Review: The Virtual Assistant Handbook – Nadine Hill

Ever considered being a virtual assistant?

If you’re not sure what a virtual assistant (or VA) is, here’s a quick introduction. A VA works remotely on tasks like administration, bookkeeping, event organisation, telephone answering and personal assistance. Small businesses who need admin support but don’t want an employee can hire a VA by the hour. VAs usually work from their own home and many never meet their clients face-to-face. (You can read more in Business Ideas For Mums: Virtual Assistant.)

The Virtual Assistant Handbook is the only guide for UK-based VAs. I’m not just saying that as a compliment, it really is the only one! Fortunately, it’s an excellent book.

Being a VA appeals to lots of mums because many have administration experience, but self employment is far more flexible than being employed. Sounds great so far? Not surprisingly, there are a few snags along the way, but this book deals with all of them in turn.

First of all, Nadine explains that being a VA is not for you if you want to be handed work and to then quietly get on with it. A client will be looking for a self-starter, someone with their own ideas who isn’t afraid to ‘manage’ them. You will also need to get out there and look for work (not always easy if you’re used to getting things done behind-the-scenes). The VA handbook gives you plenty of useful advice on how to do this, even if you know nothing about marketing.

Nadine talks about her own experience of starting a VA business throughout and shares the challenges she encountered and the lessons she has learned. Finding clients (online, networking, PR and more), getting started, setting a price, selling extra services and future development are all covered in a clear, honest and practical way.

If you’re thinking of starting out as a virtual assistant in the UK, this is essential reading.

You can buy The Virtual Assistant Handbook from Amazon.

Photo: RLHyde

Creation Collaboration Women Wednesday Blog Hop

Creation|Collaboration was set up by eight women, all existing friends, who run small businesses from their homes. They started Women Wednesday blog roll to link up with other women in business, spread the word about Creation|Collaboration and basically just have fun visiting  interesting blogs!
Join in each week and you could be the following weeks blog feature.
Heres how you can join in with Collaboration Women Wednesday:
  • Link up your blog name and URL to your Women Wednesday blog post using the McKLinky below (you only need to add on one blog to be seen on all of the McKLinky blog roll’s) Please note that it’s for blogs only and not links to your websites or shops.
  • Follow our Creation|Collaboration blog and the hostesses listed in the first 3 slots.
  • Grab our Women Wednesday button and feature it on your blog or Women Wednesday blog post.
  • Follow and comment saying you’re from Women Wednesday on as many blogs as you likes listed in the McKlinky box.
  • Follow back any new followers from Women Wednesday!

Amelia’s Grant for Creative Women

If a £100 grant would  help you with your creative project, then take a look at Amelia Critchlow’s 101 Bird Tales blog.

Amelia, artist and workshop leader, says

“‘Gift Grants 2010’ was an idea that came to me early this year. It is a personal initiative I wish to start, assisting creative self-starters in an arts/creative project. I am willing to give as a ‘gift’ – hence the name – £100 to an individual who has started an initiative related to creativity/the arts, but may be experiencing financial difficulties, or simply needs some money toward materials, a space, paid help, or whatever else might be needed to get a creative project up and flying.


I found it an incredible struggle trying to single parent, earn money, and find something for me, but when I did (art) and with the help I was given, I feel it has been the difference between sanity and insanity for me. Now it’s time I’d like to give back.”

To find out how to apply and if you’re eligible, check out 101 Bird Tales.

And Amelia will be guest blogging here at Business Plus Baby very soon…

Home business phone line: do I need one?

Some home-based businesses use the same phone line for business and personal calls. Personally, I wouldn’t be happy with this and here’s why:

  • You need to be able to ignore your business phone (OK, switch on your voicemail…) after office hours or you’ll be on duty 24 hours a day.
  • You need to answer the business line in a professional manner, which is far easier to control on a dedicated phone line than on one that’s shared by the whole family.
  • Your business phone number will be spread far and wide on your marketing materials, including your website. The chances are you don’t want your home phone number to be so widely available.

The last time I started out as a freelancer in 2000, business phone line options for people who worked from home were limited to say the least. Most got a second home phone number from BT and didn’t tell BT it was for business use, so avoiding paying the full business fee. This is still an option (shh, don’t say I mentioned it!), but technology has moved on and there is more choice now, including:

Mobile phone. I asked some mums in business if they felt that having a mobile number as your only business phone number would be seen as unprofessional. Most said that these days their clients couldn’t care less whether they were given a mobile number or a landline, but some said they felt it might give a bad impression. It depends on the kind of business you’re in and the only sure way to find out is to do some market research.

Telephone redirection service. You can ‘rent’ a phone number so that when clients phone it, it looks like an ordinary landline number  but the call is received at the phone of your choice. You could direct the call to your landline or mobile. A free option if you’re just starting out and have only a few calls is a service like YAC. This gives you a number for free and you can direct calls to your mobile, landline or email (you get a voice message as an attachment). The only snag is that the call charges are rather high for anyone phoning you, so not great for customer service in the long run. Still, it’s preferable to putting your home phone number up on your website for the world to see, plus you can use it for voicemail only and then call back.

Or you can pay a small fee and use a service like www.voipfone.co.uk which charges your callers the cost of a local call.

Internet phone (VOIP). Instead of having a phone line coming into your home, make your calls over the internet. With Vonage, for example, you plug a normal phone into your computer’s modem or router using the adapter provided. Alternatively, you could use Skype’s Online Number service so that people dial a number on their phone and you receive the call on your computer.

Try: www.vonage.co.uk, Skype Online Number www.voipfone.co.uk

Virtual receptionist service. If a client phones and you’re busy, a  receptionist (i.e. a real human being) takes a message and passes it on to you. And it’s not as expensive as you might think. It could make a big difference if there are big chunks of the day that you don’t want to be answering the phone with screaming children in the background.


Creative Commons License photo credit: Lars Plougmann

(Updated 2 June 2011)

It’s the Business Mums’ Blog Carnival for June!

Would you like more traffic to your blog, plus more links and more comments? How about a chance to network online around the business mum community? It’s free and will take you just a couple of minutes. (The sparkly bikini is optional…)

Then join this month’s Business Mums’ Blog Carnival!

Here’s how it works. Each month, a different business mum blogger hosts the blog carnival, listing the best  posts that month. If you’re a mumpreneur with a blog, you can submit your own favourite post of that month to the carnival.

We’re looking for posts that add value in some way, so maybe they inspire, inform or make us smile. It’s OK to talk a little about what you do (we’re all in business after all) but a post that’s just a sales pitch isn’t going to be much of a read.

UPDATE: The June carnival is now live at the Ivy House Interiors blog

The hosts for the rest of 2010 are:

July 2010www.mumazing.co.uk

Email posts to samthewlis (at) hotmail.com by the end of Friday 16th July and the carnival will be posted on Monday 19th July.

August 2010 – littlesheep-learning.blogspot.com

(email and dates to follow)

September2010 – www.littlestuff.co.uk/blog

(email and dates to follow)

October 2010 – www.sizzlingscience.co.uk

Email posts to info (at) sizzlingscience (dot) co.uk by end of Monday 11th October and the carnival will be posted on Monday 18th October

November 2010 www.andreadaly.com

(email and dates to follow)

December 2010www.redtedart.com

Email posts to maggy (At) familywoodley (dot) com by the end of Friday 24th Dec and Carnival will be posted by Friday 31st Dec.

Photo credit: m8nd1