Hiring an Independent Contractor

A great way to build capacity as a small business owner is to outsource some of the functions of your business, usually accomplished by hiring an independent contractor, such as, virtual Executive/Administrative Assistants and Chief Financial Officers for hire. 

Downsizing elsewhere clears the way for the small business owner to avail themselves of experienced, capable and knowledgeable people.  Most of these service providers own their business, and can be retained by contract and for a fee.

However, it is vitally important to know and understand the difference between an employee to whom you are delegating a project and an independent business owner/contractor to whom you are outsourcing work based on their particular business focus, specialty or expertise.

These are some tips for knowing what to do when hiring and independent contractor:

  1. Know the difference: Before outsourcing, check with your State’s Department of Labor website for a clear understanding of regulations distinguishing an employee from an independent contractor. In some states, these regulations have recently become more stringent.
  2. Seek professional advice: Check with an attorney to make certain that your company’s per project contracts or those provided by the independent contractor have the necessary legal language.
  3. Protect your information: After checking with an attorney, have ready for signature a mutual Confidentiality/Non-Disclosure, Non-compete  agreement; safeguarding your proprietary information and that of the independent contractor.
  4. Abide by tax laws: Make absolutely certain that you have an IRS W-9 Form on hand for each independent. At the end of the year, send form 1099-MISC to all independent contractors to whom you have paid over $600. For more information check with your accountant, tax preparer or go to IRS.gov
  5. Check credentials: It is always a good idea to meet with the independent contractor and check their professional references. You are not hiring an employee, therefore, a resume is not the appropriate document to request.  However, look at their website, collateral material, and ask questions!

INFORMATION, CONTEMPLATIONS AND MUSINGS OF A VIRTUAL ASSISTANT

Ivonne Vazquez is Principal of VIVA-Virtually Indispensable Virtual Assistants located in Maine, USA www.vivavirtualassistants.com

Categories: Outsourcing Tags:

Hey, Put Some Pants On!

December 21, 2010 5 comments
VIVAssistants Blog

Working from Home | Not all Marshmallows & Hot Cocoa

WORKING FROM HOME IS GREAT!

While other people are stuck in bad, inclement weather, and commuter traffic, you sit back and review the accident reports on your smart phone and think, sincerely, “ooh, I hope they’re okay” (plop, plop…marshmallows into your mug of steaming hot cocoa, whilst in your pajama pants).

Now, please don’t misunderstand, working from a home based business/office is not all marshmallows and hot cocoa. I’m no slacker. I work hard at my business, for my clients and my family. But when it comes to blogging,                         . No, that’s not a typo…it’s what happens to me at the mere mention of blogging for my business.

So, why is it so difficult? To understand my personal annoyance you need to know that I have worked as a writer! As a successful grant writer; developer of sales kits/presentations; press releases/conferences; editor/writer of company newsletters; developer of story lines/scripts for an award winning cable TV program…but, I cannot for the life of me complete a blog!

STATE OF DRESS = STATE OF MIND

During a recent conversation with my significant other I lamented this. My wonderful, supportive guy, who is a former Marine (ouh-rah), and a straight talker with a mischievous sense of humor said, “Maybe you need to put on some pants.” Hmmm, I looked down…I was wearing pants (albeit they were ratty old pajama pants).

I was not dressed in a professional manner. Point blank he asked, “Would you go to a client in that state of dress?” Knowing full well that I dress very professionally at all times (outside of my own office), he continued, “If this were a video meeting, would you dress that way?”…Eeh Gahd, NO!

Working from a home based business/office has its double edge; it is as wonderful as it is difficult, whether you have a dedicated home office or work from your kitchen table.  In order to feel like the talented, dedicated small business person that you truly are, it is important to also look the part.  Not because someone else may see you, but because of the way it will make you feel.

By wearing something you would be ashamed to be seen in if walking the dog, you devalue yourself as a professional and your business. This in turn creates clutter in your mind and makes it terribly difficult to not only perceive yourself in the role of advisor, or savvy business person, but can also create self doubt in your ability to perform certain tasks (for me, it is manifested in my inability to produce blogs on a consistent basis).

So, do what I did, have a shower, get dressed (I put on nice pants), apply a bit of make-up (for guys…if that floats your boat…I don’t judge :)) and get to work! 

Oh…and don’t forget the extra marshmallows in the hot cocoa.

Hispanic/Latino Market: Lost in Translation

As a person who is Spanish/English bilingual and bicultural, there is nothing more frustrating than picking up a product, magazine or advertisement where the words were changed into Spanish, using an auto-translation program.  The mere gesture of changing the words from English to Spanish is not translation and it is not enough for me.

I’m a Mom, small business owner, well read, well traveled, and head of household.  I am Spanish/English bilingual and bicultural.  I am your target market.  At the store, I pick up a product from Company-A.  I read both the English and Spanish labeling (remember, I’m bilingual, as are many of the approximately 52 million Hispanics/Latinos in the United States).  If I see that Company-A has changed the words from English to Spanish while syntax, context, and grammar are wrong, I will promptly put your product back on the shelf. 

Instead, I will buy the product from Company-B (next to yours) with an English only label.  Company-B is not insulting my intelligence, language and culture. Although Company-A initially captured my attention; ultimately, their poor translation makes me think and feel that they are not as interested in me, the Hispanic/Latino consumer, as they may expect.

Company-A wants to sell the product, I get it.  But think of it this way, your marketing department would never allow you to advertise and market a product in Maine exactly the same way you would in Texas, right?! 

So why assume that using an auto-translation application to change your message from English to Spanish, verbatim, will work? 

Why assume that Mexican Americans, Puerto Ricans and Argentinians (to name only a few) use the same colloquialisms or eat the same comfort foods.  We are many cultures with differing traditions.  Each market is specific.

 My tip to any business or company hoping to cash in on the US 52 million strong Hispanic/Latino market: Splurge and use a real, Spanish speaking person to translate! 

Better yet, if you are marketing your products to groups of Mexican descent, use a translator from Mexico. If you are targeting Puerto Ricans, use a Puerto Rican (and so on for each of the countries). 

 

This way, you won’t lose my business and nothing will get lost in translation!

 

 

This post was original published by Ivonne Vazquez – VIVA Virtual Assistants on May 3, 2010.

 

INFORMATION, CONTEMPLATIONS AND MUSINGS OF A VIRTUAL ASSISTANT

Ivonne Vazquez is Principal of VIVA-Virtually Indispensable Virtual Assistants, LLC, located in Maine, USA www.vivavirtualassistants.com

Before You Buy Your iPhone | Small Business

Invested in an iPhone 3Gs early this year and love it! My business runs on PC; email syncs beautifully with my iPhone. I almost never carry a laptop as I do everything from my phone (the virtual assistant’s, assistant!).

BEFORE YOU BUY YOUR iPHONE

Based on my recent experience, if you are thinking about buying an iPhone, this is what to do and expect:

Do your homework first and speak to the Apple Store Specialists. The two people who helped me (Jason & Adam, Apple Store, So. Portland, Maine) were very, very savvy and helpful! What’s more, they could not have been more patient with all of the questions I had (from a true iPhone novice) pre-purchase.

Most importantly, make sure that you understand why you want one, how you plan to use it for business and what type of phone/minutes plan you would like to have. This will make the transition a lot smoother.

Be prepared to spend quite a bit of time at the store. I made two separate visits in one week. One, to get initial info re cost, minutes, set-up, is this right for me, etc. My second visit was for the purchase. On this visit, between additional questions, the process, etc. I was there for approximately 1.5 hours. While it took longer than I had anticipated, I got everything I needed to make a well informed purchase.

Go during the day and midweek for a less stressful shopping experience, as everyone in the State seems to go to the Apple Store on a Saturday!

Opt for a business purchase in their system which helps you accumulate points every time you buy peripherals, etc. 

If you’re an AT&T customer.  The AT&T coverage works better with the iPhone than with the average cell (very few dropped calls for me).  However, be aware of #UnlimitedDataPlan changes effective June 7, 2010 for new AT&T customers see this article from the Wall Street Journal Online http://on.wsj.com/bGkm8o.

At the end of it all, I found out that I could even port my telephone number from digital carrier to my iPhone via AT&T so that my business wouldn’t skip a beat! Granted, it took two weeks and I needed to have my business line forwarded to a temporary number…the point is that it could be done.

POST PURCHASE

Highly recommend making an appointment with the Business Specialist at the Apple Store (post purchase). Chris was my Business Specialist and he was very helpful. Turns out he had been an executive assistant himself and really understood what I was trying to accomplish with my new equipment.

Additionally, my local Apple Store offers free of charge Business workshops for learning how to use and maximize the use of your new iPhone.

Best peripheral – a phone/wall jack! Appx $40 but allows you to carry only one cord and you’ll be able to plug in anywhere. Which you will need to do as the battery life is less than regular cells (this is a mini computer, after all).

There are also jacks that cost upwards of $89.00 which allow you to use your car stereo speakers to amplify music from iPhone. Because I don’t use my iPhone in this manner I found the basic jack works best for me. I also really enjoy the great customer service.

Great Customer Service! Between Jason & Adam, I’m instantly recognized whenever I walk into the local Apple Store…which is a great feeling!

Good luck & Enjoy!

Independent Contractor vs. Employee

A great way to build capacity as a small business owner is to outsource some of the functions of your business.  Take for instance, virtual Executive/Administrative Assistants and Chief Financial Officers for hire.  Downsizing elsewhere clears the way for the small business owner to avail themselves of experienced, capable and knowledgeable people.  Most of these service providers own their business, and can be retained by contract and for a fee.

However, it is vitally important to know and understand the difference between an employee to whom you are delegating a project and an independent business owner/contractor to whom you are outsourcing work based on their particular business focus, specialty or expertise.

These are some of the best practices used within my own business support services company:

  1. Know the difference: Before outsourcing, check with your State’s Department of Labor website for a clear understanding of regulations distinguishing an employee from an independent contractor. In some states, these regulations have recently become more stringent.
  2. Seek professional advice: Check with an attorney to make certain that your company’s per project contracts or those provided by the independent contractor have the necessary legal language.
  3. Protect your information: After checking with an attorney, have ready for signature a mutual Confidentiality/Non-Disclosure, Non-compete  agreement; safeguarding your proprietary information and that of the independent contractor.
  4. Abide by tax laws: Make absolutely certain that you have an IRS W-9 Form on hand for each independent. At the end of the year, send form 1099-MISC to all independent contractors to whom you have paid over $600. For more information check with your accountant, tax preparer or go to IRS.gov
  5. Check credentials: It is always a good idea to meet with the independent contractor and check their professional references. You are not hiring an employee, therefore, a resume is not the appropriate document to request.  However, look at their website, collateral material, and ask questions!

INFORMATION, CONTEMPLATIONS AND MUSINGS OF A VIRTUAL ASSISTANT

Ivonne Vazquez is Principal of VIVA-Virtually Indispensable Virtual Assistants located in Maine, USA www.vivavirtualassistants.com

There’s no app for that

The use of technology enables me to provide services to my clients no matter what the geographical location, within my virtual business support services company. A recent experience made me realize that some things cannot be done electronically.

My client (we’ll call him Joe), works in the New York Tri-State area, hired me to research hydrographic surveying information for his business. A few weeks after he purchased a block of time for my services, I received an e-mail in which Joe first apologized for his yet to be disclosed request and then went on to explain that he would need me to research something entirely different than originally planned.

On a recent trip to Vermont, he visited his parents’ gravesite, only to discover that there was no headstone. Long story short, his understanding was that another sibling was to take care of this important task on behalf of the family. Immediately, Joe set out to correct the situation but found that he didn’t know where to begin and as he was traveling for business, he would be unable to do the research himself.

With an internet yellow pages site, I compiled a list of approximately twenty businesses, nine of which were closest to the town where the family plot is located. Not thinking twice, I looked for a website for each company. After the first three, I realized that there was an interesting trend developing…not one of the first few businesses on the list had a website or if there was a link, it did not work. I thought “No matter, there is a phone number that I can call”. Easy.

Six of the nine companies I telephoned did not answer. Three of those six did not have an answering machine or voicemail. Of the three with an answering machine, one in particular had a message which said something to the effect of “We’re closed for the Winter. We can’t work the ground during this time of year. Call back in the Spring.” I sat back in my chair and laughed. All I could think was “Oh my word. How can anyone work this way?!”

My answer would come in the voice of two of the three people who did answer the telephone that day. The first lady did not quite understand why a man in New York, was using a woman in Maine to purchase a headstone in Vermont. I tried to explain that I was a virtual assistant, “A what?”; I’m sure she thought it was a joke. During our conversation, I learned that her husband’s family had been in the business for over 50 years. In her voice I could tell that she was around 65-70 years of age, as was the second lady I spoke with.

They were both very knowledgeable and experienced in what they offered. There was no need for internet, voicemail, e-mail or websites in their line of work. Local people found them either through the funeral home director, cemetery or because they had done such a beautiful job on a family’s monument that they became the headstone installers of choice for each individual family. With the help of these knowledgeable people, I had what information was needed such as, where the granite is quarried, the best time of year to install a headstone in Vermont, dimensions, lettering, and the process of installation.

My client is happy and the process has begun – a headstone will be placed at his parents’ gravesite within the next six weeks, “when the ground can be worked”.  Me, well, I am now a virtual assistant who is well versed in procurement, placement and installation of headstones in Northern New England.

When my task was done for Joe, I sat back and processed my experience, as I often do after a project.  I realized that we have all plunged so strongly and so rapidly into this world of instant access to information, instant gratification, of working and socializing virtually and “click of a button, it’s done” mentality that we may be unaware of people and jobs that have no need for technology in the context in which the rest of us use, rely, live or work by each day. Yet, we all have (or will have) need of their non-technical, non-virtual, knowledge, experience and skills. What will happen when they are gone?

Who will be available to carry on the traditions of a headstone maker? What of some of the other primitive skills such as blacksmith or farrier? Some jobs cannot be done via e-mail, smart phone or in the cloud. Some people, their knowledge and skills will be sorely missed when there is no one to continue the work. There truly is no app for that!

INFORMATION, CONTEMPLATIONS AND MUSINGS OF A VIRTUAL ASSISTANT

Ivonne Vazquez is Principal of VIVA-Virtually Indispensable Virtual Assistants, LLC, located in Maine, USA www.vivavirtualassistants.com

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