May  2015 | Volume 16 Issue 5

 

PRESIDENT'S MESSAGE
Yvonne Weld, President

Do you communicate effectively?
Do your clients communicate effectively?

Yvonne Weld

Effective communication can mean a lot of different things to a lot of people. Everything from getting your message across, being able to listen, right to the different ways we communicate (email, telephone, texting, etc.).

These days there are more options for communicating than there has ever been, but with this comes more opportunities for communication breakdown. It is more important than ever to ensure your point is communicated effectively and even more important it is understood.

With these technological advancements we are moving towards a world of shortcuts and concise notes. (Just look at some of the texts I get from my teenagers and you will agree!) We seem to be a society that is working hard at getting our point across faster and faster and with less and less said.

It is because of this it is becoming easier and easier to be misunderstood and for tone to be misinterpreted. In the "good ole days" we had only two choices for communication; face-to-face and telephone and with these methods you could read the queues and inflections in someone's voice. This is so not true with modern technology. For this very reason it is so, so important to make sure you take the time to ensure your communications are being heard (and read) as you intend them.

The articles shared today will give you some tips for making sure you are addressing this!

I leave you with a funny memory I have from a one-day women's conference I attended this week … Susan Stewart was the speaker and she said something to this effect …

"Remember the good old days when you could hang up a phone and it had meaning. People really knew you were mad when you slammed down that receiver! Hitting end call on a smart phone just doesn't have this same impact."

Virtually yours,
Yvonne Weld
IVAA President


GETTING STARTED
5 Points VAs Should Consider When Communicating In The Digital Age
By Christine Bearse

Christine Bearse

Communication methods have been changing ever since man picked up a piece of charcoal and started recording his first stories. The pace has picked up considerably over the past 20 years, we now have several choices when it comes to getting our message across. With each platform comes it's own etiquette. But more important than etiquette, is how do you want to be perceived by your intended audience? I have 5 rules that have served me well over this past few years of digital communication takeover.

  1. Always go the extra mile when choosing your words. It may be socially acceptable among your friends to abbreviate every other word in your text or emails, but when addressing clients and potential clients go back to what you learned in English class. As a virtual professional, you are being evaluated by your written communication skills and style. Misspellings, incorrect word choices and slang can cost you a client. Why is this? Even if the client uses improper English, they expect their VA to know how to write. It can also be what separates you from the crowd when they are looking for a VA.
  2. Don't treat a client like your BFF. You can never go wrong by treating your clients with respect. Even if your client shoots off a quick email asking you to do something that is less than formal, don't take that as a license to drop your standards. Keeping to the status quo will always show you are worth the money you are being paid. The higher your level of professionalism, the more you can expect to be paid.
  3. Communicate a positive, can do attitude. Even if you read an email from a client and what they are asking seems impossible, rethink your response until you can find a positive answer. The VA that can cheerfully come up with a solution that may not hit all the points is going to be better received than the one who is snippy and comes up with all the reasons why it can't be done.
  4. Social media is not the place to vent. I can't tell you how many people I have blocked off my social media feeds because of public ranting. Just because they are not ranting on their business pages, doesn't mean it is okay. I choose to do business with people who have tolerance for others and address issues with people directly instead of shaming them in public.
  5. Autocorrect is the devil. Be sure to always reread any text message, email or social media post for autocorrect changes that you did not intend. This is one point I still struggle with when I am in a rush. But upon rereading a post it can be embarrassing to see some of the words your phone thought was what you intended. I had a phone once that would replace the word "that" with "titty" every time I used it. It is not a word I have ever used, so I am not sure how my phone thought it was what I intended.

I am sure some people will shake their heads at some of my points and call me old fashioned. That is okay, the ones who heed my advice will never look back and say, "I wish I hadn't sounded so professional."


WORKING WITH A VIRTUAL ASSISTANT
Communication breakdown? Try this.
By Tracey D'Aviero

Tracey D'Aviero

Do you ever get frustrated by the back and forth of email with your clients?

One of the things about being virtual is that we do a lot of our communicating by email.

It's quick, it's convenient, it's clear … except when it's not … !

I have had back and forth conversations with clients over email that have been excruciating. No one is getting their points across properly. Emails are crossing in the internet waves. Everyone gets frustrated.

It's communication breakdown at its best.

Many VAs I speak with are confused about the communication process.

But it's really not that difficult. All you have to do is set a procedure and then follow it. When you teach your clients how to communicate with you, everything goes smoother and everyone is happier.

Here are a few tips that will help you establish more effective communication:

  1. Schedule a regular production call. You can do this weekly, bi-weekly, a few times a week, whatever makes sense for you. The size of your client (based on the number of tasks you are doing for them on a regular basis) will determine how often you need to 'meet'.
  2. On your production call, get clear on the tasks that need to be taken care of in the coming week (or insert your timeframe here!) Speaking on the phone briefly can cut masses of time out of both of your schedules.
  3. Try not to get too detailed in your call – it's meant to be a high level overview – so you want to keep the call short if possible, and just go over the main points. Preparing yourself ahead of time is the most important piece of staying on topic and making the most of your time on the call. If you can, use a production call checklist or form, so you can cover the points you need and move along. Usually I suggest talking about Money (if relevant), Overdue Items, Current/Ongoing Projects, Upcoming Projects, and New Business.
  4. After your call, send your client an email with a quick summary. This helps to clarify what was said on the call and ensures that you are both on the same page. Errors or missed items can be seen quickly and added as necessary.
  5. Update your project management software with the details of the tasks that need to be done, and communicate with the client specifically about each item there. (if you don't use project management software, use email and be very clear. One subject per email!)
  6. At the end of the week, send an update if you can. Let the client know what's done and what is outstanding. Going into the weekend knowing where things stand makes everyone feel better.

If you do get to the point of frustration over back and forth emails, it's time to quickly jump on the phone to clarify. And at the end of that call, be sure to send an email summary as well.

Putting things in writing keeps everyone on the same page. It helps to make sure that you understand their needs, and they can clearly see that.

Effective communication is not a skill that everyone naturally possesses, so it may take some work on your part, (or your client's part!) so developing a procedure around how you communicate really helps.

My best advice is to use email to keep your communication in one place. Some VAs like to use social media, texting or instant messaging to stay available and in touch with their clients. I have always found this very ineffective, because there are simply too many places for people to go to communicate.

By using mainly email and the project management system (and phone calls where needed) it's a more streamlined process. Everyone can find what they need where it's supposed to be, and nothing gets missed!


VIRTUAL ASSISTANT TECH TIP
8 Easy Steps to Launch Your Website
By Ramona Nichols

Ramona Nichols

I just got back from IVAA Live Summit in Myrtle Beach. What a great and productive time. In less than one week, I've gotten work from contacts I made there. So start planning now so we can do the IVAA hug and snug next year!

One thing I noticed is some members have not set up their business websites (or could use a quick update). I know, there's always a ton of reasons:

  • You don't know code and think you have to hire an expensive professional designer - NOT ALWAYS
  • Funds are tight and you can't justify that pricey investment – How's FREE work for you?
  • You don't have the time, and clearly a website is a long-term project – Ever heard of the iterative process? Let's get Version 1.0 out first and work from there.

Sure there are cases when you'll need to turn to dedicated web and graphic designers for the heavy lifting. But if you follow these 8 easy steps, you'll find that a professional looking website to promote your business and communicate your mission is within your reach and your capabilities - no code, no experience necessary. Promise!

  1. First Find a Web Host. Oh wait, did you know as an IVAA regular member you get web hosting FREE? How's that for easy? Follow this link (login first) and get yourself set up. You'll also need a domain name - that catchy phrase you've spent countless hours deciding on. That's a no-brainer too. Domain names are cheap, some as low as 99 cents the first year, then $15 and some change to renew yearly. Here's a list to get you started. This is the only out-of-pocket required with this plan. IVAA makes it dead simple to get set up, so what are you waiting for?
  2. Install Wordpress. Relax! It's easy. All the major web hosting companies (including IVAA's free web hosting) offer One-Click installs. That's right - ONE CLICK and you go from none to one super sharp website in minutes.
  3. Set Things Up. Pop into the Wordpress "dashboard". Here's a pic. You're the pilot of this ship and this is your control panel. All the magic happens here. Set up your homepage, a contact form, an About page, get ready to blog, add all those compelling reasons why everyone should hire you. It's all a snap. If you can use Microsoft Word, you can create an amazing website with Wordpress.
  4. Next Choose Your Theme. This gives your site its look and feel. There are literally thousands upon thousands of Wordpress themes, both free and premium. It's easy to fall down the rabbit hole of endless theme choices, so be forewarned. Our priority today is to get you a professional looking website that you'll be proud to promote and start your Content Marketing on. Wordpress comes with a pre-installed default theme and 4 alternative themes. Any one of these will give you a nice clean mobile friendly website to get started with. What makes Wordpress such a dream is when you are ready to get something that speaks more to your soul your new theme is just a click away.
  5. Customize Your Site. With Wordpress you have full control over how your site looks. The sky's the limit and it's super easy to do. Remember that promise of no coding? Wordpress is all WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get). Think Microsoft Word. It's just that easy.
  6. Add Plugins. After you've gotten comfortable with the basics of Wordpress it's time to venture out and stretch its limits. That's where Plugins come in. Again, it's a rabbit hole with literally thousands to choose from. I suggest you stick with only those that give you the functionality you absolutely can't live without.
  7. Add Content that Attracts. You'll want to add images in your posts and pages and even video and audio. You'll be a media wiz in no time. Again, we're talking plug and play. No technical gymnastics required.
  8. Finally Share and Get Social. Once your site is live it's time to show your handcrafted website to the world. All it takes is another few clicks and your content is shared on all your social media channels.

Now that wasn't so hard was it? This was a mere overview to show you how easy it is to get yourself a basic professional looking website. There are details I've left out in the interest of brevity. To fill the gaps for you, here's one of my favorite Wordpress tutorial sites. The videos are a free signup and well worth the price of an email. He's also got coupon codes to tons of Wordpress resources.

If you get stuck at any point, just reach out. I'm here to help.


EVENTS

Grace White I'm writing this from Myrtle Beach while wrapping up the details with the hotel, watching Tropical Storm Ana blow in. Our area in the hotel has a very quiet & lonely feeling. I passed a few of our fabulous servers who said they felt the same way & were sad we were gone. Yes, even Gerard!

Thank you all for participating, accepting our changes & truly being present at this conference. We learned about ourselves & others in the Dimensions of Human Behavior, had a history & dance lesson with the Shag dancing session. Laughed & learned until our sides hurt (yes we did both at the same time) from our keynote speaker. We hugged, learned, taught, walked on the beach and took some great selfies! The excitement during closing ceremonies is always such a great way to close the conference.

We connected, reconnected and strengthened our connections this past week and as we move forward with our new goals, new ideas and the challenges we each face, I know this group & the rest of our IVAA family are here for each of us.

Our new attendees were blown away by the warm welcome they encountered upon arrival & I know that will continue as we move through our journeys together.

Registrations for Orlando are already rolling in & your planning team is excited to begin planning for 2016 while we continue with our online planning. Registration for both are open now.

Remember we no longer hear no, but…..it's Yes, AND!!!!!!!

Photobooth 2015 IVAA Live Summit Gerard 2015 IVAA Live Summit

Grace White
Event Director
grace@ivaa.org


STAFF WRITER BIOS

Christine Bearse ran her own successful VA business for over 6 years before becoming a business and goal setting coach. As the Goal Whisperer, she now helps women business owners overcome the obstacles they face when trying to grow their businesses and achieve their goals. Read more about her and how she can unlock your potential at christinebearse.com.

Tracey D'Aviero is a veteran VA and Founder of Your VA Mentor. Tracey trains and mentors professional women and men who are brand new to the VA industry or who have been struggling to make their business successful. Her mission is to educate professionals on how to build and grow successful and profitable virtual businesses in the VA industry by implementing systems and smart principles. Contact Tracey for speaking engagements, group training or private coaching at www.yourvamentor.com.

Ramona Nichols is chief cook and bottle washer at Geek Gal Friday. She loves to bend and shape-shift websites into the sites clients dream of. Her technical crushes include HTML, CSS, Wordpress, Dreamweaver, Photoshop, Illustrator and Infusionsoft. Ramona is on a mission to take the mystery out of technology for underserved groups. If you've hit the wall with a technical situation, take a deep breath and give Ramona a call.

IN THIS ISSUE
President's Message
Getting Started - 5 Points VAs Should Consider When Communicating In The Digital Age
Working with a Virtual Assistant - Communication breakdown? Try this.
Virtual Assistant Tech Tip - 8 Easy Steps to Launch Your Website
Events

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