How to Schedule Meetings More Easily

As a Virtual Assistant who does a lot (a lot!) of complicated meeting scheduling for clients, I’ve found a few tools that help me get the job done. Read on below for a look at three that I rely on the most!

Here are my “go-to” tools for keeping on top of the many, many meetings I schedule for my clients:

  1. Time Zone Converter 

    It’s hard enough finding a convenient time for three or more people to meet. Now toss in the fact that one is in Australia, one is in London, and one is in New York City, not to mention that one or more may be observing Daylight saving time, and there’s the potential for lots of confusion and crossed signals.In the old days, I used to count the hours on my fingers. Now that I have Time Zone Converter, I’m a pro at getting meeting times right, no matter where the participants are. I use this amazing tool almost every day and have it as a pinned tab in my browser.

  2. Google Maps 

    I schedule meetings for my clients in cities that I’ve never been to. Google Maps helps me figure out travel times and routes between meetings, so I can make sure that the itineraries I set up work.

  3. Microsoft Word 

    Of course, when I make appointments for clients, I enter them on their calendar. But when I’m scheduling a multi-day trip, across different time zones, it helps for them to see everything the old fashioned way: In “itinerary format,” on a single page, with all times in the zone that the meetings will happen. That way, even if it says 11:00 AM Eastern Time on my client’s calendar, I can see at a glance that I haven’t scheduled a breakfast meeting during rush hour in LA!

These are just three of my favorite tools for keeping meetings running smoothly. Reply to this email and share one of yours with me!

What to do When You Feel Overwhelmed

Being a Virtual Assistant can certainly be overwhelming at times: Tasks can pour in from email, clients can make last minute requests, details can start to feel overpowering.

Sometimes when it’s really busy, it’s difficult to know what to do first. The five suggestions below will help you keep calm and carry on!

When this happens to you, here’s what I recommend for getting your feelings under control:

  1. Remove the clutter from your desk. Too many notes, paper or random stuff can contribute to feeling overwhelmed. Clear the decks, that helps immediately.
  2. Minimize your distractions.Close the social media tabs in your browser, turn off notifications on your cell phone, and focus only on your work for a period of time that you can commit to – even if it’s just an hour or two.
  3. Prioritize your to-dos. Make a list of what you need to do to meet your deadlines for the next few days. Then prioritize your list. Sometimes starting with work that you know vs. jumping into a new project can give you a feeling of momentum. Work on only one thing at a time.
  4. Quite the noise. If there are things that are buzzing around in your head that are not work-related tasks, write them down so you can stop thinking about them. You’ll have them to go back to later.
  5. Take a break. Go for a walk or a run, make a cup of tea, or just sit quietly. Take a deep breath and step away from the computer to clear your mind.

Remember, this is a temporary place. Do what you can to move through it and get back in your groove!

Get a Handle On Your Inbox

As a Virtual Assistant, having an email inbox that’s out of control can be very stressful – and keeping it clean can feel like a full-time job.

But when emails are coming in all day long, filled with valuable information that you need in order to do your work well, it’s important to get a handle on this electronic beast!

3 Suggestions:

1. Archive. All day long, as emails come in, I archive those I don’t need. This way, the only thing in my inbox are emails that need my attention. And since everything else stays in the archive folder, I can easily search for every email I’ve ever received if needed in the future.

2. Folders. I use folders to keep emails that I’ll need in the future. For example, I have a folder for my client Michelle. Let’s say I get 7 emails from Michelle today. Anything that’s just informational or that I can respond to immediately goes into the archive folder once it’s handled. Only emails that she’s going to ask me about when we speak or that I need to reference for a project I’m working on go in Michelle’s folder.

I have another folder called “Quick Follow Up.” Here I keep things that I want to look at again – but that aren’t “inbox worthy.” This is my way of not tripping over these emails again and again, but stashing them in a safe place where I can review them quickly as a group when time allows.

3. Lumping. Now that I only have important and actionable email in my inbox, several times a day I “lump” them by sorting them by sender name. That way I can review them one at a time, focusing on just one client at a time.

One last thing. If your inbox is currently out of control, I recommend that you begin by archiving all of the emails that are older than a couple of months. Start with the newer emails and put them into a system that works. If time allows (and if you find that it’s ever necessary), you can always go back and tackle these older emails.

Create a system and stick with it!

Are You Getting the Most Out of Your Cell Phone?

As a Virtual Assistant, one of my most valuable tools is my cell phone. It allows me to work from remote locations and be available when I’m away from my desk.

But lately I’ve noticed that not all VA’s use their cell phone to full advantage in running their businesses.

Here are some tips for putting your best foot forward with your cell phone:

    1. Set up your voicemail and make sure it’s never full.There’s nothing worse than listening to the voicemail greeting and planning what you’re going to say, only to get the message, “The mailbox is full.”
    2. Record a greeting that’s cheerful and professional. Mine says this:“You have reached Belinda Wasser of RocketGirl Solutions. Please leave a message and I’ll call you back.”

      This ensures that there is no confusion about whether or not they misdialed the number – they know it’s you. Check your greeting every six months or so to make sure you still like it.

    3. When someone leaves you a voice mail, call them back the same business day, if at all possible.
    4. When you have a scheduled client call – call them exactly on time. It shows them that you respect both your time and theirs and that you pay attention to details.
    5. Have a good quality headset so they can hear you clearly and you can use your hands during working sessions when you need to be using your keyboard.

All simple and easy to do, following these tips tells your client that you mean business!

Do’s and Don’ts of a Productive Work Day

When you’re a Virtual Assistant – a person who sells time – it’s essential to get a handle on how you spend your days.

This is hard enough if you work in a traditional office. If you work at home, things can be even more challenging. Distractions are everywhere you look and it’s easy to be drawn in.

For starters, it’s important to think of your working time as “your job.” As a guideline, you can ask this simple question: “If I worked for someone else in their office would I be doing this right now?” More specifically…

Here’s a list of what I DON’T do during my work day when I’m at home:

  1. Laundry. While it’s easy to “throw a load in,” before you know it, it can turn into laundry day.
  2. Clean the kitchen. When I eat lunch during working hours, I put my dishes on the counter to handle after work. No dishwasher emptying either.
  3. Talk on the phone with friends or family. Don’t worry, after a while they’ll stop calling during the day.
  4. Make the bed. If my bed is not made before I sit at my desk, it stays that way all day.
  5. Pay personal bills or shop online.

Here are some things I DO during work:

  1. I start my day pretty much the same time every day.
  2. I start looking at emails that have come in overnight and prioritize them into my day, before I jump into any project.
  3. I block time on my calendar to work on specific projects.
  4. I work on one task at a time, when at all possible.
  5. I have a system to track what I’m working on.
  6. I plan to be at my desk all day, almost every weekday.


All of this can be difficult at first – especially getting family and friends onboard! 
But once you see how productive you can be by staying focused on your work, you’ll never go back.

How I Use Evernote to Manage Client Information

Eight years ago, when I first began working as a Virtual Assistant, I used spiral notebooks to track my notes from client calls and meetings.

They were easy to store on my desk and with just five or six clients, I was able to have a different color cover for each one.

But as my client list grew to more than 20, there just weren’t enough colors to go around! There was no way notebooks could do the job anymore.

That’s when I started using Evernote. After I opened my account, I created a Notebook called “RocketGirl Notes.”

Now, each time I start work with a new client, I create a new note using their first and last name as the note’s title. While speaking with clients on the phone, I type detailed notes so I can remember our discussion, what they have committed to do, and what they have asked me to do.

When the next round of notetaking starts, I create a line across my notes to separate them from the last conversation and start typing at the top of the note. That way, the newest information is always at the top.

Here’s an example of the set up I use:

If a client takes a break from working with me, I move their note to my “past client” notebook. I still have my valuable information on file, in case our work together starts up again.

It’s a simple, searchable system and one that keeps my thoughts organized. (And removes all those scraps of paper from my desk!)

Start Sending Professional Emails

As a Virtual Assistant, it’s very important to look polished and professional. One great way to do this relates to your email.

Read on for specifics regarding the use and set up of email.

And here’s what makes it stand out:

  1. My full name and my business name are in the “from” line, making it easy to quickly identify who the email is from.
  2. My email address is using the domain name of my company belinda@rocketgirlsolutions.com (not rocketgirlsolutions@gmail.com)
  3. My logo is in the signature, something that builds awareness for my company and makes the signature more attractive.
  4. My location lets the reader know that I’m on the east coast, in case they want to call me or suggest a face to face meeting.
  5. My phone number is easy to read.

These details are easy to set up and give the (correct!) impression that you’re in business for real!

How to Request (and publish) a LinkedIn Recommendation

As a Virtual Assistant, one of the ways I promote my services is by having testimonials about my work on LinkedIn. Testimonials from happy clients and others are very compelling to those who are thinking of hiring us. They take a bit of time and effort to collect, but it’s well worth the investment.

For starters, navigate to the profile of the person you’d like to ask for a recommendation (I’m using my boyfriend Greg as an example).

Click “More” and then “Request a Recommendation:”

Select your Relationship and Position at the time your worked together from the drop-down menu and click Next.

This window will pop up.

I highly recommend writing a personal message with your request. Even better – ask them on the phone or in a personal email. Then, when you get to this point, add a message like this:

Hi NAME,

Great talking with you the other day. Thanks so much for agreeing to write me a recommendation on LinkedIn.  I really appreciate it.

Belinda

Once you click Send, a window will pop up briefly in your browser letting you know that the request was sent.

The person who you’ve sent the request will get notified in the Messaging section of their LinkedIn account.

To write the recommendation, they click simply click on the invitation, write the recommendation, and click send.

You’ll be notified in the Messaging section of LinkedIn that the recommendation is ready for review like this:

Click on the highlighted link in the image above and this window will pop up:


Once you read the recommendation, you can “Dismiss” it if you don’t want to use it, ask for a revision or Add to profile.

When you click Add to your profile, your recommendation will be visible on your LinkedIn profile immediately.

Easy and actually kind of fun! Good luck getting those on your page.

Three Ways to Be Visible When You’re Virtual

A big part of being a Virtual Assistant is building relationships with our clients based on trust and respect. One important way to do this is to make it easy for your clients to contact you.

Back when I worked in an office, my manager could see me sitting at my desk through the crack in her door. But in the “virtual world, clients don’t know if we’ve read their emails, listened to their voicemails, or have seen their text messages. That makes them anxious … especially if they have a big deadline looming.

Here are three of the ways I stay visible and accessible to my clients:

  1. The Phone. If a client calls me on the phone during working hours, I answer (unless I’m already on the phone). If a client calls me on the phone while I’m not working – and I can easily answer – I do then, too.This might seem crazy, but my clients have never abused this. If there is an emergency and I can help, I want to. Often, I am the one with the “keys” to their business (files, passwords, etc.) and so being able to reach me is part of what they depend on and appreciate.

    If you have a client or two who you think might abuse this, you can always let the call go into voicemail. Just make sure to listen to it right away to see if they really do need you. Helping during a real emergency has created strong client relationships, many of which have lasted years and years.
  2. The Calendar. Clients can schedule time with me any time I’m available (and I make sure there’s plenty of pockets of availability every week). You can see how I set this up here, using Acuity Scheduling software: https://rocketgirlsolutions.com/contact/time/.

    Both my clients and I love how easy it is to set up working sessions.
  3. Emails and Texts. I scan my incoming emails all day and make sure that clients know I’ve received their requests, even if they can’t be completed the same day. When something is not a priority, I find that just a short email back lets them know I’m on top of my work and I will take care of them as soon as I can.

Being visible in a virtual world is an important thing to remember. It’s easy for you and high value for your precious clients!

Two Steps to Sending a Perfect Meeting Invitation

As a Virtual Assistant, I frequently make appointments for my clients. That includes sending meeting invitations.

If you follow the easy steps detailed below, you can send a great invite (regardless of what calendar program you may be using)!

1. Choose a title that makes sense to everyone.

This is a screenshot from Google Calendar when I open a new invitation window:

The title is critical. Remember, this is going to be added to the calendar of both the people participating in the meeting, so it has to be something that is meaningful to everyone.

So while “meeting with Jane Smith” might make sense to you, that’s all Jane Smith will see on her calendar, a label that doesn’t let her see at a glance who she’s meeting with!

I suggest that the title be both names of the people involved. Something like this:

This is what it will look like on the calendar for both of you:

 

2. Provide specific instructions.

Explain the meeting type and any instructions needed. To do this in most calendar software you’ll need to expand by clicking More Options (in Gmail) or More details (in Outlook). Look for the location field and either add the meeting address or calling instructions as appropriate.

Be sure to include the phone number even if you think you have it so that you’ll be ready to go at the time of the meeting.

I usually make sure the invite is correct by double checking it on my own calendar before sending it to the person I’m inviting. Once you’re sure it’s set just add the invitee’s email address and choose any applicable options below (to modify the event, invite others or see the guest list) and press Save.

Your invitee will receive an email invitation that they can add to their calendar.

There are minor differences between Google Calendar, Outlook and iCal, but if you understand the basics, you can translate this to any software that you are using.

Be sure to follow up the day before and send a confirmation email to everyone invited to make sure the meeting is still on track.