Monthly Archives: February 2017

Small Business Should Hire a Virtual Assistant

There’s a common misconception that virtual assistants are some kind of “luxury” only affordable by the big companies to outsource projects that require less management but are considered an overhead. Actually, the other way around seems to be true as more and more freelancers and small companies resort to hiring virtual assistants as a solution to the limited time they have available. By the point where business is stable, small business owners realize that, even though they’re doing well, they don’t have much time to be creative and take their dream further.

Some entrepreneurs think that a physical assistant will get the job done better than a hired virtual assistant would. But, the truth is, having a physical assistant takes up a lot more time and energy than a virtual one. And why should you hire a virtual assistant?

Here are a Few Reasons Why Having a Virtual Assistant Trumps Having a Physical Assistant:

  • It takes time to find the right person. It needs to be someone who’s qualified and matches your personality, so you can have them around all day.
  • In-house employees cost you more than their salary! You have to frequently train them, pay for their insurance and when they’re having a bad day/week/month (which is totally reasonable) your business may suffer.
  • You cannot afford someone full-time anyway but you’re overwhelmed with chores, tedious paperwork and a line of projects.
  • You are not willing to spend time on interviewing, hiring and training

If you find yourself thinking those things, then you might want to seriously consider hiring a virtual assistant. The niche of virtual assistants for hire is growing rapidly over the last few years, as the internet has us all interconnected so much, that it’s almost like having an in-house employee. Talented professionals from all over the world can be your call center, your social media manager or your SEO marketing expert.

However, there are things to consider before you hire an online virtual assistant that will determine the efficacy of your choice. The point is to gain profit from this move and carry out more projects than usual, with the best results possible. There is a wide variety of professions you can outsource to a virtual assistant or a virtual assistant company; from simple administrative tasks to accounting or human resources management.

Things to Consider When You Want to Hire a Virtual Assistant

Do You Really Need to Hire a Virtual Assistant?

The first question you need to ask yourself is: “What do I need to hire a virtual assistant for?”. Get your priorities straight first by listing all those pressing issues you need to get out of your way. You need someone to answer emails, support your customers and handle everyday micro-tasks? This could be anything from handling your schedule of appointments to managing your small business’s social media. Or you need someone with whom you can work closely on a project and delegate one of its aspects?

Which Kind of Virtual Assistant Mode will Address your Company’s Needs Properly?

The two major virtual assistant options available out there are ndividual virtual assistants and virtual assistant companies. The first option is suitable for working closely with a certain individual of your choosing. The second option is the best solution when you want to outsource specific tasks that don’t need your attention, like case studies, research or bookkeeping. It’s important to go with the option that best answers your needs and helps your small business grow. Your decision must be based upon factors such as project size, importance, virtual assistant’s monthly cost and the calculated benefits that you’ll enjoy in the long term.

Hire an Individual Assistant When:

You are a new small business owner who wants to focus on kickstarting your venture the best way you can. In order to do that, you need to get rid of small, repetitive duties and let an individual virtual assistant take care of all of this for you. All those small, daunting tasks that consume your time and interfere with your creativity can be a thing of the past. By hiring a task-based individual virtual assistant you don’t have to micromanage them too.

Hiring an individual VA has one more plus: you get to train them to work for you according to your workflow, style and corporate culture! Who knows? Maybe one day you can incorporate them into your team, provided that you’ve made an asset out of them!

Moreover, a dedicated virtual assistant is the best solution if you want to delegate sensitive financial procedures, like invoicing and billing. If you happen to use an invoicing platform, like Elorus, for your invoicing needs you have to grant access to your virtual assistant in order to do their job. You don’t want your business’s data to be visible by random virtual assistants working for a company.

Finally, one more reason to hire a virtual assistant that works alone is the reasonable pricing which varies from person to person and depends on the task. However, the best virtual assistants usually have a more specific price range, that doesn’t drop below $30 per hour. All you have to do here is literally weigh your options, but never forget that a good virtual assistant is worth every penny!

Hire a Virtual Assistant Company If:

However, individual virtual assistants don’t offer their skill set to you alone. They can cater for the needs of many clients at the same time, and it’s up to them to decide their priorities. This is not true when you choose to go with a virtual assistant company. They are experienced and have a large number of employees with specific skill sets to match your needs. You will always have an immediate response to your requests from a well-trained professional, no matter what!

VA companies can help you manage routine tasks, as well as, carry out entire projects for you! Therefore, they can contribute to your business’s productivity, boost its growth and avoid common mistakes that an individual, physical or virtual assistant would make due to lack of experience.

It’s very important to mention that when you hire a virtual assistant company you must make sure you get a free trial for their services. The best virtual assistant companies out there offer it by default, so if you contact one that doesn’t, there’s something definitely “off” about them.

As you’ve probably already imagined, the top virtual assistant companies can be out of your reach financially (if your business is young), so you might want to calculate your budget well. Good thing is, they have monthly packages so you can try them out and see if it’s feasible. Remember, this is an investment that will pay you back, in the long run, so be patient.

The decision to hire a virtual administrative assistant or company has a binary meaning; your business is growing! But it could grow out of control in the blink of an eye without help. So, why not outsource the burdening tasks to someone who possesses the expertise to keep your books neat, handle your correspondence professionally or do a market research with the most reliable data available?

How to Going Paperless

Not only does generating a paperless workplace help businesses save money and spend less, but it also puts them on the road to being more environmentally-friendly. If you are thinking about exchanging the file cabinets bursting with mountains of documents for a paperless system, but are not sure where to start, take a look at the following 10 steps to going paperless.

Going Paperless at Work

Share Files Digitally

Instead of relying on the printer to print off hordes of documents, share files with colleagues through digital methods, such as Google Docs. Furthermore, as this free service via Gmail continuously saves, work files will never get lost, unlike with a photocopier!

Nick Candito, co-founder and CEO of Progressly, told Small Business Trends of some key ways going paperless helps businesses. Speaking of ‘adherence’ and how digitalization improves working practices, Candito said:

“There’s no question that digitization improves collaboration. When everyone can access the essential documents and consistently collect the right information for the right person when it’s needed, you’re greasing the wheels of your intra-company communication engine.”

Store Files in the Cloud

Businesses of all sizes rely on paperwork, which soon mounts up to become hefty storage requirements. Instead of stuffing important paperwork into filing cabinets, store them conveniently on cloud-based systems, such as Dropbox. These paperless digital systems will save you incredible amounts of space in the office, not to mention will help keep vital documents safe.

Scan and Fax No More

Scanning and faxing documents requires the use of paper. Help your business be paperless by using a scanner app on your phone to scan documents. The saved documents can then be converted into PDFs and shared to colleagues via email.

Encourage Digital Communications

Encourage your workforce to adopt a culture of digital communication, whereby former paper-based methods of communication, such as mailing invoices and payslips, are replaced with digital methods like emails and instant messages.

Relying on digital communication instead of paper-based messages, will help save your business time. Candito notes, using digital instead of paper workflows allows management to “monitor your business and key collaborations in real time and with a view into analyzing bottlenecks to improve them and hence improve results.”

Swap Paper Bills and Statements for Digital Ones

Whether it’s energy bills, bank statements or contractor invoices, all businesses generate bills and statements. If your bills are still being created in paper form, simply ask for them to be sent digitally. Generally speaking, the likes of banks and other organizations prefer sending digital statements and mail, as it saves on printing and mailing costs.

Generate Digital Business Cards

Business cards, while essential, require substantial amounts of tree-guzzling paper. Instead of bulking out your wallet with a wad of business cards, digitize your business card. There is plenty of software and apps available, such as Pearl Scan and CamCard, which scan business cards and converts them into a digital document.

Use Electronic Signatures

Even our signatures can be signed electronically. Instead of having to print off a document, physically sign it with a pen and send it to a recipient, signatures can be signed electronically, meaning there is no need for time-consuming and costly paperwork. Abode Reader can be used to sign documents without having to print anything.

Such digital methods can help improve a business’s security. Candito says, “With digitized processes, identify governance and access controls ensure only the right people can access certain documents and systems.”

Sift and Sort Existing Paperwork

To successfully create a paperless office, you’ll need to ‘thin out’ some of the existing paperwork that may have been sitting in the office for the last 20 or even 30 years. Devote a morning, or longer, to sifting through old paperwork and determining what can be put through the shedder. Eliminating superfluous paperwork from the office will create more space, as well as being incredibly satisfying!

Make Meetings Paperless

Rather than giving out paper handouts at meetings, make use of projectors and technology that conveys the information you want to share from one visual source.

Train Staff to be More Digitally Savvy

A paperless business requires some digital know-how. From tasks like sending documents via email to using cloud-based systems to store files, if your workforce lacks digital acumen, investing the time and money into training them, is likely to prove to be a rewarding and invaluable long-term investment.

How Small Businesses Can Take to Offer Fast and Free Shipping

By the summer, eBay will be offering three-day delivery on 20 million items with no cost to customers. Any shipping charges from the online retail giant arriving late will be refunded and those items can be returned for free.

Customers will also be able to receive a $5 coupon toward another purchase when eBay’s new shipping policies take effect.  Competitors like Amazon have lowered their non-Prime free shipping threshold to $35 dollars adding to the trend that’s putting pressure on small businesses and entrepreneurs. Statistics report that 95 percent of Americans shop online at least once a year. Over half or 51 percent prefer online shopping and 5 percent shop on the internet daily. Small independent businesses need to come up with new ways to offer free or cheap shipping that’s fast to compete.

Ecommerce Shipping Best Practices

Tom Caporaso is the CEO of Clarus Commerce, an eCommerce solutions provider. The company has been a leader in the space since 2001. Caporaso, an expert in consumer trends and online retail, offered some suggestions on how small businesses can improve their shipping methods.

Set Minimum Thresholds

Many retail experts feel this is a much more realistic goal than offering free shipping on everything. Having a minimum order value for free shipping is an excellent way for small businesses to encourage larger orders. Caporaso says choosing the right products will help to make thresholds like this work.

“If you know there are specific items that you have a little higher margin on, you can tie free shipping to them,” he says.

Establish Loyalty/Member Programs

Small businesses can also charge customers a small annual fee to become members. Offering free shipping can be one of the perks for joining up. Having the benefit of a loyalty or premium loyalty program can offset the costs to business of free shipping.

“You can have premium loyalty with free shipping offers,” Caporaso says.

Pick Certain Times of the Year

Offering free shipping periodically at specific times of the year is another option for small businesses looking to compete with bigger players. For example, consumer demand for free shipping is at a peak during the holidays when competition in the online space is aggressive.

Caporaso notes that a full 40 percent of the business for online retailers happens in the fourth quarter which is the holiday season. He says the period of November to December is an excellent time to offer free shipping promotions to boost your bottom line.

Depending on your product line, specific holidays like Mother’s Day and Valentine’s Day can be advantageous times to offer free shipping. Caporaso, whose flagship brands include Freeshipping.com and ShopSmarter, agrees:

“Time of the year promotions are great examples of how you can leverage shipping offers.”

Limit Free Shipping to Certain Areas

Some small businesses put restrictions on their free shipping such as only to destinations in the United States. However, the new innovation is being called ship to store. Entrepreneurs ship the products to a brick-and-mortar location in the hopes consumers will make additional purchases when they arrive to pick up their online orders.

Offer Free Shipping Across The Board

This makes sense for small businesses with small lightweight products. Offering free shipping on everything also usually includes stipulations like delivery via ground only.

Add “Free” Shipping To The Product Cost

This isn’t really free shipping but lots of small businesses embed the cost of delivering orders into the product price. While this can generate more sales, Caporaso notes entrepreneurs need to tread carefully here.

“There are many price comparison engines out there now that you can plug the same product in and get all the different price points,” he says.

Offer Flat Rates as Another Alternative

This is another option that doesn’t really qualify as free shipping, but implementing these flat rates does encourage larger orders. On the other side of the coin, flat rates discourage potential customers who want to buy single items or have a smaller order.

Regardless of the method you choose for your small business, there doesn’t seem to be any way around offering some kind of free shipping. It’s an important aspect of competing online and a trend that’s accelerating by popular demand.

“Free shipping has a very visceral response for consumers,” Caporaso says. “A lot of people don’t want to spend money on shipping.”

Connecting With Customers Online

If you want your business to succeed online, you can’t just sell to customers — you have to actually connect with them. Luckily, there are tons of different ways you can do this. And members of our small business community are well versed in all of those different techniques. Check out some of their top tips below.

Learn the Do’s and Don’ts of Connecting Through Instagram

If you use Instagram for your business, then you have access to a great tool for connecting with customers and other members of your target audience. But there are some do’s and don’ts to consider when using the platform. Lexie Lu elaborates in this post on Design Roast.

Consider User Intent With Your SEO Efforts

Your SEO efforts aren’t likely to go very far if you don’t put yourself in your customers’ or visitors’ shoes. That’s why user intent can be a very important part of the process, as Julia McCoy explains in this Content Marketing Institute post.

Start Caring About Organic SEO

When building a blog or other website, SEO can be key. But organic SEO may differ from the techniques you’re used to reading about. In this post, Jane Sheeba of The DoSplash Blog explains what organic SEO is and why your business should care. And BizSugar members commented on the post here.

Connect With People in These Facebook Groups

Facebook groups can be a great way to find and communicate with like-minded individuals on social media. If you’re a blogger, you might want to check out the groups in this Mostly Blogging post by Janice Wald. And then see what the BizSugar community had to say about Facebook groups here.

Apply Emotional Marketing to Your Facebook Ads

When connecting with customers online, it can help to appeal to people’s emotions. That’s also true when it comes to Facebook ads. This Kissmetrics post by Karola Karlson includes some genius ways you can apply emotional marketing to your Facebook ads.

Use These Social Media Marketing Tips for Local Businesses

If you run a local business, you can still use social media to connect with your customers online. There are plenty of effective tactics to consider. Blair Evan Ball of Prepare 1 shares some tips for local businesses in this post.

Determine Your Audience of One

Connecting with an individual can be a lot easier than trying to connect with a whole group. That’s why some businesses find it beneficial to create an “audience of one.” Learn more in this Resonance Content Marketing post and video by Rachel Parker. Then check out what BizSugar members had to say here.

Create More Personalization in Your Business

Personalization can be a great way to really connect with customers and get their attention online. But in order for your business to really employ complete personalization, you’ll need the key elements listed in this Target Marketing post by Stephen H. Yu.

Blow Up Your Blog Visits via Community Management

Blogging isn’t just a way for you to promote your business and share helpful content. It can also help you build a community online. And if you’re able to effectively manage that community, you can give your blog a major boost. This Basic Blog Tips post by Disha Dinesh offers some insights on the topic.

Build Your Own Content Marketing Strategy

If your business doesn’t have a content marketing strategy by now, it may finally be time to consider jumping on the bandwagon. This Biz Epic post by Ivan Widjaya goes into more detail about why such a strategy is so important.