Exploring A Career As A Virtual Assistant – Virtual Book Tour Stop #6

Book Cover - Exploring a Career as a Virtual AssistantMy VA colleague, Jessica Maes, has just launched her book Exploring A Career As A Virtual Assistant and she is currently on virtual tour to promote it!

Jessica operates a busy Virtual Assistance practice from her home office in Madison, WI. Additionally, Jessica has taught a class at the University of Wisconsin through the Minicourse department called Exploring A Career As A Virtual Assistant since early 2009. The class has had great response based on the ever-growing interest in the Virtual Assistance industry and the current job market conditions that have people exploring their career options more vigorously than ever before. Jessica wrote the book so that people beyond driving distance to the university can learn much of the same information she shares from the comfort and convenience of their own home. After all, this is a book about working virtually, so sharing the information offsite is a natural fit! You can read a free sample from the book by clicking here.

As part of this tour stop, Jessica is available to us today to answer your burning questions about the Virtual Assistance industry! Post your question by leaving a Comment below. Jessica will respond in the Comments section so be sure to check back!

To celebrate the book’s launch, Jessica has a few goodies to offer us. The first is a 20% discount off the purchase of the book. Simply use the promo code THANKYOU during check out.

The second is that one lucky reader will receive a free copy of the eBook version of the book! To be eligible to win, you simply need to post a question about Virtual Assistance in the comments section of this post. The winner will be chosen at random and announced here in a couple of days.

The book is currently available for immediate download via an eBook format and in hard copy. To purchase the book, click here.


What would the dog do?


Sophie, Rescue Desk Mascot

My pup, Sophie, is the first and only dog I’ve ever had, and she’s everything I’d ever want in a dog. I rescued her from the local shelter a few years ago and, surprisingly, she came fully loaded — she’s fully trained,  fully mannered and fully loveable. She is easily the best dog ever.

She gives the same, tail-wagging reaction to both “Wanna go for a walk!?” and “Wanna go get your nails clipped?!” as long as we’re going somewhere.  She sighs with pleasure when she gets a belly scratch.  When nose-to-nose with the vet for a shot, she pulls through like a trouper without complaint. When she tags along to work with me, she’s a polite welcome wagon for visitors, calmly asking for a scratch on the head before obediently going back to her post in the corner.

I’ll probably never get her to “walk nicely” on her leash, never be able to get her attention when there’s a squirrel nearby, or never get her to stand up for herself when the cat bullies her. But, I also know she’ll stop at nothing to protect me from a suspicious stranger lurking around outside, will always give 110% trying to break the land-speed record to catch a tennis ball, and will be a loyal sidekick on any adventure.

I got to thinking about Sophie and her special dog personality, and it got me wondering. I’m pretty sure dogs provide a quiet influence on how successful their owners’ businesses are built. Hear me out on this …

Dogs are loyal by nature. Loyalty is something we, as business owners, hold near and dear. How often do you pick up the same product brands or go to the same service stations out of loyalty? The product or service works for you and your life. As business owners and entrepreneurs, we understand this. I’m always conscious of maintaining loyalty to my clients, and I work even harder to earn and maintain their loyalty to my firm in return.

This is that innate sense that something feels off.  That inexplicable thing that gets an otherwise mellow pooch to stand at attention, tail up, knowing he may need to fight for what’s right. For us, it’s that quiet whisper in back of our heads that says a particular vendor may not be as trustworthy as he claims, or the inexplicable feeling that a prospective employee will be more trouble for your team than she’s worth. We don’t  hesitate to protect our business and our clients from injustice.

Enthusiastically friendly
With the exception of the “lurking stranger” I mentioned earlier, probably the best trait of any dog is ability to be friendly to anyone. Period. A dog doesn’t see stereotypes, net worth or job descriptions.  How often have we been a bit impatient with a salespeople doing a cold calls to our offices, when they’re just trying to do the same things we are? On the flip side, how many of us have been on the receiving end of rudeness simply because people pre-judge us or what we’re trying to do. I think we could all probably step it up a notch once in awhile in the friendly category.

Imagine if you could bottle the ability to completely trust your instincts without hesitation. While dogs’ instincts can undoubtedly get them into trouble sometimes, the simple ability to know — deep down — what needs to be done is enviable. Think about those times when you didn’t trust your gut and ended up burned. We all have trouble when the “Next Big Idea” for your business looks good on paper, but simply doesn’t feel right;  when instinct says “Wait!” but logic says “Go forward!”  Nine times out of ten, our instincts know how to handle the situation, but we have trouble trusting it.

This is right up there with the best-ever doggie traits.  Dogs don’t lie. Come hell or high water, dogs remain true to themselves and their personalities; they don’t succumb to the pressure we sometimes feel to change for anyone or anything. Being genuine in business is the cornerstone to building something successful. Be genuine with your mission, your values, your team and your customers.

So, next time you’re face-to-face with a question, a challenge, or a fork in the road, it may not be too far from crazy to ask yourself, “What would the dog do?”

Can you afford NOT to have a virtual assistant?

I have this conversation quite a bit with prospective clients of my firm. We talk about what’s eating away the hours, we talk about the benefits of outsourcing part of their to-do list to a virtual assistant, we talk about how it works to have a VA as part of the team, we talk about who makes a good client candidate for a VA and who doesn’t, and we talk about the goals the client is trying to achieve.

Then we talk numbers.

I have this handy little chart I’ve started sharing with potential clients. It’s pretty elementary, but does a good job of easily outlining where they’re leaving money on the table by not getting the support they need for their growing businesses.

This is especially easy to determine if I’m working with coaches, consultants, speakers and other billable-hour business models.

If your time is worth $75/hour, and you spend 4 hours a week on non-revenue-generating tasks, you’re giving up potentially $300 a week in billable hours…or $1200 a month … or $14,400 a year. You’ll never bill for those hours because, unfortunately, nobody will ever pay you for those tasks or the time you spend on them.

75 an hour





If your time is worth $100/hour, and you spend 4 hours a week on non-revenue-generating tasks, you’re giving up $400 a week … or $1,600 a month … or $19,200 a year!

100 an hour






Say you had a virtual assistant for $35 an hour to tackle those 4 hours of non-revenue generating tasks every week (or, for simplicity, 16 hours a month).  Your VA sends you an invoice for $560 at the end of the month.

VA 35 an hour




If your time is worth $75 an hour, and you just gained back 16 hours of billable time in a month, you’ve just earned $640 in potential revenue after paying your VA.






That $640 per month … or $7700 a year …. will remain out of reach until you have help because you’ll continue doing it all yourself. Nobody will ever pay you for that time or those tasks.

If your time is worth $100 an hour, you’re leaving more than $1000 on the table each month; more than $12,000 each year.

Business owners need to spend their time growing their business, generating revenue and focusing on their clients — not implementing their marketing touchpoints, maintaining their social media, sending follow-up packets, or handling other systems-based tasks. They need a team member who understands the ins and outs of small business, is a qualified sounding board for brainstorming and ideas, and who understands the goals that are trying to be acheived.

By investing in the partnership with a virtual assistant, these clients are investing in themselves and the growth of their businesses.




Where’s MY book??

Welcome back! We were on a bit of a hiatus in July, enjoying a little time away. But, we’re back with a list of things we’ll be yammering on about in The Virtual Fast Lane – from small business to virtual assistance to everything in between. So subscribe today and tag along for the (sometimes eye-rollingly irreverent) ride!


I’m starting to get a little frustrated.Stack of books

In order to be successful in business and continue growing my virtual assistant firm, I am on a constant quest for knowledge. There have been — and always will be — people out there who are wiser, more experienced, and with advice that’ll truly make a difference in how I do what I do. For those who have wisdom to share, I am an enthusiastic student.

But, I’m also a discerning student.

In addition to having a business coach, I’m always filling in the gaps reading endless magazine articles, following expert blogs, perusing lists of books, checking RSS feeds, and sitting in on webinars and workshops.

The challenge? There’s too much. Way, way too much. How will I ever find the message that speaks to me?

I once worked with a CEO who was wildly successful following the organizational system developed by one performance expert, and I’ve talked to others who’ve been equally successful  by learning to let go of the details and trusting that the process will emerge if their vision is intact.  I’ve known others who clearly practice leadership with expert guidance, and yet others with a penchant for cultivating the leaders from lower ranks on the corporate ladder.

Don’t misunderstand, I’m certainly not looking for a business guru to blindly follow. It’s just that I’m (sometimes painfully) aware of my weaknesses as well as my strengths as a business owner. I’m convinced there has to be someone out there who shares these attributes with me; someone who has used their experience and expertise to develop a system or methodology or way of thinking that I can get on board with…right?

Well, you’d think so. But, instead, I find myself wondering…

Should I be improving my weaknesses, or strengthening my strengths?
Do I need to kick more ass, or be more compassionate?
Invest in Post-it notes, iPhone apps or a color-coded filing system?
Should I be thinking to grow rich, focusing on my 7 habits, or trying to become a manager in a minute?
Will I really win friends by influencing people?
Should I duct-tape my marketing, or kick it thought-leadership style?

Luckily I’m discovering that no matter what books or blogs I read, which podcasts I listen to, or which mentor I turn to for words of advice, most of the underlying themes are the same …. set goals, be creative, stay  driven, believe in your business, pay attention to the numbers, develop systems, have a clear vision and, most importantly, believe in yourself. 

So, until I find that way that works for me, I’ll just keep piecemealing the tidbits that make sense to me into my own little self-help/build-your-business/daily-meditation/get-thin/kick-ass/retire-early/make-new-friends pile of educational goo.

Who knows. Maybe one day I’ll publish it.




Thinking of becoming a VA? Then meet Vanessa Andruz!

Vanessa Andruz is the owner of Andruz Business Solutions LLC. She was an Executive Assistant for many years, but after turning 50, she became tired of corporate politics and decided it was time for a change. After researching different career moves, she found her calling and became a Virtual Assistant.

She had some challenges while setting up her business – her mother insisted on “helping”, her ex-husband Vanessa_Andruzgave her grief about quitting her job – but she persevered and now has a successful Virtual Assistance business. She has created a series of e-books (The Adventures of Vanessa Andruz) which chronicle her VA journey – ex-husband and all.

Rachel:  It’s good to see you again, Vanessa.
Vanessa:  Hi, Rachel! It’s nice of you to take a few minutes out of your busy day to chat with me.

R:  It’s my pleasure. Since I worked with you on these e-books…
V:  And what a wonderful job you did! I know Melodee wouldn’t have gotten these first three e-books done without the critical research you provided. And I know my readers will be thrilled with all the resource links that you found for the end of each e-book.

R:  Thank you. I’m glad I could help. Would you like to tell my readers why you decided to create your e-books?
V:  Of course! When I was thinking of becoming a Virtual Assistant, I researched everything – what kind of business structure was best for me, how to set up my home office, how to determine my rates, the best ways to market my business, getting over my fear of networking, and how to blog. It was quite a lot of work to gather all of that information!

That’s why I’ve created The Adventures of Vanessa Andruz, Virtual Assistant series. It’s a way to make the transition to Virtual Assistant easier and faster for others.

R:  I know you had some help with the writing of the e-books…
V:  Yes, I did. My writing partner and long-time friend, Melodee Patterson of Short-term Solutions did help me with the actual writing of the e-books. So far, we’ve released the first three e-books and we’re working hard on the rest.

R:  So there are currently three e-books?
V:  Yes. The first one, Vanessa Has a Dream, is free to download. It describes how I left my job and decided to become a Virtual Assistant. It’s an unbelievable story, but I swear my adventures are as real as I am.

In the second e-book, Vanessa Becomes a Virtual Assistant, I discovered my company name – with a little help from the Universe, created a business plan template, and decided on a business structure. And the business plan template is downloadable.

The third e-book, Vanessa Sets Up Her Home Office, is full of practical advice on choosing the right office equipment and supplies for your own VA business. There are research notes about computers, fax machines, scanners, ways to access the internet, and lots of other good stuff.

If a prospective VA follows me through the entire series, they’ll have a completed business plan for their own business!

R:  Where can my readers download your e-books?
V:  They can go to the E-books page of my current website.

R:  How can they contact you if they have any questions?
V:  They can email me and I’m also on Facebook.

R:  I know the series is about more than just becoming a Virtual Assistant.
V:  Oh, Lordy – yes. I thought I’d make the series more interesting by talking about other things that were going on in my life when I set up my business. Like my new-age, aura-reading mother, and my golf-crazy father. I can’t forget my best friend Marci – she’s a sweetie. I would like to forget my ex-husband Mark, though!

R:  Yes, they’re a bunch of characters, all right. You’re a real character yourself, Vanessa.
V:  (giggles) Yes, I really am a “character.” But I don’t believe you have to be a real person in order to create helpful and fun e-books, do you?

 R:  Of course not. I don’t discriminate against anyone – certainly not fictional characters.
V:  Well, you’re a very open-minded person. I appreciate that.

R:  Well, Vanessa, it’s been fun seeing you again and talking about your e-books.
V:  Thanks, Rachel. And thank you for all your help. I appreciate that, also.




Virtual book tour stops by this week – prepare your questions for VA Vanessa Andruz!

On July 3rd I’ll be hosting Vanessa Andruz as she travels through cyberspace on her Virtual E-book Tour.

Vanessa Andruz is the owner of Andruz Business Solutions LLC. She was an Executive Assistant for many years, but after turning 50, she became tired of corporate politics and decided it was time for a change. After researching different career moves, she found her calling and became a Virtual Assistant. She had some challenges while setting up her business – her mother insisted on “helping,” her ex-husband gave her grief about quitting her job – but she persevered and now has a successful Virtual Assistance business.

With the help of Melodee Patterson of Short-term Solutions, and the resource links and research that I provided, she has created a series of e-books (The Adventures of Vanessa Andruz, Virtual Assistant) which chronicle her VA journey – ex-husband and all. The series provides timely information on discovering your company name, setting up your home office, determining your services and rates, becoming a marketing maven, and much, much more. 

I’ve gotten to know Vanessa well, so if you’re thinking of joining the fast-growing Virtual Assistance industry or any home-based business, you won’t want to miss this interview!

5 ways virtual assistants can save your world

Awhile back I dove into a research project for one of my clients, digging up articles, blogs, white papers and studies relating to marketing in our economic climate. It was a great project. I read dozens of articles, blog posts and white papers, and they all had a common theme. Businesses should not – I repeat NOT – skimp on their marketing during an economic downturn. In fact, I read more than once that companies should be upping their marketing efforts.

Like a lot of business decisions, though, it’s very much a Catch-22.

Yes, you fully understand the importance of maintaining a strong presence in your industry, cranking out marketing messages, and continuing to earn (and exceed) the trust and confidence your customers have in you. You’re up to your eyeballs in ideas about expanding your business, whether it be through marketing, growing your team, or reevaluating your overall business model.

On the other hand, you’re feeling the pinch, too. You have the plans, but you don’t have the resources to pull it off. You may be running a bare-bones crew, and their top priority is servicing your customers. While they may be a well-oiled machine, they don’t have the time to tackle extra initiatives without compromising a little customer service. And that, as we all know, isn’t a compromise worth making.

This is where the virtual assistant industry is filling in the gaps. VAs make it their business to get clients through challenging times, which is precisely how we’ll save the world.

1. Marketing
You may heed experts’ advice and increase your marketing initiatives. Maybe set up that blog, redesign some of your collateral, start an article-marketing campaign, or up your direct-mail efforts. Who’s going to take care of that? You don’t have the resources to hire someone, you don’t have the time to train, or you aren’t sure you WANT the commitment of an employee. You just want someone to take care of these projects. Period.  Enter a professional virtual assistant.

2. Money saving
Any cursory research on virtual assistance explains how it’s a cost-effective alternative — either interim or permanent — for any business. Yes, you may pay a higher hourly or project rate than someone you may hire, but anyone with a lick of business sense knows it’s less expensive and higher-quality in the not-so-long run.  No taxes, no benefits, no space, no equipment, no unproductive time. Instead you get a highly qualified, business savvy, creative assistant with resources out the wazoo to help you succeed.

3. Going green
In addition to being the saving grace for growing small businesses, we’ll save the planet while we’re at it. You get all the benefits of a highly trained, highly skilled, committed-to-your-success assistant without the carbon footprint. We’re not commuting to your office every day, we’re using digital tools instead of printer paper to communicate and share files, we recycle our systems and turn them into energy-efficient (meaning we’re saving your energy!) processes for our clients, and we reduce wasted time by only working when you need it. Of course, like any conscientious small-business owner, almost all VAs are smart about their own recycling and energy useage.

4. A virtual business model to put your best face forward
A trend that is taking hold in the world of growing small businesses is the development of the virtual business model … where almost the entire team is comprised of outside contractors. By partnering with vendors such as virtual assistants, outsiders looking in will see a well-oiled team behind your logo. Clients get stellar customer service, prospects are marketed to like larger organizations, and your business reacts to market conditions quickly and seamlessly to meet the changing needs of your clients.   All this, even if the reality is you’re working from your home office, your VA is working from her office,  your bookkeeper working from his office, your outsourced sales people working from their offices….

5.  Setting you up for success during the upturn
Most of the business experts agree … now is the time to position yourself for the economic upswing. While it may not feel like it today, the uptick will come – history has proven that it always has. So, investing in a virtual assistant will help you get your business lined up for the ride. By letting someone else worry about the day-to-day details of your business, you can focus on longer-term goals and projects that will position you for success in the not-so-distant future. If you don’t take the time now to explore new and innovative ways to continue differentiating yourself and growing your business, you’ll be sorely behind the curve when the economy starts sweeping upwards.