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The Rules of Collaboration

The Rules of Collaboration

Upgrades, updates and new features.

As a trainer in Microsoft Office there is something I always keep my eye on.

For example, in Excel there is a now a function called Sheet View. You may not have heard of it yet – it’s currently only for 365 subscribers who use the application on the web.The Rules of Collaboration

But it’s a small feature with big thinking behind it. Microsoft is really focused on some specific things at the moment – and one of those is how to make collaboration between people easier. This new Sheet View lets you create customised views of Excel workbooks without disrupting others. It’s a respectful way of working.

And this feature got me thinking about the wider picture.

If you are working with clients, you may well find yourself collaborating with them – and their teams.  Whilst the technology is all there (and improving at a rapid rate) you have to remember the human element.

People work with people. And it’s important to be able to ‘get on’ with each other.

If you are collaborating on a project with a client, it makes sense to set some ground rules. This is especially the case if you are going to be sharing access to – and updating – workbooks or files.

Here are some tips to get you started

✅ Agree how things are going to be done so everyone is clear from the beginning.

✅The client may have a way of doing things. You may have a way of doing things. Work out something that works for both parties.

✅ Set up a protocol for how information will be shared, so it is safe and secure.

✅Understand the ins and outs of how the software allows people to collaborate. That way you can work efficiently and avoid potential pitfalls.

✅ Be prepared to take the lead on that, especially if you are confident with Office 365 and its collaborative tools.

You can even let clients know about collaboration features like Sheet View when they are rolled out across the board.

Working in Excel

Let’s say you are working with Excel in a shared workbook. With this feature you can work with the data and choose whether any changes you make are seen by others, or only by yourself.

You can get on with your tasks without it upsetting the work of other people who may also be working on the file.  It’s a nice little touch so keep an eye out for it.

If you’re someone who likes to stay on top of things, your knowledge of the latest tweaks and upgrades in 365 may be better than that of those you serve.

You can use that both to your advantage and for mutual benefit.

Working with Client and others

Working as part of a Team is something that we do on a regular basis, whether that team is made up of you and colleagues or you and clients. Microsoft has a product called Microsoft Teams which facilitates teamwork. You may have come across it. With Microsoft Teams you can :

✅ Create a Team

✅ Communicate within the Team using:

💡 Chat

💡 Online Meetings

💡 Video Calls

💡 Audio Calls

✅ Share Files

✅ Collaborate on Documents

✅ Take the noise out of your Inbox

New – How to Use Microsoft Teams

I have just released my latest online course – How to Use Microsoft Teams. Where you will learn how to use all the features as a freelance worker, whether that is as a VA with a team of VAs or with your clients. I use it every day with my VA and it is a game changer. So much easier to communicate and things are much clearer. We both know exactly what has been done or asked.

You can find the course here How to Use Microsoft Teams   

Early Bird VIP Discount – you will see that there is a 10% Early Bird Discount – available until 12 February when it will go up automatically. If a course on Microsoft Teams has been on your wishlist – now it the time to act!

Here’s to successful client work and collaborations.

The Rules of Collaboration

P.S. Of course, if you want to make sure you have ‘the knowledge’ on Excel, you can view my Excel online training courses.

If you’re yet to move over to Office 365, or just starting with it, you might find my Running Your VA Business set-up training really useful.

P.P.S Grab The HUB ( otherwise known as The Full Monty) for the best value. When you recognise the value of investing in your own personal development the HUB is a no-brainer and the prices go up across the site on Feb 12 2020

Getting Your Pricing Right as a VA

Getting Your Pricing Right as a VA

Rates – Pricing – what do you charge?

One of the hardest things when you become a VA is to decide what rates you are going to charge. The important thing is not to short-change yourself and instead consider the value you add to your clients.

You can charge by the hour, per project or through a monthly retainer.Getting Your Pricing Right as a VA

It helps to know what you can do – and how long various tasks are likely to take you.

This all gets easier over time.

You get to know what tasks you are best suited to (so you can promote those more strongly in your marketing).

You learn to track your time and get to know precise (and approximate) times for how long it takes you to do specific tasks.

You become more productive as you get to know the time-saving tips and tricks of your computer tools and applications.

Use Excel to help you work out the numbers.

Create a spreadsheet and list all the common tasks you get asked (or may get asked) to do by a client.

Assign each task a time you know or think it takes to complete it. You can segment them if it helps to build a more accurate picture.

For example, for proofreading a document you could break that down into (i) proofread 10 pages, (ii) proofread 20 pages or (iii) proofread 30+ pages.

Create a column for ‘Quantity’ (the number of times that task is needed) and one for ‘total hours’.

When a client asks you to work on a project you can quickly calculate how much of your time it’s likely to take.

If you work on an hourly rate, you can then multiply the ‘total hours’ by the hourly rate. That gives you the likely fee you should charge.

It’s just a short step up to using that information to create a proposal (should one be required) with a neat, professional document.

And, of course, you can use Excel to record your money in and your money out.

What should you list?

When you are self-employed, freelance or running your own business it’s worth remembering what you may have given up from when you were working in a company:

  • Holiday pay
  • Sick pay
  • Maternity leave
  • National Insurance and tax sorted for you
  • A desk, stationery, phone, photocopier, fax and other equipment
  • Petrol and mileage
  • Rent
  • Utilities including broadband, phone lines, water, heating, electricity
  • Free coffee and tea
  • Training, network meetings and Personal Development
  • Guaranteed hours
  • Security of income

If you work from home you will have overheads to cover – your phone, broadband, heating, water, lighting and electricity, plus all your stationery.

It’s important to weigh that all up when you set your charges.

And, of course, if you offer specialist VA services – such as website tech or Social Media marketing – you can add that into the money mix, too.

Using Excel can help to work it all out so you know where you are – and can set your charges with confidence.

How do you decide what to charge? Do let me know in the comments below.

Getting Your Pricing Right as a VA

8 Excel Functions Every VA Needs to Know

8 Excel Functions Every VA Needs to Know

When you think of the changes in technology it’s easy to be seduced by the latest shiny new thing. Yet when it comes to handling numbers and data the King and Queen of applications is still Excel. It’s hard to believe the program is more than 30 years’ old.

The Mac version was launched in 1985 – the same year as BT announced it was getting rid of the UK’s famous red telephone boxes, and the same year the UK’s first-ever mobile phone call was made.

Windows gained Excel two years’ later – the same year as the UK saw its first female Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, the same month as T’Pau were topping the UK singles charts with ‘China in Your Hand’.

Excel was born to last the distance.8 Excel Functions Every VA Needs to Know

It helps you create and manage lists, use checklists, track expenses or events, make stuff add up, analyse data and make sense of information with ease.

Excel can work really hard on your behalf. I haven’t counted them all, but I’m told there are more than 500 functions available in the application. And I believe it!

For today, I’m just going to mention 8 functions which you’ll probably want to know about if you don’t already.

1.Paste Special

Copy and paste is one of the simplest and most used functions in Excel.

But in the process, you may find you carry over a format you don’t want or copy a formula over when all you want is a value. And to put that right takes up a bit more of your time.

Enter Paste Special. It allows you to pick up which bits of the copied cell you want to bring over. Neat and precise.

2. Add Multiple Rows

I’ve seen people who add new rows between existing rows, line by line. They clearly are not aware of the “Ctrl, shift, +” shortcut or another little trick for speed.

3. Flash Fill

This Excel function automatically fills your data when it senses a pattern. For example, let’s say you’re entering a series of product numbers, all starting ‘TVA’. You type ‘TVA00001’ in the first cell of a column and for the next cell down you only need to start typing the number… the ‘TVA’ prefix gets added by magic.

4. SUM

This is probably one of the first things you’ll learn to do in Excel – how to add up items in a row or column. But have you discovered the neat shortcut to speed the process?


This is the simple way to get yourself out of a jam. It’s Ctrl Z, of course, to undo mistakes in Excel. Use Ctrl Y to do the opposite, i.e. redo. A handy little safety net for those over-eager keyboard fingers.

6. Freeze Panes

You know when you are scrolling down a large table of data and you cannot recall which columns are which? That’s the time to use Freeze Panes. It allows you to freeze just the top row, first column or any number of either, so you know exactly what relates to what.

7. The F4 Button

You can use this button to toggle you through the various options when creating an Absolute Reference. You can also use it to repeat your last action, where the function is available. As an example, if you’ve just applied a border to one cell, use F4 to apply it to others.

8. CTRL + Arrows

Stop scrolling and scrolling through your data. You can use this shortcut to take you instantly to where you wish to go – to the end of a row, end of a column or the very end of your file. (Just mind if you have gaps between data).

Each of these time-saving functions can make you more productive – not just for simple tasks but also on more complex ones. It pays to know how Excel works and what it can do for you.

How many of these are you already using? Hit reply and tell me your favourite!

P.S. And, of course, if you want to be more productive with lists, expense tracking, sums and working out what the data really means you can take one of my online courses.

The Essential Excel Skills for Business covers… well, the essentials! There is a Windows Version and a Version for Mac.

You may also be interested in my Excellent Spreadsheets

8 Excel Functions Every VA Needs to Know

Virtual Assistants – How to print titles on every page in Excel

Print Titles on Every Page in ExcelPrint Titles

I am sure that this scenario resonates with you. You have just finished doing a whole lot of data entry for a client. It is a really long list. Now you just need to print it off for whatever reason.

The only problem is that the heading or title row does not print on every sheet of paper, it prints only on the first!

How do you make it print on every page?

Print Titles

Print Titles is how, and for those of you who are Mac users, this works the same on Windows and Mac.

Start off on the Page Layout Ribbon (same on Mac)

Click on the icon labelled Print Titles

Print titles

In the dialogue box that pops up, click into Rows to Repeat at Top and click on the row number of the row that holds the headings (it is not always row 1 – although in my example it is Row 1)

Print titles

Click OK.

Now whenever you print this worksheet, the title row will print on every page.

You can see it here on Page 1 and Page 2.

How is this tip going to save you time? Did you know this already?

To learn more fun things you can do with Microsoft Excel get my course Essential Excel Skills for Business there is a Windows Version and a Mac Version.

Virtual Assistants – How to print titles on every page in Excel

P.S – Have you joined my Facebook Group yet? Hop over there and ask to join. Ask questions, interact with others who have questions and have fun.

8 Excel Functions Every VA Needs to Know

Virtual Assistants – How to sort your data – FAST

You have a mega spreadsheet. Loads and loads of data. It has taken you ages to compile it for your client. As you finish, panic sets in. Adding the data was easy. What if the client asks you to provide it sorted in a particular way?Sort Excel

What is the fastest way to sort your Excel data?

When I teach this in the classroom, I always ask the question – how do you sort your data? I usually get a few different answers.

  1. Select the whole spreadsheet then click the Data Ribbon and the big Sort Button
  2. Select the column to sort by and click Click A/Z or Z/A sort on the Data Ribbon
  3. Click the Sort and Filter button on the Home Ribbon

Then I get someone say, but it never sorts everything. My data is all over the show.

So let’s debunk some sorting myths.

The absolutely fastest and most accurate way to sort a whole spreadsheet by the values in one column is to:

  1. Click into the column
  2. Click on the A/Z sort icon (it is on the Data Ribbon the right click or the drop down on the Home Ribbon)

Sort Exce

Hey Presto! Your whole worksheet is sorted and it keeps everything together.

So to recap:

  1. Click into the column to sort by
  2. Click on the sort icon you like to use.

Did this help? Have you learned something new? How will you use it? Leave a comment below.


P.S – have you joined my Facebook Group yet? Join in and ask questions, get answers and generally interact. See you there

8 Excel Functions Every VA Needs to Know

VAs – Conditional Formatting can show the way in Excel

You are a busy VA – that’s a given! A client has asked you to show her what her data means. What is the top value in the list of sales? Can you see values that meet a condition? Conditional Formatting will show the way.

What is Conditional Formatting?VAs – Conditional Formatting can show the way in Excel

Conditional formatting is exactly that, a format applied that matches a condition.

There are 5 kinds of Conditional Formatting to choose from:

  • Highlight Cells Rules – pick this to show cells that match a particular number/text value/date.
  • Top/Bottom Rules – pick this one, for example, to find the Top 10, Top 10%, Bottom 10 or Bottom 10%.
  • Data Bars – these shade the cells based on top and bottom values, so the greater the value the more shading in the cell. You can pick the colour scheme to suit.
  • Colour Scales – use Colour Scales to apply a scale from smallest to largest and set what each colour means.
  • Icon Sets – Use Icon Sets to show crosses and ticks, traffic lights etc as symbols in the highlighted cells.

Create your own rules

You can also create and apply your own rules to automatically change the formatting of cells based on the contents.

Where does Conditional Formatting live?

You will find Conditional Formatting on the Home Ribbon. To use it, first select the cells you want to apply the condition to and then choose the type of condition to set, followed by the format you would like to see.

Conditional formatting

  1. Select the data
  2. Click on Conditional Formatting
  3. Select the type of formatting

Once you have decided which of the formats to use, you can then drill down and specify the exact format you want.

For example, if I want to see Total Sales at Koffee Island above £900 I will choose the Highlight Cells Rules and then Greater than, adding in the amount I want it to look for and setting the format.

Conditional Formatting

Have a play with all the different types of Conditional Formatting, you will be amazed at how easy it is to spot patterns and get information from your data when you can visualise it.

Change the background fill of a cell

Your client has asked you to create a workbook or worksheet for her. She wants the background colour of some of the cells to change based on the text typed in or a number entered. For this you will need to create a custom rule.

Use a formula to control conditional formatting

To add conditional formatting to show a range of colours – I have a list of rooms names Red Yellow and Green and I would like the fill colour to change according to the name of the room. This is handy if you need to keep a visual track of room bookings for example.

Change the colour fill

Conditional Formatting

I applied three formats to the cells one on top of the other.

If A2:A10 contain the word Red apply Red formatting

If A2:A10 contain the word Yellow apply Yellow formatting

If A2:A10 contain the word Green apply Green formatting

Apply the first condition

Conditional formatting

Select the cells to which you want to apply the conditional formatting and then click on Conditional Formatting and select New Rule.

Format cells that contain

Conditional Formatting

In my example, I selected Format only cells that contain

Then picked Specific Text from the drop-down list

Added the word Green in this case

Set the format by clicking Format and going to the Fill tab to pick the colour.

Repeat for the other conditions

Go back and add the other two rules to the selected cells. Remember to change the criteria for each accordingly.

Now test your rules! Type one of the words into one of the cells that you selected when you started and watch the background colour change!

How did you find this tip? How will you use it? Leave me a comment to let me know.

To learn more about Excel you can take one of my Excel Courses, there is one for Windows and One for Mac.

Find them here : Courses

Or get in touch if you would like to work with me one to one!

VAs – Conditional Formatting can show the way in Excel