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5 Questions to Ask When Hiring a Virtual Assistant for Your Business

5 Questions to Ask When Hiring a Virtual Assistant for Your BusinessThe moment has come: your home-based business is growing, you are busier than ever dealing with customers and with various official documents, and you realize that you need help. Of course, you are not yet at the point when you can afford to hire full-time employees. But you can certainly clear up your schedule by hiring a virtual assistant.

A virtual assistant works from home, just like you. These professionals are specialized in dealing with various administrative tasks, such as:

⦁ Keeping your daily agenda
⦁ Typing and proofreading documents
⦁ Preparing offers for customers
⦁ Answering emails
⦁ Reminding you to file taxes and other mandatory documents

Looking for a virtual assistant is great practice for you – it prepares you for the moment when you have to start recruiting for various positions in your expanding company. For now, you need to find a virtual assistant who is a good match for your style of working and can adapt to the specific requirements in your line of business.

No idea how to conduct a recruiting interview with virtual assistants? We are here to help you. Let us go through the most important questions you should ask a virtual assistant during the initial interview.

1. What Are Your Working Hours?
It is important to ask this question, especially if the virtual assistant lives in a different time zone. Some assistants are flexible enough to match your business hours, even if this means working in the evening.

At any rate, you should determine a minimum number of hours per day or per week and a time frame corresponding to the busiest part of your work day.

2. How Do You Charge?
Most virtual assistants charge at an hourly rate. This is also convenient for you. You will pay exactly for the amount of time the virtual assistant has spent working for you. In order to ensure perfect transparency and trust building, you should identify a clear way in which you can track the time actually spent by the assistant working for you. Virtual assistants already are accustomed to working with time and activity tracking software installed on their computers.

3. How Familiar Are You with [Your Niche]?
This question is important because it will give you an indication of how long the virtual assistant needs in order to become familiar with the specific activities and procedures in your line of business.

You should not sideline a candidate which seems a good fit for your business except for the lack of experience in your niche. Good virtual assistants have the necessary core skills and the willingness to learn quickly and adapt to a new client and business they are working for.

4. How Do You Handle a Task You Are Not Sure How to Complete?
This question will give you an insight into the candidate’s mindset and approach to work tasks. You want to work with someone who is a problem solver, who is flexible and creative in finding solutions, but who is also capable of following the guidelines you set for specific situations.

5. Are You Willing to Sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement?
During your daily interactions with your virtual assistant, you will give them access to sensitive and confidential information, such as your client list and specific work procedures you developed for your business which set you apart from competitors. It is important to protect the confidentiality of this data and information and the simplest way of doing so is by signing a non-disclosure agreement with the virtual assistant.

Last but not least, ask for references. Experienced virtual assistants have many satisfied customers who are willing to provide credentials and testimonials for their experience working with the respective assistant.


Legal Protection Tips for Your Home-Based Business

Legal Protection Tips for Your Home-Based BusinessHome-based business owners have to juggle many aspects to keep their business running. The last thing they need is to be faced with a lawsuit. However, in today’s litigious society, there is a high likelihood that either a customer or the federal authorities may threaten a home-based business with court action.

Looking at the reasons behind many such lawsuits, legal counselors have noted one key aspect: these lawsuits could have been prevented. In many situations, a simple misunderstanding can escalate beyond control; in others, failure to keep track of paperwork will result in a lawsuit. Such a legal action can potentially ruin your small business. Lawsuits are expensive and, even if you win, you would have spent lots of time preparing your defense and appearing in court, neglecting your business.

This is why today we will share some of the most effective ways in which you can protect your business from being sued. Please remember, though, that the advice included in this article does not represent legal counseling. Before taking any action, you should always seek advice from a licensed attorney.

1. Put Everything in Writing
Never engage in any activity on behalf of a customer without a written and signed agreement. This agreement should state clearly the scope of the services, the price, the duration of the agreement, the parties’ rights and obligations and the limit of liability. This agreement will be your strongest defense weapon if a customer tries to sue you for failure to perform the services adequately or if they refuse to pay for your services.

Agreements are also required by the law to justify billing your customers for services. This is why you should create and maintain a rigorous filing system and keep track of all the documents.

2. Keep Your Business Insured at All Times
Be very careful about your business insurance policies. Create alerts and reminders for renewing them. One single day when you are not covered by insurance is all it takes to be taken to court by a customer. If you receive customers in your house, to pick up their orders for example, you need a third party general liability insurance (for example, if a customer slips and falls on your property they can sue you for medical expenses).

If you provide consulting services, you should purchase insurance that protects you from errors and omissions in the advice you gave your customer. This insurance is called a professional liability policy.

3. Know the Laws in Your State
General business advice websites offer tips and advice encompassing a large spectrum of issues, but they rarely go in depth on a state by state basis. Therefore, reading advice on the type of licensing you need for your business should serve you as initial guidance. Your local city or county council office is the place you must go to in order to find out all the documents and permits you actually need.

4. Trademark Your Intellectual Property
Your unique business name, tag line, motto, and proprietary method of working belong to you in the eyes of the law only if you have a trademark over them. A copycat could steal your idea, trademark it and then legally prevent you from using it. It is one of those things which so few business owners remember to do and they end up being caught in legal battles and unable to prove that they are the originators of that idea. Yes, it costs some hundreds of dollars, but in the future your trademark may be worth millions. Protect it at all costs.

5. Keep Your Business and Personal Assets Separate
This is something we have advised before, and will keep doing so until no home-based business owner receives a single payment from customers into their personal accounts. For some people, it may seem more convenient to keep their money together. Or to buy a new computer for their business in their personal name. If you do not have a clear, traceable separation between what you, as a person, own and what your business owns, a judge could award your personal assets to a person suing you who wins the case in court.


How to Become a Home-Based Healthcare Consultant

How to Become a Home-Based Healthcare ConsultantConsultancy is one of the most adequate lines of business if you want to work independently from home. You need little equipment, your main assets being your skills and experience in your niche. Today we will show you how to start a home-based healthcare consultancy business.

What Does a Healthcare Consultant Do?
Healthcare consultants are hired by hospital and other healthcare companies to analyze and improve their operations and the way they run their business. The ultimate goal in a healthcare consultant’s job is to advise healthcare providers in a way which enables them to provide better services to patients and improve their bottom line.

This used to be a full-time position in the organizational scheme of most healthcare providers. However, the economic crisis and the need to cut back operational costs has determined most hospitals and other healthcare organizations to replace employees with freelance consultants. For you, as a potential home-based business healthcare consultant, this means that there is a thriving market where you can find customers and that it is not a short-term bubble, but it has the potential to provide you with a sufficient income for your family for years to come.

So, what does it take to become a home-based healthcare consultant?

Education and Skills Required for Healthcare Consultants
The minimum educational level required is a Bachelor’s degree, although many healthcare providers require a Master’s degree in one of these specializations:
⦁ Business Administration
⦁ Healthcare Administration
⦁ Human Resources

Management experience in the healthcare field is a plus, but not always required, especially if you offer your services to smaller clinics and other organizations. As for the core skills you must have strong communication and analytical skills, be good with math and be savvy in coming up with effective solutions. You must also be a good decision maker, with a high level of accountability for the outcomes of your proposed solutions.

If you recognize yourself in this description, you could be a successful healthcare consultant. If you want to work as an independent consultant, these are a few tips to set up your home-based business:

1. Obtain All Necessary Certifications
Each state has different certification requirements for home-based businesses when they are connected to the healthcare field. Even though your activities are not connected to providing actual medical services to customers, you will have access to various sensitive data. Thus, apart for the usual licenses for running a home-based business, you also need to hold specific data processing certifications.

2. Secure Your IT Equipment and Filing System
Apart from the legal certifications above, potential customers will also require you to sign non-disclosure agreements. They will also want you to offer proofs that you can keep their confidential data secure. Thus, you need to invest in effective antivirus solutions for your computer and all data storage devices.

While it is always recommended to have a separate computer for your home-based business and not allow your family to work on it, if you want to open a healthcare consultancy business it is mandatory. You will potentially receive financial and patient records from your customers and other confidential materials. No one but you must have access to them, not even read them.

3. Capitalize on Your Professional Background and Reputation
As we have stated above, being a home-based healthcare consultant is not a line a business you can take up overnight, but after years of experience in the field with a proven track record. This means that you must definitely have great networking skills and persuade your business acquaintances and, where possible, former employers to provide you with credentials and testimonials.

This is a line of business where reputation is everything, so take care to keep yours spotless. Be ethical and fair in dealing with all your customers and maintain good relationships with former co-workers or clients. A positive endorsement from any of them is the best marketing strategy for attracting new clients for your home-based business

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