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How to get creative with content

How to get creative with content

Content is King

There’s a saying in business and marketing that “content is king”.

It might have been Microsoft’s co-founder Bill Gates who first coined the phrase.

There’s a lot to be said for it – though maybe today it should say “content is queen”.

Whichever way you prefer, there are bags of common sense behind the phrase.

For the smarter-working VA, content is your ally.How to get creative with content

And it’s your friend in two distinct ways.

Firstly, you can use it to build up your portfolio of marketing materials, sometimes called marketing ‘collateral’.

The great thing is you can chunk up and chunk down to create a valuable bundle of content for building your VA business.

Let me show you what I mean.

You could create a checklist – perhaps of things to look out for when hiring a professional and reliable VA.

Write a couple of paragraphs about each point on the checklist – to say more about each one – and you have a summary guide for a pdf.

Add more detail and some examples and you can turn that into an eBook – which could be used as a lead magnet, a free giveaway or a bonus gift.

You might even create a little sales brochure, to tell people about the services available and highlight what you do so well. That’s another pdf right there.

That’s the chunking upside of things.

Very quickly you have built up some resources for marketing yourself.

Some VA’s won’t bother or they may not do themselves justice with the content. If you do it well, you’ll automatically be at the front of the field.

And another benefit of creating guides, eBooks and reports is this.

You can chunk down.

The content in your guides, eBooks and reports – sometimes called ‘pillar’ content – can be broken up into smaller pieces.

Use the words and images to create any or all of the following:

🌹 Blog posts

🌹 Infographics

🌹 Videos (share the written words on camera)

🌹 Emails

🌹 Social Media posts, e.g. for Facebook, Instagram or LinkedIn.

Maximise the value of the content you create.

Repurpose. Revise. Re-use.

And there’s a second distinct reason why content is your ally.

How to get creative with content

Creating content for your VA business can be used to impress your prospects and clients.

You can show them what you are capable of producing. Demonstration and illustration are powerful forms of persuasion.

You can talk to your clients as an expert or specialist.

You can guide and advise them on how they could use the content for their business. If they like what they hear and don’t have an in-house team, guess who they are most likely to ask to take on the project?

That’s right. You.

It’s all perfectly possible when you know what you are doing with Microsoft Office 365.

A good reason for making sure your “how-to” skills in the different applications are up to the mark.

You don’t need to know every single thing that Word, Excel, PowerPoint or Outlook do.

But it does help to know how to do the most essential and most commonly-used tasks.

That’s what you get with my series of online training courses.

Clear, step-by-step guidance as if I am by your side.

Learn when you want, where you want.

Pay once and enjoy lifetime access – refresh your memory whenever you need.

If you’ve been thinking this is the year when you really ‘go for it’ I have designed these courses with you in mind…

… the smarter VA who wants to save time and earn more.

Here’s to your success.

How to get creative with content

P.S. Remember,
you can browse my range of courses here
or go for the complete set in the Tomorrow’s VA Hub, dubbed by clients ‘The Full Monty’, and save more time and money.

P.P.S. Either way, you get lifetime access. The advantage of ‘The Full Monty’
is you never pay a penny or cent again… and ALL new courses are added automatically to your account for FREE. For life.

How to Be a Greener VA

How to Be a Greener VA

Go Green

You can’t seem to escape the phrase climate change on the news these days.Climate Change

Those terrible fires in Australia. The big floods in Dubai and Indonesia. The severe storms sweeping across the UK.

With more and more focus on climate and the environment, there is plenty about the subject in the media. And I read an article the other day which caught my eye.

In the piece, Microsoft says it aims to be ‘carbon negative’ by 2030. That means removing more carbon from its activities than it emits each year.

Which sounds like quite a challenge.

I’m not an expert but my understanding is that carbon emissions are one of our planet’s biggest problems.

Carbon in the atmosphere builds up a blanket of gas that traps heat – and warms up our planet. This is changing the world’s climate. Many scientists are saying we have to act now or the consequences could be dire, irreparable, catastrophic.

The loss of forests, woodlands and trees is also a big factor in what’s happening to landscapes across the globe.

World leaders are being challenged to do more to tackle the problems.

Microsoft is in a position to make a stand and it looks like it has ambitious targets beyond 2030 as well.

And it’s not just the big corporates looking at green matters.

It feels like growing numbers of people are asking what they can do, as individuals, to help protect the environment and save our planet.How to Be a Greener VA

As a VA, you can also play your part.

In fact, as a user of Microsoft Office and 365, you probably already are.

By using the applications and embracing the electronic and digital age, you are helping the planet.

🌟 No need for sticky notes (use OneNote).

🌟 No need for staples or paper clips (file and organise your documents online).

🌟 No need for highlighter pens (you can highlight text or data in Word, Excel, etc).

🌟 No need for flipcharts (you can use online collaborative and sharing tools)

🌟 No need for unnecessary travel. (Working ‘virtually’ means you can communicate easily with clients and prospects. It reduces the need for in-person meetings, car or train journeys, flights, packaged food on the go, and so on). Use Microsoft Teams for client meetings and calls and client documents.

Here are some other ways to do your bit for the environment. Some simple. Some more involved.

  • Use 100 per cent recycled paper
  • Use remanufactured or renewable ink cartridges
  • Recycle your old desktop computer, laptop, tablet or mobile phone.
  • Switch to an energy supplier for your home or office which supports renewable energies like wind and solar (up to 100 per cent green).
  • Consider adding solar panels to the roof – to reduce (possibly to zero) your electricity bills. This may be a decision for your workplace or office manager if you work in a building.
  • Encourage your clients to do their bit for the environment – share some of the tips you use.
  • Specialise in providing VA services to businesses with strong green credentials. You may even find it helpful to promote yourself as a ‘green’ VA.

We’re probably not quite at the paperless office stage in the business world but every little helps.

The more you use what Microsoft Office and 365 can do for you, the less reliant you will become on traditional stationery.

Not only saving on your business expenditure but a move towards a more modern and sustainable way of working.

If you want to get the most out of your Microsoft Office applications get your skills up to date.

I’m here to help you with that.

Browse the complete range of online courses here or head for ‘The Full Monty’ box set to cover all bases.

And do let me know of any tips you have for helping to minimise our impact on the planet.

To your greener VA success.

How to Be a Greener VA

Why Clients Love Quality Street

Why Clients Love Quality Street

Sorry, I didn’t mean to mention chocolate.  

But there’s a colourful analogy to share which may help you develop your VA career and business. Why Clients Love Quality Street

Picture a box of Quality Street. 

The flavours of the tiny chocolates inside can be recognised instantly by their shape and the colour of their wrapper. 

Everyone has their personal favourites. 

So many to choose from, including Strawberry Delight. Toffee Finger. Caramel Swirl. Chocolate Coated Fudge. The Green Triangle (Hazelnut Noisette). Coconut Eclair. Orange Crème.  

Which of these do you like best? 

It’s also fair to say many people have at least ONE flavour in the box that they do NOT like – or would rather avoid. 

So what has all this talk of chocolate got to do with running a VA business, I hear you say. 

I’m going to share this analogy and you can let me know if it makes good sense. 

Imagine the box or tin of chocolates as an assortment of services a client or prospective client might ask a VA to do. 

For example, it might look like this. 

  • Write a report (Coconut eclair) 
  • Create a spreadsheet (Green Triangle) 
  • Put together a PowerPoint presentation (Strawberry Delight)
  • Send  the same message, but customised, to different people (Toffee Finger)
  • Create an Infographic (Chocolate Coated Fudge)
  • Sort and summarise a set of data (Orange Crème)
  • Produce an eBook (Caramel Swirl)

When you first start out as a VA, you will probably find yourself being asked to do a wide range of tasks. 

All the flavours of the tin (those you love and those you are less sure about). 

Clients, fairly or not, tend to have certain expectations. They will want you to: 

  1.  Know the core essentials of Microsoft Office
  2. Be competent with Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook
  3. Understand their brief and be able to deliver on time
  4. Be trustworthy and reliable
  5. Have the ability to solve problems and make their life easier 

It’s a fact of life that some VA’s can struggle at first. They have the heart to do well but not yet the skills and experience to manage or cope. 

In the more extreme cases, clients find the person they hired goes AWOL and incommunicado. 

That’s definitely not good for either party. 

Sometimes it just means VA’s are working all hours under the sun – often juggling that with raising a family as well. That can leave even the most motivated professional short on sleep, energy and focus. 

The VA market is expanding and the number of professionals offering services is rising. 

How you start and serve your first few clients can be the difference between sadness and success. 

Reputation in this business is everything. 

The way to become competent, confident and calm under pressure is to learn the necessary skills. Get to know the basics inside out so you don’t even have to think about how to do it. 

That’s what I teach in my online training courses for Microsoft Office. 

When the ‘how do I do that?’ is answered and in the bag, you can focus on making the best job of each task. 

And you’ll know the most efficient way to work – creating more time to impress your clients or make space for more business. 

That’s the smarter way to go. 

As your clients get to know what you can do (and how well you do it) they may see that you are particularly strong with specific tasks or types of work. 

You, too, may notice there are things which you love doing most or excel at. 

This may lead you to becoming more of a specialist VA. 

The expert at spreadsheet analysis. 

The expert at report writing. 

The expert at infographics and graphic design. 

The expert at creating social media posts. 

The expert at collaborative communications. 

You may find your clients (or yourself) choosing selected wrappers from the chocolate box. 

And having to deal less often with the flavours least to your taste. 

Wherever you are at and in whatever direction you choose to go, one theme must run through everything you do. 

That theme is quality. 

To your VA success (whichever street you are in). 

Why Clients Love Quality Street

P.S. If you are keen to improve your skills, take a look at my range of online training courses for Microsoft Office. 

Learn in your own time. Where you want, when you want.  

Lifetime access so you can refresh your mind any time you need to... 

… and if you know you need to cover ALL the essentials in Microsoft Office you may find Tomorrow’s VA Hub (also known as ‘The Full Monty’) is right up your street. Quality, of course, guaranteed. 

The Ready-Reckoner for Tasks

The Ready-Reckoner for Tasks

As a professional VA, you can get asked to do many things.  

But you may find you are given – and enjoy – specific tasks within the spectrum. 

You may use some features and elements of Microsoft Office more than others. 

You mostly likely know how to do some tasks ‘with your eyes shut’ whilst some tasks have you searching online for the ‘how to’. The Ready-Reckoner for Tasks

It’s good practice to review the type of work you are doing and assess for any skills gaps. 

How many of the following tasks do you do for clients or growing your VA business? 

  • Reports 
  • Proposals 
  • eBooks 
  • Letters 
  • Invoices
  • Mail merge – one letter to many people, customised for each individual
  • Mail merge Email – sending the same email to many people in a customised way
  • Writing books
  • Drafting documents
  • Brainstorming and thinking creatively
  • Signing documents – using a digital pen and writing directly on the screen
  • Drawing and Mind Mapping with a digital pen 

If you ticked half or more (or can see tasks you might be asked to do in future) you are in Microsoft Word territory.  

You can get more done in less time with Word with my online courses.  

There’s no fluff or ‘padding’. Just the bits that you really need to know to tackle the most popular tasks. 

That’s Word covered so let me ask you something else. 

Does your client work involve calculations or storing and organising information? 

If yes, these are some of the things you can use Excel for: 

  •  Profit and Loss worksheet 
  • Tracking payments 
  • Cashflow projection 
  • Invoice list 
  • Social Media Calendar
  • Social Media Planner
  • Keeping track of Income and Expenditure
  • Making Lists
  • Contact List
  • Any data you need to sort or filter
  • Making things add up
  • Time tracking 

If you want to excel with Excel, my online courses can help you. Grasp the essentials and pick up some advanced tips along the way. 

Learn at your leisure. Where you want, when you want. 

Spend less time worrying about the ‘how-to’ and more time on serving your clients like a VIP. 

And one of the things you’ll almost certainly end up using is PowerPoint. 

Despite what some people may think, this application is not just for presentations. 

Here’s some of what this Microsoft Office visual creativity powerhouse can do: 

  • Presentations 
  • Proposals 
  • Explaining with Clarity – the slides force you to reduce the amount of text 
  • Infographics 
  • Instagram posts
  • Create anything visual
  • Design blog post cover images to retain your branding
  • Photo album
  • eBook
  • Planner
  • Prepare and rehearse a big presentation 

If you want to power up your PowerPoint skills, I can help with that. 

My online courses give you lifetime access. 

This means you can learn when you want – and come back to a specific task training whenever you need a refresher. 

Creativity is one aspect of a VA’s role. Organisation is another. 

Outlook is the control centre for your emails, communications, calendar appointments and tasks. 

How many of the following do you use in your weekly work? 

  • Communicate by email 
  • Book appointments 
  • Book meetings 
  • Schedule meetings with others 
  • Keep a task list
  • Keep a to-do list by flagging your email
  • Colour code appointments to make them easier to see
  • Manage your client/boss calendar
  • Manage your client/boss inbox
  • Reply to things on someone else’s behalf 

If an online Outlook course could help you get more done in less time, why wouldn’t you take a look? 

The smarter you work the more space there is for your VA business to grow. 

Audit. Learn. Review. 

Repeat. 

The Ready-Reckoner for Tasks

My 7 Step Process

My 7 Step Process

My 7 Step process to keep me on track

In the last quarter, I have spent a considerable amount of time planning and recording videos.

This is how I create my Microsoft Office online courses to help VA’s be more productive and increase their earning potential.

And it was during my most recent recording sessions that I realised just how strongly I rely on my process.

A process which also incorporates incremental improvements.My 7 Step Process

Here’s my 7-step approach.

1. Research – I consider my audience, survey the market, ask questions in relevant online communities and take on board feedback.

This helps me to understand the challenges VA’s face and what courses, training or other support would be of most value to them.

2. Planning – Once I know what course I want to create, I map out the content. I work out what I want each video to cover.

It’s not my aim to cover ‘everything’ about an application. I want to give VA’s the ‘how-to’ for the tasks they are most likely to need to know how to do.

There’s no fluff or waffle. I want to produce precise, specific and high-quality training every time.

3. Set Up – This is about getting the office ready for recording. The desk, chair, computer, lighting, backdrop and acoustics.

I also make sure there are not likely to be any noise disturbances or distractions on the days I plan to record. The sound has to be very good quality.

4. Recording – I know Microsoft Office really well. I should do with more than 20 years training people in it. I’ve also created plenty of online courses.

I tend to create videos of 3-4 minutes each. That seems to be the right amount of time for showing someone step-by-step how to do a task.

However, I will sometimes extend it to 5-7 minutes where a shorter recording would halt the flow of the learner. I’m always thinking about how to make it easy for people to take in the learning.

I do not use a script because it doesn’t sound natural. I talk as I go, showing how to do each task on the computer.

5. Review – I review each recording. This is to make sure I have covered each step clearly and correctly, the sound quality is up to the mark and the video feels right.

When in recording mode, I always feel I am against the clock and just want to power through it. When I was putting together my Teams course I did just one take.

Not having to stop, start or stumble means there’s a good energy and flow to the training.

And, of course, if I’m not happy with anything, I just record it again. It has to be right before it’s made available on the website.

6. Publishing and Promotion – When a training course is ready, it has to be put into the training platform – and featured on the Tomorrow’s VA website.

This allows people to purchase and access the specific learning they want to improve their skills.

I promote the courses in a number of ways as well as reminding them about the opportunity to sign up for ‘The Fully Monty’
lifetime access to all current and future courses in the Tomorrow’s VA Hub.

7. Review – I check all the feedback on my courses. I also reflect on how I manage and produce things. Then it’s back to Step One.

Which reminds me of an important point.

I noticed during my most recent recording sessions that little things have changed in the way I work through my process.

My naming conventions. My planning. The way I do captions.

I’ve also found OneNote to be my absolute best friend when it comes to collecting, collating and organising useful information for my content and courses.

It’s such a good application and so easy to use. If you’re not taking advantage of its features already you should take a closer look.

The general point I want to share is that you should have a process for the work you do for clients.

If you don’t have one, how can you create one? If you do have one, how do you monitor, refine and tweak it for improvements?

Make a note to review things now. And enjoy the process.

My 7 Step Process

7 Tips for a Strong Lead Magnet

7 Tips for a Strong Lead Magnet

One of the tasks you may get asked to do as a VA is create a lead magnet.

7 Tips for a Strong Lead Magnet

This is part of a list-building strategy suitable for most businesses.

You ask people to share their name and email address – and give permission to hear more from you – in return for a piece of valuable content, or ‘lead magnet’.

This allows your business to build a relationship with prospects – and nurture them towards a first sale.

The lead magnet could be a video series, checklist, webinar or other resource. It is, however, more often than not a short eBook or PDF guide.

If you are able to put together good lead magnets you will find businesses keen to put work your way.

They may even ask you to suggest ideas for titles, content and how best to present the information.

Here are seven tips to help you create a strong lead magnet:

Tip #1 – Come Up With an Attention-Grabbing Title

Your lead magnet needs a strong title as much as a sales page requires a powerful headline.

This is a big part of what will tempt people to download it – and provide their email in return.7 Tips for a Strong Lead Magnet

The reader wants to know ‘What’s In It For Me?’ – so a lead magnet should provide relevant tips, advice and knowledge. And this can help you create the wording for the guide’s title.

This really is a topic for a training all on its own but here are some examples to give you some inspiration.

“How to Create a Dazzling PowerPoint Presentation Your Bosses Will Love”

“The Secret to Successful Sales on a Shoestring”

“How To Get Your Business in the Press – Without Paying a Penny for Advertising”

“How To Double Your Income Without Doubling Your Work Hours”

“Seven Things Your Website Designer Will HATE You for Knowing (because it means they’ll have to work harder for your money)”

“OUCH! – The 5 Most Painful Ways to Lose Money to the Taxman (And How to Avoid Them)”

You get the picture.

The title is a hook to draw people in. Then all you have to do is make sure the content inside lives up to the headline act.

Tip #2 – Include a List of Contents

There are five good reasons for including a list of contents. It:

  • Helps people find the information they want
  • Provides a fast-track to precise pages, especially if there’s a ton of content
  • Adds a professional touch – and gives a good impression
  • Gives the reader an at-a-glance summary of the key content
  • Looks good on a page, with enhanced visual appeal to the eye

You can create a template for this and fill in the details (like page numbers) when you have the complete content done.

Tip #3 – Make Sure The Content is of Value To The Reader

It’s one thing to grab people’s attention with a great lead magnet title. It’s another to get people to read it once they have done the download.

Get used to the idea that some people will sign up for a freebie – and NEVER get around to checking out the content.

But others will read the resource, so you want to ensure the content is up to the mark.

Include a short introduction. Set out your points in a clear, logical order. Match the tips, advice or information to the target audience and their current experience – their problems, their challenges, their issues.

Most importantly, show how the content you are providing can help them with these matters, even if only in part.

Tip #4 – Use Simple Words and Short Sentences

Even if the lead magnet is aimed at a corporate or business audience, keep your content easy to read.

Use simple words instead of long ones, where you can. Only use technical terms or jargon if it is relevant to the reader. And explain what they mean if it helps people to understand. Don’t assume people will know.

Use short sentences. It makes it easier for people to read.

A simple way to know if a sentence is too long is to read it out LOUD. Notice your breath, where the pauses are and how the words flow. Adjust and edit if necessary.

Use short paragraphs. Ideally, no paragraph should be longer than five lines on the page. A reader faced with a big block of text may not be encouraged to read it.

Tip #5 – Use Images

You don’t just want great content for your lead magnet. You want it to look good, look professional.

Using relevant and good quality images can help. You might want something for the front cover, or a picture of the author(s), or a visual to tie in with information being shared in the copy.

Also consider whether charts, tables, graphs, illustrations or a cartoon might help to present the information or make a point.

Tip #6 – Have an About Page

It’s a good idea to include a section about the author or organisation who is putting out the lead magnet.

This helps with credibility, trust and connection with the reader.

It gives people an answer to the question “Why should I listen to you?”

Keep the copy short and to the point. The reader doesn’t want ‘War and Peace’.

If you’re not sure what to write, just go to a book store and see how authors are presented to you. Take a few tips from the crisp and catchy bios on the shelves.

Tip #7 – Include a Call to ActionLead magnet

The primary aim of the lead magnet is to get new people on the mailing list – so you can carry on the conversation with them.

So the resource you give away for free is largely about providing the content you promised in return for the reader’s details.

But it doesn’t harm to make an invitation or offer inside the lead magnet. As long as it is relevant to the audience and appropriate for the type of document. For example, you might not include it in a research-focused White Paper report (though you could if you wanted to).

Your call to action should be clear and simple.

One offer. One or more ways to take that offer up (e.g. via phone, email, website).

You could invite people to have a free consultation with you. You choose the amount of time… 60 minutes, 40 minutes, 20 or 15… that you want to give.

You could ask them to book a paid session or a review (e.g. Social Media audit, website review, IT audit, copy review or training skills assessment).

If you’re creating a lead magnet for a client, remember to ask them if they have an action they would like the reader to take.

And there you have it.

Seven quick tips for creating a solid lead magnet – for clients or for your own business.

Do tell me how you get on.

7 Tips for a Strong Lead Magnet

P.S. Have you heard? I have an online course called Creating E-books and Lead Magnets in Word. It’s where I guide you step-by-step so you can start doing this kind of task with your eyes shut. (Well, you know what I mean).