Saturday, April 01, 2006

Start Your Own Home Based Business

So many today want to start their own business and fortunately businesses are constantly looking for our assistance. One home based business I recommend is starting a word processing or virtual assisting business. It can make a great work-at-home career and the potential just keeps getting better and better. You will now find many famous authors, actors, businesses, and even political candidates beaming about how a virtual assistant is a must have for business success. In fact, in many books now, some are citing that having a virtual assistant is one of your most important keys to success.

Getting started is easy. Fortunately, it’s not expensive either. First of all you need a complete plan of action set out in advance. This ensures that you don't leave any vital steps unaddressed and will have a solid plan of action to succeed. You don’t need anything technical, just how you plan to operate your business including advertising methods, pricing, business hours, equipment and supplies needed, goals, etc.

You want to clearly define your business. There are so many different areas you can go into as a home based word processor or virtual assistant so you need to decide with your skills and your experience what is the best for you. For example, do you want to do strictly word processing or do you want to do marketing too. How about transcription? I highly recommend considering that. Most businesses today do dictate their work and now virtual assistants can transcribe dictation from anywhere in the world. You’d be amazed how easy it is to learn too. If you’d like additional information on digital transcription, please e-mail me at I have a whole chapter I’d be glad to share with you on it as well as a free booklet on obtaining clients.

Now, that you have your business plan you need to decide on the name of your business. One thing you need to make sure of is that you can legally have that name. Often I’ve seen word processors start their business and just grab a name and call it their own. That doesn’t work well when someone else has already chosen that name, registered it, perhaps trademarked it, and has been using it for years. First check and make sure that no one already has it, then test it out. Is it easy to pronounce when you answer the phone? Does it sell you well? Does it limit you? Five years from now will you still feel proud of that name? Try it out on friends and ask their honest feedback. Also, go to the various boards and mention it too. For such an important decision it’s worth the effort.

To operate a business you are required by law to have the appropriate licenses. This is your permit to do business locally. It's a simple procedure that doesn't require a considerable amount of time. Contact your city and county officials under occupational licenses for complete details or go online. Most VAs start out initially as a sole proprietorship and then might change later into either an LLC or S Corporation.

Now it's time to set up your bookkeeping. You will want to keep track of all your income and expenses. Save all receipts and pay all your expenses out of your business checking account. A software program such as Quickbooks is ideal for our type of business. Not only does it allow you to keep accurate records, but it also enables you to track exactly where the most money is coming from. This enables you to target your marketing efforts more in that area.

Now you must decide how much to charge. Don't undercharge your services. The Virtual Assisting Industry is a very proud bunch and we want our clients and others to know that when you hire us, you are getting a professional and one capable of making your business better. Clients will pay well for making their business succeed. Determine what is being charged in your area, but also take into account what you are bringing to the table. When you offer specialty services such as web design or say expert proofing or publicity, you can charge more.

It is also important to have an impressive marketing piece. Your brochures, letterhead, flyers, business cards, etc., should look sensational. I personally love VistaPrints at I can afford to get matching business cards, mailing labels, magnets, and even postcards cheap. This makes me look more professional as I have everything the same layout and because it’s so reasonable, I even have different styles for different clients.

Now you need to get those clients. The key to successful marketing is to tell clients what benefits they will receive by answering their main question, "What's in it for me?" Keep in mind, you're not selling your services, you're selling the benefits of your services. What can you offer them that would make their business run more successfully? An example of this would be accurate dependable service done on an “as needed” basis.

One of the most important things is to get a professional website. This will enable you not only to get clients through your SEO efforts, but also to show your clients your services and everything about your business. Look around at other word processing or virtual assisting websites and get some tips. Don’t copy-just get ideas. You can see mine at, and

Also, get listed on the various directories and with the various VA forums. We have one on, but also I highly recommend going to It’s one of the top VA forums around.

Now that you’ve got the clients, you need to keep them. The best way to do this is to always provide them with more than they ask for. Go the extra mile on all assignments. Let them know that you value their business and are eager to help them succeed.

Wasn’t that easy? If you’d like additional information on starting a business, e-mail me or stop by my website at I have free information available, such as a sample chapter of Virtual Assistant the Series, and marketing letters to send to clients, and also excellent books that can help you succeed quickly.

Diana Ennen is the author of numerous books including Virtual Assistant: the Series, Become a Highly Successful, Sought After VA ( and Words From Home, Start, Run and Profit from a Home-Based Word Processing Business. She specializes in publicity and book marketing and is president of Virtual Word Publishing and Free to reprint article as long as the bio remains intact.

Hurricane Victims Still Need Your Help – Tips for what you can do still today.

Hurricane Wilma, Hurricane Katrina and other natural disasters have left behind catastrophic damage. For those watching episodes of Extreme Makeover Home Edition, After the Storm, it’s clear that life will never be the same for so many. Even six months later, families are still displaced, homes still destroyed with no hopes of being re-built, and loved ones left to try and put their lives back together. And now they are faced with the fear of another hurricane season approaching. As hope fades, one thing remains clear - we can rebuild. We can overcome and become strong again. How can we do this? Together.

For many watching the Extreme Makeover Show they realize that all that charity they did right after the storm and all that collecting of money and goods to help those in need stopped. The holidays came and life got back to normal for us. Unfortunately, it didn’t for so many others. But it’s not too late. You still can help. You still can make a difference. Here are some things you can do.

1. Give. Whether it’s money or your time in organizing events to collect money, do it now so that residents of New Orleans, South Florida, Mississippi, and all the states affected can repair what needs repaired. Give so they can get the food and supplies they need. Give so they know that someone cares. At Virtual Word Publishing, one of the things we focus on is collecting computers, office equipment and supplies to help work-at-home parents get back to work or have a computer to connect online again. We also donated profits from our book sales to those in need.

2. Connect. No one knows just how alone one feels after going through a natural disaster. Hopelessness and depression sets in, even with the strongest of families. They see others resume their lives, yet they can’t. Many have lost loved ones. Many are in schools and states far away from home. Find a family you can help. Get a pen pal and write to them. Listen. Sometimes that’s all they need is to know someone truly cares.

3. Prepare. Natural disasters happen everywhere. Prepare so that you aren’t the next one. A complete disaster planning book and free tips is available on our site. And in your preparations, realize that the extra can of food you get or the extra bottle of water could help those less fortunate too. Buy two or three and then send them on.

And it’s not only big corporations that can help. You and me, no matter what our financial situation or personal status can make a difference. Take the example of Joanie Winberg, a single mom and founder of the Happy Wednesday Foundation, She inspired together with WomenBuild of Habitat for Humanity to build a house for a needy single mom. One family at a time she is building someone’s future.

Together, we make a difference. Together we make a better tomorrow for all. Stop by and find out how you can get involved.

How to sell your books, products and services--without selling your soul

When I asked you to send in your questions about what you most wanted to know about consulting many of you asked, *How do I begin.* And *How do I get clients.* One way to begin is to speak at the Learning Annex or other Adult Learning Centers. These centers offer classes in everything from buying real estate to becoming a screenwriter and everything in-between. They can be a lucrative place to start a consulting practice--if you know how to work the system.

1. Know the marketplace.

In any industry you need to know what your competitors offer and where you fill the gaps between your products and services and theirs. Pick up a Learning Annex catalog in your area and see what's *hot*. In San Francisco for example the flavor of the moment is real-estate and live p.or.n. I doubt that po.rn plays in Minnesota.

2. Pitch your class.

Once you know the marketplace and your place in it you pitch an idea for a class that your catalog doesn't have. Do a search on the Internet. See how people language what they do. Search also for articles that pertain to your industry. Find a twist on an idea that's proven successful and send it on to the program director. One of my client's class was rejected at The Learning Annex, but once we changed the title and created bullet points in the format of the catalog it got accepted at all the Learning Annex's nationwide--the very next day. It was the same information, just packaged differently to suit the marketplace.

3. Teach your class.

Once you've secured your class make sure it's information that's fascinating and fresh. Create interactive activities and encourage participation as people learn best when they're actually doing or speaking. Use examples from your own experience, readings, insights, professional and family life. The specifics are what make your subject pop. For example, in the first Learning Annex Class I taught called, *Get on the Fast-Track to Fame* about how to ramp up your publicity campaign quickly, I discussed the 4 Ps--Plan, Prepare, Practice, and Promote which are the foundation of a good publicity plan. For each P I gave an example of how I helped clients develop and implement a marketing plan, then get media placements (get interviewed in print and broadcast) that resulted in a dramatic increase in their business--including doubling and tripling book and product sales.

4. Promote your products and services seamlessly.

Just like when I media coach people I recommend that you have success stories that pertain to your topic and help you make a point interwoven with your facts and information. Lots of times people don't really understand what it is you do--or that you're available for consulting or coaching. By giving examples of how you've helped your clients and customers people automatically *get it*. At the end of the class if no one asks about your services say, *One of the questions people frequently ask is, how can they work with me one on one or with their team?* Then answer it so people know exactly how they can hire you and what their next steps are.

5. Secure testimonials.

Have participants fill out evaluations so you'll know what worked and what didn't. You'll quickly be able to improve your class and understand what matters most to your prospective clients. You'll also be able to see where you can assist them better through your consulting and coaching. You can also use those testimonials on your website and on the phone to get new clients. Happy customers and referrals are the best way to get business.

Copyright (c) 2006 by Susan Harrow. All rights reserved.

Harrow's clients, rock star wives, reality TV stars, CEOs, and soccer moms, have doubled their income at Adult Learning Centers. Learn how you can skyrocket your career and sell your books, products and services--without selling your soul.

[Reprinted with permission]