Friday, February 26, 2010

I can feel Spring, I know its there

Some days it feels wonderful outside. I get the urge to ride a bike or go for a walk. Working in the yard is at the top of my to do list and then some days (like today) the weather is just frightful! Makes me feel like curling up with a good book.

I am so ready to plant a garden, plant new hedges (planning this for several years) go swimming.... sigh.... winter is here for a little bit longer, I can hang on.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Christmas obligations/Concierge service

It is that time of year when we all need to get in touch with the folks we love, folks we don't get to see much and folks we would like to spend more time with. Time is of the essence because Christmas is less than a month away!

Ok, if you like me, you are thinking about Christmas cards, postcards, gifts, decorations and the list goes on. When are you going to find time to do all of this? Last year I mentioned to a friend that if she needed help with her decorations or cards to call me. She didnt even have time to call! This year I am making it really easy. If you need help with Christmas cards (you can take care of your family :) and I can take care of the business cards), let me know via email or skype. Easy enough ~ all I need is a list of names/addresses and all those business contacts will get a personalized card from you. Better yet, do you have postcards already made up but dont have the time to get them addressed and sent? Stick them in a fed ex envelope and ship them to me, consider it done!

This is what I do, make your life easier. What can I do for you this holiday season? my skype address is; shelley.halpain you can also call me at 916.425.8088 or check out my website at lets get all of those tasks done early in the month so you can enjoy your family or vacation or whatever it is you want to do.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

When one door closes, another opens

When you lose something, a job or client for instance, there are two ways you can look at it. You can be hard on yourself, kick yourself (hypothetically speaking), get depressed OR you can believe that because one opportunity is gone, another is right around the corner.

I am a true believer that when one thing ends, it only leaves room for something new that you wouldn't have been looking for. If your day is completely full and you are busy from morning til night, would you notice if a great opportunity dropped in your lap? Probably not. It could walk right by, you would feel the wind but have no idea what it was.

This has happened to me recently and I choose to look at this optimistically. I have several networking functions to attend in the next few weeks, I really did need to take something off my plate so I have time to concentrate on learning something new (for a new client) and this also gives me time to zero in on skills that I have wanted to learn but haven't had time for.

So for the next few weeks, I am going to learn a new software program inside and out, I will be the resident pro! I am also going to attend a few online classes to update my excel, power point and word skills. I just got a new computer this year with Vista and the new features, although they are easier to find, are still a little mind boggling and I know I don't use half of any of these programs, so this is the right time to learn those!

Whether you have lost a client or haven't acquired that first client yet, do you have all of your business plans and procedures in place? Licenses, insurance, etc? This might be a good time to get that done. There are a lot of customers out there, believe me, and when they start knocking on your door (and they will), you and I both will be ready to handle them!!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Organizing yourself and your time.

I thought I would share with you, what I did this weekend. I went to a meeting with other Virtual Assistants in my area and listened to a sales seminar by a wonderful guy, Jerry Kennedy. His website, if you are interested, is .

Everything he talked about keeps swirling around in my head; I have my to do list posted in my Outlook file, I have finished 3 of the 5 things on there, yeah! I feel a tad more organized and Im sure the longer I operate this way, the easier and more organized I will get. I have found, being a VA, the most challenging part is keeping track of follow up for each client. I get started with one, move to another and forget what I needed to do for the first one until I go back and check my notes. Most of what he talked about, was common sense, but if you dont allow yourself to think in this fashion, it might not come as easily as you want. I have, in the past, had a tendency to get overwhelmed by the tasks I have to do. To walk around in circles in my office wondering what to do first. No more!! Here are 5 things you can do today, to help organize and sell yourself.

1) Ask yourself, "Why am I in business?" Really? Yes, really... the REAL reason you are in business for yourself and not working in a cubicle. The money? Sure. The freedom? ok. How about other reasons? Think about it.

2) Stay focused. OY, this is the worst for me because I tend to be a sponge in that I absorb everything that is going on around me. This must stop now. I really have to make a concious effort to stay focused on the tasks at hand. Now that I have clients, being organized and focused is critical if I want to keep this business going and get more clients. Jerry said that staying away from the new for 7 days would be a great experiment just to see if I was more upbeat, focused. So I am going to try that. No more bad news for 7 days starting today, I will report my progress.
Im going to listen to music, taped TV shows, play with my fishtank on facebook, read a book, update by blog or website. Anything to stay away from news, to see if that negative information really does keep me from being focused.

3) Get passionate! Visualize what you want to do, visualize that you are already doing it. Get engaged in it, drown in it. Get passionate about what you do or it wont matter how hard you try.

4) CHOOSE OPTIMISM. This is my favorite and I am going to say this to myself every morning "I will be optimistic today". It really is a choice.

5) Keep moving!! I love this one "The law of inertia says a body in motion stays in motion, a body at rest, stays at rest".... 'nuf said!

Break your day down into manageable bites. If you have to break a task down into tasks then do it, whatever works for you.

I told myself this morning that I was going to make 25 cold calls this week to see if I can find those people out there who really are in need of my services. I have 5 phone numbers in front of me and still have not made any calls. Cold calling is the worst for me but I am going to suck it up because for every X amount of NO's there is a YES waiting out there and I am determined to find those YES'S.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

When I learn something new...

I learn that I still have alot to learn. It is a never ending cycle of learning curves coming at us every day. I guess that is what makes life worth living. I am certainly not afraid to admit that I dont know how to do something and am always willing to ask if someone can teach me.

This week my learning will revolve around SEO, Search Engine Optimization. I know the paid tricks but want to know more about the organic tricks and tips. I have learned about links and posting on forums, google maps, etc. I know, the more places you put the name of your website, the more visible it will be during a search. For instance, I can google 'Virtual Assistant, Fair Oaks, Ca' and the first thing that pops up is google maps, which has a link to my site (I am the only one in this town for now). My actual site is no where to be found! At least not on the first few pages, after that I stopped looking. If I google "Virtual assistant, Sacramento, Ca' an actual company called "Sacramento Virtual Assistant' comes up first.. good for them!

I am learning about meta tags, although I dont think they do a whole lot of good these days since there are literally billions of websites, all using meta tags and I know it takes weeks, even months for those to be caught by the search engine spiders.

I have 2 books, one is called "SEO for Dummies", who can go wrong? The other is a giant maze of information and I dont have it right here, so I cant recall the name. I will NEVER read it :).

If you have any tricks, please feel free to post them here. I truly want to learn.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Too busy to blog?

This past month has been nuts! First I went out of town with my family for 2 weeks, no Internet access (OH NO), the past 2 weeks has been chock full of tasks that needed to be completed. Today is a semi-down day. I finished work for 1 client already, I have to hire 1 more person for another client and get a blog set up for another client. Shouldn't take more than a couple hours.

My initial thought was not to blog at all but after really thinking it through (asking myself yes or no) I decided that a semi blog was better than no blog at all.

My main focus of thought right now is getting the social media together for a new client. She doesn't have a whole lot of web presence and I want to make sure she has a saturation of web presence. She has a website, she is on Facebook and Twitter. I am tweeting for her and posting new and exciting news but there is more to do. The first thing I noticed was her website isn't completely up to date, this must be fixed. She also needs a blog, my idea isn't to have a blog for her art school but to have one for her, personally. She is a very creative person and has some wonderful ideas, loves patterns, colors and textures. I think this creativity needs to be showcased and attached to her site. I gave her an assignment; take that fancy new IPhone and get some cool pictures of items and places she thinks are worthy. Since she runs an art school, I was thinking rusty old fences and decrepit old doors. Anything that is different, take a picture, send me a brief description and why she thinks it is interesting.

To start with, I like this idea. Of course Google Analytics and Pipes will come into play after we get going to chart our progress. We also need to send out more information to our contacts via constant contact. Maybe some of the blog postings will be worthy of a good email story?

Until next time, Shelley

Friday, May 29, 2009

NonProfit Tweeting and Social Media

Social Media is a wonderful arena that can be used for Non-Profit organizations. Fund raising, awareness to the cause, information about events are all good reasons to belong to twitter and other social media sites. Being a responsible 'twitterer' is of the utmost importance. Separating personal from professional tweets and posts can be a challenge and a debate. Personal opinion can make you look human but it can also have adverse effects.

I found this article written by Valerie Venezia, VP of Membership and Marketing, New York Council of Nonprofits, Inc.

Do You Have a Social Media Policy? – Smart Nonprofit Tweeting

May 27, 2009

And Other Social Media Policy Thoughts

Thanks to guest writer, Valerie Venezia, VP of Membership and Marketing, New York Council of Nonprofits, Inc. While Tweeting, I found their organization policy on social media and asked her to write about the process for this blog. Links to Valerie, the policy and her twitter profile are included in the post. Thanks Valerie!

I’ll never forget the email that started it all. It was from our senior staff attorney. (We are blessed with three of them…) I don’t know about you, but I never want to get those. The more I can dodge the minefield of lawyerly engagement (other than a “Hi, How are you?” in the hall) the better. But this email I could not avoid. If you’re a Harry Potter fan, you can liken it to a “Howler.”

Nicely put, he wanted to know if I realized that within one click of our nonprofit’s website our members (and other visitors) could get to a Twitter profile with the unsavory language he was now demonstrating for me in his email.

Yes, I had crashed the proverbial flying car into the Whomping Willow.

My first reactions were defensive. My mind produced highly logical arguments like “no one would hold us responsible for that,” or “people can get to unsavory language within a click of any website,” or my personal favorite “you just don’t understand Twitter.” Well, duh. No, he didn’t. But that also meant that
a) neither did the vast majority of our audience and
b) it was my fault he didn’t.
I was our social media “evangelist” – and I couldn’t avoid our lawyers forever. It was time to engage, educate and maybe even adjust my own thinking about Twitter and social media.

After we both apologized and had that uncomfortable verbal “hug” we got down to business. The bottom line that we could both agree on was that protecting our nonprofit organization was of the utmost importance. A large part of my job is to get the “word” out about our organization and to get people to ACT (join, donate, come to events, etc.) Part of our marketing strategy is using certain social media tools. The inherent nature of these tools is that they are “open” and, for the most part, they give the control of the message over to the user. That’s why they are powerful. That’s why they can be great for nonprofits. And that’s why they can be scary too.

We agreed on a few other things. The Twitter account that we were using for our organization had actually started as my “own.” Though my life does revolve around my job, I did follow some unrelated individuals and organizations. (Do our members need to click through and see I follow Stephen Colbert? Maybe. Maybe not. But we decided not.) There’s a difference between personal branding around the knowledge, expertise and connections you have in your professional life, and your personal brand of pop culture idiosyncrasies. Some organizations may not see it this way – perhaps you feel that this makes your organization or staff more well rounded and “human” in the eyes of your audience and therefore more relatable. For our organization, we felt it was best to keep that separate – while still trying to maintain a personal “feel” on our organizational Twitter feed. Each organization will have to make this choice for itself. But it is a choice and the discussion and decision should be made by the appropriate people – and not just the one person on staff who may be enthusiastic enough to keep up on their social media duties.

After asking a few colleagues and realizing no one else had one, and because the need for it was immediate, we came up with a simple, yet effective “Twitter Policy.” Even in its simplicity it addressed our key concerns. By placing it on the homepage under the “follow us” link it:
a) makes people aware that we have a policy for this different type of medium;
b) that we have put thought into our social media presence;
c) that we have tried to proactively protect our organization from liability and
d) hopefully it makes them think about doing the same for their own nonprofit.

Up next on our radar: policies for our blog and Facebook presence as well as a policy for staff using social media in connection with their professional positions here (i.e. posting pictures from official organization events on their own Facebook pages, or personal blogging about their job.) Not that they can’t do these things (hey, if IBM can, we can.) But, again, protection of the organization is priority. We are going to constantly balance that priority against the need to communicate and connect with nonprofits and those that care about them. The days have long since passed when nonprofits could ignore the possibilities of social media. The concept is not a fad, though the tools may change.

If you haven’t already, gather the tools that already exist and think about your own social media policies. Stop the lawyer in the hall and have a conversation about it. Be proactive in protecting the nonprofit organization you work for. The more you recognize the risks, the more you can maximize the rewards of social media.

If you have any questions or would like to connect to Valerie you can find her on Twitter @nycouncilnps or email her at You can reach their staff attorney in this story (who said he thinks of himself more as the “Dementor” type) by contacting David Watson, Esq. at You can reach them both via phone at 1 (800) 515-5012. is a Virtual Assistance business that can help you with your Nonprofit back office work regardless of your location. Social media is time consuming and having an employee handle this can hurt your bottom line. Why not partner with a Virtual Assistant a few hours a week? We work on a sliding scale for 501c organizations. Contact Shelley Halpain at or call 916-425-8088.