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Why I Do What I Do… My Why

Why am I here? What is my purpose? What do I enjoy doing? What am I naturally good at?
These are just a few questions and just a snippet of the self-reflective work that I embarked on when I decided to start my own business in January 2018. And at the same time... I had just left a long term relationship, moved into a new place (just me and my 13 year-old Beagle, Arlene), and I was considering moving to Asia or anywhere far away. I even went on my first solo trip (for 3 weeks... all the way to New Zealand and Australia). I considered not coming home... if it sounds crazy, it kinda was, but I love every part of that version of me and I'm eternally grateful for my bravery. 
Arlene-and-Ashley
Me and Arlene

Getting back to the questions.... Why am I here? What is my purpose? What do I enjoy doing? What am I naturally good at?

As my life was turned on its end, I needed to answer these questions to begin to rebuild and find myself, for maybe the first time ever.

Here goes nothing... I enjoy “techie” things, helping others, connecting with new people, working on my own schedule, having the independence to travel and experience my life (outside of a traditional 8-5 office job).

But that isn’t really a job... or is it?

Backpack Ready... Never Coming Back
Backpack Ready... Never Coming Back
One day, while researching job opportunities I came across the title of virtual assistant. What is that, you ask? A virtual assistant (VA) is a person who provides support services to other businesses from a remote location. Bingo!! This was it! I was so excited to start my new business, build a website, and start marketing my services. But... I didn’t know how to build a website from scratch. Sure I had edited websites, developed new content, and reorganized pages and layouts, but I was scared and definitely doubted myself. So what did I do? I dove in headfirst. I researched and took courses in web design, hosting, domain management, and taught myself what I needed to know. I knew that I already had the communication and relationship-building skills, the ability to quickly learn technology, and the patience to help even the most frustrated person.
Fast forward to today and I know I am exactly where I am meant to be, because I'm there. I love learning new things, challenging myself, and being there for others. It really does excite me to customize things, bring ease and joy to others, and create beauty where it did not exist before. My passion for art/graphic design from childhood reignited within me (disclosure: I loved scrapbooking and making collages... I'd cut out pics and words from magazines and put them together to make things... Can you say web designer in the making?). The continual growth from learning coding/CSS/HTML will always be a challenge and something to continue pushing me for years to come.
I have also come to learn that there is a real need for little old me in this big world. I truly believe that each person has a combination of special gifts that they can share, they just need to remember what they are. I have a “non-techie” personality (no offense to techie people) and there is a need within the business community for contract technology help from people like me. I see you and will treat you like a human being without judgment and I will treat your business like it is my own.
If you decide to work with me, I will not only provide the technology support to solve your business problems, but the communication and human support that everyone requires.
Me... Spreading My Wings
Me... Spreading My Wings and Living My Best Life
I love to connect with different people, help solve problems, use technology to the fullest, and make people’s lives easier. These innate qualities are what have helped make my business a success. Soul searching and needing a big life change are what I owe my business to, what I owe my life to, and what I continue to do every day. The work of life never ends. We will all continue to grow and evolve. I hope to do so with you and your business... or not, whatever works for you.
Breathe and Delegate.
-Ashley

Does Your Website Need a Privacy Policy?

Does your website have a privacy policy?  Do you know what a privacy policy is?  Does your site need a privacy policy?  No need to panic, BUT…

Did you know …. Any site that collects as little as an email address on a contact form should have a Privacy Policy!

You’ve probably received quite a few emails recently of companies notifying you that they updated their Privacy Policy (new laws for California went into effect as of January 2020). Data privacy is becoming a very big deal, and because of that, I’ve been doing some research and think you should consider not only getting a Privacy Policy but also having a strategy to keep it up to date.

What is data privacy and why does your business need to be concerned?

Several privacy laws are now in place to protect the personal information of citizens of certain states with fines that can reach $2,500-$7,500 per website visitor. Nearly a dozen states have also proposed their own unique privacy bills, some of which will allow its citizens to sue businesses for having a contact form without a compliant, up to date Privacy Policy. These states make note that businesses of any size and any location will have to comply, which is why I wanted you to be aware of what’s going on.

I am not a lawyer, so for all of my clients and my own site, I outsource the legality of writing the Privacy Policy, Terms of Service, End User License Agreements, and Disclaimer needs.  The company I use (Termageddon) provides updates to your privacy policy for you, so that when a new law changes, your privacy policy is always compliant.  At only $10/month or ($99/year with annual prepayment), you can rest easy knowing that you don’t have a privacy lawsuit coming your way.

I even put Termageddon’s policies on my own website:

virtualashleyhart.com/privacy-policy-2

I know this is one more thing to deal with, but that’s why I am here! I am happy to set this up for you, create new webpages, embed the codes, customize the cookie banner pop-ups, manage updates, and take this off your plate… or you can set it up yourself (and leave my number on speed-dial).  Contact me at info@virtualashleyhart.com for more information and I can help you determine if you need a privacy policy or other website policies.

#virtualashleyhart #breatheanddelegate #virtualassistant #personalassistant #webdesign #privacypolicies #dontwanttogetsued #evenIoutsource #clovissmallbusiness #sangersmallbusiness #fresnosmallbusiness #fresnoonlinemarketing #clovisonlinemarketing

SEO Explained: Why is my website not showing up on Google?

Many people think that your new website will just pop up on Google when you search for your business keywords. However, this is sadly not the case. Google uses many different formulas to determine what sites appear at the top of their search rankings such as quality of the site, mobile friendly, XML site map, titles/tags, search options on your site and many other technical requirements.

Customer Spotlight: Seth Chastain of Central Valley Bulk Materials Inc., provides bulk bark and mulch distribution all throughout California. He works with nurseries, government highway beautification, housing developments and much more.  I finished his new website in March 2019 and we have been working on Search Engine Optimization (SEO) for the past year. This concept can be quite scary and confusing if you go it alone but it doesn't have to be.  I offer SEO Packages as standalone products, or as part of my monthly maintenance packages, starting at $99/month or $155/month (monthly maintenance clients).  He has been working with me for about a year now and I am very proud to show our improvement in SEO ranking.  Central Valley Bulk Materials Inc., now ranks #1 in multiple keyword searches (bulk bark distribution and central valley bulk bark) and on the first page for most keywords we researched and worked towards.  SEO is an on-going process and it changes day-to-day as Google's algorithm determines what sites have the most useful information and provide the best results.

#1 Google Ranking for Bulk Bark Distribution

Top 5 Strategies for Improving SEO

  • Set Up a FREE Google My Business Profile and Other Local Business Directories
  • Google Search Console + XML Sitemap
  • Google Analytics
  • Competitive Keyword Research: What are people looking up to get to your competitor's websites?
  • Use the researched keywords in your website, descriptions, alt image text, tags

Unfortunately, there is not one magic bullet that can get this done but it can be improved through various strategies.  Google's Algorithm changes over time as people start to figure out the quick fixes... They are kinda smart over there.

If you have questions about SEO or need help tracking usage of your site, please let me know. It's never too late to start tracking. Having a website is only the beginning.

I’m happy to discuss website design and development with you for your new business, updating your current/outdated website, maintaining and servicing your current website, or discussing options for SEO integration with your new or current website.

Feel free to contact me with any questions or a free consultation

Instagram and Facebook: @virtualashleyhart
559-285-6791

Should You Build Your Own Website or Have a Web Designer Do It?

As I web designer, I get this question a lot.  Why should I pay you to make me a website, when I can do it myself with an online program such as WIx, Weebly, WordPress.com or SquareSpace?

It boils down to the following 4 resources

  1. Time
  2. Technical Knowledge (or your interest to learn to code/learn a new program—see #1. Time)
  3. Design Skills (or your willingness to learn design--- see #1. Time)
  4. Money

Money is a valuable resource, but what is your time worth?

Time + Design Skills + Tech Skills + Money = Website

Most people lack one or more of these 4 resources and are not willing to use their time to learn design skills or tech skills.

Often time, many people focus on money and how much something costs, which doesn’t focus on the bigger picture.  Money is actually the most flexible option because your time is finite and what you choose to do with your time is finite.

I’m happy to discuss website design and development with you for your new business, updating your current/outdated website, or maintaining and servicing your current website.

Feel free to contact me with any questions or a free consultation

Instagram and Facebook: @virtualashleyhart
559-285-6791

Why Hiring A VA Is A Brilliant Investment

If you’re just starting your business, you probably don’t have enough capital to hire full-time staff. However, to grow your business in most circumstances, you’re going to have to find someone to help with the day-to-day tasks. So rather than ask family or friends to volunteer their free time, why not hire a part-time virtual assistant?

No Office Space Required

A virtual assistant can work from anywhere. This can save you a lot of money when it comes to renting and furnishing an office space. So when hiring a VA, make sure to ask how they work – do they have a home office? Do they have a computer with a reliable Internet connection? Are they available to work during the hours you require? Hire someone who meets all of your requirements – be patient in this process, as you may have to interview several people before finding the most suitable person for the job.

Pay Rates Vary

Depending on where your VA lives, hourly rates will vary considerably. Pay rates may also vary depending on experience and workload. An experienced VA with knowledge of specific software, database or computer operating systems will almost invariably charge significantly more than a VA with limited experience. So if you’re on a tight budget, consider hiring someone with limited experience (with a fantastic attitude) that you can train up over time.

Another option is, rather than hire a VA to complete various tasks that pop up each month, consider hiring a VA to complete a dedicated set of tasks, maybe daily to start. This way, you can quickly determine how many hours you’ll need their services for on a daily, weekly and monthly basis to stay on budget.

Hire the People You Need – When You Need Them

Do you need an experienced bookkeeper, social media guru or an attentive personal assistant? If so, consider hiring two or three part-time VAs to complete these and other business tasks instead of just one person. Most businesses, especially startups, experience periods of growth and stagnation before settling into an even flow. By hiring multiple VAs instead of a full-time member of staff, you can maintain your budget by increasing or decreasing the amount of work you’re outsourcing because in most cases, virtual assistants are only paid for their hours on task.

The key here is to hire VAs who can perform varying amounts of work each month. So while some VAs require you to commit to a set number of hours each month, other VAs prefer to work with multiple clients on an ‘as-needed’ basis.

More Time to Focus on Building Your Business

With a virtual assistant supporting you, you’ll be able to spend more quality time with clients and customers. You can also focus on ways to grow and expand your business instead of fixating on day-to-day details. In turn, your business will likely become far more profitable over time.

To help you maintain this focus, your VA can update and manage your calendar, plan business trips and efficiently relay specific information to clients and customers. Down the line, and as your budget increases, you can delegate additional tasks to your VAs, such as generating leads, managing your website and anything else you can realistically hand over!

Reduce Your Stress

Become a better leader by getting enough sleep, exercising regularly, eating a proper diet and spending time engaging in hobbies and other life pursuits you’re passionate about – essentially, find ways of keeping your stress level to a minimum at all times. As you can see, a virtual assistant can help alleviate an array of pressures within your day-to-day business operations, which greatly reduces your stress so you can remain focused and excited about your business in the months and years ahead.

3 Tips For Hiring A Great Virtual Assistant

Hiring a virtual assistant to perform daily, weekly, or even occasional business-related tasks can help your business grow. But how do you find the best person (or team) for the job? In many ways, hiring a VA is similar to hiring office staff as you generally have to conduct interviews to determine if they have the qualifications and skills you’re looking for. In addition, you have to clearly outline what’s expected of your VA so they fully understand the scope of the job too.

Create a List of Specific Tasks for Your VA

  • Before contacting a VA service, or posting a job on a freelance site like Upwork, take some time to write down what you need your virtual assistant to do for you. Be specific. Create a list of detailed tasks such as maintaining your calendar, creating your business schedule, overseeing payroll, managing social media campaigns, or even making business travel arrangements.
  • The ultimate goal of hiring an experienced, attentive VA is to make your life a little easier. By delegating specific tasks to your virtual assistant, you’ll have more time to focus on business growth and expansion, generating more leads, and overall making sure your clients / customers are happy. In any case, having a thorough understanding of your requirements and being able to communicate these effectively is the first step in hiring the person most suitable for the job.

Determine Specific Communication Requirements

  • Do you need a VA who’s available during regular business hours? Or would you rather send your VA a list of tasks for the week? Since most VAs work on an hourly basis, you’ll generally receive daily or weekly reports that demonstrate the completion of tasks. How you decide to work with your VA is up to you of course, but you should let your VA know what you expect of them beforehand. For example, if you need to communicate with your VA during the day or more specifically, during office hours, consider hiring a VA within your time zone.

Ask Specific Questions during the Interview

  • During the interview process, get to know prospective hires by asking questions about their background. Ask questions about their education, work experiences, hobbies and maybe even go so far as eating habits – for instance do they focus on a plant based diet or live for BBQs?
  • If your company relies on specific software, apps or databases to conduct business, ask the VA about their expertise. In some cases, you may want to offer software or database training, but if you’re looking for someone who can start immediately without too much fuss, look for someone with adequate experience in the types of software, systems or programs you’re currently using.
  • If you’re not very experienced with hiring VAs, you’ll probably want to make sure you ask for an updated resume and list of work references. While it may be tempting to hire someone based on one interview, you should verify that the VA is being honest about their experiences – especially if you require prior knowledge of specific software, systems or programs.

As you can see, being as specific as possible about what you need from a VA is essential to hiring one that will benefit your growing business. As you become more comfortable working with your VA, you may want to expand their role by delegating additional tasks. This is precisely why maintaining clear communication when working with your virtual assistant helps you create a long-term, mutually beneficial working relationship.

How a Virtual Assistant Can Help Your Business (And Your Sanity)?

Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton

You can do it all, you can be everything to everyone, you don’t need a break.  Those are the things that society is telling us and we are falling victim to it in large numbers through burnout, diabetes, one too many drinks every night, and parenting our children with iPads.

I want to provide a customized solution to your overworked life so that you can get back to the reason you are here in the first place; enjoying your life.  I went on my own journey of living life feeling overworked, exhausted and underpaid, which led me to want to live my life differently.

You don’t have to do it all, you don’t have to be everything to everyone.  You can delegate tasks and continue to grow your business or organization, while having time for the things and people you love and being present for your life.  These are not mutually exclusive, but can happen simultaneously.

Breathe and delegate, so you can be present for your life. 

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This could be the view from your next vacation.  When was the last time you even took a day off?

If you are new to Virtual Assistants, see my post titled 3 Tips for Hiring A Great Virtual Assistant.  Feel free to contact me with any questions, virtualashleyhart@gmail.com