Your Small Business May Need a Virtual Assistant



If you are the owner of a small business, you probably spent most the early years dealing with most of the duties required to keep the business operating in an efficient manner. You know the kind of duties that, though mundane in nature, are very much a part of any business or entrepreneurship:

Clerical work that includes everything from answering the phone(s) to typing up contracts and balancing the books, in addition to writing checks to merchants which, ultimately, is the task that determine whether or not you get the services necessary to keep your business operational.

Those early years in business consist of some of the longest days – and some nights – a small business person or entrepreneur has to endure. You are afforded very little time for rest or leisure because, in addition to doing what you do best (generating revenue and managing the business), you had to do everything else.

As an entrepreneur you know your time and money are worth more when you are able to concentrate on what you do best and leave the rest to an assistant. The kind of assistant you can readily afford without the need to establish workman’s compensation, or withholding and payment federal and local taxes on behalf of your employees.

I’m referring to Virtual office assistants who work from their own home-based offices and are highly trained in their skill areas as well as a variety of technologies. Many of them have advanced degrees as well as years of professional experience. Not only can a virtual assistant relieve you of mundane, everyday tasks, but also in many cases, s/he can even help you grow your business.

One of the biggest benefits to hiring a virtual assistant is the ability to delegate work to people who have better skills, and can do work you don’t know how to do, don’t have time to do, or just don’t want to do.

The next big draw (when considering virtual assistants over bricks-and-mortar assistants) is that virtual assistants only clock-in and work when you need them and use their own resources. In other words, they’re not charging you to sit there and play solitaire on a computer you purchased for them.

Here Are Some Reasons that Justify the Use of Virtual Assistants:

  1. Your VA receives calls routed to his/her home office phone and your prospective customers do not receive a voice mail. You pay only for the minutes that the VA is on the phone
  2. You need to confirm appointments for the week. Your VA calls the appointments and notes who is confirmed and who must be rescheduled. Your VA even updates your calendar online, if you’re using a mutually accessible calendar program.
  3. By purchasing a software program that installs a desktop electronic billing system on the VA’s computer, billing can be done off-site. The software vendor technical support trains the VA to use the program, then you email or fax information to the VA, who then does daily electronic billing or accounting services to get your billing done.
  4. You are preparing a marketing plan and need further information. Your VA can contact possible advertising outlets on the Internet, magazines, periodicals, newspapers, etc. and acquire information on pricing, publishing dates, publishing deadlines, payment policies, etc. All information is compiled into a report for you to review.
  5. You are preparing a direct mailing and need to verify your database. The database is sent to your VA via email attachment. Your VA telephones each name and verifies name, spelling, title and address. All corrections are made, old names are deleted, and new names are added. The corrected database is “zipped” and returned to you via email attachment.
  6. You need a brochure, business card or flyer for your business. Your VA can design, type and print your advertising material using your own artwork or stock art. Your VA can also make the materials ready to print by a professional print shop and simply email the file to the shop for printing.

To be continued. Look for more VA skills in our next post

Do You Need A Business Plan to Sell eBooks Online?


In order to address the question of whether or not a business plan is needed in order to sell ebooks online, we must first determine if ebook sales can be considered a business, an entrepreneurship or just something you do on the side to make a few extra bucks for your nights out with the boys/girls.

Another point we should touch on is the interchangeable uses of business and entrepreneurship. There is very little difference between the two terms based on the usage of each term. Since every entrepreneur is technically a small business person and entrepreneurship is simply the act of being an entrepreneur, then it follows that a small business can at any time be referred to as an entrepreneurship and vice versa.

That having been said, it is an accepted principle that every small business is launched with the goal – or objective, if you like – of achieving certain levels of monetary success, notwithstanding the service it provides to the local community. Entrepreneurs want to succeed at their particular crafts and therefore should have a clear idea of what it takes to succeed. Most successful business owners will tell you however, that whatever that idea is, it must be in written form.

Success online depends on having a plan, or more specifically a business plan. Very often, aspiring Web entrepreneurs contact a designer with a burning passion to have a new website designed, built and launched. FAST! But success takes more than waking up bug-eyed in the wee hours of the morning with the brainstorm of the century. You need to outline and complete a real business plan and make adjustments before the official launch.

Mentioned earlier was selling ebooks online and if it is to be a serious endeavor then it has to be considered an online eBook business, in which case the aspiring entrepreneur will have to provide enough information to satisfy the requirements of a business plan writer or to fill in the blanks of a pre-printed BP form. Thinking through the questions and answers is a vital step towards developing a good business plan. For example:

  • Do you have a company?
  • Do you have a logo for your company?
  • If no logo, what color scheme do you like?
  • How many products (eBooks) will you offer?
  • Are they all written and ready to go?
  • Do you have cover art for your books?
  • What system of e-commerce do you intend to use?
  • Will you offer just pdf or exe formats, or both?
  • Do you have the domain, plus registration and hosting?
  • Do you have a projected launch date scheduled?
  • How many affiliate products do you have to offer?
  • Etc.

Defining what you do, your market, and how you intend to be different are vital considerations for starting your online ebook business. You only get one chance to make a good first impression.

For an eBook online business, the competition is fierce and filled with some shady characters. When you begin the process of planning before jumping in, consider your image first and then answer “How will I establish credibility in the early going?”. Weave this into your business plan and you should do well. Don’t act before thinking or you may be perceived as just another online marketeer.

In summary

Your image comes first – It is recommended that you have a stunning set of graphics for your corporate image to make a favorable first impression. Hire a pro if it’s in your budget.

Credibility is a close second – Although it does take time to build a solid reputation in your marketplace, you can help yourself in this area by soliciting opinions from trusted people to give honest feedback about first impression and how credible they think you are.

And of course your Plan must guide your operating activities – If you can’t hire a financial/accounting pro to write your business plan, I’m sure there are Outlines or templates for creating a business plan availble free online. Get one. Use it. Be flexible, and change as you go.

A final word. I know that many startup online entrepreneurs neglect creating a business plan. Selling eBooks online without physical inventory except bits and bytes seems so easy that you will be tempted to just dive in to a ebook sales opportunity with both feet and not give the plan a second thought. But keep this thought in mind: Your chances for success will improve tremendously with a real business plan.