Monday, December 7, 2009

Tavasa Logo Competition

Design a new logo to reflect Tavasa in 2010 Competition.
Competition closes 25th December, new logo to be presented on 1st January 2010, there will be an article about the designer and on why you choose the design which will be featured on Tavasa, website/blog and we will send out as a press release and submit as an article on many sites online giving good exposure to designer.
Anyone can do this in ms word/powerpoint, paint or desk top publishing software. You can send as many entries as you like. Entries to be submitted to or can be sent to myself/Gaynor. We welcome all entries.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Wanted Translators - Transcriptionists with african lanaguage skills

Tavasa requires transcriptionists and translators in the following african languages: Zulu, Xhosa, Sotho and Tswana. If you have these skills please email your CV to

Friday, November 13, 2009

Local Virtual Assistant and TAVASA comoderator Alision Fourie receives International Recognition from Industry Leaders Worldwide

Contact: Alison Fourie
Tel: +27011768 5028
Fax: +27 086 514 8475

South Africa – Alison Fourie, owner of AMF Typing Services cc announced today that she has qualified for the new worldwide Virtual Assistant Certification from is the new standard for Virtual Assistant Certification which clients worldwide can use to benchmark the services they are looking for in a Virtual Assistant (VA). The first internationally recognized VA certification, offers a carefully calibrated and unbiased assessment of a VA's skills, education, professional experience and industry contributions to gain business owners' confidence in the skills of certified VAs.

To qualify for the certification, Alison was evaluated by 13 industry leaders and specialists from the four corners of the world on a broad spectrum of personal and professional traits pertaining to her expertise and professional ethic.

Alison is one of thousands of Virtual Assistants (VAs), business owners who work from their own offices providing professional support , services and skills to their clients via phone, fax and Internet-based technology. Partnering with a VA reduces stress, protects cash flow, eliminates administrative hassles and enables business people to find the success they originally set out to achieve.

As more and more businesses look toward affordable, online solutions to sustain and grow their bottom line in a tough economy, Virtual Assistants are enjoying increased demand for their services. For business owners and managers who may have considered outsourcing support tasks to a VA in the past but could not justify the understandable risk of hiring an unknown, VA certification provides an assurance that the VA in question has the skills and experience needed.
Alison specializes in typing and assisting new VA entering the industry and is a home-based administrative professional providing various online services to her clients. She started her Virtual Assistance career in 2001 to be able to assist clients with office administration and typing and to assist newbie Virtual Assistants entering the industry and to spread the word about the industry around South Africa.

Alison commented: “My certification is important to me as I feel I have the experience, skill to be able to assist clients worldwide. I feel I can make a difference to new VAs coming into the industry by showing them how to get to the position that I am in now, I believe in sharing my experience with others to assist them so they won’t make the mistakes I made coming into the industry.”

For more information about AMF Typing Service cc visit Alison is also comoderator of TAVASA, whose blog you are reading and whose website can be found at

The seal of approval tells prospective clients that a global panel of experts has thoroughly reviewed a Virtual Assistant's skills, experience and professional ethic. To learn more about becoming a certified Virtual Assistant or to discover the benefits of hiring a certified Virtual Assistant, visit

About AMF Typing Services cc.
Launched in 2001, AMF Typing Services cc specializes in typing and office administration. Visit the website at

About VAcertified is the go-to resource for Virtual Assistants who want credible, unbiased and international recognition for their skills, education, professional experience and industry contributions. Devoted to creating and growing a certification program that embraces diversity, strives to enhance and evolve professional relationships between VA and client. Follow ( @ ) VAcertified on Twitter for up to date information about this worldwide certification for Virtual Assistants.
For more information contact:
Tawnya Sutherland
Toll Free: 866-943-6665
info ( @ ) vacertified dot com
Follow ( @ ) VAcertified on Twitter

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

A Day in the Life of A Writer - Damaria Senne

Today we are honoured to have a guest post from the acclaimed author Damaria Senne.
She works as a freelance writer, producing copy for a number of corporate and goverenment clients including case studies, news articles, profiles, press releases and in-depth reports.

Previously, she worked as a senior journalist writing for the daily online news publication of an IT website as well as weekly and monthly magazines respectively.

Her long-term goal is to write non-fiction books on how ICTs impact on how people work, play, communicate, learn and form relationships.

She is also a published children's author and creative writer, with a number of books and contributions to anthologies. She plans to continue writing children's books and other works of fiction.

Without further ado: A Day in the Life of a Writer, by Damaria Senne.

A Day In The Life Of A Writer: The Balance Between Building A Following & Delivering A Good Product/Service

It’s a warm late Spring afternoon – the sun is shining, the birds are singing, and Edward and Hayley, my chow-mix dogs, are taking a nap on the floor in front of my office door.

I still have a lot of writing to do today, but I feel like it’s been a good day and I’ve been productive because, it’s a little after two, and I’ve already updated my personal blog, wrote and published five posts on the OneLove campaign web site and initiated some discussions on the Kwanda and Read SA fan pages on Facebook. I’ve also posted two author profiles on the Read SA web site[these profiles will go live later in the week] and visited and commented on most of the blogs I follow. And my day is only half-way through.

This is not the routine that I envisioned when I first wanted to be a writer. Back in those days, when I was a little girl, I dreamt of spending the whole day writing novels, uninterrupted. I could create my characters and settings and situations, tell my stories, edit then and send them to my agent, who would then take up the responsibility of selling to publishers. I had the romantic view that once the books were published, the publisher would have the sole responsibility of promoting them. I didn’t look forward to having to go on an author’s tour – that would take me away from my office, and my writing and my books. And maybe there are authors who are so wildly successful that they don’t have to promote their works, because they have a horde of fans waiting for their next book. Nora Roberts, anyone?

But, you can bet your life that in the beginning, the famous authors also had to lay the foundation. They had to balance writing their guts out, with promotion. They had to build a following one fan at a time. And that’s where I also need to start. And where you also need to start, whether you are starting a writing/blogging/small business.

You need to find the time to do many of marketing activities which build the foundation of your business with delivering a very good product, and do so consistently. You need to connect with people, tell them about your business and make sure that your name is top of mind when they need services you can provide.
And where possible, you need build a captive audience, so that people who like you have a mechanism to come back to see what you’ve been up to and buy your services and products. Once you have won over their confidence, you will be able to tell them about what you’re selling daily/weekly/monthly, and it’s not a cold call/hard sell, because you already have a relationship.

And if they like you/your products and services, they will tell their friends about it, growing your fan base with little effort on your part. I was very shocked by how fast writers, editors and publishing professionals signed on for the Read SA campaign [568 fans in about six weeks]. But a large part of that was because there was an existing need, we were clear about how people who want to be involved could sign on, and current supporters were happy to tell people about the campaign.
Alison and Gaynor have also done really well building a captive audience through their discussion list. The list attracts transcription and VA professionals, and also builds their credibility in the eyes of the client. Because surely someone who can help newbies learn the business would also be able to apply those teachings in their own business?

So my challenge to you is this: what are you doing to build a following for your services and products?

Read more from Damaria Senne on her blog

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Working from Home in the Czech Republic by Pearl Harris

Today we have the pleasure of a guest post from the accomplished author, second language English teacher, proofreader and editor, Pearl Harris who has recently written a book "From Africa to Bukova"

Born within sight of the red sand dunes of the Kalahari, PEARL HARRIS lived most of her life in South Africa, until taking the drastic step of emigrating with her husband, Ian, to the Czech Republic (with their Labrador and cat).

Teaching English as a Foreign Language to the Czechs—a new career for the author—has its joys and trials, which Pearl shares with the reader in "From Africa to Bukova".
You will also learn about her early childhood on an isolated South African farm and about her British Settler ancestor who chose to emigrate from England to Africa as a 19-year-old, spending the rest of his life in South Africa.

Pearl’s travel articles have been published in South African magazines, "Diversions" and "Your Family", and in Czech magazines, "Lifestyles" and "Bridge", as well as on the websites, and

Pearl taught English at the České Budĕjovice branch of POLYGLOT from 2002 to 2007. At present, she works from home as an English teacher, proofreader and travel writer. The Czech Republic has become her permanent home.

Working from Home in the Czech Republic
Pearl Harris

Nearly eight years ago, my husband and I emigrated from East London to Buková, a tiny village in South Bohemia, near the Czech border with Austria.

I started off teaching English (EFL) at a private language school which was situated 30km. from Buková in the city of České Budějovice. Teaching was the last career I ever wanted to follow, but this was the only employment available to someone without the slightest Czech language ability.

English is in great demand in this country, especially since its inclusion in the EU. In former days (the communist era lasted for 40 years) only Czech and Russian were taught at school. Czechs were not allowed to travel and were totally isolated, so now there is great hunger to learn English as an international language.

In South Africa, I worked as a Radiographer and later as a Medical Transcriptionist for Radiologists. The latter work was particularly stressful as I worked under extreme pressure in a very busy X-ray dept. of a private hospital.

I had to type at such a rapid rate, for so many hours on end, that I developed osteo-arthritis in my fingers!

Before leaving S.A., Ian and I did a crash course in TEFL at the Cape Town TEFL Institute, so that, when thrown in at the deep end of teaching here, we had a slight inkling of what it involved. I taught for five years at the private language school, travelling to and from České Budějovice at unearthly hours—in snow, blizzards and pitch darkness in Winter. My students were mainly adults who attended classes either before or after work, hence the awkward teaching hours.

By 2007, deciding that I had had enough of teaching, I resigned from the school, but kept teaching a few private students who came to our home for lessons. This was so much easier! I then wanted to develop my proofreading business, which had been a mere sideline, due to the fact that I was spending most of my time teaching and travelling!

I found a great demand for English proofreading. This is because Czech to English is translated mainly by Czech speakers, there not being anything like enough English native speakers sufficiently fluent in the impossibly difficult Czech language! Therefore, the English translations are anything but perfect –as is to be expected when one is translating into your 2nd or 3rd language!

Today, one still sees hilarious translations on some restaurant Menus and online. Many translators still mistakenly consider themselves good enough not to warrant any proofreading. However, fortunately for me, there are many today who realise they do need proofreading in order to produce quality translations. This has been especially noticeable since the Czech Republic became a member of the EU and recently held the Presidency.

I began by advertising on an Expats website, which chiefly serves the expatriate community in Prague. Many employers advertise on this site for English native speakers. In this way, I slowly built up a regular clientele. The average fee for proofreading is 100Kc per norm page (1800 keystrokes) – which is about R50. For more specialised texts, the fee may be up to 180 Kc (R90) per page.

I often proofread texts for university students and lecturers. Many theses and academic papers today have to be published in English. Further, I do regular proofreading for “Statuss”, which is an upmarket mag. catering to the elite, published in Russian, Czech & English. I also proofread for an agency which publishes monthly business magazines in English.

Now that my time is my own, I have been fortunate in being able to develop my travel writing too. My articles are published on the websites: and as well as in “Bridge” a Prague magazine for High School English students, and in the South African, “Diversions”. So I am fortunate in being able to combine my love of travel with earning something back after our travels.

Ian and I are both keen photographers and usually illustrate my articles with our own photos. Living in Central Europe is such a huge bonus—however, we never have enough time or money to travel as much as we would really like to!

In December, 2008, I finally went the self-publishing route and published my travel memoir, “From Africa to Buková”, through (See details below.) The book deals with individual funny, not-so-funny & frustrating incidents during our early years as immigrants in the Czech Republic. I would ideally like to rewrite and polish it, but that will have to wait until (if ever) I get a regular publisher interested!

I send my chilled greetings to all the VAs in sunny South Africa!

Pearl Harris.

Book From Africa to Buková

may be ordered online from:
OR Books
by contacting Pearl Harris at

Friday, October 16, 2009



Thursday, October 15, 2009

Urdu typist.

Hi everyone, just a quickie.

Lesley is looking for someone who can type in Urdu - please contact her directly at

Wednesday, October 7, 2009


Ali and I were discussing time, or rather time constraints today and I've just come up with the following little verse:

Johnny and Baby had the time of their lives
Troy and Gabriela asked what time is it
Brad and Janet warped time ... again ...

But at Typewrite Transcription, time is measured in audio hours and minutes,
Time is of the essence: essential.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Virtual Services for the 2010 soccer world cup.

Hi everyone,

This is just a very quick call to anybody who may need virtual services during the 2010 soccer world cup in South Africa. Journalists, publications, business people, from South Africa and around the world, TAVASA is a group of VAs and transcriptionists and other professionals in South Africa and we can assist you with your virtual requirements. Everybody is welcome to contact us.

Friday, September 4, 2009


Hello everybody,

There’s something happening in our industry that has been boiling under for the past decade or so, and every so often it raises its ugly head. In the past week, it's raised its head and shoulders too.

In many places on the internet I’m seeing posts from a certain rival virtual association organization. I have two problems with that:

1) They are telling blatant lies, particularly that they are the first VA membership organization – of course, they are not.
2) The grammar being used in these internet posts is terrible, and to me that flies in the face of what they say they are trying to achieve, and of what I know TAVASA is trying to achieve – proper standards in our industry.

I’m going to quote a forum post of theirs, which I have just come across, with every error highlighted and below I shall put comments:

They wrote: “Aaron, you are quite right. Virtual Assistants are not bound by geographical boundaries and can do work from any location for their clients based anywhere in the world. Although Virtual Assistance is one of the fastest growing industries worldwide, it is a fairly new concept in South Africa. Very few people here knows about (1) the term much less about what VA's (2) actually do.

Our organisation focus on "education/spreading the word" (3) in South Africa about virtual assistance and the benefits that it can have to clients as well as prospecting (4) VA's (2). We basically (5)
- assist people in SA who wants (6) to enter the VA industry with the necessary information on how to start their own VA business and also support existing VA's (2).

- have a database of professional SA VA's (2). Thus if someone wants to make use of a SA VA we provide a RFP service and assist them to find a suitable VA. Since VA'(2)s in SA pricing/rates (3) are not yet as expensive as VA's (2) from overseas , we receive quite a number of international requests for VA's(2).

Virtual Assistance in SA(although in its infancy) (7)is an open, growing field as more and more people with administrative experienced(8) are looking for alternative opportunities and businesses realise that outsourcing is actually a good business strategy .

Well, to make this long story short , our main focus are really (9)to build the VA industry in South Africa.”


(1) Incorrect usage of plural – should read: “Very few people here know about …”
(2) Incorrect usage of apostrophe – an apostrophe denotes either possession or contraction. Neither is the case here. Should read: “VAs”
(3) Incorrect usage of the backslash – should read: “education / spreading the word”
(4) Incorrect usage of verb – “prospecting” refers to something one does on the mines. I assume what should have been used here is “prospective”
(5) Omission of colon – should read “We basically:”
(6) Incorrect conjugation – should read “who want”
(7) Omission of space – should read “SA (although”
(8) Incorrect tense – should be present tense and read “experience are”
(9) Incorrect conjugation – should read “our main focus is really” …

9 basic errors repeated over and over again in a short forum post – my mind boggles when I think of the fact that this organization charges VAs in South Africa to be members, when they can’t write a simple forum post grammatically. You are going to tell me that they are not native English speakers. Shame. Errors like this may be acceptable in letters or emails to friends. When they are put on a public forum, and the people posting state that they are representing the virtual industry, it’s not on. We’re professionals and we have to write accordingly.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

VA Organisation Fees

Hi I want to talk very briefly about VA membership fees for organisations. Please be careful with this one, check out exactly what you will get for your membership fees, make sure it worth it for you, check out with other members of that organisation how they feel about their fees and if its worth it for them and that way you will get a good idea whether its worth it for you.
Tavasa is free for membership and will remain so, we are not here to collect and make money from you, our aim is to help and assist you as you need it, you need your money for other things within your business. Our aim is to pass what we have learnt to you to help you, weve been there, done that, so if we can stop you doing the wrong thing we will, we are very knowledgeable in this industry and share that knowledge with you.
Check organisations thoroughly before just handing them your membership fees. If you feel you cannot check out an organisation please ask us as we know most of the organisations in South Africa and overseas and know which are the best to join and those who are not.
Check out the information that these sites are offering you being a member as most information is available for free via the internet its a case of looking and finding the information and approaching more established VAs who could help you with this information for free. Tavasa is a great place to look online in our Yahoo Group we have folders of information available for free. Templates can be found via the internet and as I say above and also from established VAs who might be open to sharing her info with you. All these methods are worth trying before taking up paying membership fees.
It is worth taking up membership fees for some overseas sights which do offer Job Leads and various things, but be careful here as well and check with your more established VAs which are the better sights to join.

Regards Ali

Friday, August 28, 2009

TAVASA Daily Quiz

Hi everybody,

I'd like to invite you to come and participate in our daily quiz:

Play every day, and if you win the month, you become the champion and you go on the reoord as the month's winner! It's a lot of fun and a nice thing for TAVASAites to do together, come and join in and have a go.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Being a VA to the Visually Impaired by Tanya Joubert

I want to start differently to how most articles start. Acknowledgements are normally done at the end of a script, yet I want to start mine with an acknowledgement to a dear friend, interesting client, valued mentor and also my role model should I ever become visually impaired or blind. I drafted this article and then ran it past her to see if there were any items that she felt I did not address correctly and this gave way to a whole new understanding of the clients that I serve. Thank you Melette, once again you made all much clearer.
The term 'different needs' rather than 'special needs': Although 'special needs' is the politically acceptable term, people who are impaired in any way do not necessarily have special (specialist) needs, perhaps just different needs. Needs that you and I most probably can offer without any special training.
In a world that is becoming more and more inclusive, it is highly likely that you will encounter a person with different needs in the working environment. Gone are the days, hopefully, where people looked upon persons with disabilities with a preconceived idea that they are unable or will be unable to perform whatever task may be presented to them. Persons with disabilities have proven that they too, can be indispensable in the right positions.

Perhaps they were the first to use VAs?

Personally I am thinking that perhaps it is people who are visually impaired and blind who possibly first started using virtual assistants. However, this is not a researched fact and merely my impression when I work with a client of mine who is blind and has been blind since his 4th year. He has been using virtual assistants for the past 10 years, and although he still refers to them as personal assistants, they were virtual especially when his previous VA started using a computer.

Dr William Rowland has been in various positions such as being the President of the World Blind Union, Chairperson of the International Disability Alliance, director of various local organizations and definitely somebody who knows finance and how to turn a coin. At the age of 69 he is still a formidable person who still holds many influential positions locally and internationally.

Is working with the visually impaired so different?

He is but one of my special needs clients and specifically clients with visual disabilities. So what is special about working with somebody who cannot see, and how to deal with it ...

The biggest stumbling block is most probably the fact that when we meet somebody who has a disability we tend to treat them with pity and often we take the position of making decisions on their behalf. This is the most important lesson to learn; you may have the eyes but the decisions still lie with them.

Whose decision is it anyway?

A particular example of this would be when a blind client forwards you a slideshow or any type of file that is inaccessible to them, asking what it is. Some documents are not accessible to people who are blind, who are computer literate and use the advanced technology available, and many of the junk mail being sent around is in just such an inaccessible format. To me and you it is time wasting nonsense, blocking our inbox, however it is for them to decide that. You have to inform them of the content and not as once happened in an office setup, the casual inadvertently deleted it as she felt it was rubbish without telling the manager what it was. Needless to say he was extremely upset.

The same would be if you would ever be in the situation where you assist a person who is blind in their own environment sorting out their paper mail. A marketing letter from the bank, might to you be a waste of time, but to them it might be interesting or might boost their general knowledge. You are not to tear it up without their consent or prior agreement as to what you are supposed to do with such mail.

Why would this be such an extremely important point? When working with people who are sensory disabled, especially those who are not only blind but perhaps also deafblind, accessibility of information is extremely limited and therefore it is important that whoever works with clients or friends of this nature respects their need for information even if you think it to be trivial.

Technology and the Blind

To many it is still a foreign concept that blind people can actually work with a computer. However, they can actually do this quite easily, furthermore many of the older blind people do not exactly have a computer as we know it, but specially designed adaptive technology/devices such as BrailleNotes, BrailleLites, PacMates which can assist with the downloading of text mails and reading of text documents.
It is important to note that people who are blind or visually impaired are very much like abled bodies. Some have special skills and some don’t. Some can work on computers and some don’t.

Those who use computers may use screen reading software or a braille display. Assisting them with computer related problems can be very difficult, especially if you are used to others keeping quiet when you are speaking. Screen reading software just carry on talking as the person who you are assisting is moving through the menus and doing what you tell them. It takes getting used to and not all the shortcuts work the same, but it will be to your benefit if you learn how your client’s technology works to understand what their circumstances are.


One of the biggest issues that we can assist people who are blind with is to make sure that the documents that they have to work with are accessible to them and also accessible to those who must read it. This will also mean that in certain cases you have to create documents in duplicate – one for your client who is blind to be able to read it in their own time on their own computer or even for them to have it brailled, and another which will be presentable to visually abled people and thus presenting a professional image of your client who is blind.

It is interesting to note that it is the easiest thing to prepare a simple document to be brailled. Just lose all the pictures and save it in a text format without the flashy stuff, convert tables using comma separators and if you follow these extremely basic and raw guidelines you will already be a big help to any person who is blind.

Does this mean that they cannot present neat documents on computer? No! It does not mean that at all. In some cases they are very able to do this, but in some other cases, especially when information must be put into tables or when spreadsheets must be used, it is trying for some of them and may take just so much longer. Therefore it is more productive to use a virtual assistant to assist them with this.

In a Nutshell

Working for people who are blind or visually impaired can be difficult at times, you are challenged with different technologies, and a different view on life and business, but it is very rewarding and eye opening. To them it is quite normal to use a virtual assistant, although an assistant in person is always welcome as well. Like my friend says, I would love to have coffee with you – so then I grab a cuppa on this side of Skype (Boland) and she grabs one up there in Gauteng and we chat across the wired lines about where to go with her business in the next few weeks.

Tanya Joubert
Virtual Office Assistance
Tel: +27 83 510 1181
Fax: +27 86 655 4381
E-Mail: /

Skype: klapperdop

P O Box 844
6705 Robertson
We Offer:

All admin work. Diary Management, Email Management, Typing/Transcription, Etc.

Visit our website at:

Friday, August 7, 2009


Happy 1st Birthday, we are celebrating our birthday with a new website for Tavasa, I invite you to have a look around and let us know what you think.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

The Importance of Procedures

Hi everyone, today I want to talk about the importance of procedures to your business. Procedures are vitally important in any business, but perhaps in a virtual business they are of tantamount importance. A procedure in essence is a plan, and generally speaking, to use the old hackneyed phrase, failure to plan is to plan to fail.I believe any business must start with a business plan. Even if you don't intend to use it to obtain a loan, it would be something that allows you to clearly state your intentions about what it is that you are trying to do. It's a mind clearer. And the natural next step (or even included in your business plan) would be to plan your procedures. This means you sit down and think of eventualities and plan how you're going to deal with them. What are your steps to follow when a query comes in? What are your steps when an order comes in? How are you going to invoice? These are things that, I believe, every newbie VA and transcriptionist should document. Here comes the challenge, though. Your first client comes in, followed by your second, and your third. And suddenly, you're very busy. At this point it is easy to let go of procedures. And this is a danger to your established business. Much as you are tempted to go straight to bed after a 4 hour transcription, do not do so without at least blocking out some time the following day to do your admin. It's important, because doing it regularly does save you time in the long run, and consider that admin left for two or three days, or longer,can begin to make you feel overwhelmed. Procedures can also be revised, as you get busier or add new services or products to your business. But the bottom line is - stick to your procedures.

Gaynor Paynter, Typewrite Transcription and Typing Services CC, Cell: +27834424689, Web:

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Who Are Your Current Blog And Web Site Readers?

One of the challenges of marketing your business online is that it’s easier to attract the attention of your colleagues than it is to attract potential clients.

Many times, I see blogs of virtual assistants whose commenters are their friends and … wait.. let me think about it.... ah.. other virtual assistants. And it’s great that these professionals support each other.

Up to a point.

The problem is that these people are not necessarily the target audience that will BUY your services.

Unless the VA is so successful that she has overflow work that she can pass along, she can only offer moral support (which is no small thing). But traffic from these kind of visits does not largely translate into work that brings in money.

So here are a few questions I would like to ask you:

1. What is the objective of your web site or blog? Is it:

a) A way for you to hang out with other professionals to combat the loneliness of working from home?
b) A tool to market your services and products?

2. What is the content of your web site or blog about? Is it about:

a) How to be an effective VA?
b) The challenges of being a work at home mother?
c) How business can best utilise the services of a VA, the challenges that one faces when making the decision to hire a VA, the process and how to make sure that the relationship is managed effectively??

3. Where do you promote your web site and blog? Is it:

a) VA forums and other places where VAs come together
b) Business sites in general, and specialist sites such as forums for doctors, lawyers, researchers, event managers , HR managers, small business owners and other professionals who hire VAs.

4. Do you get comments on your blogs? If so, who comments?

a) My friends and colleagues who support me
b) My current clients, potential clients, colleagues ( and some friends and family)
c) No one really. Sometimes I feel like I’m talking to myself.

There is no mystery to this short quiz. If your blog is mostly an online journal where you hang out with friends and family ( and my writing blog Storypot is exactly that), then it makes sense for your audience and commenters to be mostly friends and family, with a sprinkling of colleagues.

But if your blog or web site is a business marketing tool, then it would be really disturbing answers for the quiz is not 1a), 2c), 3b) and 4b)

Author Biography

Damaria Senne is a writer based in Johannesburg. Client sites/blogs she maintains include one for the OneLove Regional Campaign ( and the Joburg Centre for Software Engineering.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

My Transcription Ebook.

E-Book “Working from Home as a Transcriptionist in South Africa”! only R120! Contact to purchase.

This E-book is packed with everything you need to know about working from home as a transcriptionist in South Africa. I started out as a transcriptionist in 2005 and I’ve included everything I’ve learned along the way that I wish someone had told me.

How do you get that first client, how do you keep your clients, how do you invoice, and quote? What about where can you find support? What equipment do you need? All this information and more is available in my E-Book. Buy it today. This is information I wish somebody had told me – I would have been able to get going so much faster.

These are my tried and trusted methods. There are many American transcriptionist guides but “Working from Home as a Transcriptionist in South Africa” has challenges and obstacles all its very own and answers particular questions faced by South African Transcriptionists.

Which other author will happily provide after sale support to you about how to get into the transcription field after you have read the book?

Buy my book today!! Much cheaper than other shorter publications on similar topics.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Disappearing transcriptionists / VAs

Hi guys,

I know I've blogged about this before, but disappearing subcontractors never cease to be a bug bear to me. Thank goodness, it hasn't happened to me in a while, but it's been happening to a friend of mine and I thought I would just remind everyone how annoying this is.
First of all, let me explain what I mean by 'disappearing subcontractors'. You're a subcontractor, more than likely a relative newbie to the field. So, you hear of a more experienced VA or transcriptionist company looking for a VA or transcriptionist to help out with massive overflow. "Yay", you think. Money, for an easy job.

Until. The work arrives. And you find it isn't so easy. Or, you find that your internet breaks down or your computer doesn't work, or you can't download the file. These instances are all understandable, and most of us are human. Most of us won't eat you alive if you contact us and say "I have such and such a problem". In fact, many of us will try to assist to resolve the problem. But you don't realise this. Or your best friend has asked you out for a drink and this will mean you can't meet your deadline. "So", you think. "It's not that I really NEED this one little bit of horrid work. I just won't do it." And this is where the magic happens. You bcome the 'disappearing transcriptionist'. You switch off skype, disconnect your email, turn your cellphone off and for all the intents and purposes of the poor old person waiting to get their work back, you disappear.

Now in case you haven't realised, here are the disadvantages to such behaviour.
- You won't get your money for the job.
- It's a small industry. Word gets around.
- The dolly that you just let down has a long memory. She isn't going to employ you again.
- The dolly that you just let down may now have to let HER client down, thereby giving us all a bad reputation.

There are other disadvantages too. So don't do it. And there are advantages of getting through difficult work, too.
- You get a reputation as a person who is committed.
- You get paid.
- You get more work from the dolly you didn't let down, as she can keep her clients.
- You get experience.

If you want to disappear, go to a magic show and be the guinea pig. Don't be the disappearing transcriptionist.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

French transcriptionists

Hi everyone we are urgently looking for French transcriptionists. Please get in touch urgently if you transcribe in French or if somebody you know does, please refer them.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Tavasa 1 year old 8th August 2009

Join us in our birthday celebrations. Watch this space for further news/developments on Tavasa.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Minute taker / recorder

Hi guys,
TAVASA is looking for a minute taker or alternatively somebody who can record meetings (using at least four microphones) IN JOHANNESBURG ONE SATURDAY A QUARTER. IF YOU CAN'T COMPLY WITH BEING IN JOHANNESBURG OR WORKING SATURDAYS QUARTERLY, OR PLAN TO RECORD USING YOUR CELL PHONE, DON'T CONTACT US ....

If you can, then please get in touch with Gaynor - This would be ongoing work.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

A VA for a VA

Hi guys,

I'm sorry I haven't posted in so long. It has been quite a difficult time, what with my husband going down with Hepatitis A and then it being school holidays. With this in mind, what I want to stress today is the importance of having a good support structure in place. It's all very well happily going along as you are, but when things get hard, can you continue running your business the way that you do in peaceful times?

For us who work from home, it's particularly difficult if for whatever reason, we cannot do our work. No sick leave or paid annual leave for us, and for the most part, no other staff to help pick up or slack! So I'd urge you that now is the time to sort out a back up system, if you haven't done so already. Have somebody on standby who can assist you so that in the event of a disaster, your business can still run ... or, should you wish to go on holiday, you still can ...

It's no good waiting until the worst to happen to try to sort something out. Now is when it should be done. It's not only in the case of emergency that we work at homers need support. All too often, I've heard the lament "I just don't have time for myself. I can't get away from my work. My admin takes up every spare second".

So what can we actually do to ease our loads? Consider a concept which I have been turning over in my mind with great interest since it was first suggested to me three weeks ago.

A VA for the VA.

Think about it. Chew on it and mull it over.

Transcription companies have transcriptionists to help them complete their work. VAs have contractors to help them complete their typing work. So why can't it work the other way too? Why can't we use the concept that we use to sell our services to our clients - that having somebody virtual to assist is immensely beneficial, allowing potential clients more time to do their core business - to ease our own load? It's a concept that is taking off internationally and I can't see why it shouldn't work here too.

So - A VA for the VA. What better way for the experienced VA / transcriptionist to mentor somebody else, teach them the right ways and also take a massive load off their own plates? Seems so simple, really when we think about it, doesn't it? And it opens up a whole new avenue of potential employment for newbie VAs, with the added benefit of a first hand teacher, who actually pays you!

So - if you're a VA or transcriptionist with too much on your plate, contact us at TAVASA and we can help you find a VA!

Also note that Alison and I are not looking for VAs for ourselves.

Gaynor Paynter Typewrite Transcription and Typing Services CC Cell: +27834424689 Web: TAVASA Cofounder and Moderator ASK ME ABOUT BUYING MY EBOOK 'WORKING FROM HOME AS A TRANSCRIPTIONIST IN SA"

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Urgent!!! Typing work!!

I urgently need 4 typists who can work in Pretoria South Africa over the days of 6 - 8 July. I've got two, but if you are interested and know somebody else who is then please let me know soonest.

It's a conference that the Department has called in order to update a large document they have. They will have specialists there working with the four typists at the same time. It will probably be 3 x 8 hour days and pay will be R100 an hour, and you can claim for petrol.

Please get back to me urgently.

Warm regards,

Gaynor Paynter
Typewrite Transcription and Typing Services CC
Cell: +27834424689
TAVASA Cofounder and Moderator

Monday, May 25, 2009

Commenting on blogs as a strategy to draw traffic to your own blog

This article aims to give you some tips on how you can use your interaction with Internet users to draw traffic to your web site, and ultimately grow your online community.

Many blogging experts agree that commenting on blogs is an effective way to draw traffic to own blog. In addition to allowing you to demonstrate your expertise giving relevant and useful information, commenting also allows you to provide a back link to your own web site, so that people who like what you said and are curious about you can learn more about it.

So how does this work?

a) Grab the attention of the readers

Use your comments to offer some insight into the issue that is being discussed, so readers become interested in who you are and what you have to say.

Your comments don’t have to be long or complicated; just say what you want to say. Over time, people will begin to recognise your name, and trust your views and opinions.

Some may even follow the link that you provide when you comment to wander over to your web site to find out what else you have to say.

b) Get the attention of the blogger

Blog readers are not the only people who take notice when you comment on posts. The blogger may also find your comment interesting.

This is how you meet and build relationships online. And if your comment warrants it, the blogger may even develop a post around your comment, redirecting their discussion. What it means for you is that this blogger’s readers will be even more aware of you and the link to your web site, and could result in more traffic.

Developing a relationship with this blogger also means that you may be invited as a guest blogger on their site, where you are given an opportunity to say more, impress the readers and win a following for yourself.

c) Create some back-links

When you comment and include your web site /blog URL to your name, you are in effect creating a back-link to your web site, which will slowly help you to increase you Google ranking. This will, in turn, drive more traffic to your web site through Google.

Emailing the blogger directly

I love receiving emails directly from my friends and readers, especially when they write to tell me how much they liked a post I wrote or how the information I provided has helped them. And sometimes, the email is private.

But there are times when I see friends and acquaintances waste a potential back-link by emailing me a comment directly to me, instead of posting it on the web site where it will do them some good.

I get an email of all the comments that are made on my blog, so there is no chance that I will miss your comment if you leave it on the blog. In fact, I will receive the email as soon as the comment is published.

So join in the discussions on your favourite blogs; offer your views and comments. But don’t forget that the ultimately, your objective for being online is to network and meet new potential clients and businesses associates. Make it easy for them to find you.

Damaria Senne is a writer based in Johannesburg. You can visit her personal blog or join her as she builds online communities here and here.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Tavasa Chat Room another Tavasa First in SA

Tavasa Chat Room (this is another Tavasa First in South Africa).

I (Ali) will be in the Tavasa Chat Room daily from Monday onwards 10am to 11am and from 3pm to 4pm, you are welcome to come and ask any industry related questions you need to know, I will try and answer and if not I will come back to you with an answer. All questions and discussions are welcome in there. Find the Chat Room link right at the bottom of the blog, scroll right to the bottom and click on the link.
Its up to you to use the Chat Room, you dont have to wait for me and Gaynor to use it, you can contact a few friends from Tavasa and ask them to join you there for a chat. The Chat Room is set up for you to use as the Tavasa Forum Group.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Website Content Copying

Defend your site with a plagiarism warning banner see above!

Website copying/Plagiarism is something we are going to see happen more and more within the VA/Transcriptionists industry. There is lots more VAs/Transcriptionists around the world now and finding/coming up with original content will not be easy, a lot of content has already been written and coming up with something original will get very difficult.

What I suggest is, when researching the VA/Transcription industry that you check out the different websites/blogs. Then go and write up something completely original from your own mind, as you go keep checking your content through Copyscape, then you will be assured of what your are writing is original.

If you would like to use information from another website, approach that person who has written the piece you would like to copy and ask their permission. When you copy someone else’s work, always place their bio at the bottom of the piece, after all it is someone else’s content and if it is good enough to be copied then they should take the credit and not you, if anyone wants to contact them further about the content.

I do have a clause on the first page of my website stated that permissions have been given for any content that I have displayed within my site. It is polite to always ask before just taking an article or content from someone else.

When you start writing your content, take your time, don’t rush, have an idea of the content you want in your site. Don’t rush to get your website out there, rather take the time and do it right. Your website is a reflection of yourself and your company. Your website has to be able to keep the clients attention long enough to prompt them to contact you further. Your aim is to build your client base for your business, so your content must draw the clients in. Your website is your company advertisement on the internet for all to see, so as you prepare your website think of it as an advertisement to clients. Think as a client and place on the site what you as a client would like to see.

I would advise against placing your rates on your site, your idea should be to draw the client to you and discuss rates for each job, you don’t really know what a job is about, until you really see it. But putting your rates out, there you are committed to what rate is displayed, copy typing is not always just copy, transcription can be messy etc.

On your site you need your contact details displayed, make it easy for potential clients to contact you further.

Once you have completed a draft of your website place it up on Tavasa forum and ask for comment and feedback, rather do this first and get feedback from your peers rather than put the site out with errors and your content not being right. Peer feedback is very worthwhile.

When you write original content place a line of text like I have below to protect against copyright. The number I have used is my company business registration number. This lets others know this piece of content is original.

Written by Alison Fourie, © Copyright 2009 AMF Typing Services cc®, Ck2001/083866/23. All rights reserved.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Rates and 3rd World Countries

I have just seen an email placed on an overseas forum that is going to create a lot of replies and chat on that particular forum.

We have countries in Asia, like China, India, Philippines where new VAs are emerging, they are charging very low prices for their services because of their countries low conversion rates compared to other countries like UK, USA, Australia within the world. It is not their fault they are charging what the going rates are within their country. Where their rates are reasonable to others within their countries, they are not when they start advertising their services worldwide.

The Vas within these countries are not very good using the English language, their skills in punctuation, grammar, spelling are not good. Sometimes they are not as computer literate as the rest of us as their own countries are behind with technology. But nevertheless, VA companies are growing in the Asian countries.

South Africa is looked at as being a 3rd world country, but sometimes I wonder! We are up with the world in technology, sometimes far ahead, with cell phone technology, computers, wireless, ADSL and optic underseas cabling, satelite etc we are up with the best of them. But we are still classed as a 3rd world country and often clients from Australia, UK and USA class us in the same arena as the Asian countries’ with regards to VA and Transcription services.

A quote from Gaynor ‘I think it's a mindset that I would like to change all over the world - stop charging so low and start focussing on quality or get out of the field’. That is her feeling and she is completely right. As she says ‘if we produce quality work we should charge accordingly’.

One thing I do is before quoting to any overseas client. I first check out the rates that are charged for the task in that country the client is from, I then charge our equivalent of that rate. I do a quick currency conversion (Exchange Rates) using the free currency converters and charge the same rate as of the country the work is coming from. We cannot charge a client from the UK, R20.00 per page for typing which say is our country medium price range for this task. It about £1.50p, the client is bound to use your services, it’s cheap, its buttons. Surely we are worth more than that. I am.

Live rates at 2009.05.08 10:35:38 UTC
20.00 ZAR
1.57832 GBP
South Africa Rand

United Kingdom Pounds
1 ZAR = 0.0789159 GBP

1 GBP = 12.6717 ZAR

We look at the UK rate which is around £5.00 per page, we then convert it to Rand value: R64 and that is our price we charge the client. Therefore charging them the rate they would be charged in their own country.

Lay your charge out to the client, in your quote:
£5.00 per page equals R63.

It is fantastic to get overseas clients on your client base but make sure your prices/rates are right and that you do earn and make your money, rather than work at a loss.

All comments on these article would be appreciated be they negative or positive.

Written by Alison Fourie of AMF Typing Services cc

Friday, May 1, 2009

South African Medical Transcriptionists Alert!!

If you are a South African medical transcriptionist wanting to a) contribute to upholding standards and procedures in the industry, and b) have the potential of new medical work from us, then Alison and I invite you to sign up at our forum TAVASA. When you've done so, drop us an introductory mail saying you're an MT.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Medical transcription

As most of you would know, there is more than one type of transcription – transcription disciplines include general transcription, legal transcription and medical transcription. It’s medical transcription that I would like to focus on today, and I hope that this article can be of benefit to potential clients and transcriptionists alike.

I thought that the most beneficial way to address this topic may be in a question and answer format, and I am beginning with the most basic element – to ensure that you understand clearly what medical transcription is.

Q. What is medical transcription?

A. Medical transcription is the conversion of notes recorded by a medical professional (usually a doctor) into a written format. This is usually done nowadays by means of a digital transcriber, which produces a digital sound file which is then sent to the medical transcriptionist (usually, but not always, a contractor from home) to transcribe – although there are still some medical professionals who prefer the use of cassettes. Cassettes can be transcribed either by converting them to digital audio or using a cassette transcriber. These reports are then sent back to the medical professional. The field of medical transcription has grown immensely over the past 15 years and continues to grow today, and medical transcriptionists are now an integral part of the medical community.

Now that we understand fully what it is, let’s look at who would be cut out to be an MT.

Q. Who could be a medical transcriptionist?
A. In my opinion, anybody with who types well, has an excellent grasp of the language they plan to work in, and has good hearing can consider a career in Medical Transcription. In addition, a person who has a medical background, such as nursing, radiology assistant, etc in addition to the above would make an exceptional candidate for MT work. If you do not have good linguistic skills, I would go so far as to say you should not consider becoming a medical transcriptionist.

Now let’s find out how easy it is to be a medical transcriptionist.

Q. How does one become a medical transcriptionist?
A. The accepted and most conventional way to become a medical transcriptionist is to study for it. Although I have no personal experience of them, I do know that medical transcription can be studied in South Africa at Transcribe SA (website Courses can be done online in the comfort of your house or physically, in a classroom, and the length of them usually varies between 3 – 7 months, studied usually on a part time basis. A less usual way of getting into the field could be learning under the guidance of a more experienced MT.

Q. What equipment do you need to be a medical transcriptionist?
A. - Computer and internet
- Headphones
- Speakers (optional)
- Footpedal (optional)
- Dictation playback software

Of course like anything there are constraints facing this field and one needs to weigh up pros and cons.

Q. What challenges face the medical transcription field?
A. Things like Voice Recognition Software, which is making continual progress and other technological innovations such as Google Voice can somewhat prove to be thorns in the side of the medical transcriptionist. However, I do not believe that the software is anywhere near good enough at the moment to replace the medical transcriptionist. There will always, I believe, be a need for human input (and this is another place where your grammatical training comes in) to ensure that contextually and grammatically everything is correct.

Consider for a moment the nature of medical dictation, and you will understand why I recommend studying to be a medical transcriptionist. Medical terms can sound very similar yet have entirely different meanings and indeed the use of them in the wrong context can have dramatic consequences – for example, the words “hypoglycemia” and “hyperglycemia” sound almost the same but have vastly different meanings – the former means “low blood glucose”, and the latter “high blood glucose”! So why experience, qualification and a bit of ‘savoir faire’ is essential to be an MT, and TAVASA has a number of highly qualified, experienced medical transcriptionists on board! Contact us today ( .

Please if you are copying or rewriting this article, credit me, Gaynor Paynter, as the author and give a backlink to TAVASA’s blog at

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Now is a good time to start up your work at home business



Gaynor Paynter
Owner: Typewrite Transcription and Typing Services CC.

Gaynor Paynter is a writer and transcriptionist living in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Many people will ask how it can be true that now is a good time to start up a work at home business from home, given the fact that there is a world wide global economic crisis, and jobs are beginning to be lost both in South Africa and internationally.

Let’s take a closer look at the scenario. From the employer’s perspective, they can no longer afford to keep full time staff. That means that many support staff will have to be let go. However, the employer still has a business to run. He is busy trying to keep his clients happy – but he has let his secretary and all his support staff go, and now he is sitting with all his administrative tasks on his lap and no time to do his core business. He has bookkeeping that needs to be done, typing that has to get out, his reports need to be transcribed or lunch to be prepared for his client – and there is nobody to do it. The answer lies in outsourcing his work. This is one reason why now is a good time to start up your work at home business.

From the employee’s perspective, he is not sitting in a pretty position at all currently. Companies are downsizing, short time is being brought in country wide, staff are sitting idle at companies doing nothing. Futures are very uncertain. All the while there is the employer above who needs his administrative tasks done. There’s a variety of options for the employee. Businesses can be started up on a part time basis – I began mine at nights while working full time during the day. Employees could sit down with their bosses and discuss potentialities – if there is going to be short time implemented, then you could start your business on the days that you are not going to be at the office, or if the boss foresees retrenchment in a month or two’s time, then wheels must be put into motion to start your business now.

Decide carefully what type of industry you want to get into. We’ve discussed briefly above what services employers are going to require. I believe that some services are more essential than others and that these are the ones which businesses will flourish in. For example, everybody needs their accounts done, but while flower arranging may be nice, it’s perhaps not the most necessary of services. Depending on your experience and what you wish to do, fields that you can start businesses in include:

- Bookkeeping
- Catering
- Virtual Assistance
- Proofreading
- Writing
- Transcription

I have written an ebook, “Working From Home in South Africa as a Transcriptionist” which retails for R120, and explains the ins and outs of how I started my transcription business.

Gaynor Paynter

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Working from Home as a Transcriptionist in South Africa Ebook - R130

E-Book “Working from Home as a Transcriptionist in South Africa”!

This E-book is packed with everything you need to know about working from home as a transcriptionist in South Africa. I started out as a transcriptionist in 2005 and I’ve included everything I’ve learned along the way that I wish someone had told me.

How do you get that first client, how do you keep your clients, how do you invoice, and quote? What about where can you find support? What equipment do you need? All this information and more is available in my E-Book. Buy it today. This is information I wish somebody had told me – I would have been able to get going so much faster.

These are my tried and trusted methods. There are many American transcriptionist guides but “Working from Home as a Transcriptionist in South Africa” has challenges and obstacles all its very own and answers particular questions faced by South African Transcriptionists.

Buy my book today!! Much cheaper than other shorter publications on similar topics. or 083 442 4689.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Rates / Pricing

When you decide upon your rates at the start of your business, you need to realise that the following must also be reflected in these rates:
Electricity you will use,
Printing cartridge
Your Skills and experience
Your time etc
Your Company expenses.

See what the going rate is within the area you live, find out the rates countrywide by asking various VAs/Transcriptionists to comment and give you a rough estimate. I know a lot of Vas want comment on this, but you will find the more established VAs will. A lot of people are frightened to give out their rates as they think you are competition and you will then charge cheaper and get the work. This is not always the way things work. Do not undercut others or charge too low as it is bad for the industry as a whole, it sets a precedent and you will find it hard to charge higher rates at a later stage. Your rates themselves are an indication of the service you provide
• higher rates reflect that you take pride in yourself and your service and provide quality
• lower rates reflect that you are just going to rush through and move onto the next thing

Yearly you should be increasing your rates to keep up with inflation; after all you are running a business and prices increase continually.

Before you open up your doors to clients, you need to have a basic set up of rates for each service you are going to offer. With these basic rates, you can then look at each task as you receive them and then estimate a price based on clients location, race, size of task, deadline, and requirements of the task. Then charge accordingly. I have a basic rate but very rarely charge that rate, as I look at client circumstances first and look at the job that is required of me.

You need to be running your business making profit, if your rates are too low, you will not do this and then what is the point of doing this! Every job you get in must be worth your while to do, you are here to help you as well as the client. And charging low rates is not always the way to getting the client. Clients look for service, quality, presentation, your skills and experience and the clients like to know what they are getting for their money, they like to get their money’s worth.

Do not tell me clients want pay. That is nonsense, it is up to you to show the client what you can do and they will pay. Clients pay me and some of my rates are very high, but then clients know the services they will be getting from me. If clients can pay me then tell me, why they want pay you as I am interested in knowing. It is all about service and quality in the end.

Written by Alison Fourie © Copyright 2009 Tavasa. All rights reserved.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Portuguese Transcriptionist

Hi guys I'm urgently looking for someone to transcribe in Portuguese. If you can or know somebody who can please contact me urgently, Gaynor at

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Newbies - dealing with clients

Newbies: Dealing with Clients

A lot of newbie Vas and Transcriptions have a Secretarial background, so should be used to dealing with clients...

• The quicker you reply to an email, sms, fax or query from potential clients, the more likely you are to secure that client.

• Clients must be treated as equals, you are both on the same level, and you are providing them with a service they require.

• I learnt very early on in my career to provide a quality customer services and I have always done this with my clients. I treat each client as if they are my only client and they know I have a lot of clients, but I make them feel special and make them feel as if their work is very important to me and I would say that clients appreciate this.

• Never try to sell a service to a client that you cannot perform, the client will immediately pick up on this and very soon you will be caught out. Only offer the services that you have experience in.

• Be confident in your approach with potential clients, the more confidence you show in knowing what you are doing, this is again a way to bag the client.

• Show an interest in getting to know your client, ask for company profile, company website so that you can see what that client does, that is a great help when sending out emails, doing PowerPoint presentations and doing press releases for clients and it shows you are interested in knowing more about them.

• You as a VA or Transcriptionist should be the one who gives your client a rate for the job, not the client. You should be able to negotiate on deadlines, as you know how long jobs take to do. The client does not always know and often it is the case in transcription. The client has no idea how long it takes to transcribe an hour’s work, but you do. If the deadline is not reachable negotiate with the client and tell them it is unmanageable, be honest up front, never be afraid to approach a client, you are on equal terms.

• Do not address clients as Sir, Madam, and Mr Brown etc; address them by their first name, as they do you. You are working with them, not for them, the way you address the client makes a difference in how they will treat you and the level in which they converse with you on.

• VAs and Transcriptionists are Business Owners, so make sure you portray this to prospective clients.

If you need help or assistance in dealing with clients, please approach us at Tavasa. We have lots of experience in dealing with all types of clients.

© Copyright 2009 Alison Fourie, Tavasa. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Climb Every Mountain - you can handle the challenges facing you.

Hi guys

I know that times are difficult for a lot of people. Many of us are facing difficulties in our lives, financial and otherwise, that perhaps we didn't know last year we were going to face, and we're not sure how to deal with them. Sometimes it can feel like we're heading into unchartered territory and it can feel overwhelming.

Now is a time to remember the old adage, to forgive and forget, do unto others as we would have them do unto us - and keep at the forefront of our minds that most of the world is going through some kind of stress.

It's nice to know that we have caring friends and family - so much support is needed right now, for ourselves and for others. The message I want to get across to you is that if we look deep enough inside ourselves, we have the strength. There is so much untapped resource inside the human race and it's time for that resource to come out. Turn off the noise, the unnecessary outside static, focus on that which is important - look deep inside yourself and you will find the strength you need.

To end, the lyrics of the age old song:

From the Sound of Music Music by Rodgers and Hammerstein
Climb every mountain, search high and low
Follow every byway, every path you know.
Climb every mountain, ford every stream,
Follow every rainbow, 'til you find your dream!

A dream that will need
all the love you can give,
Every day of your life
for as long as you live.

Climb every mountain, ford every stream,
Follow every rainbow, 'til you find your dream!

Transcribing and Translating from France!

Christiana Asante is a self-employed French and English transcriptionist with a translator’s background. Born and raised in an English-speaking family, but educated in the French language and according to France’s education system, Christiana has been exerting herself for the past five years, using her language advantage, for the sole purpose of delivering accurate transcription and translation services to the world. She presently resides in Ghana, a West African country which is exclusively enclosed by Francophone States, and where she is able to provide her services from her own office located in the country’s first industrial city, Tema.

1. Please give me full name and contact details including email / website

Christiana Asante
P.O. Box TT 582, Tema N/T – Ghana
Office Phone: +233 22 300 267
Cell Phones: +233 28 709 1260 / +233 28 954 4008
Skype ID: Christiana-Asante
Yahoo ID: christi.translation

2. Tell us something about your background, where were you educated?

I spent most of my childhood living in the Republic of France, where I also began to receive my formal education. Just three years before the start of the new century, my family decided to settle in Ghana where I now live and render my services from, and so I came along.

3. How did you come to be a French / English transcriptionist working in Ghana? It sounds like you have a very interesting background and we’d love to hear about it in as much detail as possible here!

A couple of years ago, as I had just embarked on my translation career, I was searching and bidding for open projects on various freelance job portal sites. Because I had signed up to accept instant e-mail notifications relating to French and English translation tasks specifically, I got the opportunity to apply to transcribe a several hour French recording. Before that, I did not know about transcription and its benefits for both clients and contractors, so I had to do a brief research on the topic. That is when I learned about the different types of transcription, and that is how I came to be interested in this somewhat challenging industry. Also, it did not take me long to figure out that I could easily work as a transcriber while still living in Ghana. If it was possible for me to render translation services to individuals and agencies on the other side of the globe, then there was no reason I could not also establish myself as a bilingual transcriptionist, and thus complement my plan to remain self-employed.

4. What constraints face you regarding facilities etc in Ghana?

Ghana is still a developing country, and so as years go by, the utility infrastructures and – more importantly for me – the telecommunications infrastructure, among other things, continue to witness significant improvement across most of the regions. This is definitely good news for a person like me who relies considerably on technology to reach international markets where I can exercise my talents. But I think some of the major constraints that Ghanaian contractors face today include the lack of dependability as far as getting access to power supply. In addition to that, the cost of high-speed internet connection remains excessively high. Nonetheless, in comparison with many other African countries and developing States as a whole, Ghana can still be considered a fairly good place to outsource transcription and translation work.

5. You come across very professional, what measures do you take to overcome constraints you face in Ghana (eg when South Africa started experiencing severe power cuts, we bought lap tops, UPSes etc in order to continue being able to work).

Well, I would say the more financial resource I am able to obtain, the more prepared I become in responding to the challenges that once impeded my elevation to the stage I have managed to reach today, in spite of everything. During my early years working as a language professional, I quickly learned that in order to be successful in the outsourcing industry, I needed to take appropriate actions to make sure that I retained my clients by wholly satisfying their expectations. That in fact did not only imply returning a high quality work to them. For me, it meant more precisely giving them what they had inducted me to perform at almost any cost. So for instance, instead of accepting to contend myself with the new PC I had acquired, I decided to purchase a laptop and a fixed wireless phone that allows the use of data services even without the availability of electricity. This helps me to deal better with general power cuts, although it is worth stating that the tendency has become way less frequent these days.

6. What are the advantages and disadvantages of working as you do in Ghana?

From my personal perspective, the major benefit of being a freelance transcriber and translator in Ghana is that there are increasingly a lot of opportunities here, along with an unlimited pool of clients/customers, to leverage. If you are lucky and are able to market yourself very well, then you are set to succeed on the local market as well, rather than just focusing on foreign outsourcing companies who usually are the ones that provide the kind of jobs I specialize in. Numerous services have just lately been introduced in the country to complement the existing ones, but transcription and translation are still missing; for one, you would hardly find registered providers in the yellow pages. So it’s definitely great to know that you can become a pioneer in these fields, in this country. Just a decade ago, you would not have seen the level of growing interest among Ghanaians in translation services or even less in transcription services, because the nature of most businesses that had been established at the time did not require this type of assistance. Today, with the expansion of the private sector, the strengthening of democracy, this situation is beginning to change at a relatively fast pace. Obviously, one of the principal challenges remains that it is not easy finding the right business organizations to work in partnership with. Demand for language transcribers and translators is still unsatisfactory, and as such, hospitals seem to not realize the importance of transcription, media houses continue to be reluctant to give a try to what is considered as new products in Africa, and consequently have a feel of what transcription is all about. The solution, though, is not very hard to find: in my view, one just needs to keep marketing the products until the expected outcome is reached, like I am committed to doing.

7. Do you have kids and a family, if so how easy is it to be a transcriptionist with a family?

I presently do not have a family to cater for. Therefore, my priorities are mainly set on pursuing my formal education and on becoming a recognized pioneer, notably in the Ghanaian transcription industry.

8. What made you decide to get into the field of translating and transcribing?

I think when you are aiming at attaining a higher position, or let me say realizing greater dreams in life, you need to concentrate first on the tools that you possess and on how good you can put them to use in order to get to the stage you have set for yourself - at least when you choose ‘to climb the mountains’ all by yourself. In my case, I always had the language advantage because of my background. But that isn’t all; I have a little bit more than just the ability to speak, write and understand different tongues. I am ready to dedicate a certain amount of my time serving others as an accurate transcriber and translator so that I can pave myself the way for another career in the foreseeable future. Higher education, like I suggested earlier, is central to me, and I continue to bear in mind that the level of effort I invest today in my plans to pursue my studies will unquestionably be reflected in my achievements in the future. I opted for the transcription and the translation paths because these are the most ‘logical’ professional activities which I enjoy practicing and where I can be efficient.

9. Did you do any particular courses or studies in either of these fields?

Actually, I was never trained to be what I am, neither do I possess any qualifications in these fields. My success is chiefly the result of the motivation, the dedication, and the strong willingness to assimilate new things fast, that I have tried to exhibit throughout my years in business. I understand and perfectly respect the stance of many clients who have a preference for certified contractors, but I also know for a fact that many would rather favor meritocracy over any types of certification. The reason is that it is better to hire someone whom you know will get the job done the way you want it than to contract a person without the requisite experience. And even in the event of having to translate/transcribe too technical documents or audios that I cannot handle, for instance, I know there is always the viable alternative to refer my client(s) to trusted peers. So with respect to the difficulties I may encounter in retaining a clientele, I would say I don’t really have a problem.

10. How long have you been doing transcribing / translating?

I have been a French and English translator since 2004, and I joined the transcriber network nearly two years ago.

11. What’s the most valuable lesson you’ve learned in this field?

Staying persistent no matter the circumstances and thriving to improve each day on the quality of the services you provide for your clients/customers, especially after setbacks, are the biggest lessons I am happy to have learned. And of course, these don’t exclusively apply to transcription and translation, but to other fields as well.

12. Do you have any advice for transcriptionists starting out, particularly those in African countries?

Yes, certainly; for anyone planning to settle as a transcriptionist and to those who have already started the journey to earn a living doing this type of work – whatever your genuine and legitimate reason – I would like to lay emphasis on the urge to remain focused and determined to become part of a growing and exciting global network. Being based on the African continent is not the challenge we face at all to reach outside markets, because that can be done more or less easily if you are really serious about your intentions to succeed. Both financial investments and personal involvement will be required as it is the case in any other part of the world. But when you get to understand that all this is worthwhile because in the final analysis, YOU surely reap the benefits of your contribution to the further development of the two industries in question, then you realize you made the right choice!

13. Is there anything else you would like to tell us about yourself?

It is a chance that I managed to join TAVASA after searching for so long for other professionals who, like me, enjoy their work and can be trusted at various levels, especially as competent people who I can have recourse to whenever I require professional support. I am very thankful to the moderators who have enabled me to not only join the tavasa forum, but also to participate in its evolution and continuation. I think it helps to know that you belong to a group of people whom you can count on and also assist. That tells you that you are never alone in your relentless struggle to reach higher grounds.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Well after a mad week in which we transcribed two conferences plus all work for regular clients, I finally have a moment to breathe.

I am busy updating documentation for the group (which can be found at go along and take a look and group members can let me know if there are more documents you think it would be beneficial for us to host - I am looking at trying to get a draft retainer contract to put there, as retainer new contracts are the new trend.

I wanted to say that it's easy to become bogged down in the VA and transcription field, particularly at this time of year, when the Christmas holidays are past and it's a way to go until the next holidays, and work is picking up. I want to list here some coping mechanisms we can use (thanks to some TAVASA members for contributing)

1. Plan something small to enjoy every day. This morning, we decided we'd watch a movie and eat pizza with the kids for supper, which we did. Pick the thing you enjoy doing, and indulge yourself in looking forward to it. Switch off everything during this time and devote it entirely to what you are doing. You'll be surprised how rejuvenated you feel.

2. Take the help that is offered to you. The concept of the superwoman (or superman) is not sustainable. We can all, for a time, work all day, run the entire house, run the kids schedules, do the gardening - but it's a one way trip to burn out. If someone offers you help, take it.

3. Make a priority list. In our field, we can become completely overwhelmed by what has to be done. We can stop seeing the forest for the trees, become overwhelmed and too panicked to even attempt to continue. So make a list of things to be done, in order of importance, and do them one by one. This is the first thing I do every day. I've resorted to the concept of a school timetable. I figured if a school can get through an entire curriculum every year by breaking days down into half hour blocks, I can too. Allocate the item on the top of your list into however many half hour blocks of your day you think it will take, then the next one, etc. etc. And don't be too hard on yourself. If you over run by half an hour, so be it. You've still got the job done a lot faster than you would have if you hadn't itemised everything.

4. Live day by day, hour by hour and minute for minute. It's no good dwelling on things that might happen next week, when you have things to accomplish now.

5. Believe in yourself. You haven't come this far by not being able to manage - you CAN manage.

6. Vent. Before TAVASA working at home could become very lonely and frustrating. Ali and I realised that there were hundreds of people sitting at home, like ourselves, getting frustrated and having nobody to talk to. So that's one of the things TAVASA is here for. Vent it to us, we understand and can in all probability offer some advice, or at least, sympathise.

These are all strategies I use to help myself get through the day. If anybody has any others to contribute we would be glad to see them here!

Friday, February 20, 2009

5 Business Tips From Some Of The Women I've Interviewed Over The Years

One of these days I'm going to write a blog post about why you should use evergreen articles to market your business ( that is, articles that do not lose relevance over time.) I'll also write an article about how to reuse the articles/blog posts that you have previously published, highlighting fresh insights for your readers.

But for now, I'm going to share some tips that I have gathered from a number of successful women over the years. Some of the interviews as much as 15 years ago, but I kept my notes and the articles that were published.

Many of the people have moved on to even greater success, but their words of wisdom remain relevant years afterwards. Here are some of success the tips they shared with me:

1. It’s okay to dream

“It’s okay to dream big,” says Stephany Ogbonmwan. Ogbonmwan was a regional (sub-Saharan) sales manager for Motorola when I interviewed her for a profile published in Brainstorm, an ICT strategy monthly magazine. "Hold on to a dream and fight for it against all odds," she said.

2. Invest in yourself

Invest in yourself, says Maria Ramos, ABSA's new CEO. Interviewed in the late 90's, while she was still with National Treasury. She gave me the following tips:

  • Make sure you get a good education regardless of your initial circumstances.
  • Work, get scholarships, get loans or whatever it takes to get that education.
3. Adapt and grow

Look for opportunities to grow, said Zandile Nzalo, award-winning business women and founder of Zanenza Communications, multi-million rand South African Communications Company. Nzalo was still a presenter for Bop TV in the early 90s when I interviewed her for a profile published on Tribute magazine.

She said:“I don’t want to wake up one day and find out that the audiences have stopped listening, that’s I’ve become dry and boring,” she said.

Nzalo also said:

  • Keep up with new developments in your industry.
  • Learn to absorb a lot of information in a short space of time and retain it.
  • Constantly look for ways new information can benefit and your business.
4. Don’t be intimidated by challenges

Ramos also recommended we not let ourselves be intimidated by challenges. She said:

  • Choose your battles – don’t waste your time fighting battles that you cannot win. Once you know what you need to do to win the war, ignore the peripherals and just do it.
  • Be calm when there is a crisis. Don’t panic when there is a problem. Take a step back and ask yourself what you need to do to take care of it. Then do it.
  • Don’t give up – if you fail, try again until you get the results you’re looking for.

5. Never give up

My favorite piece of advice comes from a letter to the editor of “Move” a South African women’s magazine.

One of the readers wrote: “A cheetah misses its prey nine out of ten times, but the thought of becoming a vegetarian never crosses its mind. Be like a cheetah – don’t give up.”

I don’t know if it’s true that a cheetah has to be that persistent to find its meal, but I like the analogy very much.

Whatever your dreams are, fight for them against all odds. Don’t ever give up.

Damaria Senne is a freelance writer based in Johannesburg. Read some of her articles at and

Profile of Patricia Donmall, Medical Transcription

Patricia Donmall is Cape Town based medical transcriptionist (MT) that has been working in the field since 2002 when she started working for an American based company.

1. In your own words, could you give us a brief breakdown of what MT is?

An MT is in essence a medical language specialist who takes the dictations of patient/doctor encounters (be it surgery, x-rays, general check-ups, etc) and translates them into an accurate physical record.

2. Tell us something about your background and how you got into MT?

I’ve always worked in the administrative field and thoroughly enjoyed it. In 2002, I was retrenched from an Investment Company and was applying for jobs in the paper as I had a son to support. Having applied for the job, I was called for an interview, did a short typing/medical test. I was offered the job within an hour of my interview.

Due to personal reasons at the time I was very keen and glad that I had the opportunity to work for the company at that time.

3. How many years have you been in the field?

I’ve been working as an MT for almost 7 years now and loving every minute of it.

4. What specific field of MT are you in?

I don’t have any one specialty that I work with. My usual day compromises of a combination of the following: orthopaedics, OB/GYN, ENT, Physical Therapy/Rehabilitation, and Renal. I have also typed cardiology, oncology, general medicine, and a variety of others.

5. What specific field would it be good for newbie MTs to get into today?

Orthopaedics is generally considered to be one of the easiest specialties to work with, but from my personal experience I would say that there is no one “easy” field. There are how ever easy and bad dictators.

6. Do you have any advice for newbie MTs starting out today?

You need to have a love of learning to be an MT. The medical field changes and advances so fast, that you will often come across terms that refer to new procedures, drugs etc. Also be prepared that no matter what your experience there is going to be a learning curve to get into full swing in the job. Even an experienced MT when starting with a new company/dictator will have to go through the learning curve to get up to full speed.

7. What courses did you study?

I have no formal training as an MT. The American company I started working for in 2002 provided in-house training for new MTs. For me this was a two week period. After that I started typing what is called “live” work and have learnt everything else since then on the job, on the fly. I am lucky that I work with an incredibly experienced MT in America who I can call on for help and assistance when I have a problem.

8. Did you find it easy to break into the field after you’d completed your studies?

Not having had any formal training, I can’t answer this question personally but generally I think it is fairly easy for MTs to get their foot in the door.

9. What are the pros and cons about being an MT in South Africa today?

The main con about working as an MT in South Africa is that a lot of the doctors in South Africa, are either currently unaware of the availability of MTs to outsource their work to or are concerned about confidentiality and have the work done in house by their receptionists.

Also a lot of the doctors in South Africa have not yet moved towards digital recording yet and are still using analogue dictaphones. This by necessity requires the MT to be fairly near to the doctor to be able to offer a fairly quick turn around time.

The pros are that as an up and coming field in South Africa, it is great to talk to people/doctors who do not know of the career and that I can actively promote the benefits of outsourcing the work.

10. What are the benefits to an MT of belonging to a group like TAVASA?

While MTs are very common in the US and to a certain extent in the UK, they are not that many in SA, and most of those don’t actually work independently but rather work for either American or UK based companies.

I therefore find the camaraderie and friendship of TAVASA a great help to me.

11. Do you have anything else you would like to add?

It is a really interesting and exciting career to have provided you have the diligence to sit and work when the work is in, and that you have a great love of learning.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

4 Ways to promote your business this Valentine's Day

I guess it's hard to imagine what Valentine's Day could possibly have to do with your business as a transcriptionist and virtual assistant.

So I've decided to make a list of some ideas that you could implement in the next couple of days to generate some business.

As I've already mentioned in my email to TAVASA members, I believe that we should give some serious thought to the gifts we give our loved ones.

It's easy enough to walk into a store to buy a box of chocolates and get them gift-wrapped; it's even easier to pick up your phone or log onto the Internet to order flowers through Interflora.

And granted, those gifts are successful each year because they make us feel special. So here are 4 things that you can do for your business this Valentine's Day:

1. Promote yourself as a Valentine's Day gift

Imagine a busy home business owner/mother /father who is working long hours to make her business successful to support her family. How much do you think she would appreciate getting a virtual assistant as a gift to organise the little details of her life that she never seems to have the time to get to? How happy would she be to have her admin sorted more efficiently, allowing her some "Me" time?

So go on – go to your online forums and groups and offer the members a one-day special for your services, to be redeemed by their partners by the end of March.

2. Promote your services to businesses associated with Valentine's Day celebrations

If your client is the kind that traditionally benefits from Valentine's Day, then they already have the food, menu, drink, flowers, chocolate, gift baskets for their own customers well in hand.

But surely they need additional admin help to handle the busy time and make sure that their customers get what they ask for on time? How can you, as a virtual assistant, help?

3. Find out who among your clients has a Valentine's Day special

Is your client going to need virtual assistant help to meet the business demands generated by Valentine's Day promotions? Remind your clients that they too, deserve some romance, and you can help them make the most of the business generated by the day AND still spend quality time with loved ones.

4. Give your clients tips on how they can benefit from Valentine's Day

What does Valentine's Day mean to your clients? Write a short article reminding them of the upcoming holiday, and give them some ideas on how they can benefit from it (over and beyond the usual promotions).

Read more of Damaria's articles about Valentine's Day and how to show your partner you care at the web site for OneLove Southern Africa :

100 ways to show love to your wife HER way

http://www.oneloves outhernafrica. org/index. php/100-ways- to-show-love- to-your-wife- her-way/

Show your partner how much you care this Valentine's Day

http://www.oneloves outhernafrica. org/index. php/valentines- day/

Please read the articles, leave some comments, add your suggestions on what else
people can do to celebrate Valentine's Day.