Tuesday, May 27, 2008

10 Tasks a Virtual Assistant Can Do That Would Make Your Life Easier

1. Check phone messages
2. Check emails
3. Follow up - on phone messages and emails
4. Prepare Newsletter (either online or print)
5. Manage your contact list (keeping it current/accurate)
6. Introduce you to products in the marketplace to help you run your business more effectively.
7. Manage calendar/appointments
8. Research opportunities for you to showcase your business.
9. Customer invoicing
10. Prepare marketing and advertising.

These rules are not set in stone, but rather just an example of how a Virtual Assistant can give the busy business owner time back so that they can focus on growing the business.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

10 Mistakes We Make at Networking Events

For most small business owners/entrepreneurs we realize that we must network and in order to continue to build our network which will grow our businesses. Admittedly, at times it is difficult to find the time to do just that. But whats worse is, when we finally make the time to go to a “networking event” we don’t take full advantage of the experience.

Recently I went to one such event, the Bowie Business Start-up and Support Meetup (http://www.entrepreneur.meetup.com/). At the May meeting, we talked about the 10 mistakes individuals make at networking events. This was presented by Glenn Garnes, a relationship guru.

1. We go, but we don’t know why we are there. Really think about what your purpose is when going to a networking affair. The real purpose should be to be a good listener and get to know people well enough to access whether they are worth the follow up.

2. We hang out with people that we already know. It should be obvious as to why this is a mistake. You can’t expect to extend your network if you just socialize/communicate with in the one your already have.

3. We talk too much about ourselves. Okay, sometimes this is a normal reaction because we practiced our elevator speeches and we really do want to use them or we are the one subject that we know best. But we have to careful of this. When we speak to others we should be asking good questions and again, being a good listener.

4. When we do talk about ourselves we don’t describe it in a way that’s meaningful to people. We need to always highlight how the end client benefits. For example, as a virtual assistant I give time back to the busy business owner by taking care of the administrative tasks that are necessary to keep a business growing.

5. We don’t have an effective follow up system. No one is saying you have to go out and by fancy computerized systems – even though it is an effective option – but some sort of follow- up process must be in place in order to reconnect with people and in turn grow your business.

6. We don’t take the time to meet the “center of influence” or the person who is hosting the event. What Mr. Garnes said was that, we should always want to meet the host because they know enough to get all of these people in a room; wouldn’t we want to be in that network.

7. We aren’t good matchmakers. Be a connector. If you met someone on one side of the room that fills a need or provides a service that someone you met earlier can benefit from, take them to meet each other.

8. We show up to be seen. It most effectively to actively participate in the event; show up on time and stay until the end.

9. We don’t ask the right questions. The right questions are ones that will keep the conversation going. I’ll admit this was/is a fear of mine during networking events. However, I found the book Endless Referrals by Bob Burg, and invaluable resource in preparing me to actively participate in these events.

10. We don’t go to enough networking events. We should make a commitment to do at least 1 per month and then increase it.

Next topic: Top 10 tasks a VA can do to make your life easier.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Surviving a Recession With a Virtual Assistant

Through the various media outlets, and more importantly, via our bottom lines, we find mounting concern about the economy and see the affects of a recession. In fact, according to a January 27, 2008 article entitled, Small Business Planning for Slump written by Jim Wyss of the Miami Herald.com; "Among a dozen small business owners interviewed last week, most said they expect things to get worse before they get better -- and many doubted the new economic stimulus package, which includes rebates for consumers and tax breaks on business expenses, will do much for their bottom line." Then what will help small businesses in this economic slump? How can small business take on this challenge when every indicator says that they should be saving money rather than spending it?

One such way is to outsource administrative responsibilities to a Virtual Assistant. Virtual Assistants are independent entrepreneurs who provide creative long-term collaborative and professional administrative support to their clients. Virtual Assistants are paid only for the time spent on tasks and utilize time-tracking software that records such information. Therefore, a client is not charged for downtime, breaks or distractions that may occur during the day.

You may be thinking, "This sounds good, but what about the costs?" Well, if you compare the compensation rate of a highly skilled Virtual Assistant to how much it would cost you to hire a full time staffer, or even a temp; paying taxes, benefits and other associated expenses, you will immediately see the cost savings.

Click here for a cost comparision of employees versus Virtual Assistants.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Independent Contractor vs. Employee

The IRS has recently started an initiative to educate new small business owners on their federal tax responsibilities. One area in which new small businesses can get caught up is when advancing to the point where they need add additional “hands in the pot”. According to the IRS, “it is critical that you, the employer, correctly determine whether the individuals providing services are employees or independent contractors. Generally, you must withhold income taxes, withhold and pay Social Security and Medicare taxes, and pay unemployment tax on wages paid to an employee. You do not generally have to withhold or pay any taxes on payments to independent contractors.” (http://www.irs.gov/businesses/small/article/0,,id=99921,00.html)

Filing at 1099-MISC of Independent Contractors

According to IRS.gov, if you paid someone who is not your employee, such as a subcontractor/independent contractor, attorney or accountant $600 or more for services provided during the year, a Form 1099-MISC (PDF) needs to be completed, and a copy of 1099-MISC (PDF) must be provided to the independent contractor by January 31o f the year following payment. You must also send a copy of this form to the IRS by February 28.

Preparing and Filing Form W-2 for Employees

At the end of the year, the employer must complete Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement (PDF). A copy of this form must be given to the employee by January 31st after the end of the year. You must also send a copy of the W-2 to the Social Security Administration (SSA) by February 28th (after the end of the year) unless you file it electronically -- then it is due on March 31st. Employers can prepare and file up to 20 W-2s at a time, free of charge, at the Social Security Administration’s Web site. Using SSA’s online W-2 filing, employers can also print out all the necessary copies of the W-2 for their employees, state taxing agencies, etc.

Click here to see a cost comparison of using full time employee versus a virtual assistant for your administrative needs.