Media Training Opportunity

May 20, 2011

We’ve had a request to do our 2 day media training event 6/23-6/24 in SF.

I need 5 more people to hold the class. Let me know if you (or one of your friends) are interested.

Price for 2 days: $1699 (regularly $2899 – Savings of $1200 if you book by 5/30)

Here’s the course contents:

Studio 101: Learn the basics of how to do a TV interview including tips from a fashion stylist, hair & makeup person, actor and rocker (me)

Studio 201: Put your new knowledge into practice! You get to practice in a real TV studio with a real TV crew (cameraman, sound, producer & tech) and a real interviewer.

What’s it like? 



Let me know if you’re in!




The Virtual Assistant Series

April 28, 2011

I’ve had a virtual company since 1996 and had people around the world work for us doing admin, marketing, sales, web updates, engineering, testing and writing jobs.  Not everyone has been successful…sometimes I’ve managed “wrong”, sometimes the worker’s skills or behaviors weren’t the right fit.  So, there’s been lessons learned!

I’m often asked about using Virtual Assistants (VAs), so here’s a whole series of what I’ve learned, what the VAs that work for me recommend and also what 2 owner’s of VA Staffing Firms recommend.

Add your own tips or ask questions in the comments, I’d love to hear what you’ve got!

The Virtual Assistant Series:

The Virtual Business Series:

Serial entrepreneur with deep roots in technology and a passion for music. Jenn merges creativity and tech with fun and energy.

After starting her career as an engineer at NASA and a stint in Silicon Valley as a Quality Assurance Manager, Jenn started her first company. Wth her third company, Vettanna, their first job was to setup the QA department at eBay and train testers.  Recently, Jenn started Vettanna ToGo to give small businesses access to on camera media training and high tech experts.
Not content to use one side of her brain Jenn is also the rock vocalist and song writer for the band Urban Fiction.
Image purchased from istockphoto

4 Tips To Succeed As A Virtual Assistant

April 26, 2011

The rest of this series is directed toward how to manage VAs.  But you’re a VA and you’ve found your way here, so while I’ve got your attention, here’s 4 tips for how you can succeed as a virtual assistant.

  1. Provide samplesof your work before or during the interview.
    • If you’ll be answering phones, provide an mp3 recording
    • Give a sample email report (Hopefully, you’re following the guidelines I recommended)
    • Give a video introduction (no longer than 1 minute).  This isn’t about your resume, it’s you…putting a face on your skills, being friendly and being yourself.  Uncomfortable on camera?  Not anymore.
  2. Learn how to do a quick product or web research.  You can always go deeper (if they ask), but get the basic info to your boss fast.
  3. Check out my post about the skills/behaviors that we managers covet in Virtual Assistants and do them!
  4. Learn the online tools VAs use:  online collaboration, sales conversation tracking, meeting scheduling, event marketing, video conference calling.  Start your learning here: zoho, batchblue, timebridge, eventbrite, fuzemeeting and skype.  Here’s a quick tip on where to look during a video conference call.

Bonus Tip

Ok, I know I said 4 but this one is so basic to me, but not everyone knows it.  Most people use Google to look up what they need to know.  But if you’ve got anytime of “how do I…” question, go to YouTube.  There will probably be a video of a 12 year old walking you through it, but they’ve got it down!

One Last Thought

Oh and many managers don’t realize just how much they can delegate to a VA.  So…

  1. Do a great job on your first assignments.
  2. Pay attention to what they do and
  3. what their business is
  4. then make recommendations of tasks you can handle (that match your skills, of course).  I love it when people do this!

Anything you want to add?


The Virtual Assistant Series:

The Virtual Business Series:

Image owned by Vettanna

The #1 Hiring Mistake I’ve Made

April 19, 2011

RUSHING – Yep, I’m working away so fast, I need someone in now.  One of my peeps recommends someone, I do a cursory interview and hire the person.  9 times out of 10, it’s been a disaster.

Notice, I didn’t mention reference checking (other than the one recommendation). I needed the work done yesterday so in my interviewing I either didn’t ask the tough questions or I ignored the red flag answers.  Kinda like desperation dating…anyone will do.  (Come on, you’ve done it too…after a breakup…isn’t that what the next one is? <Insert humbled giggle here>.)

There have been a few gems I’ve found this way, but mostly…it’s cost me more time in fixing their mistakes or constantly having to redirect them that it’s just not been worth it.

How about you?  Any really doosies you’d like to fess up to?


The Virtual Assistant Series:

The Virtual Business Series:

Image purchased from istockphoto.

VA Coveted Skills & The Interview Questions You Need

April 12, 2011

Here’s the skills I MUST HAVE in any virtual assistant or remote worker.  These are highly valued!

Coveted Skills

  • Be trustworthy
  • Keep commitments or renegotiate deadlines IN ADVANCE (so I have time reassign it or put more people on the task if it’s more urgent than you know.)  If it’s assigned to you, it’s a tacit commitment from you.  If you can’t get it done or have conflicting priorities, say something right away.  I don’t care where you work or when you work. I only care that you get it done on time and with a high degree of quality. (ie: don’t make me extra work)
  • Be self motivated….please, please, please don’t make me play babysitter. I have so much going on and so many other people I manage I can’t keep checking in to see if you are actually working and making progress
  • Ask questions, especially at the start of a task so that we both know we’re on the same page.  Give me an email “is this what you meant” so I can steer you if you misunderstood or I mis-communicated.  So many times the wires get crossed over terminology.  (Keep track of the answers, don’t make managers crazy by asking the same questions over again).
  • High quality of work, so your deliverables are stellar or need only minor adjustments (remember, you are designed to be saving me time!)
  • Think for yourself and Think ahead!! This is probably the #1 skill I value most.  While you are doing a task and you see something that also should be done, something that’s missing or something brand new that this logically leads to – either just do it or recommend it should be done.  This shows me you understand my business and how busy I am and you are using your brain to help create a firm foundation.  Here’s a couple real life examples where the assistant did NOT think:
    • Reviewing an Employee Handbook and not alerting me that there was nothing in there about taking time off.  (Yes, I should have thought of that first…but that’s why you’re here…to catch obvious things like that).
    • When 5 people can’t attend a meeting this week, failing to schedule it for next week.
    • On Tuesday am, someone cancels a meeting on Wed with me.  On Tuesday pm I ask for a meeting with you and you don’t schedule it because you don’t know when I’m available…trying that slot that just got vacated…would have been a good start.

Sample Interview Questions

These should get you started!

  1. If you were given a stack of papers and told to “file these”, describe what you’d do.
    • Seriously, you won’t get the same answer from everyone.  Pay attention to how they think)
  2. If you were given a list of errands to run (ie: Staples, post office, costco, and a client delivery) how would you prioritize given these variable: Staples & post office are w/in 2 miles, client is 20 min South and Costco is 15 min North – will they avoid rush hr traffic from 3-5:30.
    • Are they optimizing their time?  Are they driving in rush hour and billing you to sit and listen to the radio?
  3. What do you do if you’re given a new assignment and it’s something you’ve never done before? (This is even better if you can think of an actual task. ie: post a blog, edit a video)
    • You’re looking for how they think, will they ask questions, will they check in after they’ve worked on it for a short time to make sure they are on the right track?
  4. What do you really like to do?  What excites you?
    • See if their answer matches the job description!  I’ve actually created jobs based upon what excited people.
  5. How will they bill for tasks above (filing & errands)?
    • Many admins bill in 15 min or 30 min increments.  So if something takes 5 min, will they bill you for 30 min?
  6. You’ve finished filing and it took you 1 hr.  I give you one more sheet of paper to file, how do you bill for this?
  7. Describe a situation that required you to have integrity or where you displayed integrity.
  8. You’ve got a task due for me tomorrow at 9am.  When you wake up today, it’s the first day of spring, 80 degrees and sunny. You don’t feel like working.  What do you do?
    • Or how do you motivate yourself to actually sit down and do the work?
    • You can also try the angle of they’ve been assigned something they hate doing.  How do they get it done?  (Bonus points if they hire a VA!)

What are your coveted skills for a VA and the interview questions that reveal them?


The Virtual Assistant Series:

The Virtual Business Series:

Image purchased from istockphoto.

What Tasks Can I Assign To a VA?

April 5, 2011

This is one of the top questions solopreneurs & entrepreneurs ask.  They’ve been working on their own for so long, doing it all. It’s just a blur to know where one task ends and another begins.  I thought Lana Goldenberg, SEO guru, summed it up very well in her blog post (reprinted here with permission):

Are You Doing Everything?  5 Projects You Can Outsource Today To a VA

Many of my clients don’t know what project they could give a VA (Virtual Assistant) when I gift them with a 2-hour VA time bonus. From scheduling to web design, from billing to client services, they do it all!

While I admire them for their myriad talents and commitment to getting things done, I also know that freeing up as little as 1 extra hour per week can be very profitable if you use that time well.

Here are my personal top 5 projects to outsource to a Virtual Assistant this year:

  1. Editing and re-writing my articles to be posted on blogs, newsletters, article marketing sites, guest blogs, etc.
  2. Newsletter production: the formatting, proofreading, finding images, pre-scheduling of your ezines can easily be outsourced. I know that uploading images into iContact drives me crazy, while my wonderful VA actually enjoys the process. And she is faster at it than I am! So a task that can take me 1-2 hours per week might only take Susan 30 minutes. That’s ROI I can get behind!
  3. Building and updating sales pages for my programs and products. Even with an easy-to-use content management system like WordPress, this eats up hours of my time for every program launch.
  4. Billing and customer service: after a very costly attempt at setting up my merchant account on my own, while also juggling about 12 important projects, billing was the first task I outsourced. I haven’t looked back since!  I also find it more professional to have a separate team handle payment processing, while I focus on delivering my content.
  5. The newest project on my VA list is to update all my professional membership
    on various sites and organizations I belong to, with the latest bio, pictures, and information about my latest programs.

When I started on my entrepreneurial path, I prided myself on being able to handle everything myself.  I had an MBA and corporate experience so I thought I didn’t need any help. I quickly discovered that n

ot asking for support was a recipe for failure.

As with many investments, when we step up to receive help – even for 1 hour a week – we open the space for bigger opportunities to come in.

What are the tasks and projects in your business that are taking up your valuable time?  Which if these can be delegated to an employee, and intern or a virtual assistant? How much of YOUR time will that free up?

Jenn’s Two Cents

Here’s what I’d add to Lana’s list:

  • Anything repetitive
  • Social Media – Pre-create your posts and have your assistant schedule them in with hootsuite.  You can always pop into Facebook and Twitter to connect.
  • Online Ads – Have them draft, post and test your ads
  • Media Pitches – Write your pitches and have the VA contact the media outlets
  • Web updates
  • Coordinating Meetings – This is my #1 must do task for a VA!

What would you add to our list?


About Lana Goldenberg

Lana Goldenberg & Associates is a full-service marketing consultancy with a specialty in connecting solopreneurs, small businesses, and organizations with their ideal clients. Lana is passionate about ending the online overwhelm and overspend that commonly afflicts entrepreneurs and small businesses.

Lana’s latest project is Your Online Visibility Blueprint, a custom program to help business owners be found by more customers, colleages, and the press.  She also supports clients on a project basis as well as through training on Search Engine Optimization and Marketing for groups and organizations.

The Virtual Assistant Series:

The Virtual Business Series:

Images purchased from istockphoto.

How To Manage VAs – 5 Tips From The Pros

March 31, 2011

Last week you heard directly from VAs about how they like to be managed.

This week, I’m bringing you tips from two women, Sarah Leah Gootnick and Katie Gutierrez Miller, who started VA outsourcing companies and match VAs to individuals and companies.  They’ve learned, over the years, what things make a manager successful with VAs.  Here’s their wisdom:

The Tips

Working with a virtual assistant (“VA” for short) can often times be much easier and more effective than working with an assistant who comes into your office. Especially if you incorporate these three tips into your working relationship, you should be able to save time and money while outsourcing to your VA.

  1. Put only 1 task/email. So that your VA can use her inbox as a To Do list, put only 1 task/email (and make sure your email subjectmatches the body of the email). This way, once your VA has finished the task you emailed her about, she can respond to your email, letting you know the outcome. Then, she can archive the email so it’s out of her inbox, clearing the way for the next set of tasks from you. If you keep each of your emails to your VAs focused on 1 task, it will help her stay focused and enable her to support you effectively.
  2. Give a very specific end date and time for each task. Perhaps most important of all, give a very specific deadline for the completion of a task. Asking your VA to finish the PowerPoint presentation by next Tuesday is not specific enough. However, asking her to finish next Tuesday, September 28th at 2 pm EST is specific enough. By giving an exact time and date, your VA will be able to accomplish the task when you’re hoping she’ll take care of it by. This one tip helps the two of you stay on the same page, enabling her to help you with your To Dos when you need them done.
  3. Have a weekly phone call with your VA. Even though you will be working “virtually” with your VA, here’s one tip that makes the working relationship seem less “virtual”: make sure to schedule a weekly phone meeting. For simplicity’s sake, keep the meeting at the same time and date each week.  On the call, you can run  through what has been accomplished in the past week and what you’re needing them to accomplish in the coming week. Even if your phone meeting is only for five minutes, this call will ensure that communication stay open and clear between the two of you.  Katie says:  “I’ve seen VAs or clients assume the other has “disappeared” when really each one was fully available and just waiting for the other to make contact first”
  4. Working with the wrong person. Be sure that the VA has the skill, experience, and work style necessary to do the requested work successfully. Just because a VA was fantastic for the first things you asked doesn’t mean she will be the right one for all your assistance needs. (This also means a client must know what they need)
  5. Expecting the VA to be in your head or read your mind. It’s best to be clear in desired outcomes, instructions, deadlines, and other expectations rather than assuming the VA will magically know what’s desired.

About The Pros

Sarah Leah Gootnick is the founder of both Secretary in Israel and Virtual Assistant Israel, the premier virtual assistant firms staffed with American college graduates. In the past 3 years, both firms have worked with hundreds of clients from all over the US, the UK, Australia, and Thailand. Sarah Leah is a graduate of Columbia University.

Katie Gutierrez Miller is the Founder and President Assistant Match, a company that matches busy professionals with the right virtual assistant for their business needs. Katie shows professionals how to increase income using remote support staff. She leads seminars internationally for CEOs and has helped thousands increase their productivity (and sanity) by delegating the right things to the right people, in the most effective way. Katie helps virtual assistants build their own successful business through a training program she created, the Virtual Assistant Quickstart.
Assistant Match was recommended on NBC’s Today Show and Katie has been featured in a variety of national media outlets and local publications. She has built Assistant Match to be a completely virtual and paperless company.  They are also on Facebook

The Virtual Assistant Series:

The Virtual Business Series:

Images purchased from istockphoto.