Case Study #2: Transcribing an Interview

Unpaid Fixed Rate Service

Sad, worry, depress, angry and miserable. These are my feelings when a client didn’t pay. Did you also felt the same way when someone makes you feel stupid? After completing the task and submitted it, all you get are ignored messages and forgotten payment.

The Client & Task

I logged into a website one day checking for messages and recent job posts. This site is one of the leading freelancing website named oDesk. While browsing pages on this site, I came across a ‘transcription’ gig. This was posted by an Australian client. His profile in oDesk seems trustworthy. It has reviews and previous hires with rates. So, I read the task and proposed my rate. He picked me out of all the 20 people who proposed. We agreed to a specific rate and terms. One of which is without initial payment and to be completed in 3 days. Eventually, I completed and sent the transcript in MS Word format. Of course, I submitted this document through oDesk.

I am aware about the fact that this was a FIXED RATE GIG. I also read the pros and cons of ‘fixed rates’ in oDesk. One of their policy is that oDesk have no control over ‘fixed rates’. It means that they cannot guarantee if a freelancer will receive payment or not.

How I Resolved This Problem

I came to the point to file a complaint in oDesk Help & Support. Why? I have already sent multiple messages to the client regarding the payment. To my dismay, I haven’t received any replies or payment. After a few days, I received a reply from oDesk regarding this issue. Sadly, as I expected, they can’t resolve the problem. I requested for that client to be banned in oDesk which they refused to do.

Outcome

I have so many regrets when I’ve transcribed this client’s audio transcript. In fact, it was almost 98% accurate I mean with high quality transcript. One of my regrets is that I should have at least required an initial payment. If I have proposed this request maybe the client will not ignore to pay.

Learning from this experience, I decided ‘to be picky’ from now on. Specifically when it comes to fixed rate jobs in oDesk or other freelancing websites. This is one of the major problems with freelancing websites. There’s no guaranteed payment for fixed rate jobs. In some cases, even if the client sent initial payment still there’s no guarantee. You can’t ensure if they will pay you the remaining balance.

Regardless of the risks involved in online work, I do love transcribing. In fact, I just recently transcribed a video interview from a trustworthy client. I converted the MP4 video into MP3 format to easily transcribe it. Why? I’m using a transcription software, it only requires MP3 format. It makes my transcription life easier using this software or tool. Of course, this is a TRUSTWORTHY oDesk CLIENT. What I meant is he completely sent the payment for my services.

I hope you learn something from this case. As a piece of advice, be very careful when it comes to fixed rate terms. Did you also experience this in the past? What did you do to resolve it? I’d love to hear your point of view.

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Thank you for reading this. Hi! I'm Paul. As a seasoned virtual assistant, I'm privileged to help you start up your own work-from-home business. I'm here to share with you my knowledge towards becoming a successful virtual assistant. Follow me or pose your point of view about this blog post on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

How to Create an Email Address?

On the internet, obtaining an email address is basically a prerequisite or requirement nowadays. Why? It will be your ‘key’ in order to interact with people online and access any website. As a virtual assistant, you are required to know the basic and advance usage of an email. We will discuss that later on but for now let’s focus on how to create your very ‘first’ email address. First, let’s discuss its history.

What is an email?
It is commonly known as e-mail or email. It is referred to as electronic mail. This is the generic term for electronic document transmission according to history. During the early times both email sender and recipient are required to be online at the same time in order to send, receive and read an email. Nowadays, we only need an email server in order to do this process. We can now send, receive and read an email at any given time. An email message basically has 3 important components. Same components are used then and until now. These 3 message components are envelop, header and body.

Importance
In the digital age, an email is a form of transmission and communication of information. In order to transmit a digital message, it uses technological software platforms. This software is called an email server. The most popular ones are Google’s Gmail, Yahoo’s Yahoo Mail, and Microsoft’s Outlook and Hotmail.

Types of Email Servers
There are 4 varieties of email. These are Webmail, POP3, IMAP and MAPI. A webmail or web-based email is the most popular. This includes Yahoo Mail, Outlook, Hotmail and Gmail. In order to send, receive and read an email you need to sign in with your email account. A POP3 is short term for Post Office Protocol 3. Emails can be deleted by the mail server. Sometimes a message is difficult to view on other devices. IMAP known as Internet Message Access Protocol is an opposite of POP3. You can use any devices to read messages and you can access the message folder on the mail server. Message Application Programming Interface or MAPI is used by Microsoft’s Windows.

Now we know a little bit about the history of an email, it’s time to create an email address. First, we must choose an email server. You can choose any of the email servers stated above. In the meantime, we will create an email address using a webmail specifically Google’s Gmail.

Creating an Email Address
How to create an email address? There are 4 easy steps on how to do this.

First, you should visit an email server (Outlook, Gmail, Yahoo Mail or Hotmail) that offers email service. Me, I chose to create an email address using Microsoft’s Outlook. This is my primary email address for all emails. Though I’m familiar and have active accounts with other email servers, I primarily use Outlook. Its efficient connectivity with MS Office is one of the few reasons why. This is one of the features that I normally use when I need to access MS Office via Outlook or OneDrive.

Secondly, once you have decided what email server you would like to use, go to their website and find out where to sign up. We will use Gmail as an example.

On your desktop, open your favorite browser (Google Chrome, Firefox or IE) then type www[.]gmail[.]com without brackets into your browser’s search box. This will directly link you to Google’s Gmail log in page. While on Gmail’s log in page, look for ‘Create an Account.’ Click that text link. This will lead you to a new page ‘Create your Google Account’ page.

Thirdly, while on ‘Create Google Account’ page fill out ALL necessary details. This will be as follows: Type in your first and last name on the Name boxes. On ‘Choose your username’ box type in your desired username. If your desired username is already in use “Someone already has that username. Try another?” a text warning will appear with suggested list of available user name via Available: (example). Once your username is accepted, you need to type in your desired password on Create a password and Confirm your password. After doing this, you need to complete the rest of required information such as Birthday, Gender, Mobile Phone Number, Your current email address, Verification box and Location.

Lastly, after filling up all the necessary details you must read, understand and check the box regarding Terms, Services, and Policies. After doing all these, click ‘Next Step’ verification page will appear. To verify your account, phone verification is used. Choose your current country then type in your phone number. Then choose ‘text or voice message’ to confirm your account. Once you clicked the verification button, you will receive either a text or voice message stating your verification code. On ‘Verify your Account’ page, type in your received verification code from your mobile device then hit ‘Continue’ button. ‘How You’ll Appear’ page will appear next. Add your photo then hit ‘Next step’ button. Finally, ‘Welcome’ page will appear that confirms successful creation of your ‘first’ email address. Click ‘Continue to Gmail’ in order to open your Gmail account.

Importing Contacts
Tell your new email address to friends and families. Get their email address and add them to your contact list.

Sending an Email
Log in to your Gmail account using your username and password. Once you’re logged in, click ‘Compose.’ A message box will appear. Type the recipient’s email address on the ‘To’ box. Type the title of your email on ‘Subject’ box. Then type in your message on the large message box. Once you’ve completed this click ‘Send’ button to send your email.

Responding to an Email
While logged in to your Gmail account, click or open your inbox. Click any message in your inbox. While on that message, click the ‘arrow’ reply icon to create a reply message. Or, simply scroll at the end of the message and find ‘Click here to Reply or Forward’ links. Click the ‘Reply’ link and type in your reply message. Once you’ve finished typing in your message click ‘Send’ button to send the reply.

Creating an email address or email account is very easy to do. Following these easy simple steps will surely guide you through. Creating email address or account on other email servers (Yahoo Mail, Outlook and Hotmail) is almost similar to this instruction. Don’t forget to save or memorize your ‘exact’ email address and password in order to access your new email account. Never expose this online or to anyone else you don’t trust or don’t know.

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Thank you for reading this. Hi! I'm Paul. As a seasoned virtual assistant, I'm privileged to help you start up your own work-from-home business. I'm here to share with you my knowledge towards becoming a successful virtual assistant. Follow me or pose your point of view about this blog post on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

Imagine you’re in the bus station waiting for a bus. Now, there may be multiple buses coming and going all the time. But, if you wanna be successful and get home you gotta get on the bus that got your number on it. Jump on any bus, you’ll be going anywhere.

– Paul Hafalla

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Thank you for reading this. Hi! I'm Paul. As a seasoned virtual assistant, I'm privileged to help you start up your own work-from-home business. I'm here to share with you my knowledge towards becoming a successful virtual assistant. Follow me or pose your point of view about this blog post on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

6 Virtual Assistant Skills That You Can Easily Sell Online

In the virtual world, you can truly profit from your skills. Almost any type of skill is possible to sell online. These skills are commonly known as services, gigs or micro-jobs. As long as you know the basics of each of these skills, it is fine. But, it would be your greatest advantage, if you have a thorough knowledge of such.

List of Skills
Here are some of my best skills that I’m offering to clients then and now. These skills are good startup when establishing your own home-based business. These are writing, typing, administrative support, social media, web research and technical skills. Honestly, when I started my VA career all I’m capable of doing was to write. Way back then, I struggled very hard to know each of these skills. Because I am passionate about this career, I studied very hard in order to learn each of these. How? I have no formal training in such. I’m just a self-taught. I studied each of these skills by reading articles, blogs, tutorials, eBooks, videos, etc. online. Through practice, I successfully gained the basics and advance knowledge of each. As a result, I am now capable of doing all these skills. I became a touch typist. I’m continuously gaining profit from my skills. I met and became friends with various people around the globe online.

  • Writing

This is the most sellable skill online. This includes writing an article for websites, blogs, publications, etc. In my own opinion, an article is a written form to convey information about anything. This can be tips, tutorials, ideas, guides, lists or how-tos about something. Another writing skill that you can easily sell is writing a press release. A press release is a ‘formal’ type of writing that follows certain writing style. The most common example is what you read on a newspaper. You can also offer content writing for a client. It is commonly known as website or blog content. These are content for the homepage or pages such as About, Testimonials, Portfolio, Product/Services, Contact, etc. You can also sell to write eBooks or books. This is known as electronic books. By using a software or eBook reader, you can download then read a book you like. Most sellable to clients are niche eBooks such as guides, tutorials or tips.

  • Typing

Yes, it is possible to earn by merely typing online. Most common of which is data entry. Example is typing data from excel sheet list into a website. This list contains data about a product, price list, names, address, contact details, etc. Another example is typing a manuscript from a pdf to word document. I advise that you must propose your desired rate to your client before doing a data entry. Why? You can offer hourly or fixed rate. For hourly rates, you must think how many hours or days it will take for you to complete the job. Then multiply this with your proposed rate. Honestly, data entry is tasky. It consumes a lot of time.

Another sellable typing skill but required certain advance skills is transcription. Transcription is the process of listening and accurately typing audio transcripts into text in a Notepad, Word document or client’s template. This requires advance keyboard typing (touch typist) and English (vocabulary, spelling, grammar, etc.) skills. There are 3 types of transcription. These are general, medical and legal transcription. General refers to podcast, videos and webinars that involve seminar, symposium, panel discussion, meeting, etc. Medical transcription is an advance form of transcription. Why? It requires a thorough knowledge in certain field of studies related to health and wellbeing. Examples are drugs, anatomy, medical terminology, etc. Legal transcription is also an advance skill. It requires knowledge in terminology related to Law. In order to learn transcription here is my advice. First, polish your typing skills. Secondly, read a lot of reference materials especially those related to medical or legal transcriptions. Lastly, improve your English writing skills. You will need a lot of patience, reading and studying and continuous practice but it will be worthwhile.

  • Administrative Support

For this type of skill it is commonly known as virtual secretary or secretary. Think about what an office secretary usually do. This will be your role even if you’ll be working remotely on your computer. You must know some basic computer skills. This includes MS Office or Desktop Publisher. Organizational and multitasking skills are highly required. Sometimes you’ll be talking to your client’s associates so proper phone etiquette is needed. Writing is also required since you’ll be assigned to write minutes of meeting, letter, etc.

  • Social Media

Managing a social media account is also profitable online. Social media are websites that fully enhanced social interaction online. This includes Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin or bookmarking sites like Reddits, Pinterest and Digg. Managing social media requires a thorough knowledge about it. You will be required to update a client’s social media. Updating means posting content, link, like, tweet, reply, message, etc.

  • Web Research

This is also known as internet research. Basically, you will be researching certain topic required by your client on the internet. You will input the data of your research either on a Word document or Excel spreadsheet.

  • Technical Skills

Knowledge about Graphic Design and Photoshop, Web Design, html are some of the most common sellable technical skills. Graphic Design and Photoshop requires a passion in creating art. Most of the time, you will create banner, logo, editing photos, etc. Web Design is a highly profitable technical skill. It requires certain knowledge especially in html. You will build or create a website for a product or services of your client.

Before You Start Selling Any Skills
First, you must assess your skills. Grab a pen and paper or open your computer’s Notepad or Sticky Notes. Brainstorm what skills are you capable of doing. If you can do one or two of the skills stated above, jot it down. It is advisable that you offer a gig that you’re truly passionate about. Why? It will be beneficial for you and your potential client. I believe that if you’re passionate about something, you will do your best to accomplish the job.

After listing all the skills you are passionate about consider this. Within your listed skills what possible type of skills that you can offer? Write it down. For example, you assess yourself and you realized that you are good in writing. Possible types of skills in writing are article, press release, or eBook. After your assessment, start practicing. Continuity is the key in order to master it.

Remember this golden rule. “Never ever sell a skill that you aren’t capable of doing.” Because if you do, this will have a lasting negative impact to your client. It will lead to having a bad reputation and lesser profit.

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Thank you for reading this. Hi! I'm Paul. As a seasoned virtual assistant, I'm privileged to help you start up your own work-from-home business. I'm here to share with you my knowledge towards becoming a successful virtual assistant. Follow me or pose your point of view about this blog post on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

Case Study #1: An Abused Child and a Poor Priest

Writing a Critical Press Release

Have you ever been approached by your client to write a press release? I mean not just an ordinary press release to promote a product, book or website. By writing a press release, there’s a possibility that you’ll get involved.

Honestly, I’m not a top caliber author, writer or journalist. I’m just an ordinary blogger with poor command of the English language. One day, the client accidentally browsed my ‘old’ hi-stat blog named Pa Ul on the web. He got impressed with its simplicity and content. Because of this, he sent an email inquiry about writing a press release. Since I’m a freelance virtual assistant, I responded and accepted his terms and proposal.

The Client
The client is an American Catholic ordained priest. For privacy reasons, let’s keep it by the name as Father Paul. The priest has been assigned somewhere in the Far East. He serves his priesthood for many decades at a local seminary there.

The Problem
Father Paul, the client, stated bit by bit his case via email. To support his concern, he sent some documents such as videos, photos and forms. According to Father Paul, the child was being abused by the mother so he entered the scenario. For a few weeks, he took care of the boy. He provided him some shelter, food and clothing. Eventually, he felt a ‘fatherly love’ to the child. So, he decided to talk to the mother about his plans. He wanted to adapt the boy. Throughout their conversations, the mother eventually agreed.

One day, unexpectedly, the mother of the child retracted to their agreement. According to Father Paul, the mother made up some accusations about him. The way I understand his concern, he is being legally sued for pedophilia by the mother.

He wanted justice and eager to prove his innocence. The case was under evaluation by the local court at that time. In spite of this, he thought of sensationalizing his case through media. He produced and published some videos and articles on the web. Now, he wanted to have a press release in English and a local language. He’s planning to send this to a local media publication.

How I Resolved This Problem
“I’ve written some press releases but not like this one,” I said to Father Paul. I explained to the client, the priest, that this will be my first to write something serious or critical. “If I accept his offer I will be involved,” I said to myself. “I haven’t decided about it yet. I’ll let you know.” These were my last messages at that time.

After 2 days, I messaged the client and decided to write the PR. Why? “Putting myself into your shoe made me decide that I should help. Though I haven’t seen the other side of the story yet okay I’ll do it,” I said. I also said that, “I have faith and believe in your sincerity and honesty.” I hope he understands what I mean about that.

Outcome
Father Paul and I agreed to some terms. In 2-3 days, I’ve sent the press releases both in English and a local language to him. I have second thoughts if I should share the PRs or not. But some of this blog readers and followers insisted. So, here are the PRs ‘Young Boy Abused - Rabbi to the Rescue' and in Philippine Tagalog 'Bata Biktima Nang Pang-aabuso - Rabbi Sumaklolo.’ He was impressed with the two written press releases. Eventually, he sent the PRs to a local media publication there.

The following month, the priest updated me about the issue. This time he requested me to write an article. So, I’ve written the article ‘Injustice for a Poor Priest' and send it to him. “This will be send to a newspaper company,” he said.

I’m in luck and still haven’t heard of a court message yet till now. Since then I have no idea what happened to the case of Father Paul. Perhaps I’ll follow up on this soon.

If you were in my situation, what will you do? Will you accept the offer of this client or not? Why?

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Thank you for reading this. Hi! I'm Paul. As a seasoned virtual assistant, I'm privileged to help you start up your own work-from-home business. I'm here to share with you my knowledge towards becoming a successful virtual assistant. Follow me or pose your point of view about this blog post on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

The Work Station

A kitchen is for a chef. A laboratory is for a scientist. A clinic is for a doctor. Almost every professional that we knew have their own work space. For a virtual assistant, this work space is called a work station.

WHAT IS A WORK STATION?

A work station is simply called as a work space or workstation. A workstation comprises of a desk and a computer. This can be as simple as a small table with a laptop on top. Or, an expensive piece of furniture or metallic design with hi-tech useful accessories.

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IMPORTANCE
A work station is very important to any professional individual. Why? Without a work space, every job can easily be messed up. A chef will be unable to cook savory foods without it. A scientist won’t be able to complete a laboratory experiment. A doctor will be having difficulty diagnosing a patient’s sickness. As I’ve said, every working individual has his own work space. This is where all jobs get done easily or effortlessly.

Productivity
As a virtual assistant, it is very important to have your own workstation. Without it, you won’t be able to complete a job assigned to you. You can easily lose a client because of this. You won’t get hired again, as a result. This will also projects unprofessionalism and lack of initiative. It will also reflect poor productive output on your part as a VA. Poor productivity or production means poor quality work resulting to low income or profit.

Comfort
A work station is a place of comfort and convenience every time you perform a job. Emotionally and physically, having a simple work station will lessen stress or health issues. Without it, emotionally you will feel agitated and irritated resulting into emotional instability. Some examples of which are anxiety, depression and anger. Physically, you will feel signs and symptoms of body aches and pains. These are severe stress, fatigue, headache, dizziness, muscle cramps and aches, muscle and joint pain, hypertension.

Reflection
Having a comfortable work station reflects that you are professional. You are doing your profession with pride and dignity. Even though you’re only working at home, you value your work as a VA. Having without, it only means you are unprofessional and untrustworthy.

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TYPES
There are various types of work station that you can choose from. Choosing the perfect work station depends on the size of your work space. These are network, armories, modular, ergonomic and portable.

Network
This is only advisable in office setting. It comprises of a desktop with LAN connection. It is not advisable at home since you are working alone. If you have 5 or more associates working inside your home then you need to have a network work station.

Armories
This armory work station is preferred for home use. Why? Your computer is hidden inside a well-crafted shelf. Other computer gadgets are placed inside a decorative drawer.

Modular
This comprises of interchangeable units. It has shelves, drawers, space for a computer, writing and meeting. Since you’re working alone inside your home, a modular work station isn’t highly recommended.

Ergonomic
It is highly desirable to have an ergonomic work station. Why? As the word ‘ergonomic’ implies, it highly prioritizes your body’s comfort zone. The desk and the seating are designed per body’s comfort. These are adjustable in terms of height or position.

Portable
One of the major issues for most VA’s is space. Some of us live in bungalow, condo or apartment where space is a major issue. A small and lightweight portable work station is what you need. It is highly mobilized and can easily adapt according to your work space.

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CREATING YOUR OWN
Do you have your own work station? If no, now is the time to have one. How? Basically, you need a desk and a computer. By definition, you already knew what is a work station. It comprises of a simple desk and a computer. A simple desk should be suitable enough to place your computer. The size must be appropriate enough to fit into a room. This must be exactly as to what you really need. It must be sturdy enough to hold other things. It must have compartments to place important documents, pen or paper. There are varieties of ready-made desks from home depots. Take note of this advice before buying one. As I’ve said, “It must be the right size with compartments and sturdy.” If you don’t want a pre-made desk, hire a carpenter or foreman to make it.

Lastly, you need a very reliable computer with a dependable internet connection. A computer can be a desktop or a laptop. It is recommended to have the latest computer model but not necessary. You can always rely upon your old computer. As long as the internet connection is fast, devices, tools and software are working properly it is okay.

Other things to include are useful accessories such as computer and office accessories. Computer accessories are keyboard, modem, headset with mouthpiece, speaker, printer, mouse, mouse pad, cables, CDs, wiring and extension cord. Office accessories are pens, coupon bonds and paper. You can always include a clock, books, and your mobile phone or tablet. Always keep a tissue, hand sanitizer solution or alcohol inside your drawer or compartment.

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DOS AND DONTS
Discipline is the key to a successful virtual assistant career. In conjunction to having discipline is that you are able to implement and follow certain rules. Some of which are as follows:

Dos

  1. Cleanliness. Always keep your desk, chair, computer, accessories and other things on your work station clean. It is good for your health and well being.
  2. Organize. Do organize where to place your computer and other stuffs especially the wiring. Through this, you can easily have access to it. It will lessen the occurrence of accidents like fire caused by faulty wires or possible injuries.
  3. Keep it simple. Only keep things on your work station that you truly needed.

Don’ts

  1. Clutter. Do not damp so many things on your work station. It must be kept simple, well organized and away from destructive things.
  2. Food. It is not advisable to place food on your work station. It can destruct your concentration or thoughts while doing your job.

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WORK PLACE
In conjunction to a work station, you need a work place. A work place is a dedicated space inside your home. It can be a room or a corner in your house. This must be spacious enough to place your work station. There must be no destruction to alter your concentration while working. As a virtual assistant, you will be working at home. So, you need to find a suitable work place inside your home. The kitchen, dining and living rooms are not recommended. Why? Because of so many possible destruction that might affect your work. The destruction can be as simple as opening and closing of refrigerator. And to extreme extent, loud noise coming from your entertainment set.

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CONCLUSION
Having a reliable work station and work place is very important. Through these, any VA can easily do the job. It can also leverage your professionalism despite working at home. With this, you’re able to boost productivity for yourself and your clients.

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About My Work Station

My own personal work station is a cheap sturdy ready-made desk with a drawer and upper and lower compartments. On top of it are my laptop and other stuff above. Underneath is another compartment where I put my books and printer. It is located at a corner inside my room. Here’s a photo of my workstation.

How about you, what is the look of your work station? Share it with me and I’ll be glad to see it.

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Thank you for reading this. Hi! I'm Paul. As a seasoned virtual assistant, I'm privileged to help you start up your own work-from-home business. I'm here to share with you my knowledge towards becoming a successful virtual assistant. Follow me or pose your point of view about this blog post on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

The last words I wanna hear from a client are ‘good job.’ The least are @#$%!^&)&*

– Paul Hafalla

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Thank you for reading this. Hi! I'm Paul. As a seasoned virtual assistant, I'm privileged to help you start up your own work-from-home business. I'm here to share with you my knowledge towards becoming a successful virtual assistant. Follow me or pose your point of view about this blog post on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.