Episode 29 – Virtual Assistants with Natalie Collins

Natalie dropped additional nuggets of sales and marketing goodness in the EXTENDED Interview. Be sure to click here to access all of our great extended interviews, transcripts and more within our Insider's Club.

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Working With VANatalie survived 13 years inside of a corporate office and uses the skills she learned to become a Rockstar Virtual Assistant who helps coaches, authors, speakers and marketers build their online businesses and products. She specializes in product creation and funnels, and is passionate about learning, using and teaching other VAs about all the tools of the trade. She lives with her fiance, Lee and their dog Pete in Atlanta, GA.

Podcast Transcription

Brian Basilico: Welcome, everybody to My Marketing Magnet and I am pumped today because I've got an awesome guest, and her name is Natalie Collins.

Natalie, can you tell me about your OB1 agency? Is it our only hope?

Natalie Collins: Thanks for having me on, Brian.

I like to think of it as it's your only hope, but our agency really is all about your online business as our number one priority. So if you feel like you need help inside of your business, please come to me.

Brian: I love that. I just love the OB1 thing because I'm such a Star Wars geek.

Tell us about you. You worked for 13 years inside of corporations and I've done that, believe me, I understand – but how did you go from working in corporate offices to becoming a rockstar virtual assistant?

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Natalie: It's an interesting journey that happens inside of a corporate office. I got stuck inside of the rat race in that environment. There's a lot of things that I learned inside of that environment though that I deeply appreciate and gave me a very big business background on how to run things and run things consistently so that it works. So I learned a lot of things that work inside of a corporate office. But I always have the nagging feeling that I was meant to do more and I didn't necessarily like to follow the rules that somebody else laid out for me, I wanted to make my own rules. So taking that, I made a huge switch in my diet and my lifestyle and I knew there had to be a better way to live my life and not have to fight traffic every morning and all these other things that come along with having a corporate job.

I discovered the whole online world and the things that happen inside of it – all the fun things. I started going the rabbit hole of online business and quickly discovered that a lot of the things that I learned inside of a corporate office translated really easily into the online world. Once I started creating my own membership site and my own affiliate program, I started meeting other people who are doing online marketing and realize that I could do this stuff really quick, easily. Part of my experience inside of the corporate office was database management. So to me, taking the database management knowledge and applying it to a membership back end, the affiliate programs – to me is just another way to manage data.

So once I had a couple of friends starting to figure that out, they asked me to do it for their business and I thought, “Oh my gosh! You're going to pay me to do this and I already love doing it? Why not.” That's how my virtual assistant business got started and I quickly was able quit my job. I was thrilled, it's like those blessings in disguise were on one hand, you're kind of freaking out saying, “Oh my gosh, what am I going to do for money?” and on the other hand that's like, “Yes! I'm so excited!” I mean, that's when I started getting my bigger clients and started doing it full-time and I have not looked back.

Brian: So for my audience, explain to them what is a virtual assistant because not everybody understands the concept. Working in an office is one thing but a virtual assistant, how does that work?

Natalie: I really like to explain it to people as if you are to have a secretary or someone helping you out to doing some of the smaller tasks that you don't have time to handle, then that would be something that you would need an assistant for, someone to help you out with it and a virtual assistant is someone who owns their own company and works from their house and will help you out as well. It's usually, a lot of people like to have the office environment and some don't, and I love the flexibility of working from my home while people I help out are working from their home and we do it all online.

Brian: Very cool. So who could or should be using the virtual assistant and what is a virtual assistant doing? What are some of the tasks that they can take care of for people?

Natalie: There are a lot of virtual assistants that do a lot of different things. It would depend on what you need help with. But if you have a business – let's say, Brian, I'll take you for example. I know you have some virtual assistants so I think you'll be a very good example for this, and you have your podcast. If you have a podcast and you have gone through, done the actual podcast audio, maybe you don't like doing the editing part or you like doing it, it depends but say you don't have time to edit your audio and get it pushed up to your [inaudible] and account and create a blog around it, a blog post around it and get it posted up to your social media, one of the things that a virtual assistant can do is you send them the raw file and depending on the virtual assistant you have, you can either send them raw file or the edited file, and they can push it up into all the different channels for you. So all you have to do is do the work that you love and then hand it off to somebody else who does, who loves that portion of the work.

Brian: So not only could I get somebody to just do the work for me but I could also get somebody, for example, one of my virtual assistants, Kay, who happens to be in Boston, she's a wicked hardcore. She actually books – I have a radio show that I do, it's a Blog Talk Radio show and it's called BLT, Business Live Transitions. All I do is send her an email and she books out all the guests, she gets their bios, gets all that stuff loaded, loads the audio ready for the opening and the close, and literally, I show up five minutes before the show, and I'm done and that's it. So by hiring the virtual assistant really kind of help me organize that where I don't have to spend any time doing that. Is there any kind of task like that that you have virtual assistants doing?

Natalie: Absolutely. A lot of those. I would look at what your virtual assistant does as doing more project management based because what she's doing is managing your podcast project. Corresponding with everybody who you are having on as a guest. It's so important, like that stuff can become so time consuming and sometimes gets tedious after while specially when you have all these other stuff going that you want to be able to step out of working in your business so much and work on it. By having that virtual assistant handle all of those little tasks for you, you're able to step out and look at it more as a whole and grow it in a way that you want to grow it.

Brian: I love that concept, working on your business instead of in your business. One of the things that I've heard another marketer say is if you don't have a virtual assistant, you are a virtual assistant.

Natalie: Yes. Absolutely.

Brian: So what makes a virtual assistant great for a business or what makes a great business for a virtual assistant? Let's look at it from both sides. If somebody wants to become a virtual assistant, what kind of things can they do and what makes a virtual assistant great for a business? How can they really help them become a better business person?

Natalie: Let me talk about a little bit of mindset for example. For a virtual assistant, it's all taskoriented. So if you're someone who loves being given tasks on what to do and you don't have to think about the big picture of things and just getting that list of things to do that you know how to do, you thrive in that environment and you just knock them out – for instance if you love checking off that todo-list of stuff to do, but you don't like making a to-do-list, you just want somebody else to make it for you, that is a great indicator that you would probably make a really good virtual assistant.

On the flip side, if you are the business owner and you feel that you need a virtual assistant but not sure what to do with them or tell them, have them do, go back to that frame of mind of saying, “If I were making myself a task list, then what would I have myself do?” and break everything out, and then take those things and say, “What do I want to do and what can somebody else do for me?” and those are the things that you would basically copy and paste it into what you would have somebody else help you with.

Brian: Does it make sense to have more than one virtual assistant doing different things, or are you looking for that one person who can do everything for you?

Natalie: It depends on your business. If you know that you can just rock it with just help from one other person, then by all means just pick that right hand person to help you out with your stuff. There are people out there who can do that. There's also virtual assistants who love just maybe doing video editing or podcast editing, and so those are people that you would just have them do those particular things and then have somebody else maybe make all of the appointments for you. So then you would have a team

Brian: And does it make sense – because I've actually heard this, I've heard a virtual assistant who manage virtual assistants for one person?

Natalie: Those are project managers and yes, I see it everyday.

Brian: Natalie, that's some awesome advice and I really appreciate it.

So now, let's dig in a little bit deeper and tell me, are there some common mistakes that people make when they're hiring or managing virtual assistants?

Natalie: Yes. Of course. There's always mistakes that can be made and always mistakes that can be fixed. One of the things that I see a lot of the times is people will come to me and they're looking for someone to help them with their projects but what ends up being is they're looking for someone to tell them what direction they need to go in and how they need to run their business. So that common mistake is you really need to look at are looking for someone to help you with your tasks? Is that what you're really wanting? Or are you looking for someone to help you bounce ideas off of helping you grow your business in a way that you may or may not have thought of?

The one thing to think about is a lot of virtual assistants are task-oriented. They're looking to you tell them what to do, what you want done in your business. If you look into your virtual assistant to have them tell you what to do, you're looking in the wrong place. That's when you need a business coach and your business coach is going to be helping you grow your business and then helping you find those things that you can have your virtual assistant do or pass those things off so that you can continue to grow yourself.

Now, don't get me wrong if there are some virtual assistants out there who can do that but there are few and far between. Most virtual assistants just need you to tell them what you need done in your business. If you're looking for those more of a consulting the things that you want done in your business then that's when you need to just step out and say, “Okay, what do I really need inside of my business?”

Brian: I love that distinction between what a virtual assistant does and the need for a business coach because it's so true. Somebody's going to help you define what you need to do and the other person is going to get it done for you.

Natalie: Yes.

Brian: And it's two different levels of business help, but both are very useful in business.

So let's look at this from a virtual assistant's standpoint. What are some of the common mistakes that they make when working for people?

Natalie: I'm going to use the exact same example. If you're a virtual assistant and you know that you can help this person's business grow in the direction they might not have thought of, but you're getting paid a very, very low rate to help that person grow that business, you're not getting paid enough. You need to get paid as a consultant because there's a fine distinction and line between there and then you need to make that distinction of do you want to stay as a virtual assistant who needs to be more task oriented inside of the business? Or do you want to grow yourself to become that coach and become that consultant? So those are things that you really need to ask yourself of what do I really want for myself? And how can I grow in ways and if you really want to help people grow their businesses, then I would encourage you to get compensated for your vast knowledge.

Brian: So essentially, what you're saying in both cases is understand your strengths, understand your weaknesses and maximize the use of your strength, and where you find those weaknesses then seek the help whether it's being a virtual assistant or whether it's being a business coach when somebody who's going to use them need that and also virtual assistants need to decide, “These are my strengths, this is what I do and this is the services I'm going to provide.”

Natalie: That is exactly what I'm saying.

Brian: What are some of the best practices? If I'm going to hire a virtual assistant, what do I need to do? What are some of the steps I need to do? What do I need to look at? How do I manage them? Stuff like that.

Natalie: One of the things that I love using is, I love using online business or online project management tools. My favorite one is called Asana.com. It's a free software tool. Actually, the free version, it has plenty of things to do. There is a paid version but I never went inside of that part, I don't need to. So I love using these things because I can easily communicate with clients and clients can easily communicate with me. It's basically an online task list and an overall view of what's being done, what needs be done by when and how are things going. And by doing that and working in an all-in-one place, it helps to eliminate emails, emails getting lost – we all know how many emails we get especially as internet marketers, we get bombarded with emails every single day and me, personally, I have a love-hate relationship with email so anything that I can do to get off of it and get something constructed in a way where I can have an overview glance of what's going on and what needs to get done, it makes things move along so much easier and faster because there's more clarity in that one spot.

And also being clear with your virtual assistant about what you're expecting, what needs to happen and what the tasks are because if you give them a task of, “Hey, go find some people to interview for my podcast,” and the virtual assistant, if they're brand new to your business, they don't know what your podcast is, they don't know who your target audience is, they don't know who you're looking for – there's all these things which can stall the virtual assistant on being able to move forward in a very quick way the way that you're expecting them to because you already know this stuff and it's ingrained at the back of your head and you may forget that they don't have a clue on what needs to happen in order for it to be the podcast that you want it to be. So by making it clear – and maybe give some examples, give places that you look for people, give those links and stuff to your virtual assistant too, so that they can easily go in and say, “Oh, I get it. I can do this.” And give them that direction so they're looking to you to give them the direction of where they need to go inside of your business.

Brian: Let's say I'm working with a virtual assistant, is it a good idea to do training for them, in other words, sit down and do some kind of phone training, online training, whatever it is and just going to guide them to the process? Also, does it make sense to have monthly, quarterly, yearly, just going kind of update and just touch-base what's working, what's not working and what do you suggest on those cases?

Natalie: Oh, absolutely 100%. I feel that each business is different. There's a lot of similarities that happen inside of the background of businesses, but everybody likes their business run just a little bit differently. So by showing your virtual assistant how you run things, where everything is, links, the back ends – take half an hour to an hour just go over that stuff and that will make a world of difference to both you and your virtual assistant. I love having weekly checkup calls or you can do biweekly depending on how much stuff that you are having your virtual assistant do but if you have somebody who's very integrated into your business, you want to make it at least a weekly checkup. Now, if you have somebody who is just doing stuff periodically, once a month might be just fine. So depending on what you're having them do and how much you're having them do will determine how frequently you want to have a team meeting.

Brian: Awesome, great advice.

Finally, I want to ask you how do we measure success with virtual assistants? And obviously a virtual assistant's success is staying employed, I think. That one's pretty straightforward.

Natalie: Yes, pretty much.

Brian: But how do we measure success as a business owner with using virtual assistants?

Natalie: Well, if they are able to go through your business and help you grow by the task that you give them, they're able to catch on really quickly, you're able to give them more things and get those things off of your plate and everything starts to run at a more smooth pace, then I would view that as a success. If they are helping take load off of your plate, getting stuff done for you, helping you move forward and helping you to be able to work on your business instead of in your business, I would feel that that would be a great success.

Brian: Awesome.

So Natalie, you've got a way to help people find great virtual assistants, can you tell us a little bit about that?

Natalie: Absolutely. I have a company, it's called OB1 Agency and like we said before, our online business or your online business is our number one priority because we have an online business too so we know all about it. We go through and really help people with their product funnels, getting everything setup for you going through the whole system of everything because we know that creating those money channels, is what I call them, creating the buy button to the end product, inside of that is your money channel. So we really specialize in helping you create more money channels so that you can bring more people into your business, grow it and make more money. I mean, that's what it's all about. Right?

Brian: That's pretty much what business is about is making money. If you're not focused in making money then I think you have a really great hobby.

Natalie: Right.

Brian: So if people wanted to get a hold of you, Natalie, what's the best way for them to contact you?

Natalie: The best way would be to go to our website which is OB1Agency.com and that's the number 1 and on the homepage you'll see an application, go ahead and fill that out and we will be in contact with you.

Brian: Fantastic. Hey, Natalie, thank you so much for sharing all your great insight. I think my people are really going to appreciate understanding what virtual assistants are, how to better use them. This has been fabulous. Thanks for joining us.

Natalie: Thank you for having me.

Brian: Wow! That was some awesome advice from Natalie Collins about using or becoming a virtual assistant. I love my virtual assistants, so a shout out to you, guys. Make sure you check us out next week for another great edition of our Expert Interview series.

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    […] – I’ve worked with a digital assistant, Natalie Collins. that you can re-visit our weblog or podcast about working with virtual assistants. We produced a web-based path. Natalie comes from the […]

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