Friday, November 27, 2009
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?
Shelley@SageVA.com my skype address is; shelley.halpain you can also call me at 916.425.8088 or check out my website at www.SageVA.com 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
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
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
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
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
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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 email@example.com. You can reach them both via phone at 1 (800) 515-5012.
www.sageva.com 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 firstname.lastname@example.org or call 916-425-8088.
Friday, May 22, 2009
In working on my third website, www.SageVA.com , I have learned more about building websites than I ever sought. The whole Internet is fascinating to me. There is so much information out there, I cant even begin to know a portion of it. So I stick with my little corner to try and become very good at what little I do know. I use cpanel. That is my favorite way to build a site. It may be for beginners (I don't know) but I think it works just fine, my site doesn't look any 'less' professional than the next. I chose to buy my domain and web hosting with Bravenet.com, I don't know if it is any better than other hosting companies, I do like it better than a few others I have chosen in the past. I like to use free programs and templates because they are as good as the ones you purchase (sometimes better) and I have access. Picasa is the program I like to use for artists galleries, CSS templates is my preference as far as complete site templates go. Many good ones to choose from that can be tweaked and modeled how ever you want. I am also learning zen-cart. A free program in a class of open source commerce, basically a shopping cart but this is the whole shebang, its a little more complicated at first but I'm finding it very user friendly and once you have your whole cart built, the changes are simple. I downloaded Filezilla from Mozilla to use as an FTP client. This will basically up or download giant files for you much faster.
I could go on and on, I guess I have learned more than I thought. If you have any questions, you can contact me. I'm open to helping out. Building your own website is a ton of work but also pretty satisfying when its done. Shelley@sageva.com I wish you much success! If you don't feel like taking the task on, of course I can do it for you (that's my pitch).
I plan on adding links to my cloud computing program so clients can have access straight from my site. I am also adding paypal access.
Monday, May 4, 2009
I start with the bedroom since that is where things tend to accumulate fastest. I use under bed storage boxes, a trash can and a donate bag. EVERYTHING in the dresser comes out. I just pile it on the bed. I then go through each item and decide A)Is it worthy of keeping until next year, B)Is it salvageable and will someone else like this? C) Is it trash? I then throw these items into the respective container. Now, you have to make this fun so set the containers around the room and play basketball with your items, roll them up and jump hoop them across the room (also fun for kids). After this task is done, maybe 30-45 minutes, immediately put the containers where they belong, otherwise you may be tripping over them for the next few weeks (uh, gee no I havent been there).
My office is next, I started that yesterday. 2 trash bags (recyclable, garbage), 2 boxes of giveaway's, 1 giant pile of "shreddable's" later, I am getting near completion. Of course I have to make this fun too and since my husband loves his new super, duper, indestructible shredder, that pile is saved for him. I like to treat that stuff as paper airplanes tossing them "Shred it baby!" In the box of giveaway's I have 2 CD towers that are full of software that is no longer useful to me. Not sure where the CD's are going but the towers are going to WEAVE thrift store. There is a desk lamp I don't use anymore, some file boxes and bins (since I am going totally green and paperless, I don't need space for them anymore. yeah). All of my contact information ie; business cards, flyer's, etc. get entered into my contact database file and then tossed. I have DVD's and Thumb drive's I need to send to client's. Those are sitting in my 'out' box. Wow, this is looking like a nice place to work again! It is 11:00 AM, I am done organizing for today. Well, I still have vegetables to plant....
Monday, April 20, 2009
Monday, April 13, 2009
Well, here's the scoop on this, hire it out. As small business owner we CANNOT do it all. We all may think we are super skippy but, reality is, there are only 24 hours in a day and we cant order more. If you are trying to build your start up; getting clients, to actually pay the bills, is the number one task that you should be focusing on. That is the reason you started that business in the first place. I hire people to do tasks that I don't know how to do (or don't have time) and that is a really good practice. I am one of those people who enjoys the mundane office tasks, (no comments from the peanut gallery!) that is why I started Sage, so I could do what I enjoy doing, for other folks who are doing what they enjoy doing. Everyone wins.
As a small business person, I'm guessing that, actually having someone work IN your office is not an option because your office is most likely in your house (like mine). I personally would not want someone coming here every day. Its business casual every day of the week! That's what is great about my profession, I can 'be' in your office, without actually 'being' in your office. We can work side by side on different sides of the globe. Its great. Another plus is having me work 'with' you, I am an independent contractor, you don't have all the paperwork and expense of hiring an employee. I charge by the hour and only work the hours you need me, you don't have to worry about finding work for me around the office because if you don't need my assistance, I won't cost you a dime.
So, when you are in need of some office labor, think about hiring a virtual assistant. You wont have to supply a computer, desk, coffee pot, staples, etc.. you get my drift. I have all of that (plenty of coffee). I wont ask you to pay for my vacation or sick days either!
Wednesday, April 1, 2009
Friday, March 20, 2009
Another site is called submitterbot , This is a directory submission site. If you want your website to be found, being in as many directories as possible is a step in the right direction. Again this is completely free, you sign up, fill in the information about your website, then you have to take the time to submit to each directory BUT, they have the list of ALL the directories and they get new ones every day. You dont have to pick the right place for your website in each directory, Submitterbot chooses the best place for you by the keywords you have entered. So, this may take a little time each day but it is much quicker than googling all the directories out there, signing up for each one and entering your website. I turn on Pandora and enter for about 1/2 hour a day... I make it fun. If you have a directory, you can submit it there so folks can find you.
Monday, March 16, 2009
Last night I watched the 60 minutes interview with Ben Bernanke. He is a smart cookie and I enjoyed the interview. His view on the financial outlook was much brighter than the media has been reporting, which is why I sat down to write this. I am so tired of the news that I really don't watch it anymore. I get most of my news online, I only read the articles that interest me and I stay away from the gloom and doomers. I, by no means, am sticking my head in the sand, on the contrary, I am fully aware of whats going on. My husband follows politics and finances all day, but one in the family is enough. I believe that we do reap what we sew and if we sew negative, head bowing, OMG news, that is what we will continue to get. We all keep hearing about the more than 10% that are out of work in CA, I realize that and am actually part of that (lay off last year) but the other part of that story is the other 90% are still working! Lets talk about the MILLIONS who still work every day. I do want to know how many people are out of work. I do want to help and I do want to know what is being done, if anything, but at the same time must it be the only subject that is covered?
One of the changes that I have noticed locally, people staying home with their families more. I do realize that when folks don't go out to eat, the restaurants suffer, but when people stay home, the family gets stronger. We have been cooking dinners, here at home, almost every night over the past few months and I am really enjoying that. I am actually going to plant a garden this year, which will be the first time since we moved in, 9 years ago (I didn't say I was going to grow a garden because I don't have the greenest thumb). I have read about more neighborhood gardens popping up around the country. Getting back to basics is a good thing for people, just not such a good thing for retailers and local, product based businesses. We will emerge from this, and I do believe that we will be stronger. Those people who have that entrepreneur spirit, who own those local businesses, might fail at that particular business but will start another one. Its the nature of the beast. I have that entrepreneur spirit. Sage Virtual Assistance is the 3rd business I have started. If this one, by chance, doesn't work (which I know it will) I will keep trying until something does work because its the core of who I am. New adventures, new people, new ideas, building, growing, making connections. It is exciting to me!
I am going to be positive about the future because I refuse to live in this climate of gloom and doom anymore!
Friday, March 6, 2009
Do you recall the 70's when we had to go to the gas station every OTHER day, depending on your license plate numbers? I was living in Los Angeles at the time and remember fights breaking out that the gas pumps because someone had a gas jug and no car. So right now, its money we cant get our hands on. Its always something. Our houses are worth less than when we purchased them. Our Credit Card Companies are charging more interest. At least K-Mart and Sears are starting their layaway again... My Mom always put things on layaway when I was a kid. We have been a throw away society for so long that fixing the hole in that blouse or stitching on a new button wasn't cool, give it to the goodwill and buy a new one. Now, I find myself fixing that button less shirt. Thats ok, I actually like it. I am a pack rat and have always hated throwing things out.
Marketing, which was my original reason for writing this, is another place where we have to cut back. Ok, so the employment looks bleak, over 10% are out of work in CA, but what about the other 90%? They are still working their jobs or struggling to keep their businesses afloat in this media climate of gloom and doom... which is another peeve of mine, but I will go into that later. So I have been researching guerrilla marketing techniques and so far, I am finding a ton of things I can do to keep my business name out there in front of people for very little if any cash out of my pocket. For one, SOCIAL MEDIA is HUGE!! Post post post to those blogs, twitter, facebook, LinkedIn, forums... wherever you can post do it! (If your not sure how, contact me, I can do it for you) You would be amazed at the people out there who look at these and recognize your name after you have been around a while. Donate to charity. Put together a basket of goodies for a local cause with your business card or a flyer in it. Everyone who is at the event, everyone who looks at the pretty baskets that are going to be auctioned off, will see YOUR business card or flyer. Get out and join networking groups. I know alot of the networking groups are not exactly cheap but there are some out there, people who are like minded who are doing the same thing as you, trying to keep their head above water and it doesnt cost an arm and a leg. Postcards are great, get on your computer, make a postcard and print it out, take it over to Kinkos and get a bunch of copies. Now give those postcards to EVERYONE YOU MEET... They are obviously bigger than a business card so not likely to get lost in peoples wallet along with the other business cards they are toting around. I was googling around the other day and found these adorable little bookmark templates. I downloaded them, customized them and laminated them.. I carry around a handful and give them out, again, to EVERYONE I MEET.
In other words, BE your company.. breath it, sleep it, think it, talk about it... and good luck to you in your ventures!! Remember, if your not sure how to do some of these things, pop me an email, I can help you out!!!
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
In my business, clients worry about their privacy, rightly so, it seems even Banks and Obama's hand held are fair game to hackers. We work with secure companies to do our online business. We are not perfect but we work hard at making sure your information is not breech able. There are simple steps we can take to ensure our online life is safe and secure from hackers and people who are up to no good.
Scanning the internet, I found this article and wanted to share. I found it at:
By eHow Internet Editor
You shop online. You bank online. You communicate online. The Internet has allowed us to do almost everything online, but it has also allowed hackers and thieves to obtain your private information online. Is your Internet security in jeopardy? Evaluate your online practices. If you think you could beef up your Internet security, read on. Adequate Internet security is possible with the following steps.
I hope this list helps you with your ventures in the virtual world we all now live in. Thanks to ehow, they are a world of information.