particularly like this one.   It’s cute and very user friendly. 

Working from home can be very isolating.  If you find it difficult to work in complete silence and like the sounds of low level background noise to make you feel sane and not quite so alone, you may enjoy Coffitivity.  It plays the sounds of a busy cafĂ© whilst you work.  I can also recommend Ecosounds.net which offers the sound of the ocean as well as rain or forest noises if nature is more your thing.  (Great for a relax or meditation too!)

This site has changed my life.  If you love being able to have all your music with you no matter where you go in the world.  Spotify is for you.  Listen to your favorite album, artist or create a play list of your own or check out some of the playlists people have uploaded for great mixes for parties, a romantic dinner or a wind down over Sunday breakfast.  Love it!

I have whiled away many hours just searching through all the cool items on Fiverr.  Fiverr is the world's largest marketplace for digital services. Some very talented people offer their services on Fiver for as little as start at $5, (hence the name).  Everything from getting photo of a dog holding up a sign with your company logo, to a professional radio announcer style voiceover.  I promise you hours of fun.


I have clients that travel a lot and sometimes the people they want to Skype or call don’t live in the same city that they do.  Organising a meeting with a person can always be a little bit stressfull and I always get nervous that I might have got it wrong.  This handy tool helps me to know I got it right every single time.  Just plug in the date and time of where you are and it the city where your attendee is located and the softeware will do the rest.  A life saver!

Saturday, 5 March 2016

To GST Or To Not GST?

When you start a new business there are so many new things to learn, the experience can be a little daunting.  For instance, “Do I have to register for GST?”  It’s a simple enough question and one that puckers the brow of many a new business owner.  If you are setting yourself up as a Virtual Assistant you will need to register your business name and apply for an ABN.  However, you don’t, in most circumstances, have to register for GST …at least not yet.

Put simply, GST is a tax on most goods and services sold or consumed in Australia and it is collected by registered businesses and paid to the government.

Your new VA business has two roles: to operate as a business and to collect GST for the government.

However, if your turnover will be less than $75,000 in a 12 month period, registering for GST is optional.  If you are new to running your own business, you already have a lot to get your head around and not having to think about GST and the administrative work associated with tracking and reporting GST can be a relief.  You have plenty of time to settle into being a new business before worrying about understanding GST and BAS (Business Activity Statement) reporting.

Realistically, it is unlikely that your fledgling business will hit the GST threshold in your very first year, especially if you are starting your business part time.  If you haven't registered for GST, and you become aware that your GST turnover will exceed the $75 000 per year threshold, (break out the champagne!) and realise, all is not lost, you have 21 days to register.

As with all things financial, always speak to your accountant to make sure you are taking the right path for your particular circumstances.

The Exceptional Assistant


Interested in working as a VA or just started your VA business?  Check out these VA workshops:

Saturday 9th April

Saturday 21st May

Saturday 18th June

Contact enquiries@theexceptionalassistant.com.au for more details.

Monday, 23 March 2015

The Unpaid Mentor

All of us, throughout our lives, have had people that have were a profound influence on us.  Teachers, parents, coaches, friends, colleagues, roll models, these are all the unpaid mentors of our life.  Some we paid more attention to than others and some ….well, we should never have listened to at all.
In the business world, a mentor is considered a priceless addition to your business and guaranteed to bring results.  The line which is often trotted out (usually by professional mentors themselves) is that the cost of using a paid mentor must be “high enough to hurt” so that you will definitely follow through on your mentor’s recommendations and not waste your time.  I can see the logic, but I have to say what a load of dishwater.
Don't get me wrong, I think a professional coach or mentor is a valuable addition to your business team and definitely something every business owner should invest in  to grow (themselves and) their business.  However, when you have a fledgling business, funds are tight.  More often than not, most people are so busy trying to bring in enough money to get themselves established that there is not a lot left over to go towards the expense of mentors and coaches.  Yet, most people know they need someone with expertise to help them, get where they want to go, a bit quicker.
So where do you go to tap into some great advice and learn great processes without a huge outlay?  What some of us forget, is that there are sometimes some great role models around us, right under our noses, that we can talk to, emulate and ask advice of.
For me, when I started my business I soon discovered I had a wealth of people around me that I could tap into for expertise and usually it came at no more than the cost of a cup of coffee.
I’m lucky enough to work with some pretty dynamic clients, many of them very entrepreneurial and I’ve learnt from them to aim high and have vision.  I also have a close friend who has been successfully, self employed since her early twenties, so she was a great source of information on how to manage the day to day banalities of running a business, the things I needed to watch out for and how to make sure I stayed in business.  I make sure I watch people whose marketing style I like and who have walked the path ahead of me.  Someone who has been in business longer than you have, almost certainly has some great advice to share.
I’ve also studied people in the most unlikely places.  For example, there is mum at my children’s school who likes be involved in various committees and projects.  She nearly always put her hand up to be a classroom parent/teacher liaison and often single handedly manages fundraisers for the school.  What I admire about this lady is her ability to handle people.  She effortlessly smoothes ruffled feathers, unites the most unlikely people, always takes a polite interest in people around her in general and most importantly, gets the job done.  She could teach a masterclass in emotional intelligence.

If you can’t afford that professional mentor yet, take a look around you and be a student of those you admire.  Ask questions and learn.  Tap into those unpaid mentors and get the results you want.  Sometimes learning is FREE!

The Exceptional Assistant


Interested in working as a VA or just started your VA business?  Check out these VA workshops:

Saturday 18th April

Saturday 16th May

Saturday 13th June

Contact enquiries@theexceptionalassistant.com.au for more details.

Saturday, 19 October 2013

The Roses

I’ve had a frantic couple of weeks.  My workload has been pretty hefty.  There were quite a few late nights.  I have courses launching in Melbourne Sydney and Brisbane and  I’ve been juggling all of this with family issues,  client deadlines and my own health issues as well.

Feeling exhausted and a little flat I stopped for that all important mid morning cuppa and as Melbourne had decided to throw on a spectacular sunny spring day for a change, I decided I might take my beverage out into the garden for a bit.  What a great idea that turned out to be.

As I sat there in my seat letting the breeze blow through my hair and my soul .  I smelt the roses blooming in my garden I realised just how much I needed this short break and maybe I should start scheduling these moments into my hectic day.  Sometimes it is just great to STOP.  Not do anything.  Just let the wind blow.  I could literally feel the “calm” start to settle in.  Sometimes we all need to “stop and smell the roses”.

Life is hectic.  Running a business is at times a high pressure environment.  Clarity of thought is important when making important decisions and sometimes with the pace of work we don’t have the space for clear thinking. Keeping your head in the game sometimes means taking your head OUT of the game, just for 5 or 10 minutes.  Feel yourself breath, feel the sun on your skin.  Smell those Roses.

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

The Team

I admit it.  There are some jobs in my business I’m just not good at. There are also other jobs I just plain don’t like doing.  

A Virtual Assistant usually works in a solo role but there is absolutely no reason why a Virtual Assistant can’t use a team of people to get the work done.  Let me explain.

I know next to nothing about web maintenance and uploads.  Some of my clients need this service from me, but, I know if I took it on it would take me a long time to do, (cos I’m not good at it) and I would probably make costly mistakes and end up having to fix them.  A VA colleaugue of mine is a wiz at these types of jobs and loves doing them.  Instead I sub-contract the work to her.  It’s a win situation all round.  She does a perfect job every time.  I don’t have to do the thing I’m not good at.  The client is happy because they got a complete service and because my colleague  gives me a really good rate for giving her this work she didn’t have to go out and find herself,  I’m happy, as I make a small margin on the difference between my friends rate and the rate I charge my client.

Many of my clients come to me because I offer a complete service.  Whatever the administrative chore they would like taken off their hands, I can assist them.  It pays to have a “team” of professionals I can refer to for those jobs which are on the outer edges of my experience.  

Consider assembling a “team“ for yourself and your clients.  I love this quote by Henry Ford which sums things up nicely… 

"Coming together is a beginning.  Keeping together is progress.  Working together is success."  ~Henry Ford

Friday, 30 August 2013

The Part Time Virtual Assistant

Many EA's PA's and experienced admin staff have considered a career as a Virtual Assistant but are put off by the risk of not having a regular income, or worse, no income at all if their business fails.

What many don't realise is starting your VA Business doesn't have to be an "all or nothing" proposition.  Many VA's successfully combine their VA Business with part-time employed work.

Some choose to work, say, 3 days per week for a regular emplioyer and use the remaining days of the week to run their Virtual Assistant business.

The benefit of this combination of regular employed work and self-employed business income is that it provides some stability of income as well as enjoying the flexibility and satisfaction of earning your own income.

Many VA's have also started their business on a part-time basis utilising their time out of normal business hours and on weekends to get their business started and build a stable client base.  Whilst this is obviously a much slower road to true profitability a VA business makes an excellent second job.It is important, however,  to be honest, up front and realistic about your work commitments with your clients.

If taking this path, it also helps to target organisations and clients who are also operating out of normal working hours.  Organisations staffed by volunteers such as sporting associations, clubs, church groups, charities etc are all good target markets for "out of hours" clients  as, usually, the people assisting to run these organisations are also working outside normal 9-5.

It pays to remember your potential client base is not limited to your own town, state or country.  Your potential market is the world!

Other businesses to target if your are considering a part-time VA business are other start-up businesses like your own.  People starting consultancies and small businesses are sometimes working out of hours and in their free time too and they need to make the most of every moment and admin support will help them achieve this. 

There are many options for starting a Virtual Assistant business without taking a risky jump into the unknown. Don't feel you have to make a major change to reach your goal.  It is possible to start small and build your dream lifestyle gradually. 

The Exceptional Assistant offers a number of educational options for Virtual Assistant’s at all stages of their journey, whether a fledgling business or established business wanting to expand and make the most of their opportunities. If you would like to find out more about starting your own Virtual Assistant Business email me at : enquiries@theexceptionalassistant.com.au