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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.


How to Launch a Home-Based Contractor Business

How to Launch a Home-Based Contractor BusinessAfter you have built (pun intended) a career in construction or home improvement, you may want to gain more independence and run your own business as a home-based contractor. This niche is quite prosperous because, although the internet is abundant in DIY websites and tutorials, a lot of people still prefer hiring a specialist.

“A home-based contractor business? Will anyone take me seriously?” Most definitely they will – especially if you have a solid portfolio of projects and all the required licenses in place. After all, a general contractor’s work has to do most of all with planning the budget of construction or repair works, finding subcontractors, coordinating the team of workers and making sure that the project is completed by the agreed deadline.

Thus, a home-based contractor business is quite feasible and successful because you will be able to offer your customers better rates compared to companies which need to cover all the costs with the staff and operating their office building. At the same time, working from home offers you more flexibility in your working schedule – a big plus for many customers who would prefer work being done on their house outside the usual business hours or during the weekend.

Let us see what it takes to open and run your own home-based general contractor business.

1. Check Out Your Prior Employment Agreement for Non-Competing Clauses
Most likely, people who want to start out as independent general contractors worked in this position as employees of real estate development and construction companies. Some of these companies require their former employees not to become competitors as independent business owners. If your employment agreement has a non-competing clause, you can do one of the two:

⦁ Set up a meeting with your former employer and try to obtain a waiver from this clause;
⦁ Have a lawyer look at the agreement and explain to you under what conditions you can open such a business (i.e. supply your services in another city, or within a specific scope of services).

What you should NOT do is start out as an independent general contractor hoping that your former employer does not find out. The age of the internet has reduced the whole world to the size of a mere village, as the saying goes.

2. Obtain All Required Licenses and Insurance
The Small Business Administration website is a huge help for any potential entrepreneur, explaining in detail all the required licenses and documents needed to open a business in any niche. For general contractors, the main types of licenses and insurances you need to hold are:

⦁ General business license;
⦁ Home business permit – issued by the city or county council office;
⦁ Special licenses according to the specific services you will supply, such as for electrical, plumbing, HVAC, gas fitting and other construction works;
⦁ Surety bond – this specific insurance is required of general contractors and is payable to the end customer in case the subcontractors they hire fail to complete a project on time or according to the customers’ specifications;
⦁ General liability insurance;
⦁ Worker’s insurance, if you hire people to work for your own business.

3. Cultivate Your Network in the Specific Business Niche
As a general contractor, you need to attract both customers and teams of various specialties who will work on the projects you secure. This is why networking is extremely important. Without breaching your non-competing clauses from your former job, try to connect with people you used to work with and establish a new business relationship with them as independent entrepreneur.

4. Build Your Reputation around Your Strong Points
As a business owner, you are on your own – you do not benefit from the reputation of the company you worked for anymore. Your own reputation and experience in the field is the only asset you have – and it is a very valuable one if you know how to put it into the right light. Build a website and include as many testimonials and projects you have worked on. Thus, potential customers will form an opinion on your skills and trust your professionalism.

5. Build Your Own Personal Brand
Professionalism is not enough in a niche with a lot of competition – you need to build your own identity and stand out of the crowd. This is exactly what a personal brand does: it establishes you as a professional with SPECIFIC skills and talents, ranging from the access to a wide network of subcontractors and the ability to provide your customer a stress-free experience while working on their construction projects.


Entrepreneurs’ Biggest Fears and How to Overcome Them

Entrepreneurs' Biggest Fears and How to Overcome ThemLet us admit it straight up – it takes courage to become an entrepreneur. You leave behind a nice and safe 9 to 5 job, the assurance of the monthly paycheck and all the benefits associated with employment, such as an extended health insurance for your family and a pension plan.

And let us state clearly that being courageous doesn’t mean dashing ahead with no fears at all, but overcoming fears and going ahead despite of them. It is only natural to be afraid of becoming an entrepreneur. There are so many uncertainties, so many things that could go wrong. There are two key fears which rule us: fear of an insecure financial future and fear of losing face in front our family, friends and peers.

So, what are the worst fears an entrepreneur has to face? Today we will take an honest look at them and try to find the way you can overcome them and continue on your entrepreneurial path.

1. “Nobody Has Done This Before”
Any kind of novelty is a double-edged sword. On one hand, innovation is exciting and many people will adopt it for the sake of being different and trying something new. On the other hand, many innovations never catch on, leaving their inventors disappointed and financially broken.

It is natural to fear that your new idea will not catch on. While there are some early adopters, there are also lots of people resisting change who will prefer to do thing the “good old way”. But if Thomas Edison, Henry Ford or the Wright brothers thought in the same way, our world would be terribly different and much less developed than it is today. If your market research shows that there is a demand for your product or service, then go ahead and make it happen.

2. “Everyone Else Is Doing This”
On the opposite side of entrepreneurial fear, this is one of those questions every potential small business owner faces when they join a niche with a high level of competition. Yes, there are popular niches and industries where you can find the full entrepreneurial range, from multinational corporations to small mom and pop stores and home business owners.

However, there is such a large and constant demand for the products and services in these niches, that there is always enough market share for newcomers. You will never get to compete with large corporations, but you will be able to provide your local community with the products and services they need.

3. “I Am Not Ready for This”
Truth be said, no one is ready for the big challenges in front of them at any moment in their lives. Queen Victoria was only 18 when she took the throne and she was certainly not ready for it, but made a great job of it. Mark Zuckerberg was not ready for his in-college online platform to take off so quickly and become the biggest social media platform worldwide. No matter how much you study, plan and prepare, you will never feel fully ready for a great challenge. But if you will not do it, you will keep wondering for the rest of your life “what if…”.

This constant wondering will do you worse in the long run than any potential failure. So accept that you are not ready and you do not have all the answers, but do it anyway.

4. “What If I Run Out of Money?”
Many potential entrepreneurs fear that their financial projections are not accurate and that they will run out of capital before they start generating income. This is a legitimate fear, but if you start small, with a small investment and a fast income business model, you will be able to start generating money early on and use it to grow your business, instead of investing everything you own in a grand plan.

5. “What If I Fail?”
Yes, this is the number one fear, the great nemesis of any entrepreneur. Failure is not only perceived as financial loss; it also means losing reputation in front of your family, friends and connection. You fear that you will also hurt your chances at future employment if you fail as an entrepreneur.

At this point take a look at your past achievements, take a look at your business plan and tell yourself: “I am trained, skilled, passionate and capable enough to succeed.” It is unlikely that you are starting out in business without having a set of skills, talents and professional experience to allow you to build a successful business. Thus, all you need is to believe in yourself and go forward with your plans.

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