Thank You, Sacred VA Institute Team!

My Graduation Speech…Sacred VA Institute…May 3, 2013

Hi Everyone! This Is Anselma (a.k.a.  Skippoz N Feelizia), you can call me Thelma.

I would like to thank Miss Christiane Holbrook, Miss Maribeth Brown-Oliver and the rest of the Sacred VA Institute team for giving me the opportunity to join and learn most valuable tricks, tips and knowledge on becoming a VA.

I’ve been through online search of Virtual Assistant sites, groups or teams for over three years now. And the scenarios are all the same. You sign up, fill up forms, submit your resume, and they will send you job list where you can choose to apply or bid on a project. I just had a recent experience -it was on a group founded and managed by an Australian.

They have offices in the Philippines. And you have to attend a seminar or briefing for possible placement. And to add they don’t give training, you will be matched based on your qualifications. I did and fortunately got an assignment. It lasted about 4 months. But one thing that bothered me was the set-up. All communications have to be coordinated via their site and personnel, you cannot discuss rate, time, requirements, and everything coming from the client including instructions were sent to an email account they have provided, communications are done on a Skype account created and provided by them. Plus the screen capture every 3 minutes and reply to their messages every 20 minutes.

I am used to communicating with my immediate head or clients. I’d like to discuss the requirements, situations, possibilities and alternative solutions. That makes me feel more confident in performing my jobs.

That’s the reason why I became so interested when I came across SVAI. I’ve listened to the videos and signed up but it still took me weeks to submit my Mission Statement and almost lost a slot. Blame it on the white smoke on the Chimney in Vatican!

The moment I received an email from Miss Maribeth Brown Oliver with the instructions I became so overwhelm and excited, went through all the lessons, created and built up my WP blog. With the excitement I forgot to join the SVAI Community Support Group. So when it was time for me to post my link I could not come in because I was not yet a member. That’s why of all the members I was the only one who did not get a welcome message.

Going through the Lessons with the directions of Maribeth via videos supported with PDF files and with that of Forest Linden made it easier for me to understand and follow step by step. With the topics presented by someone with experience and knowledge required from VAs made me feel confident and at ease. That I can now claim I am a real VA, a graduate of SVAI who has taught me not only the hard skills but to face and handle various situations that can be encountered during employment and engagement.

Being with SVAI community means you are in a team or a group of people who have the passion and heart for helping people; aiming for a better life, better community and a better world to live in.

Once again, I salute and thank Miss Maribeth Brown Oliver for this wonderful endeavor.  It’s a rare chance to meet young people like you.

To Miss Christiane Holbrook, Thank you for trusting, helping and uplifting the spirit of Filipino VAs.

To the rest of SVAI Team, Thank you.

To the SVAI Students, This is a rare chance given and extended to us. Make it worthwhile and let’s make this a friendly, talented, trusted, confident, reliable, professional community of Filipino Virtual Assistants.

My Graduation Speech-SVAI

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Why hire Filipino Virtual Assistants?

First of all we have to understand the word “Virtual Assistant”. What comes to your mind when you hear or encounter this word or phrase? Oh! Let us see…Offshore, Online, Home source…Ok well and good. What more can you add? Cheap labor! Hey wait a minute, did you just say “cheap? I beg to disagree with that – Yes, indeed.

Why do business people or organization hire Virtual assistants?

  • They the expertise of someone for a especial project that will only last for a period of time.
  • They don’t have enough time to deal with certain task because they have a lot more activities and obligations at hand.
  • They need people to assist and inject some ideas and views about their business of somebody from the outside looking in.
  • They need to make their presence felt on the other parts of the world
  • They don’t have enough budgets to hire an expert among the locals.
  • There you are! Not enough budget so they oft to something cheap. NO, no, no…I’d rather say economical rather than cheap.

The salaries and wages scheme of each country is based on the economy and standard of living of its citizenry. Most people choose to migrate to find high paying jobs in order to sustain the needs of their families and provide better education for their children. Overseas workers do not only help in their respective families but also for their countries. But we also have to consider their living situations in their host countries. Why? Most western countries give or pay high salaries and wages because of high cost of living and prices of commodities. Overseas workers squeezed their budget to save and send their support to their families.

I have seen the difference during my short stay in Australia. Australia has one of the best salaries and wages scheme and social security benefits in the world. No wonder because it is also considered as one of the richest and developed countries in world. What comes to my mind then was – If only the Government of the Philippines could afford to give such support and pensions to the poor and the unemployed like Australia, what a difference it might be. But wait, I’ve also noticed how high the prices of basic commodities.

Like for example the vegetables, fruits, juices, soft drinks, etc., boy the prices are more than doubled.  I bought an eggplant, banana and mango. Do you know much it cost me? Well $2, $.99 and $1 respectively. It happened that I had a conversation with my former officemate on Skype whom during that time migrated to London, our topic of course was mainly on the prices, and I told him my calculator is busy converting the prices – He laughed at me and said “You better throw your calculator before you go crazy”.

Ok, let’s go back to the topic, Why hire Filipino Virtual Assistants?

  • Filipino virtual assistants are most ready when it comes to communication. They speak better English than most of their contemporary (excluding of course those coming from countries with English as their first language).
  • Hiring Filipino VA’s is more economical while getting best services and desired results. (Some VA’s from their local countries will not even dare to touch a job paying $15 per hour).
  • Filipinos are professional and highly educated. Some have various degrees and specialization.
  • We value our work and have high regards to our clients and people we work for.
  • We are innovative, creative and resourceful (observant and very receptive to learning new skills).
  • We are hard worker and very serious in getting the job done.
  • We are globally competitive, updated on latest technology and skills.
  • We can easily adapt to the clients culture and flexible in the ways and manner we render services.

The Filipinos are most resilient, hospitable and forgiving people in the world. So having a Filipino VA you get most of these traits and character.

Listen, Learn, Consider but don’t forget to present your side of the situation

When a client becomes very excited about a certain product campaign or idea ad overwhelms you with information and jobs to do, you must bear in mind the initial and main task you were hired.

Take note and list down instructions. Prepare and draw calendar and schedule base on the jobs you were ask to do. Set the time or indicate the number of hours needed for each job. Set a target date for submission and delivery. Enumerate materials required and note situations that might affect your performance and target dates.

Provide a copy of your schedule and plan to your client. In this way he will be aware how much jobs has already been assigned to you and when you’ll be able to accomplish them. The advantage of having a clear plan of action makes you more confident and at ease in providing the best services to your client.

The client being aware of the schedule would understand how much time it would take you to submit the results. Additional loads or undertakings mean more time and effort on your part and he’ll have to wait a little longer for the delivery.  That would also make him aware how much loads he is throwing at you. On the other hand, knowing that your client is aware and understand the situation will help you focus on the jobs and projects assigned.

Blend with your Team

It is important that a goal is set before starting any undertakings. Set an attainable goal wherein you can base your plans and programs.

The purpose is to outline a set of clear objectives and the means by which to reach them. Goals help teams and individuals reach a destination and track their progress and participation during the experience. Goals provide a direction and clear path that can always remain open to revision as progress is assessed.

Setting up goals and drawing a plan of actions or systems goes together. Progress can be evaluated and measured base on the activities and steps already taken. Being on target brings motivation and encouragement to pursue the plan and keep one focus on the attainment of the goals set.

When you feel that what you are doing seems to go nowhere due to varieties and unrelated topics being fed and instructed to include in a blog or site, you must not hesitate to sit down and discussed your concern with the client. It can be done in a usual conversation or some queries regarding things or topics which are not clear to you and what how would they contribute in achieving your prime objective or goals in building certain site or blogs.

Communication is the key in obtaining cooperation, participation and harmony among the members of a team. And in this case you are the other half of the team.

How do you plan to Succeed?

In our personal life we undergo different stages which we need to make decision. It can be regarding our choice which college or university we would like to enroll an what degree we have to pursue; giving up and job locally for a more lucrative career abroad; planning to get married and settle down; buy  a house or car on an installment…all of these need proper planning.

On the professional and business side, planning plays an important role in the success and failure in achieving the set goals of an individual or of that organization. In the practice of profession, a person dreaming or  better  said “aspiring” to be one of the best in his/her  field must have plans on how, when and what he/she would do to achieve that. Plans should not remain on a sheet of paper or sitting where you have decided to park or file it. It was drawn with a purpose to guide how a goal, project or event be managed & executed. Plan may not be perfectly or exactly be followed, there are times that you need to change, add or delete base on the situation.  But then again it is also called as back-up or alternative plan, so you can’t really get away with it.

I remember an incident when I was working with a company dealing with the manufacturing, Installation and trading of Modular furniture, the business was doing fine, we have big customers, our operations and production departments have to work overtime to fulfill the contracts and serve our customers. When business is doing fine it was a natural instinct for the investors and the management to think of further development and expansion. Well ours was not an exemption.

The stockholders had a meeting and had a quorum to expand the business. And they decided to engage in vertical construction, a five story building. The CEO called a MANCOM meeting for us to draw a plan how the project will be handled. The operations team was given the task of drawing the plan, pert CPM, perspective, bill of materials, list of manpower required and other necessary documents for the construction proper. The Human resources department was forwarded the list with the qualifications of the manpower to be hired and we, in the accounting department were given the task of putting together the financial aspect of the project. In other words, a budget plan, cash flow and projected P&L.

Everything has been drawn and we were ready to start the project. Suddenly one of the managers suggested that instead of hiring somebody from the outside, we can pull out two or three of our supervisors to head or lead the task for the construction and some of our labors to cut  on the high cost of hiring individuals who are trained for the job.  Ok, they got what they want and we started the project and everything seems fine, we were on schedule. But in the midst of the project something went wrong, a portion of the floor on the second floor collapse and the head and his foreman could not explain what happened. Can we blame them? We are aware that they are lacking in experience and expertise to do the task.

The company instead of earning suffered a lost because of they have not followed the specifications on the requirements and qualifications required of the manpower for that specific task or project.

A very expensive lesson learned!

Communication is the “KEY” in avoiding Conflicts

As virtual assistants we are aware that we are servicing clients from other parts of the world with different time clock, more often difference of 7-14 hours in real time. That means if we agreed on working with them on their specific day or working hours, we don’t have the right to complain. Some client prefers a VA who can work with them at the same time, some only cares for the result and not bothered whether what time you decide to do your job as long as you can deliver on time.

Virtual assistants own their time and it depends on their preference how and when they would want to work. But that prerogative ceases if and when they decide to enter into an agreement with a certain client. Let say both parties initially agreed that A VA will render service to the client 3 hours a day, the agreement includes that the VA can perform or do the job on the time clock she desires as long as she complete the number of hours. Everything is going well until a certain time when the client started making demands that the VA must be logged on at the time of his day work but that would mean wee hours on our part of the planet.

Let us consider a situation wherein, he is not the only client you are servicing and the time he’s demanding you to work with him been devoted to another client/person. Or you are not used to being awake at wee hours and that will affect your performance or productivity. In these cases, a VA can at least grant a request for a number of times but clarify with him/her that you can’t do it regularly citing your reasons. If he/she is so insistent then you can try to remind him of your initial agreement courteously.

There are times when all you have to do and sit down and discuss possibilities and alternatives. Be cordial and be patient. Bear in mind that in virtual scenario, the key is communication. Two professionals must understand the situation of both parties.

In the end the decision will be yours, you can profess your willingness to be of service to the client but your situation makes it impossible for you to do. Thank the client and let him know that you appreciate all the opportunities given to you.

Can you tell yourself…Hey, you’ve done a great JOB!

Most Filipino VA’s have difficulties in appraising their own work. Most do tasks the way they know how, submit it and pray that the client will like it. What are the ways for you to improve on this mindset? How do you develop the skill to evaluate your own performance? How important it is for you to understand how much worth you can deliver to the client?

It has always been my practice in the real and traditional office set-up whenever I start working for a new company or boss to always ask how they want the reports to be presented. Ask them what and how they want the work to be done, information, notes or comments needed to be included. In this manner I would have initial idea on styles they prefer.

More often I prefer to present some alternatives and let them choose. Then we come up with an agreement and that’s the way I am expected to do and deliver the job. Well that’s in accounting but we must also remember – especially when it comes to writing articles or graphic designs, we have to take note of the personality and ideas of the person we work for.  Be comfortable and confident to present your work and trust your skills and ability but bear in mind that these concepts can depend more on the personality and outlook of a person.

As the saying goes, BEAUTY IS IN THE EYE OF THE BEHOLDER.

Why Work at Home?

Do you have what it takes to be a Virtual assistant?  Are you ready to give up the perks such as; company parties, holidays, outings & team buildings? What about your office mates and friends, the bonding and camaraderie?

Actually on my part, I am not giving up anything but starting a new life. I have been working in an office environment for more than twenty years. I started at the bottom of the ladder as an accounting clerk, even though during that time I am already a Certified Public Accountant. Having the title sans experience, I have to strive so hard to learn the ins and outs of real business world.

In my first job, I had one of the most indifferent but smartest boss. She asked and assigned me jobs that I didn’t even know for what purpose they will be. I didn’t really like her at first and I guessed the feeling is mutual and she thought of me just like another ordinary employee not worthy to be considered for a higher position. But I did not give up, I did my best, I performed my job at 110% to please and satisfy her but all I got was simply a nod and ok. But when the time came for the evaluation, she gave me an excellent mark and had the highest level of increase ever within the company. And just a month later she resigned and recommended me to take her position.

For the rest of the companies I’ve worked with, expectations have not been 100% met but the entirety had contributed in building my career and always been an added experience and knowledge. There were so many challenges that you have to face and conquer, but nevertheless have always been satisfying and fulfilling in terms of career and personality development. I’ve learned how to deal with people from all walks of life, those who are in the higher management level to the rank and file and the labor sector.

Being the eldest, I assumed the role of a breadwinner when my father got sick and had to retire from his job. I have six siblings and I am proud to say I was able to support and send them all to college and successfully got their degrees, had jobs and their own families.

At that point in my life, I started thinking about myself, my aging mother, whom now I have to take care of and provide for all her needs. Because all my earnings have been dedicated and spent for my siblings’ education, I have no savings so I could not stop doing everyday usual job. That was the time when I decided to quit my local job to look an overseas job. I’ve decided to go to New Zealand.

While my application is being processed, I met a guy online, we chat and exchange information and found out that he has a business and he knowing that I am an accountant ask for some advice regarding  taxation, bookkeeping, financial statements and the likes. Later on he ask me to take a look at his company logo, do listings on Ebay, Amazon and other online market site, do online bookkeeping using Quickbooks and MYOB, set appointments, answer emails and inquiries, set-up a website and do some power point presentations.

Accounting job is familiar to me but all the others were not. But I am very eager to learn new things and because of his support and patience I slowly learn new things. I was even ask to go to Australia to defend the reports, feasibility study I’ve done for the application of Austrade Grant for three (3) consecutive years.

I am passionate about learning new things and my previous experience inspired me to pursue my goal, to be one of the best Virtual assistant not only in the country but in the whole world.

VA’s Vision and Mission

My biggest vision is for all humanities to be at peace with everyone and the world itself. To understand the value of all creations; living and non-living things.

People should realize that each person has the right to live, have freedom, be given its own space and equal opportunity. We may vary in race, color, environment, talents, knowledge, physical attributes, financial capabilities because we are created uniquely. And that we have to accept and respect that all human person has its own dignity.

I have worked in a physical office environment for more than 25 years because I have to support my family and my siblings in their education and obtaining college degrees. They have their own lives and families and thought that it is time for me to think of myself and prepare for old age as they say. But at the age of 51-52, I find it so hard to get a job as rewarding as my previous position. In my country 35-40 years is old to start a new job or in some cases employers would not consider hiring you because you already have a higher rate.

That scenario gave me the idea of finding a job online. I believe God has given me knowledge and talents that I can put to use not only for financial gain but be of help in my community and eventually in my country. If I will be successful in this endeavor and be one of the most reliable VA’s in the world, I will be able to help the youth, the mothers who are part of unemployed sectors.

I know lots of persons who have been working online jobs – they say it is very rewarding. I can see it is, judging on their state of life and lifestyles. But most of them will not share how they came to be employed online or virtually. If I will be lucky enough to be considered and employed in this manner, I would like to share and take part in training and guiding especially the youth and the mothers who would like to be employed but are rejected and sideline because of age or physical incapability.

The VA business can truly be of help in changing the world and make it a better place. It eradicates the issues of boundaries & distance between employer and employees. It lessens the financial burdens and migration and visa requirements/expenses in finding the job overseas. It bridges the gap between countries and broadens the choices in finding the right person for the job.

For Filipinos who are aspiring to be Virtual Assistants/Home soucers, please follow this Link :  http://www.sacredvainstitute.com/

Are you ready to team-up with Foreign Clients?

Before plunging into the world of Virtual Assistants or working online, there things and situations that you need to consider: First and foremost you have to remember that you will be dealing with foreigners; Second, the contract or agreement; Third, what special skills and experiences can you render and share? Fourth, Can you work independently or less supervision?

1.    On foreign clients: What were your initial feelings when you thought of working for someone virtual: someone who lives on the other side of the world, who can only be reached by email or Skype and who speaks a different language? What do you feel of accepting foreign clients now?

Working with foreigners is not new to me. Locally I had the experience of working with Taiwanese, Chinese, German and the latter Australian. The only difference is working with them in the same place and environment making communications easier and faster.  Virtual employment now is even easier with modern technology both parties can communicate and be in contact anywhere and anytime. There are so many available softwares and apps online to complete and support business needs and undertakings. The key is constant, open communication and cooperation on both sides.

I find offshore clients more open and appreciative than local employers. In local employment you will encounter more competitions within the organization and workplace while working with offshore client you do not compete, you are a team. You compensate and help each other in order to reach the set goals.

2.     I’m special: Whether you are a newbie or veteran in this industry,  How do you assert your value to the world as a professional?

When I had my first job, I agreed to a minimum wage rate but it did not take long for me to achieve the salary I thought I deserve. With the years of experience and abilities I’ve learned and acquired   and held administrative position in different companies I am aware of the basic pay rates locally. I’ve also some ideas on foreign wage rates like that of Australia. Knowing my abilities and experiences I do set-up a salary range that I am willing to accept depending on the scope of the job.

More often, the evaluation on the quality and quantity of work that an employee or contractor; has already been established by the client or employer. The employee or applicant has the chance to show his/her ability to fulfill the job requirements during interviews but of course in addition to the resume that has been previously submitted. 

3.   Reviewing contracts: In your opinion, what are the items that a job contract must contain aside from the job description and salary?

All contracts need the scope of work to be done, time and length of fulfillment and submission. There should also be clarification regarding softwares, apps, communications, deliveries, etc. on who will provide and some limitations if applicable. It can also include the time and manner of reporting and meeting schedules. It is also important to include statement and agreement on Trust and confidentiality since you are given the access to important and sensitive information.

If there provisions or statement in the contract that might appear unclear or something that one could not understand in the contract, it is not a crime to ask for clarification and inform the other party that you are not amenable on certain situation or provision.

4.  The keyword “team member” is always mentioned in the Professional Development tutorials. Differentiate a typical employee from a team member? What are the things a team member responsible for? How does being a team member help the business and your career as well?

Organization composes different teams such as departments or division. Every employee is a part of a particular team: the administrative, sales & marketing, productions, operations, logistics and even the group of managers. “Typical employee” is just concern in fulfilling or accomplishing the specific job or activity assigned to her/him and does not care whether some of her/his co-workers needs assistance, help or guidance. That doesn’t make sense, because an employee whether she/he is a manager, a supervisor, rank and file or labor –she/he is a part of a team. As member, each has to contribute to the accomplishment and success of the business. Yes, I could not discount the fact there are certain task that requires great deal of independent work and research while somewhere team effort is most effective.

Team effort always makes challenges lighter and easier to face and conquer. Team members compensate, inspire and help each other. Good communications brings harmony and camaraderie and can lead to friendship, trust and confidence.