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Dana Fortier

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Everything posted by Dana Fortier

  1. What life lesson did I learn (am still learning) the hard way: People, in a large group setting, can be petty and childish. I keep expecting 30-40-50 year old people to act like they're 30-40-50 years old and not in their teens. It doesn't happen and I get disappointed in the human race every single day.
  2. And look at this article I just found: https://www.citibank.com/womenandco/article/5-things-not-to-do-when-you-work-from-home.jsp I know I've kind of veered away from the topic here, but I think putting iron-clad processes in place will stop a lot of "bad client" experiences. This industry is too vital to play with. Business owners need what a VA can do. We owe it to ourselves and to our clients to be the professional they are paying for.
  3. The best advice I ever got was, "Don't treat yourself like a small business." Take the time to set up your corporate paperwork the RIGHT way: at the very least, an LLC. Don't mess around with dba's. Get a tax ID number. Create your processes and STICK.TO.THEM. no matter what. If you bill in advance, then bill in advance and don't back down when it comes time to get paid again. Don't cheapen yourself just to get the client. Value YOU and they will value YOU.
  4. Where in Michigan are you? I might have someone you should connect with. I don't know if she'd be a client, but the two of you are in similar areas of expertise and it might be a good match. If nothing, just to talk. Feel free to email me and we can connect.
  5. I think it would be beneficial just to get your name out there among the rest of the business community. Call the organizers and let them know who you are, what you do and let them know you're interested. Even though YOU aren't a "physical" business, lots of physical businesses use virtual assistants. One of my long-term clients (3 years now) is one of the largest HVAC businesses in the south with over $20M in sales & service each year. I started out doing personal stuff for the CEO and its morphed into Operations Management with the VP of Operations with some personal stuff for the CEO thrown in. I do about 80 hours / month with them. Started out at 20/month. So that's definitely a physical business because they have 11 locations in 3 states.
  6. Okay ... I'm having a brain fart ... who in Canada has the CREVA knowledge? I want to say Pam Ivey, but she's more marketing. And Shannon, I didn't mean to indicate you didn't have experience. Your initial post didn't go into detail, so unless I know you, I have to err on the side of caution rather than giving someone advice and ideas they may not be ready for. REVA Academy has a Facebook group, but that's (I think) only open to their "graduates". Feel free to contact any of the 3 ladies I mentioned and ask if you could join the group. And if anyone knows who I'm thinking of (Canadian REVAs) - please post it here.
  7. Have you worked with real estate agents before? So many of them now, I've found, want VAs that are trained and/or have experience. I went through the REVA Academy Bootcamp last year and it was totally worth it. Even though I don't work in real estate right now, the training I got has helped in other ways. Take a look at what they have to offer and reach out to Serita, April or Megan. They're all great and will gladly answer any questions you have.
  8. I really like Teamwork PM. Works well. I've tried and discarded Basecamp and MyClientSpot so many times, I've lost count.
  9. The more you get your feet wet with this service, the easier it will be. You'll likely be able to create a list of "Customer Favorites" and then work with the vendors that offer them to give a discount, or cross-promote. Think: high-end, custom designed jewelry; spas; leather artists (that can create wallets, portfolios, briefcases, even); custom seamstresses or needle artists. One of my clients was a multi-millionaire and he had a jeweler he liked to use that would create custom bracelets for his wife. His wife only wore a gold wedding band (she had "ugly hands" - according to her), but she LOVED bracelets. When you cultivate relationships like that, this will become easier to you.
  10. When someone wants to hire you to do their shopping, charge them a deposit before you start doing anything for them. If they say, "I want you to find a gift for my wife, and I want to spend about $200", charge them a $200 deposit and then bill them for your time after that. You might want to think about doing gift research/ordering as a flat fee type of thing: figure out the average amount of time you'd spend looking for something, and then have levels - Up to a $100 gift: $167; $100-$200: $227, or something like that.
  11. Concierge Reminder Service Special Occasion Concierge/Personal Shopper
  12. Plus - my mother-in-law's oven is broken, they're leaving for Florida on January 12th, so they're going to deal with replacing it when they get back in May! I don't blame them ... why bother with something like that right now. I told her if she needs a stove, she can come borrow mine, so she's coming over on Saturday to bake cookies that she wants to take to a couple of people's houses on Christmas Eve.
  13. About 4 years ago we were ALL sick at Christmas, so that morning I got up, made the ham I had bought, and threw the cheesey hashbrowns in the oven and warmed up some waffles and after we opened gifts on Christmas morning and ate some breakfast, we just lazed around all day. The kids were getting over whatever we had (flu, maybe?) and I was coming down with it, so we were all "blah!". In the past, we had gone to my mother-in-law's and/or my father-in-law's (they've been divorced for over 25 years now) and then we'd hit Aunt Dianne's house. That year, we didn't go anywhere. Mother-in-law was coming down with whatever we had, too, and I think father-in-law may have been spending it with his new wife's family that year after we told him there was going to be little to no festivities going on, i.e., no one's cooking a turkey! After that year, we decided that THIS is the way to do Christmas, so Christmas morning I'll be making ham, Hashbrown casserole, Baked French Toast, a Jello salad (black cherry jello, walnuts & apples), pumpkin bread and mini quiches (Broccoli & Swiss, Asparagus & Swiss, Spinach & Swiss) and we'll open gifts around 10, have some brunch and then just graze on that for the rest of the day. I told my mother-in-law that its really not necessary that we come over to her house later, they can come over here, eat, open gifts and then we can do whatever for the rest of the day. Low key is the way to go for us now. I don't think it does anyone any good to do so much running around anyway. We're with the ones that mean the most to us.
  14. Its easy to get overwhelmed. I'm under deadline to finish a book by the end of the month so it can be sold at the NY Bar Association meeting in January .... and I haven't been motivated to write in over 2 weeks. This time of year with holiday obligations, end of the year obligations, work obligations, family obligations - it can get stressful. If you find yourself in overwhelm, don't feel guilty about taking an hour or more to yourself. Turn your phone off and go somewhere quiet and peaceful and just be. Be still, be quiet and listen to your inner you. If that sounds hippy-dippy, oh, well! It does work.
  15. And if they don't want to give you any way to contact them other than a generic email address (like "whosyourdaddy@yahoo.com") - meaning, they won't give you a company name, their actual FULL name, or anything like that, then run ... far, far away. But, I've learned the really hard way that even if someone is well known and supposedly well-respected in their field, you can't always trust them to do right. I got SCREWED OVER by a well-known author marketing service to the tune of about $2500 earlier this year. I made her pay me in advance (like I usually do), I proceeded to do all the work she wanted, then she filed a charge-back for the money, saying she didn't receive what she paid for. And I have copies of emails where she's said otherwise. I'm still fighting this battle with her bank, my bank and her "business manager" and I'm really close to saying forget it and filing a law suit against her. I also have very intuitive searches set up so that if she writes anything about me anywhere, I'm going to slam her for libel and slander. I think she's smart enough not to do that, but I'm so mad at her about this whole situation I'll do it. So, in reality, you really don't know who you're going to be dealing with. Listen to your gut and put protection in place so that you have yourself covered.
  16. If anyone's on the fence about this ... GET OFF THE FENCE! GO!!! I wish I could, but I have other obligations right now that are preventing me from doing it.
  17. Contract - spelling out what you're doing for the fee you're charging and all the other legal mumbo-jumbo needed Data Sheet - if you have to keep track of passwords, user names and all that other "stuff" Confidentiality/Non-Compete Agreement(s) - saying you're not going to go blabbing about their stuff and you're not going to go after their clients/customers I've never had a client fill out a 1099, nor have they had me fill one out for them. I do send an "End of Year" statement showing what they've paid and when, which does not go into the detail that some of my monthly invoices go into. I'm trying to transition into more value-based fees, so I don't have to chase the clock.
  18. Hosting or building? My friend, Terri Orlowski, built my website and I think its hosted on BlueHost (she deals with all that stuff).
  19. Good luck with the events you have coming up. Be sure when you're trading business cards with people you: 1. Really look at the business card. Note their name and other information on the card. 2. Don't be on the lookout for the next person to talk to. Be present with the person you're with. Nothing is worse than seeing the person you're talking to looking over your shoulder for someone else to talk to. 3. DON'T DRINK TOO MUCH ALCOHOL! 4. If you said you'd follow up with someone in the next 2 or 3 days, do it within the next 1 or 2 days.
  20. Who better to be a testament to the wonderful services you provide than your clients? Ask away!!!
  21. The other side of the coin, coming from a project manager's point of view (mine): 1. Clear communication with all deadlines and project parameters is very important. Project Mangers don't operate well with partial information. This has been my experience when attempting to work for other VAs - they only give you what they think you need to know. Then, when something inevitably doesn't go right, the PM is the one that gets the blame when she was operating under partial information. If you're not ready to let go as a multi VA, then you just need to keep on being the project manager of your own business, and not "trust" a PM, because you're not ready for one. 2. Pay a PM what they're worth. PMs should get paid at a higher level than other team members because they're the ones having to be the glue, the mediator between the team that's supposed to be doing the work and the client. The main reason I don't seek out work with Multi VA teams any more is because I know I'm worth more than $20/hour. 3. TRUST your PM. PMs operate under a higher level of experience, and they bring to the table MANY more years experience. For example, I was a paralegal for 17 years before starting my VA business. As a paralegal - especially one that works in litigation - I have a broader understanding of deadlines, working with many different people and different project parameters. Plus, with litigation, each case can be considered a project because it has its own parameters and its own deadline. Additionally, because I was also a litigation department supervisor, I have the necessary people management skills to go along with my project management skills. That's something really good PMs should have. I know this is coming off as a little harsh, but I'm tired of seeing the "where have all the good VAs gone" type of posts. We're still here. We're just tired of being paid less than we're worth and not being trusted enough with the information we need to have to operate effectively.
  22. Just to clarify my "Prepaid Blocks": If a client buys a 10 hour block with a 30-day expiration, they get a 10% discount and the time to use it starts from the day their credit card clears my bank (usually 48 hours after I run it). For example, client contacts me on August 23rd, signs the contract and gives me the Credit Card Authorization on the 25th, I run the card on the 25th, it clears on the 27th. The client has until September 27th to use all the hours they purchased, if on a 30-day plan. 5 hour blocks, no matter what, get no discount. Blocks of hours with a 30-day expiration get a 10% discount. Blocks of hours with a 60-day expiration get a 5% discount. No, they don't carry over. Use 'em or lose 'em.
  23. Check out the Texas Virtual Assistants League. They just had their "Round Up", which was a one-day "un-conference" ... in San Antonio.
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