Virtual Assistant can work anywhere anytimeHaving run a successful Virtual Assistant business for nearly ten years, I am frequently asked What is a Virtual Assistant. I suppose the term is not familiar to everybody and it can sound like quite a strange concept. The question is then followed with “Why would I use a Virtual Assistant?” Let us look at the idea of the Virtual Assistant and the reasons why people and businesses choose to employ one.
I would describe a Virtual Assistant (VA) as. Someone who works for a small business or organisation but not directly employed by them. They are accountable for the work they do on their behalf. They are, in effect, a subcontractor who provides secretarial and/or administrative support.
The duties of a VA can include scheduling activities such as meetings, organising travel, social media, customer service, email campaigns, book-keeping and much more. A VA can work from their office (they might, for example, rent office space in a shared building), from their home office, or from the offices of their clients. They can also do a combination of any of these.
The definition of a Virtual Assistant on the Wikipedia website is as follows:
“A Virtual Assistant (typically abbreviated to VA, also called a virtual office assistant) is an entrepreneur who provides professional administrative, technical, or creative (social) assistance to clients from a home office…. They usually work for other small businesses, brokers and consultancy groups. Reports state that there are as few as 5,000-8,000 or as many as 25,000 Virtual Assistants worldwide; the profession is growing in centralised economies with “fly-in, fly-out” (FIFO) staffing practices.” www.wikipedia.org.
There is currently a debate in the industry about the title of a Virtual Assistant and whether ‘we’ as an industry should change it. The general feeling is that the title ‘Assistant’, (to those who aren’t familiar with the industry), doesn’t give an accurate impression of the variety of roles a VA can fulfil.
I believe there are four types of Virtual Assistants:
Virtual Assistant (VA). A VA is someone who can assist their client with some secretarial and administrative tasks, usually on a short-term project basis. Equally, they may undertake individual jobs over a period; for example, creating a database of business cards.
Virtual Personal Assistant (VPA). A VPA is someone who works in close collaboration with a small business owner, providing secretarial and administrative support. The VPA will be there long-term. The relationship is similar to that of employer and employee. Nevertheless, the VPA will only visit the client once or twice a week, and despite the longevity of the relationship, is self-employed.
Virtual Executive Assistant (VEA). A VEA is someone who works in close collaboration with a small business owner to provide secretarial and administrative support. A VEA could be part of the business development strategy for the company. The VEA is an important part of the business, becoming one of the planners and authorising partners.
Personal Assistant. A PA is someone who works for one person in one organisation. However, in the VA world, many VAs call themselves PAs as many employers/clients understand this term better.
What is a Virtual Assistant
In conclusion, the answer to What is a Virtual Assistant is that the role has many different nuances. However, the role is primarily an administrative role that helps people and businesses undertake the numerous administrative activities. It is very similar to that of an Executive PA.
This is an extract from my book entitled Becoming a Virtual Assistant and avoid the Mistakes I made. In this book, you will discover many PA tips on starting your own business or discover some PA tips and Secretarial Support if you are in full-time employment that will help you understand your boss and their reason and reactions on many of the tasks they undertake.
What is a Virtual Assistant and How to Become a Virtual Assistant
Does it cost money to take someone to Small Claims?
Working out the interest on a Small Claims request
You’ll have to go to court if…
After the Hearing
1 Introduction – Small Claims
You can take court action against someone who owes you money and won’t pay. This is known as making a court claim. It can also be known as taking someone to a ‘small claims court’. You usually have to pay a court fee, and you may not win your case or get your money back.
2 How to take Court Action
The government has tried to make the process as easy as possible. The easiest way to claim it be completing the form online
I am a great believer in having an email signature on all my emails. I am also a great believer in keeping up with modern work techniques and changes that take place. Which is why I started this blog giving PA Tips and Secretarial Support.
When I started school things changed every decade, then the age of computing arrived, and things changed every 18 months, and now, with the aid of social media, they seem to change every minute. As a consequence; I attended a training course myself to find out what changes may be occurring over the next few months in our industry.
What is an email signature for?
To my utter amazement, it seems to be with emails and email signatures. It is one of the strangest changes and I would never have thought about 12 months ago. To be fair, even last week. The standard convention has always been that when you send a business email, you add a signature. The signature tells the recipient your name, your job title, and contact details. Quite often there is a legal disclaimer. The disclaimer will state that the information provided is for the recipient only and if misdirected, please delete the email. Then, of course, there is the small advertisement about the company or a testimonial telling prospective customers or clients how good your business is. As I said, this is the standard, but each company may be different and offer different guidelines. My company abides by the above, and I have been pleased with this style of format.
Never the less, it has come to my attention that large organisations have started to remove surnames from people’s email signatures to have a generic email address. When I have called organisations and the person on the other end of the phone has given me an email address that is generic I am told that they will receive the email or that their first name is sufficient, and the message will reach them. It is not something I have given much thought to in the past.
However, it has been brought to my attention that the reason for this is that many staff (especially ladies) have found that during their working day they have given out their name, their email, and works telephone number. All useful forms of communication for a client or customer to contact them. This is where it gets interesting. Some of those people have then been stalked out of the office by the clients or customers. The client or customer has been able to locate them from the minimal amount of detail they obtained from the regular communication they had during a working relationship and then taken it one step further.
Facebook is an excellent tool for communication, as is Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest etc. However, we know there are risks associated with our personal data on these sites. For example, I have never put my birthday on social media or any reference to the day or month. I don’t put my address or house number, including photos of my home that could identify where I live. I have even found that I moderate my Facebook posts and opinions when using the various social media platforms. A form of self-restriction.
It only takes a few minutes for someone to find out those details, and you could have lost your identity or find that you are the proud owner of a new credit card that owes circa £10,000 worth of debt. It has never really occurred to me to extend some of that security to the emails I send, and the details people can glean from that.
In Conclusion, what will my email signature look like
As I said at the beginning, I had never thought about an email signature in this contex. It is fascinating when you spend a few minutes thinking about how vulnerable we have, and are becoming, digitally. So, the big question. Will I change? My email address only uses my first name, so there is no change there. What about my signature? You know, I think I may get the ladies in my office to change there’s. As the owner of a business and advising about PA Tips and Secretarial Support, I have put myself forward as the face of my company. I don’t feel I can then hide behind a title. I will, however, take a little more care about what I put in my emails and the amount of details people could glean from them.
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Businesses work hard to get contact details from existing clients and new possible clients. Just take a look at your local supermarkets and insurance companies. They all want your contact details.
Businesses also work hard to keep a client happy, loyal and hopefully become an advocate for the services or products. There is just as much hard work and time invested in finding a new client. This all has a cost to the business because:
Credit control gives the impression that it is a dark art surrounded by mystery. People think it’s a hard task to undertake; they feel that the person on the other end of the telephone is going to be rude to them or they could ask questions that they simply don’t have the answers. However; the biggest fear appears to be the fact that; we can become very uncomfortable asking people for money. If a business has provided a product or service they are entitled to receive full recompense for that product or service.
Credit Control doesn’t have to become a difficult endeavour, once you have momentum, you will become exceptional at credit control. Below are some suggestions on how to tackle credit control.
Credit Control Tips
Make sure you are clear of all distractions as you are going to have to concentrate on one task at a time. That task has to be credit control.
Have a copy of the document/invoice(s) in front of you for reference.
Ensure you are familiar with the lay of the invoice as you will have questions. These questions will range from the invoice number, the quantity of goods purchased, the unit price of the goods, total price of the goods. There could be other questions that can easily be answered with a copy of the invoice in front of you.
In a calm manner, pick up the telephone and ask to speak to the accounts payable or ask to be put through to the person who deals with accounts queries.
Firstly introduce yourself and ask for the name of the person you are talking to. Explain in a friendly voice that you are calling on behalf of your employer (or yourself). You need to engage them in friendly conversation and explain that you are chasing payment for an outstanding invoice(s). There is no need to be aggressive or abrupt and will appreciate your calm approach. They may ask you a few questions about the invoice. Above all be helpful and reply to all the questions asked. The object of the call is to make sure they become receptive to your request for payment of your invoice.
Stay your ground
Ask when can you expect remit of the invoice. They may ask you to resend the invoice. If they do, send a copy via email and put a copy in the post. Then ask them again when can you expect to receive full payment of the invoice. Ascertain any problems with the invoice. What is preventing them paying the invoice as payment is overdue in accordance with your terms and conditions.
A cheque may need to be authorised by am a manager, or the invoice needs to be approved. In that instance, ask them when you can expect this to happen.
Thank them for their time.
Write on the invoice, on your accounts package or on an excel spreadsheet the outcome of your conversation. Write clearly the date that they said you can expect payment. In addition if you have sent a copy invoice, write the day you emailed the copy invoice and sent one in the post.
Enter a note in your diary to make an additional call to the person to make sure they have received a copy of the invoice. If the payment was expected on a particular date and has not been received, call again on that date. Tell the person that the payment has not been received and find out if there are any issues.
What if your client won’t pay you if you are a Virtual Assistant?
There could be occasions when your client, simply isn’t going to pay your invoice. On occasions like this, you are going to have to make the decision if you are going to embark on legal action. Legal Action could involve a solicitor or small claims court. In some circumstances, it may advantageous to write the debt off. In conclusion, the amount of the outstanding invoice may dictate the severity of your action.
Welcome to our online magazine from Julie and the team. If you have been on one of Julie’s training courses, you know she is passionate about PA, EAs and Secretaries being the best they can be. She also has very strong opinions about what a PA, EA and Secretary should and shouldn’t do. If you have a question, or would like to add an article, please get in touch. We would love to hear from you.