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4 Unconventional Ways to Qualify Your Virtual Assistant

When hiring a Virtual Assistant, many business owners are content with just the interview and conducting a few basic tests. While these are tried and tested methods, they may not be sufficient in helping you find the best Virtual Assistant for your business.

To do that, you have to think outside the virtual box. Here are 4 unconventional ways to qualify your Virtual Assistant:

Trial Period – Would you buy a car without test driving it? What if there is computer error or defective brakes? Your life is literally in your hands by not opting for the test drive.

In the case of a Virtual Assistant, the life of your business could be in virtual hands if you don’t opt for the trial period.

It is standard procedure for VA candidates to agree to a trial period. This is paid time anyway and usually does not take more than 2 hours. The purpose of the trial period is to see how the Virtual Assistant performs in an actual work situation.

It is not a guarantee that you will find the best candidate. But at the very least, you will get a glimpse of how it is to work with a specific Virtual Assistant.

Check Their Social Media Pages – Is it snooping around? Is checking someone else’s social media pages unethical? No. As a matter of fact, 60% of hiring managers would check a candidate’s social media account as part of the process.

Over the years, more businesses are placing greater value on the behavioral component than technical and fundamental competencies. After all, anyone can be trained but values have been ingrained by a lifetime of experiences. Among the factors hiring managers look into are as follows:

Provocative or inappropriate photographs
Images of drinking or drug use
Discriminatory comments on gender, race or religion
Negative remarks on previous employer
Poor spelling and grammar

Make Work Uncomfortable – A Virtual Assistant is technically contracted not hired. This means you can terminate the contract any time. You should continue to qualify your Virtual Assistant especially during the first month of the working engagement.

Put the VA’s commitment and dedication to the test by making work uncomfortable. Here are a few ways you can do this:

Schedule his or her work shift during late night or graveyard hours.
Schedule work and meetings on weekends especially on Sunday.
Give unrealistically tight deadlines.
Ask the VA to preside over meetings and to cover presentations in Power Point.

Do this for a period of 2 weeks. If your Virtual Assistant passes with flying colors, implement a normal working schedule.

If not, hire another one and repeat the process.

Contact References – Another standard procedure in the hiring process is for the candidates to provide references. This includes former clients, employers and associates. But some business owners do not check up on these references.

If you want to know how your candidate performs, talk to someone who has worked with him or her. Take the time to contact the references and if possible, reach out via phone.

You also need to check on the background of the reference. He or she could just be a bogus character “hired” to give you a good review.

Are you going overboard by implementing any of these strategies? Ask yourself, “How much do you value your business?”

Going back to the analogy about the car, would you trust your car to someone you don’t know?

Your business is your livelihood. You should tightly scrutinize the people you allow to be part of it. This is especially true when the person works from the virtual world where close, shared space collaboration is not possible.

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Virtual Assistant Transcription Services: Accuracy and Productivity Guaranteed

One of the fastest growing segments in the Virtual Assistant market is transcription services. Accuracy and precision are needed to ensure quality of work and services. This is especially true in the case of the medical and legal fields where flawed information could influence life or death situations. It is not enough to have information recorded; there have to be copies in black and white.

Transcription is the process of converting audio files into text files. Doctors and lawyers can either e-mail audio files or speak through software that automatically records, files and categorizes information. The audio files are stored in highly encrypted file sharing programs which can be accessed only by authorized transcribers.

It used to be that transcription services were done in-house due to the confidential nature of some of the files. Patients’ medical records for one are very confidential especially if the patient is influential. The same goes for legal information which could potentially jeopardize the position and strategies of the firm.

But in 2006, an enterprising virtual assistant by the name of Aretha Gaskin felt it was impossible to accurately oversee or manage all of the documents and administrative work required by a law firm. She started a virtual legal transcription company that managed the documentary and administrative needs of law firms in New York City.

Medical transcription work used to be done within the hospital. But soon, hospitals realized that it was more costly to maintain an in-house transcription team. The software programs were also expensive to maintain. A viable solution was simply to outsource medical transcription work to agencies that could guarantee accuracy, timely delivery and security.

Another branch of transcription is close caption work. This is basically sub- titling which you see in many cable network shows, film and videos. The purpose of sub- titling is to accommodate the needs of the hearing- impaired.

Other industries that have reached out to transcription service providers are business and education. Companies often have their meetings and seminars audio recorded while schools may allow students to record lectures.

Virtual assistants are very capable of providing accurate and timely transcription services. What qualities should you look for in a Virtual Assistant transcriber?

Excellent Level of English – While having a background in the field of study is important, it is more valuable to have excellent command of the English Language. The Virtual Assistant transcriber must have excellent grammar, spelling and knows how to use punctuation marks. The incorrect use of punctuation marks can change the content of a legal document.

Works in a Quiet Area – Set up a Skype call with the Virtual Assistant candidate for transcription and pay close attention to background noise and the quality of the audio. In order to be accurate, the transcriber has to be able to focus 100%. Background noise will be a source of distraction and may affect quality of work.

Meticulous; Detail-Oriented – The best transcriber is the one who is mindful about deadlines but takes the time to review the details of the transcription before submitting them. In medical transcription, patient names could sound the same but have a different spelling. Even a name as popular as “Smith” could be spelled as “Smythe”. The transcriber has to take steps to make sure all information is accurate.

A Virtual Assistant can deliver transcription work with an accuracy rating of 99%+. And because a Virtual Assistant operates from home and manages his or her time, punctual delivery and more focused work should be expected.

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Is Outsourcing Services Under Threat from the New World Order?

Since the new millennium, the global outsourcing industry has grown by leaps and bounds. The availability of the Internet in 2000 further established globalization. Meanwhile, events were changing the world as we knew it. Over the last 15 years, political, economic and social barriers were torn down as consequences of globalization.

While uncertainty and economic volatility create the ideal conditions for outsourcing to thrive in, it may seem that the process is under threat by the changing political climate.

In 2013, the Philippines became the number 1 destination for global outsourcing supplanting India, Mumbai and Bangalore. Since 2004, the Philippines’ outsourcing services industry has been growing at an average of 20% per annum. From $3M in 2004, the Philippines outsourcing services sector generated US$18M in 2015. It is expected to earn US$20M to US$25M in 2016 with the upside at US$48M by 2020.

These numbers are now at risk since President Rodrigo Duterte came into power in 2016. President Duterte’s administration has taken a 180 degree turn in foreign policy away from the US and toward China, a perennial competitor in outsourcing. According to outsourcing analysts, millions of dollars worth of business from the US and Europe have been put on indefinite hold.

A few months later, in 9 November 2016, America elected Donald J. Trump as its 45th President. During his campaign, Trump vowed to bring jobs back to America by imposing stiff penalties on companies that did business with other countries. Trump’s vitriol was primarily targeted on Asia which was the focal point of the Democratic Party’s foreign policy.

Will these changes in political structures and ideologies signal the end of outsourcing?

The answer is “No” for the following reasons:

Outsourcing Does Not Live or Die with the US – The US is not the only market for outsourcing. Other countries such as Australia, Poland, the United Kingdom, South Korea, Singapore and Germany are emerging markets for outsourcing.

Even if Duterte’s incendiary rhetoric turns off US investors, there are countries that look beyond politics and focus on the availability of talent, comparative advantages and economies of scale.

Offshoring is NOT Outsourcing – The source of Trump’s consternation is offshoring not outsourcing.

In his first 100 days, Trump plans to discontinue the Offshoring Act which allowed US companies to set up shop in other countries to lower their cost of production.

Trump wants to discourage offshoring because it takes jobs away from America. Outsourcing does not take jobs from America.

Outsourcing is a Process – Did your business just sign up a Virtual Assistant? If so, guess what? You just outsourced services.

Outsourcing has been a go-to cost cutting strategy since the 1970’s. It is more prevalent now because the Internet has made it possible to do business with other countries without climbing aboard a plane.

You can outsource services from the comforts of your own home. Need a Content Writer to manage your blogs? Sign up a freelancer from the Philippines.

Do you want to outsource the payroll and benefits management for your 300 employees? Outsource them to a third party service provider who can provide you 10 encoders and 1 Account Manager to do the job.

Globalization is a beautiful thing. Any President who tries to suppress it will be doomed to fail because globalization is the new economy. Instead of fighting it, you should embrace it and all the possibilities.

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How a Virtual Assistant can Increase Your Productivity by 300%

Productivity is an everyday concern of many entrepreneurs. Hiring a Virtual Assistant will not only ensure consistent productivity but with proper planning and the right business model, you can even increase output by 300%.

Here are 4 actionable tips to increase business productivity:

Identify Your Core Business Functions – Before you go through the process of finding a Virtual Assistant, review your business model. If you don’t have a system in place, create one and indicate the areas of responsibility, frameworks and processes.

Identify your core business functions. These are the ones that translate to money in the bank. You have to dedicate most of your time managing these functions if you want your business to succeed.

Delegate Non- Core Business Functions – The other tasks which don’t fall under your core business functions are your non- core business functions. These are often referred to as “non- essential tasks”. They are important to keep the business organized but are not directly related to output.

The non- core business functions should be delegated to your Virtual Assistant. By identifying these tasks, you will have an idea of the qualifications you need for your VA.

Having a VA handle these tasks will free up time for you to oversee core business functions.

Identify 4 Goals Per Day – Studies on the behavior of regular office employees showed that the average worker only puts in 90 minutes of productive work per day. That is only a productivity rating of 20% given that there are 450 minutes for productive work per day.

Using 90 minutes as your baseline, it is realistic to accomplish 4 goals per day. Dedicate 90 minutes of effort per goal. By effort, this means 110%, laser guided focus on accomplishing the task. There should be no distractions.

This will translate to 360 minutes or 6 hours of productive work per day. Give yourself a 30 minute break after 90 minutes. The break will be used to recharge; rest up and clear your mind before you work on the next goal.

By following this business model, you would be able to increase your productivity from 20% to 300% everyday. Across the week, you would increase your accomplishments from 5 goals to 20 goals. Thus, you exponentially accelerate the growth of your business.

Track Your Progress – Every end of the week, meet with your Virtual Assistant and do a review of business performance. Do a summary of tasks that were accomplished and those that were left pending.

Discuss difficulties, issues and other concerns that inhibited progress. Review statistics, figures and website analytics to have a reliable basis for recommendations and courses of action.

Is this a perfect business model for productivity? No because not all tasks are the same. You will encounter tasks that are more complicated and require more time. Perhaps on some days you will only accomplish 2; maybe even just 1. Then again, it is within the realm of possibility to even accomplish 5 or 6 goals on certain days.

The important take-away is that having the time to work directly on your core business functions would not have been possible without hiring a Virtual Assistant.

Unless you can efficiently manage your time, it will be difficult to keep your business moving forward.

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5 factors to consider when investing in an overseas property market

More people are now investing in overseas properties. But they often have to face with lots of challenges. Here are the important factors you should consider when investing in properties abroad.

Funding options

The securing fund is a challenge in a foreign market. You are subject to international laws, and things are discussed in terms of local currencies. You should get an ‘Agreement in Principle’ before finalizing your purchase. This will act as a protection in case you cannot extend your loan or cannot reclaim your original deposit.

Tax liability

Every country has its law regarding tax. In some countries, home owners have to pay land tax as a prerequisite for getting a mortgage. You might have to pay for stamp duty, title transfer tax, etc. You must incorporate all these tax-related costs in your budget.

Local money and exchange rates

It is necessary to understand the local value of currency and exchange rates. You need to get a Certificate of Incorporation to open a bank account if you have to bring money from your home country. This will help you to pay legal fees and tax debts.

Get an independent valuation

Even though the task may be difficult, you should obtain an individual evaluation of your property. This will guarantee the integrity of the property.

Research the location

You should research the location, amenities, transport system, etc. If you want to live there, this factor is very important. For example, if you have children, you need to find out if there are good schools in the region.

Before investing in a foreign property market, you should first decide why you want to buy the property. This will help you to stay focused and take steps carefully.

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Top 4 places in Europe to invest in the real estate market

European property market now is a highly lucrative place to invest in. With the economic growth and various government initiatives, investing in the real estate market in Europe will give good returns. Here are the top 4 places in Europe to invest.

Birmingham

1

The properties are cheaper in Birmingham compared to London. The city is attracting employers like HSBC. There is growth in the market, making it a good place to invest in.

Berlin

2

Germany’s capital is one of the best places you can invest in. Growth in the technology sector has made it a good option for getting office space. The living cost is low here. It’s culture and location has increased its housing prospects.

Hamburg

3

There has been more than $5 billion investment in the properties over the last few years. It has a diverse group of occupiers. There is a huge demand for offices from the business services, trade sectors, small businesses and the media. Construction in these sectors is expected to increase.

Dublin

4

Those who have already invested in the Dublin real estate market or will invest soon will see highest total returns. There will be rental growth for offices. The retail sector is expected growth in the coming years.

If you invest in one of these cities soon, you can expect high returns due to the property sector growth of these cities. So, do some research and enter these markets as soon as possible to get the best deal.

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4 reasons to invest in properties abroad

Many investors think this year as the best year for investing in the real estate market. There were 11% returns on global property investment in 2014, and the trends seem to be upward every year. Here are some reasons for investing in properties abroad.

European Growth

Americans and people from other countries are looking forward to investing in Europe. Most of them are finding properties in London, Paris, and Frankfurt. They are investing in holiday homes, offices, luxury retail spaces and shopping centers.

Protecting capital

Those who have cash in hand investing in property may be a good option to get some good return for their money. They can benefit from the exchange rate. This business is secured as the real estate market has high demand now.

Buy beachfront property

Beachfront property always has demanded. Europe is a great destination for holidaymakers. There are resort builders and other developers who will help you in selling your property.

Cash Flow in Alternate Currency

By investing in Europe or other international real estate market, you are generating income in another currency. So, in case your home country has an economic crisis, you can have alternate funds.

Investors are turning to the European real estate market to get a good income return. The European real estate markets are huge with great liquidity. The economy of Europe is improving. The return of investment is higher in European markets. So, if you are thinking of investing in the foreign market, it is the best time to do so.

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How to Win the Loyalty of Your Filipino Virtual Assistants

Filipino virtual assistants are known to deliver good performance. They have a good command in English, possess good work ethics and are very pleasant to work with.

Although high compensation attracts skilled workers, Filipinos are more inclined to continue working for people who earn their respect and trust. Loyalty is a virtue that Filipinos adhere to and once it is earned they will be with you from beginning to end.

Finding the right people for your team is important to ensure continued success in business. When you have loyal members, you can be assured that they share your vision and dedication. How do you make them stay once you have found the right people for the job?

Here are helpful ways to win the loyalty of your Filipino virtual assistants.

Maintain good communication. This will foster trust. An open line of communication will allow all issues to be dealt with properly.

Filipinos are non-confrontational by nature, so they need to be pushed a little to talk. One sided conversations will only turn them off. They will sincerely appreciate a boss who encourages them to speak up and be honest.

An open environment will certainly boost their morale and motivate them to deliver expectations. Filipino virtual assistants are sure to stay through thick and thin once their trust is earned.

Establish a positive working relationship. Filipinos are well known for their optimism. They perform best when working for people who know how to motivate them to perform well.

Acknowledge their efforts when they meet expectations. There will be mistakes along the way but constructive criticism will help strengthen your working relationship. When your Filipino Virtual Assistant hits a snag, hear him out first. Be patient and discuss how things can be done better.

They are very resilient and willing to learn from their mistakes. Positive reinforcement will help your Virtual Assistants get back on track and remain steadfastly loyal to you.

Respect and learn the culture. In the virtual workforce, cultural differences is no longer an issue. In fact, this is one of the keys to the success of this paradigm.

People from around the globe are able to work together while apart regardless of different backgrounds. If you want them to stay with you, learn more about the Filipinos. This will help you have a better understanding of the people you wish to stay on your team.

Learn about their customs, traditions and business practices. It would also help to take note of their holidays. Although the virtual world is exempted from holidays, it will help you understand why they may need some time off.

Do not worry too much about lagging behind, Filipinos are not imposing so if they have to work even on holidays they will.

Foster teamwork. Filipino virtual assistants are excellent team players. They just need a good leader to help them realize the value of their role in the group.

Connect them with other members of your team and instill in them the importance of working together. This will strengthen their sense of loyalty. When they are made aware of their place, your virtual assistants will not entertain thoughts of leaving the group.

There is a very good reason why the Philippines continues to lead the world in global outsourced services: the Filipino is a world class worker! Contract the services of a Filipino Virtual Assistant and find out how much easier and better life and business can get.