Deciding to become an entrepreneur is a difficult choice to make. You have to commit time, effort and dedication to your endeavor in order to ensure the success of your future business. What’s more, starting and running a business can be quite challenging, especially since the online market is over-saturated and quite competitive.
Still, where there’s a will, there’s a way. Starting an online business is a good strategy, mainly because everyone is online these days. In addition, the internet is filled with numerous opportunities you can explore to ensure your business success. However, before you get started, you’ll have to plan well ahead, so that you avoid making some of the most common mistakes that can easily ruin your business right from the start. With that in mind, here are a few tips for starting your own online business.
Conduct thorough market research
The very first step of starting your own business is market research. Without proper research, you’ll basically be improvising and going in blind. Research can help you obtain the necessary information required to make more strategic decisions and develop, as well as grow, your business further. As an example, market research can help you determine the market need for your products or services, identify your target audience, conduct a competitive analysis and identify market trends, among other things. The information you obtain from market research will not only help you get started, but it will also aid you in making future plans.
A business plan is essential for starting an online business. It will help you determine how to proceed once you’re ready to launch your business on the market. A business plan is an outline of your company and your goals. It’s also a foundation for your business strategies. For instance, a business plan consists of a few things.
• Executive summary
• Industry overview
• Market and competitive analysis
• Marketing and sales plan
• Ownership and management plan
• Financial plan
• Operating plan
Simply put, a business plan will help you run your business and make executive decisions that will contribute to the overall success of your online endeavor.
Develop a website
It’s quite obvious that you need a website for your online business, but not just any website will do. As a matter of fact, online consumers pay special attention to details when website design and performance are involved. In order to satisfy their needs and meet their expectations, you’ll have to optimize your website well. That includes ensuring that your website is fast, responsive, secured, easy to navigate, user-friendly and visually pleasing. If you don’t ensure every website factor is properly optimized and performing well, you’ll lose customers simply because you couldn’t provide them with an exceptional and seamless experience.
It’s no secret that starting a business requires a hefty investment. What’s more, you must ensure that you have enough funds to support your business until it becomes profitable. Many startups fail because their owners ran out of money midway. That’s why you should make sure you can avoid such an inconvenience.
In addition, while you wait for profits to start coming in, consider other income sources that will improve your financial status, such as becoming a casino affiliate or getting a side job, to name a few. Simply put, the sooner you ensure proper funding for your business, the sooner you can stop worrying about your finances.
Focus on marketing
Digital marketing is essential for online businesses. As mentioned before, the online market is over-saturated and competitive, but good marketing can easily level the field for your business. Furthermore, experts suggest that the more you invest in marketing, the more effective it will be. That being said, you need to understand that you don’t have to overspend to get viable results. In fact, you can consider cheaper marketing strategies, such as social media marketing, email and other inbound methods until your business is stable enough financially to explore other marketing strategies and campaigns.
So, even though starting an online business of your own may be a daunting and a challenging task, that doesn’t mean it’s impossible.
So you’re still on the fence about hiring a virtual assistant for your business and you still haven’t figured out what to do to put them to good use.
There is that notion that hiring a virtual assistant is more of a “luxury” rather than addressing a need. This is wrong. Many business owners used to think that only big companies can afford to hire a virtual assistant and consider this an extra overhead expense.
In reality, it is the other way around. More companies, especially smaller ones, are resorting to hiring virtual assistants to do for them the most of the mundane tasks. Small businesses are the ones benefitting more from this.
I can list down a lot of reasons why you should hire a Virtual Assistant but I’ve narrowed it down to two:
Virtual Assistants provide a solution to your common business problems, or even beyond.
Hiring a VA has become a solution to business problems because of the varied service structure that they offer. Business owners have come to realize that outsourcing is the best way to go about so they can focus more on creating what their business need. And so with a variety of service structure to choose from, you can build a service structure that best fits your business.
A virtual assistant can do so many things. They are multi-skilled professionals ready to help you with the nitty-gritty, so you don’t have to. You can always delegate the things that you don’t want to do, or do not have the skills to do it.
Some of the tasks that you can delegate to a virtual assistant are:
Social Media Management
Bookkeeping and Invoice Management
Travel Planning and Events Management
There are many other things that you can use a Virtual Assistant for. You just have to be specific about the tasks that you want to outsource or delegate.
2. Hiring Virtual Assistants can help you cut costs and increase your business’s productivity.
If you are just starting out your business, you would want to maximize everything. You can operate your business from your home office and don’t need employees to come. Think about the overhead costs of running a physical office versus a virtual office. Think about how much you are going to save on employee costs and benefits.
Virtual Assistants also run their businesses or do their work in the comforts of their homes, so you don’t have to worry about incurring big electric bills.
Virtual Assistants offer different types of service structures. If you want someone to help you run your business on a daily basis, then you might need a company VA or a dedicated VA. If you need them for a particular project or on a particular task only, then you might consider hiring them on a project basis or on a per hour basis. It really depends on your needs.
So how do you go about hiring the best fit for you? Consider the following questions:
a. How much are you willing to spend on a Virtual Assistant’s services?
Virtual Assistants offer their services fees differently. Some, as mentioned earlier, charge by the hour, or on a per-project basis. Others charge on a time block. You can block 20 hours for some tasks that you want to be done. Dedicated VAs may charge you on a monthly basis or fortnightly.
Again, Virtual Assistants are one of the most flexible types of service providers. If you need a dedicated VA or a Company VA, then you have to let them know if you need them to be working closely with you at specific times.
If you need them only for a short period of time, you still have to provide them with a deadline. Check if the deadline you set is amicable to both of you and that it won’t cause unnecessary stress to both parties.
c. Independent Virtual Assistant or Virtual Assistant Agencies
There are factors to consider in hiring which type of VA is perfect for you. Both have their share of advantages and disadvantages.
Independent Va work alone. They can focus their time on your tasks if you hire them with or without a contract. You have to be specific if you want them to be working exclusively for you. They are also perfect if the job or task entails sensitive financial information. If that is the case, then a contract or a non-disclosure agreement might be necessary.
That said, they also have other clients to attend to, but it doesn’t mean that they can’t perform their tasks well. But since they work alone, the services they offer are limited to their expertise or specialized skill. While they can multi-task, they might have other clients to attend to so you just have to be specific about your deadlines so they can prioritize.
On the other hand, Virtual Assistant agencies or companies have a pool of people who can work around your tasks. But it doesn’t mean that the tasks you want to be done is passed around to anybody. Privacy on sensitive information is still important and observed. They still provide you with a particular VA to work on your project or task, so the sense of responsibility is still valued. That said, the quality of work is not and will never be compromised.
One of the biggest advantages of working with a VA company or agency is that you know you’re not working with a “fly-by-night” type of service and that there is always someone working around on your tasks.
So, do you really need to hire a Virtual Assistant for your business?
It all depends on you. Check your priorities and get it straight. List down all the pressing issues you are experiencing in running your business. Can you do all those on your own? Probably you could, but do you really want to check and answer all those emails that have been sitting in your inbox for a while now? Or call up each and every client who needs support on a product you sold?
So really, only you can know where and what type of assistance you need for your growing business. Virtual Assistants are here to provide a solution to a business problem. They help you cut cost, get more things done, free up your time so you can focus on building products and spend quality time with your loved ones.
If you have decided to hire your first VA, you can go check us out here.
Virtual assistants have gone beyond providing administrative tasks to clients. We are also great at providing customer service, tech support and even creating chatbots. Provided with proper training, a virtual assistant can do the work of customer service representatives in answering customer service related concerns.
In fact, Virtual Assistants and
chatbots were included in an article by Tenfold
which listed down the digital trends and technologies that are transforming
customer experience in the banking and finance sector.
In the article, it said, “the
demand for faster, more efficient services has eventually led to a forecast
that 85% of customer interactions will be automated by 2020, according
to Gartner. Chatbots and smart assistants are finding their way in various
verticals, serving various purposes from customer support, marketing, and
sales. These robots, powered by artificial intelligence, are used by the
biggest banks in the world like JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, HSBC (Hong Kong)
and SEB (Sweden).
Chatbots enable banks and financial
service companies to deliver efficient, personalized and responsive service to
customers at a minimum cost. Chatbots are available 24/7, and are capable of matching customer queries
quickly to solutions. Some are also programmed to take in leads, and the most
advanced ones can make personalized recommendations based on previous
interactions, customer data, and other factors.
Detractors of chatbot technology say
that these tools lack the empathy of human CS reps. While that is true, we
should also recognize that chatbots improve on this aspect over time. Machine
learning algorithms help these virtual assistants learn more about the art of
human conversation from experience. With such capabilities, chatbots prove to
be sufficient in handling basic customer service queries, pleasing consumers
with their efficiency and effectiveness.”
Empathy is as important as effectiveness in creating relationships with your clients. If empathy is what these chatbots lack for the customer to experience what would surpass their expectations, then that is where Virtual Assistants specializing in Customer Care or Customer Service comes in.
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