Should You Hire A Virtual Assistant?

This blog post by Gabrielle Pfeiffer on the Huffington Post blog lays out in simple and clear terms why every startup and business owner should consider hiring a virtual assistant.

Should You Hire A Virtual Assistant?

There comes a time in every successful startup company where you have to outsource work. As a business owner, you know that your time is valuable, and it should be spent doing the important things you excel at. Don’t get me wrong, every part of running a business is important, no matter how small- but some things are worth paying someone else to do. One of the first things that people outsource are small administrative duties, which a virtual assistant can do.

What Is A Virtual Assistant?

A virtual assistant by definition is usually a self-employed professional who carries out many different administrative jobs depending on each different client or project. They usually work for multiple people, but they just split their time up between each client. This is a better alternative to small business owners who are just starting out than hiring a full time administrative assistant.

What Do Virtual Assistants Do?

This is a very broad answer. Some virtual assistants can do many different things for you. The best way to find a good fit for you, is to determine what tasks you need to outsource, and go from there. Hiring a virtual assistant is a huge undertaking, and you can’t take it lightly. Once you know the tasks that you need to outsource, you can start searching for virtual assistants. Many of them specialize in a certain area, so it would be beneficial for you to find one that has specialties that could benefit your company.

Are Virtual Assistants Expensive?

As it is with anything in life, you get what you pay for. If you are looking to hire someone for dirt cheap, be expected to get the same quality of work. The best VA’s out there may charge $30 or more an hour, but they are there to make things easier for you, which is worth every penny if you ask me. It shouldn’t be hard for you to find a VA that fits in your budget, as long as you are not being a tight-wad. Just think about what you are saving from not having to hire on a full-time employee with benefits.

How Do You Pay A Virtual Assistant?

Most (if not all) virtual assistants charge by the hour. They should give you their rate up front, and you both can determine how many hours you expect them to work per week. There is a possibility that you don’t have an exact number of hours the tasks will take, so there are ways you can track their hours instead. Tracking hours is a way that you can tell how long the tasks are taking them, and decide if they are as efficient as you hoped they would be.

If you find yourself in the position where you feel like you need to bring someone else on board, congratulations! I know it feels stressful, and even scary, but this is huge for you. This means that your business is growing to the point where you can’t do it all on your own. That is something that many business owners only dream of. Hiring a virtual assistant is not as scary as it seems, in fact it can be fun! Find someone that you can get along with well, and that will compliment your skills with their own. If you find the right VA you will feel less stressed, confident, and hopeful about your future.

 

 

A virtual assistant making your life easier.

A Saturday Stroll in Palermo

One of the things I enjoy most of living in Palermo is the amount of cool shops and cafés that are within walking distance of my flat. Saturday morning is usually reserved for cleaning and maybe an hour or two of work. But after lunch, I need to go for a walk with a podcast for companion (soon, a post on my podcast recommendations).
I have a routine that I change very little. I first walk towards Libertador towards Plaza Alemania, do a lap or two around the plaza, and head back down towards Santa Fe, and keep walking. I don’t make any stops during this first part of my Saturday stroll.

Red brick and trees in Plaza Alemania.

Red brick and trees in Plaza Alemania.

If it’s after 4 pm, my first stop is the Origamiteca. I love to make origami stars, so I acquire strips of lovely origami paper here and enjoy the smell of paper and ink before heading out in search of a cup of coffee.
Next stop is Lattente. I love walking the tree-lined streets on my way there. If the weather is not too hot or too cold, I order a flat white and my mandatory fustuca (I love pistachios) and sit outside to enjoy some people-watching. If don’t feel like staying, I order my flat white and my fustuca to go.
Then, I devote about half an hour to wander about the streets of Palermo. I sometimes walk past the street fair at Plaza Armenia, but only if I am in the mood. Sometimes there is live music, but if not, I try to avoid the crowds (plus the only stall I like is La Botanique).

Sunset in Plaza Armenia

Sunset in Plaza Armenia

Door in a condemned builiding in Palermo.

Door in a condemned builiding in Palermo.

I try to replicate this routine of coffee and wandering about everywhere I go. I find that it is the best way to get a sense of any city and its people. Go grab a cup of coffee and get lost in your city!

Best cafés in Palermo

Capuccino and cookie at Lab

Capuccino and cookie at Lab (yes, my camera does not make it justice)

Porteños love coffee, and all the rituals that it implies. We like our coffee hot, and served at our table, and spend hours reading or debating with a friend over café con leche with medialunas. The line “¿Un cafecito?” is a must after every meal. But, let’s face it, coffee in Buenos Aires is usually horrible. I’ve yet to find out why. Thankfully, a wave of exquisite Colombian coffee and talented baristas rolled in Palermo for a very necessary caffeine kick. I live in Palermo and I’m the first one to admit I should give other barrios‘ coffee a chance, but as all writing courses teach, it’s best to stick to what one knows.  All these four places have excellent brews, and you should definitely try them out.

Full City Coffee House: Great coffee and friendly atmosphere. My favourite place when I need to work or study with a Britpop soundtrack, or have a long chat with a friend. My favourites: the Flat White and the coconut lemonade. Serves an English Full Breakfast on Sundays, haven’t tried it yet but looks promising. Thames 1535. https://www.facebook.com/fullcitycoffeehouse

Lattente: Smaller place, ideal for take-away or a quick cup of coffee if you happen to pass it by.  My favourite order is a macchiatto with a mouth-watering fustuca. Every Saturdays after lunch you can find Cannoli di Palermo selling their delicious cannolis and sfogliatellas and other Italian treats outside the shop. On Sundays Sheikob’s Bagels makes an stellar appearance after 11:30 am for an ideal Sunday brunch. Thames 1898. https://www.facebook.com/LATTEnTEArgentina

Lab Tostadores de Café: Open space, ideal for an informal work meeting or a casual chat with friends. I loved the chocolate chip cookies, and the cappuccino I had was perfection itself. I’m yet to try the iced coffee. Humboldt 1542. https://www.facebook.com/labtostadores?fref=ts

Ninina Bakery: Lovely space with an open kitchen. Perfect for brunch/tea with family members or a group of friends.Their scones and muffins are to die for. It’s usually very busy and a bit noisy, so not ideal for work, unless you go very early (what I usually do on the weekends). The staff is a bit slow sometimes. Gorriti 4738. https://www.facebook.com/labtostadores?fref=ts

Image by Nathan Snider under a CC license https://www.flickr.com/photos/nathansnider/476559398 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/

Image by Nathan Snider under a CC license https://www.flickr.com/photos/nathansnider/476559398 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/

 

Find them on Google Maps: https://goo.gl/maps/ietnc

 

 

Everything You Need To Know About Buenos Aires Public Transport System

Subte A: Oldest subte in the city. Still runs on the weekends. Photo by Thomas Hobbs (CC License)

I highly recommend you use public transport in Buenos Aires. Yes, it is far from perfect, but you will save tons of money. Plus, if you use the buses, you will get to see much more of the city and its people.

Buying and Charging Your SUBE

The first thing you need is a SUBE card. You don’t need to be a resident to use it. All you have to do is buy one for 20 pesos. In the following link you can find a map of all authorised sellers, and you can look places up near you:

http://www.sube.gob.ar/mapacentrosobtencion.aspx

Once you have the SUBE, you need to put some money in it. Authorised sellers can usually charge your card, but not always. You can charge it in the nearest Tube (Subte) station (they won’t give you a ticket so check they charge you correctly) or find a place near you here:

http://www.sube.gob.ar/centrossube.aspx

You can use your SUBE for buses in the City of Buenos Aires, as well as outside the city within what is called Gran Buenos Aires, trains, and of course, the subte.

Find How To Get There

The second thing you need is the Mapa Interactivo de Buenos Aires (Buenos Aires Interactive Map). A great tool to know how to get to where you are going. There are also Android and Iphone apps available. Input the starting and finishing points, choose the chosen way of transportation (walk, bike, car and public transport, which includes subte and buses). You can select number of blocks you are willing to walk and if you want just bus, subte or train routes. It works only for the City of Buenos Aires, it doesn’t provide information on how to get to Avellaneda or Tigre, for example.

The Subte

The subte fare is pretty straightforward: 4.50 pesos each ticket. As long as you don’t exit the station, you can pretty much stay forever in there changing trains. Well, not forever, because the subte closes around 10.30/11 p.m., and it opens at 5/6 a.m. (it depends on the line). If you don’t have your SUBE, the fare is 5 pesos. There are discounts if you use more than 20 tickets in a month (more info here: http://www.buenosaires.gob.ar/subte/tarifas).

There are 6 subte lines: A, B, C, D, E and H. Here you have a map:

http://www.buenosaires.gob.ar/subte/mapa

The Buses

Bus fares are a bit more complicated. If you pay without the SUBE card, you need six pesos in coins. Yes, no bills accepted, the machines only take coins, and they don’t like 2 pesos coins… If you do have a SUBE, then:

0 to 3 km (remember in Buenos Aires one block is 100 metres, so 1 km equals 10 blocks, for example): 3 pesos

3 to 6 km: 3.25 pesos

6 to 12 km: 3.50 pesos

12 to 27 km: 4 pesos

You have to get on the bus, and tell the bus driver either the fare price you want to pay or the place you are getting off, and then approach your SUBE card to the machine, and voilà.

That is basically all you need to know. You are now ready to do Buenos Aires transport system like a porteño!

10 Amazing Tips for Freelancers to Boost Productivity

I’ve been where you are, sleeping too much and trying to work from the sofa in my pyjamas, and not getting much done.

Well, these tips might seem simple and basic, but trust me, they work. Of course, you might need to adapt them a bit. But better if you don’t!

  1. If you tend to oversleep, don’t try to get up at 8 in the morning. Try 9 or 10, and get OUT of the bed, and go to the bathroom without hesitation, no thinking.
  2. Get dressed immediately. Don’t linger around the house in your pyjamas. You have to work, so dress comfortably but with the same clothes you would wear out of the house.
  3. Make your bed. Yes, make it. You have done your first productive thing of the day, plus it makes your room look better, so you’ll feel better as well.
  4. Have breakfast. A cup of coffee, a glass of water, yoghurt, some fruit. Whatever you prefer, but eat or drink something.
  5. Now, turn on your computer or check your emails on your phone, or your calendar for appointments, whatever you need to do first to get started.
  6. Make a list of things you must do, and a list of things you could do that day. Of course, you will start with the must, but along the way you might realise not everything you though was necessary is, so be flexible, but don’t cheat. If you move a must to the could list, then check the coulds and see if you can get one or two done today.
  7. If you are distracted at home, go outside. Chose a cafe or a coworking space near your home (it has to be within walking distance, or bike), and go, at least two or three hours a day.
  8. Do some exercise. It doesn’t have to be something too athletic (I’m quite lazy myself). Walk to the cafe, bike there, go up some stairs, something. You spend lots of time in front of the computer, some exercise will do you good. Walk instead of taking the subway or a bus. If you are freelancing, you have the time. It clears your mind. If you are sporty, great, you already know what I am talking about.
  9. If you can do it, do it. Don’t overthink. If you think: “I should call so and so”, do it right then. And if you can’t do it (maybe it’s too early, or too late), I’m sure there’s something else you can do instead. Do your laundry, clean the dishes, send an email, change a light bulb, anything. “Do. Or do not. There is no try”, Yoda would say. I say, ‘Do. Or do’. No excuses: imagine yourself working in an office from 9 to 5 with a nasty boss and boring colleagues every day of your life. Good.
  10. Find other freelancers like you. Ask them what their routines are like, steal the tricks that you think might help you.

And if you are not getting a task done, maybe you should hire me to do it instead. Just Ask Vic!