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.

Fall in Love With Gmail

As a Virtual Assistant, I live in email. Gmail, to be exact. Interestingly, some people LOVE it and some people HATE it.

I confess that the first time I tried Gmail I couldn’t stand it either. But about 7 years ago, after being frustrated by Outlook’s inability to sync with my iPhone, a friend twisted my arm and I decided to give Gmail another try.

I chose the paid version of Gmail because I wanted to use my domain, rocketgirlsolutions.com. I haven’t looked back; it’s been amazing.

Here are two settings I changed when I started to use Gmail that have made it great:

1. Turn off “conversation view.” Conversation view threads emails with the same subject line together. The idea is that it lets you follow the back and forth of a “conversation” in one place.

But most people find this confusing: Real conversations happen sequentially; it makes more sense if your email sticks to the same pattern.

To turn it off, choose the Gear icon and then select settings.

    Look for conversation view:

And choose “Conversation view off”.  Scroll down to the bottom of the page and click Save Changes.

Now, your emails will now be stacked in your inbox as you receive them, just like every other email program you’ve probably been using.

2. Enable preview pane. The Default for Gmail is to list emails in the inbox one on top of the other with no way to see the contents of the email unless you open them.

Like this:

I prefer to be able to see both the list of emails and the contents of my emails at the same time (like Apple Mail and Outlook). To do this and have your inbox look like this, you need to enable preview pane.

Here’s how: go back to settings by clicking the Gear icon and choose settings.  Along the top you’ll see many choices – choose Labs.

You’ll be prompted to search for a lab at the top:

Type in Preview Pane and then choose Enable it when it appears on your screen.

Return to your inbox and look for this drop-down:

And choose your preference – either Vertical Split or Horizontal Split.

With these two adjustments you can have the best of both worlds – a set up that is familiar to you, while taking advantage of Google’s amazing ability to sync with almost any device and its powerful search engine capability right inside your email inbox!

How to “Pin a Tab” in Your Browser

As a Virtual Assistant I’m tracking many things on the internet every day using a browser. Among them are client email accounts, calendars and social media.

For my own business I’m constantly looking at my email, project management software, my calendar, my contact database, and more. And that’s in addition to whatever I’m working on at the moment.

Taken together, that means that I usually have 20 tabs or more open in my browser, a reality which can make for a crowded space! So, when I discovered “Tab Pinning” I was thrilled.

By pinning a tab, we reduce its size, taking up much less space at the top of the browser.

Here’s an example in Firefox:

 

The smaller tabs on the left are pinned (the two on the right are not). You can still tell what they are by their icons – above you see, in order, Gmail, Toggl, Contactually, Pandora, Google Sheets and one of my new favorite tools, Time Zone Converter, something I use when I’m scheduling meetings across time zones.

To pin a tab, right click on it and you’ll see this window:

 

Click on Pin Tab and the tab will get smaller and move to the left of your unpinned tabs. To unpin the tab, just right click on it again and choose Unpin Tab.

Once pinned, you can slide tabs back and forth in whatever order you like. Plus, even after you close your browser, your pinned tabs will automatically appear next time you open it.

Get pinning today!

 

 

How to Export (All Kinds Of) Information From LinkedIn

Did you know that you can export the information associated with a profile in LinkedIn? It’s a great way to get the email addresses for your connections, export your recommendations so you can add them to your clients’ (or your) website, or look at the history of your messages.

This is not an intuitive process, so today I share how to do it.

Click the Network icon in the top navigation of the LinkedIn site.

On the left you’ll see this:

Click “See all”

On the right side of the screen you’ll see this:


Click Manage synced and imported contacts.

Then, on the right you’ll see this:

Click Export contacts.

And this screen will appear:

Choose the information you would like to export and then click the “Request archive” button. You’ll be prompted to reenter the password. If you’re working in your account, you will receive an email to let you know that the file is ready.

If you’re working in a client’s account you’ll need to refresh the LinkedIn page after 5-10 minutes and you’ll see a message that the download is available. (Note that your client will receive the “ready” email, so give them a heads up beforehand to let them know you are working on their account.)

Click the Download archive button.

You’ll have the choice to save the file or open it. Select Save File.

The file will be “Zipped” which means it’s compressed and has the file extension .ZIP.

Browse to the location where the file was downloaded – most likely your “Downloads” folder – and double-click the yellow file folder icon with the zipper.

Inside you’ll see the Excel file(s) which you can open by double clicking.

Voila!  You have your LinkedIn information at your fingertips.

How 30-Minute Free Consultations Get You Good Clients

Several years ago, I began offering potential clients a free, 30-minute call phone call with me to talk about their business. No sales pitch, no pressure, just a 30-minute conversation about anything they wanted to talk about.

I make it easy for people to sign up for these sessions. All they have to do is click the link in the footer that’s on every page of my RocketGirl website, shown here:

There’s another link to sign up on the Contact page of my website. When I speak at events I hand out a paper with the option to sign up for these sessions, too.

When they set up their time, I ask them a few simple questions: name, email address, their website address, and who referred them to me.

After spending 30 minutes on the phone with someone, I know:

  1. All about what kind of business they’re in
  2. What they want me to help them with
  3. If what they need is something I like and know how to do
  4. Stories of who they’ve worked with in the past and how that went
  5. Whether or not I like them

And, they have a chance to get to know me too and decide if I can help them before hiring me.

The result? By the time the work begins, both of us are confident and comfortable with each other. It’s a great way to start a long-term relationship (and filter out the problem clients in the process!).

Drop That Extra Space After a Period

Back in the dark ages, when I first learned to type, I was taught to add two spaces following every period. Today, decades later, it’s a reflex almost like breathing.

In the digital age, the reason for that second space no longer exists. In fact, and because that extra space now “counts” as a character, it can lead to some unwanted spacing issues, one that I see often on web sites and in newsletters.

The problem is that sometimes, the extra space “character” occurs at the beginning of a line, making it look like a mistake (think sloppy). Because the screen shrinks and grows depending on the size of the screen of a given device, it’s impossible to predict when and where this will happen.

To correct this before hitting the send or publish key, use the search function that’s a part of your browser:

On the PC hit CTRL F; on the Mac it’s Command F. This will open a window for you to search the text. Sometimes the search box is at the top of the browser, sometimes at the bottom, so you might need to look around to find it.

Here’s what it looks like in Firefox on a PC:

Then type . (period) 2 spaces in the search box and Highlight All. Here’s what you’ll see in this sample block of text:

You can then move through the document and delete the extra spaces.

And by the way, don’t forget to check for those unnecessary additional spaces after “, ?, and !, too, using the same method!

How to Properly Format Text in WordPress

I post to WordPress websites almost every day. Clients send me the text in a variety of forms – Word documents, Google Docs, sometimes they ask me to pull the text from a MailChimp or Constant Contact e-newsletter. Pretty straightforward, right?

But here’s the problem: the underlying formatting of the text from the original application sometimes comes along with the words. That can affect how the post is displayed on the website, messing with things like text size, color and paragraph spacing.

In order to let the WordPress “style sheet” take over and display the text the way it was designed for the site, we need to remove the embedded formatting before we post. Read on for simple instructions.

Here’s how:

  1. Copy the text into a text editor (Notepad for the PC or TextEdit for the Mac). This will remove the formatting, leaving just the words.Then copy and paste them into the WordPress post.
  2. If there are bullets or numbers in the post, remove them and then add them back using the bullet and numbering tools inside WordPress.
  3. Next click the “text” tab for the post and see if there are any <div> tags. These can impact word spacing on the page and need to be removed.You can find and remove these easily by clicking CTRL A to select all the text, CTRL C to copy the text (including all the code), and CTRL V to paste it into your text editor. Click Edit in the top menu of Notepad and then click Replace.

Enter <div> in the “Find what” field and leave “Replace with” blank. Click Replace All.  Then Change <div> to </div> and do the same thing.  Then copy the text back into WordPress on the Text tab.

(Note that If your <div> tags are more complex, you might need to remove them manually by deleting them one at a time.)

There you go!  Nice, clean, beautiful text in your WordPress website!