Friday, 30 October 2009

New Virtual Assistants and there cashflow crisis

As a new Virtual Assistant (VA) you willl often have problems with cash flow until you're up and running and making a regular income.

As a new VA though, when you take on your first few clients and until you have built up a relationship with them it might very well be worth asking for anywhere between 50 and 100% upfront for the work that you are due to undertake. While this may seem stiff it is a lifesaver for many a VA.

While not guaranteed a client who has to part with some or all of their money to get a project off the ground are likely to be more reliable to work with than one who is concerned about paying you anything upfront.

The main thing though is to trust your instincts and if something doesn't seem right about a Request for Service then before you get involved in the nitty gritty of preparing a quote why not run it past some more experienced VAs and see what they have to say, they may well have had dealings with the perspective client and be able to give you some good feedback on them.

Monday, 26 October 2009

The humble apostrophy and its uses

Following on from my post the other week, I see that the UK and Australia are talking about removing apostrophies from the language as it's too hard for children to learn the rules.

I personally find this quite a shocking state of affairs. The rules for apostrophies really aren't that hard to remember and follow.

Firstly, there is the apostrophy when letters are missed out when words are combined, ie. cannot becomes can't, will not becomes won't, it is, becomes it's. Note that the apostrophy is used in each case where the letters are missed out and nowhere else.

The second rule, whcih granted is harder (but not really all that much) is for them to show possession, i.e. the boy's ball means the ball belonging to the boy. However the boys' ball means the ball belonging to the boys.

Incorrectly placed apostrophies can dramatically change how the sentence reads and means. Please take the time to use them correctly after all it really isn't that hard.While this is very plainly put and I'm sure if you want to take the issue a bit further than have a look at this website which goes into greater detail about the use of apostrophies.

Friday, 23 October 2009

Admin Processes

Sorry, I haven't posted for a couple of weeks, but I've been busy updating my website.
While the aim of a Virtual Assistant (VA) is to provide office support to others in many forms of admin, it's very important that the VA doesn't forget abou their own admin policies and procedures.

If as you are starting out you create a plan for your admin processes, i.e. you invoice your clients on 25th of the month, you spend an hour a day marketing, and half an hour a day filing etc, then as you business grows and expands those policies will be easy to maintain and keep you on top of the all essential admin.Your clients won't be very impressed if they get invoiced on 20th this month, 30th next month and anytime in between the third month, it just shows that you are incapable of staying on top of your own admin procedures.

While filing may not be the thing you really enjoy doing, if you don't keep on top of it on a regular basis you will find yourself swamped under paper and unable to lay your hand on that vital file when your client requires it.

While the procedures should not be carved in stone they should at least be a start point for you to work from, as and when you get busier.

Friday, 9 October 2009

Transfering Analogue to Digital

Following on from my last post about the benefits of digital transcribers over analogue, I thought this would be an appropriate next post.

If you have received an analogue file it is possible to convert it to digital.

For this you will need a couple of things:
  1. A line-in or microphone jack on your computer or laptop.
  2. A dictaphone capable of playing the tape.
  3. A suitable recording program, ie Wavepad from NCH (, or one of the many other programs that is capable of recording digital audio.
  4. Lastly, and by no means least, what potentially can be the most important, and yet least expensive, peice of equipment, an audio cable that is capable of plugging into the headphone socket of the dictaphone and into the line-in/microphone port on your computer.

Once you have assembled all the items and plugged the audio cable into your computer and dictaphone you are ready to go.

The first thing to do is under the recording options of the software ensure that the recording program is using the appropriate setting for where the audio lead is plugged in. Once this is sorted, then you can press record on the recording software and press play on the dictaphone. Wtih Wavepad, as I'm sure happens with the other packages, you will be able to see the sound volume moving up and down the scale as the file is converted to digital.

Once completed, save the file. The format that you save in will have an effect on the size of the file so you might want to experiment with them to see what gives you the smallest file without loosing quality.

The file is now ready to be sent on to your transcriptionist or sub-contractor to work on.

Monday, 5 October 2009

Digital versus Analogue Dictation

This is often a hotly debated as to which is better, especially in South Africa where the costs of digital recorders are still quite high. From the transcriptionist's point of view however there is no real contest, if we had our way it would all be digital.

Why I hear you ask, well the answer is simple. The pros of using analogue dictation are mainly that the cost of the dictaphones are quite inexpensive. The cons however are many. The most traumatic for any transcriptionist is the faulty tape. this could be anything from the tape has stretched, broke, twisted or any of the other problems that tape is prone to. When this happens there is very little that can be done to retrieve the dictation. If you take into account that if you use your tapes often at least once, if not more a week, then they ideally should be replaced yearly the relatively low costs of an analogue dictaphone are no longer so cheap.

Also with analgoue dictation, for the quickest turnaround the dictator and transcriptionist ideally need to be in quite close proximity.

The cons of the digital dictaphone can be that they appear cost prohibitive, especially for the new up and coming business owner that wants to take advantage of them. The pros however are vast. The chances of loosing a dictation are usually pretty slim, unless you actually manage to delete it off the dictaphone yourself, therefore you won't have the problem of having to redictate letters. The transcriptionist can be and sometimes are located anywhere in the world. As long as the dictator and transcriptionist have access to one of the following (and this is just a basic list) then they can easily send the dictation and the finished work anywhere in the world), email, internet access, or FTP server. Obviously email is not necessarily secure but there are many websites that offer secure (meeting HIPPA security requirements in the US) file transfer.

Digital files can be quite large depending of the file format but they very often can be reduced in size iwth a little bit of experimenting with file formats.

Therefore, if you are interested in having work transcribed and you want to receive the best possible product then to be honest there is nothing better than going with the digital option.

Friday, 2 October 2009

Spelling and Grammar

It seems to be a trending topic this week in the circles I'm in about grammar and spelling. So I thought I'd air my pet peeve as well.

There is nothing worse to me than receiving an e-mail that is so badly worded and with the incorrect use of grammar. I do understand that while English is the most commonly spoken language in the world that a number of its speakers are either second or third language English speakers. However with today's computers and the internet there really is no need for bad spelling and grammar. In fact those e-mails I get with incorrect grammar just confirm to me that the person has no consideration for what they are doing or who will end up reading their e-mail.

The classic for me was an e-mail I received for a business from China looking to get one of my clients to use their services. The opening paragraph of the e-mail reads as follows "We are a facotry about 300 workers.We have a long-standing experience in all kinds of knitting, & printing in all washes, designs, constructions & specifications. Like T-shirt, polo shirt ,singlet ,kid's wear, sleepwear, casual wear and sports wear."

Now firstly any decent spell checker would/should have picked up that "factory" is incorrectly spelt. Then can someone please explain how they can get some of the commas right and then mess up on some of them as well. What does that say to me, and this doesn't matter what language you speak, it says that you didn't even bother to read what you had typed or you would have picked up the grammar errors at the very least.

If you are not comfortable in the ability of your English when having business dealings then why not consider hiring a VA who can at the very minimum proof the file to make sure that the grammar is correct. Also please always remember to use your spell checker.

What is going to happen to the e-mail I mentioned above, well it went straight into the Deleted Items folder never to see the light of day again.