Thursday, June 21, 2012

What does a client look for when looking for assistance with a task?

What does a client look for when looking for assistance with a task?

This article is part of TAVASA's ongoing education campaign to clients and VAs in South Africa. 

As a client what do you look for when you want assistance with a typing task? Are you looking for the cheapest assistance you can find or are you looking for someone with the experience needed to do the task you require?

Let me use the two common tasks that Virtual Assistant offer to clients: Typing and Transcription Services.

Do you as the client, care about how your work is done, if so, then price can be the object, but not the deciding factor in getting assistance, you will look for someone with the experience to assist you, and you must have the confidence in that person that they can do the job the way you would like it done. It is much better to go with the person with the experience you need for the task that you require the VA to do for you. If you send transcription to a person with very little experience in this skill you will end up having to resend your work to someone else to redo and finish it. Ask the VA about their experience, ask how long they have been doing this skill, ask do they proof read and spell check their work as not everyone does, it sometimes is not part of the job for some people to check what they are doing.

Do you want your typing done at the cheapest possible price, does getting the job done as cheap as you can, mean that the service quality will not be as it would be with someone with experience. Any can offer typing and transcription services but what is their experience.
If I was looking for someone to assist me I would look at the experience that person has in the skills they offer. If I required a job done urgent, I would look to the person’s skill and experience. Clients require a transcriptionist to assist them and often this task is urgent but they want to pay the least amount of money for this task. Transcription is a skill that has been learnt and perfected by transcriptionist’s. Transcription is not typing it is more involved, using listening, concentration, sentence construction, layout, punctuation etc skills. You have to know where to put in your punctuation etc. This is a task you cannot just give to anyone at the cheapest possible price if you do you must expect to get the service from the person that the price dictates. An experienced transcriptionist will not offer to do your work for a cheap price as she knows what is involved with that work, she knows the time it will take to complete and she will provide a quality service to you.

Ask the VA or Transcriptionist how long she has been doing this task, ask has she experience in transcribing focus groups, have they transcribed court cases. If there is more involved within your typing than just plain copy (coping text), if there is graphs involved, flow diagrams ask the VA has she experience in this. You have a problem if you assume they can do this and then send them work that they cannot complete as they don’t know how to do a flow diagram and then they send you back a flow diagram as a scanned image, is this what you want, often no its not, often you want that diagram to fit nicely within your document so you want it created, not everyone has this experience. 

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

You have been asked by a potential client to type up a manual, they ask you for a quote, what do you do?

The article below was written by Alison Fourie of AMF Typing as part of TAVASAs ongoing campaign to educate both clients and VAs on the ins and outs of the VA industry. 

You have been asked by a potential client to type up a manual, they ask you for a quote, what do you do?

It’s easy to quote on something, to just toss out a price, but is that price right? What is involved with the actual task? Not all copy typing is simply copy typing like the clients say.

You will often find there can be graphics, internet research that is required, tables, graphs, scanning that is required. You might have to go and find graphics through Google images, and that is time taking, finding the right graphic can be costly using your adsl or 3G.

Often copy typing is not simple copy typing and we need to think of this when quoting for just so much per page for copy typing. There is no reason why a client can’t send you an example if they want the work done properly, if the clients simply refuse and ask for a quote with very little information, is that the client you want you want to work with, as often that work will end up taking a lot of time.

With each quote you need to get as much detail as possible. Find out what the content of the typing actually is. A flow diagram within a document could take you a few hours to do just that one page so is typing at a per page rate really the right way to go on a document that has graphics, flows, tables within. Graphs are time taking, you may have to go into excel and do the graph in there and then import it to your document. Its things like this that takes time. Also don’t forget that after the typing is finished you also must proofread and check that your document is laid out nicely, so make sure you build this time into your quote price.

What about when the document is finished and you send it back to the client and the client sends it back with major changes, how do you handle this, do you do it for free or do you put a price to changes. Here I would charge an hourly rate, to cover client edits, some documents can come back and forward a few times and that is taking up your time to do the changes so you can’t really just charge a per page rate for comebacks/editing.

Another thing I never, never send a document back to the client as a PDF file unless that client specifies they want a pdf file. Few clients will ask for this, most clients want a word, PowerPoint or excel file back as sometimes they want to do the changes themselves once the main body of the document is done. Don’t think that sending the document back as a pdf file means that the client will send it back to you for every change they need, they can simple convert it back to a workable file through software available. So this is no guarantee that the work will come back to you.
Always check with the client and ask first will there be updates, changes to the document and how would they like to handle this, have this question on your form of requirements for the client so that it is addressed by the client.

Ask for as much detail as possible that is your right before putting in a quote to any client. Quoting blindly will often backfire on you.

Your comments on the above article are welcome.

Alison Fourie is a comoderator of Tavasa, is the first Certified VA within South Africa and owns her own business AMF Typing. 

Sunday, June 17, 2012

The transcription and VA industries in South Africa from a client’s point of view.

The transcription and VA industries in South Africa from a client’s point of view.

Tavasa - Transcriptionists and VAs of South Africa through the auspices of AMF Typing and Typewrite Transcription and Typing Services CC is embarking on an awareness campaign to make South Africans in general more aware of our industries.

There will be a series of articles published on this blog over the coming weeks in order to facilitate this.

I have been in the virtual industry since 2005. In fact, I first had the idea of a secretarial service in 2000, and tried it for a while, but back in those days we were stuck with dial up internet, and a whole host of other constraints that made working in the virtual field nearly impossible. I went back to work for a boss for five years, and then in 2005, with the advent of ADSL in South Africa, I was able to get my virtual business going.  In those days, we had ADSL, Google was not a big deal, and neither Facebook nor blogging was something that anybody did with any regularity. But the internet was there, and I was able to pick up clients quite quickly.
Fast forward until today when the trend is that many businesses register a Facebook account and build a business page before getting a traditional website, and such things as cyber schools are available, and popular in countries like the United States.
Here is the thing though. I have come to understand that in South Africa, many people just aren’t aware or aren’t very trusting that this new way of doing business exists.  A further constraint is that it’s the trend within South African virtual workers to take a low price for work that they do. On the reverse side of the coin, I’m not saying that one must overcharge.  We must not. But the low prices charged or accepted by South African workers has led to the reputation that South African virtual workers can be obtained much cheaper than our international counterparts. And when we try to charge rates the same as those of American or British workers, we come in for flak from the potential client, even though the work we provide is the same quality as that provided by them. How do we counteract this reputation?

A)     We continue to provide quality service
B)      We charge fair rates and stick to them
C)      We educate the business world that we exist and provide a good service
From the client’s perspective, it is rather scary embarking on doing things in a new way, a way in which they have not worked before. Therefore, it’s important to provide references, provide a quality look and feel and bring across the security of a professional presentation. Meet deadlines. Be communicative. Don’t let the client down.  Visibly advertise your services. Tell people about what you’re doing. Attend networking meetings and tell the world that there is a way of doing things that they may not have considered. Invite them to see your home office. Often in South Africa there is the mindset among virtual workers and clients that we are just secretaries. This is not true. We are not secretaries. We are business owners, who provide an administrative function. There is a big difference, but if we want businesses to treat us with respect, we have to demand it from them.  Remember that your client is looking for stability, for surety, to be safe in the knowledge that if he sends his work out into the big wide open, it’s going to get done properly and in time. This relationship is like any other – it has to be built up with communication and trust.
There are many questions that potential clients could have, for example what kind of service can be done virtually, what guarantees they have, etc, etc. Be as open and as communicative as possible. You can tell them that the types of services we can provide are typing, transcription, proofreading, editing, tables, graphic design, and many many more.

If you  are a potential client reading this post, there are things you too can do to ensure the mutual feasibility of this type of relationship. Send the work when you say you're going to. Acknowledge quotes received and let the virtual worker know if you accept or not. Pay when you say you're going to. Let the person know if there have been problems or if he or she has done good work. 

Anybody who has any questions is more than welcome to contact me via our Facebook page
Gaynor Paynter is a transcriptionist, writer and proofreader
Typewrite Transcription and Typing Services CC
Cell: +27834424689
TAVASA Cofounder and Moderator