All posts by James Adams

5 Tips for Organizing Client Visits to Your Home Office

When working from a home office, depending on the business, times may arise where a meeting with a client is necessary. Although the meeting may be for any number of reasons, it still involves bringing business into the home. It is important in these situations to make sure that the visit is framed in a professional way. The client will expect some informality, but at the same time expect a certain level of professionalism.

Here are some tips to help organize for a client visit to your home office.

1. Call a Day Before to Confirm the Appointment

If it has been more than one day since the appointment was made, it is a good idea to call the day before the appointment to confirm the appointment time, location and a general agenda.

Even if you do not get the client on the phone, this information can be given in a simple and short message. End the message by saying that you will see them at that time and to contact you should they have any questions. This gives the client a gentle reminder while not requiring them to call back if they plan on keeping the appointment.

2. Clean the Office

In advance of the client arriving, make sure that the office area is clean. This means organizing papers and putting away anything that does not need to be out. It is fine to have some work on your desk when the client arrives, just so long as it does not look like a disorganized mess.

Items that do not belong in the home office should be removed as well. If anything like a childís toy or a kitchen chair has made its way into the room, remove it. While keeping a slightly informal and friendly atmosphere is important, you also do not want a client to feel that the meeting is too relaxed. It may not reflect well on the overall business.

Directly before the client arrives, make sure that all paperwork that is required is out and marked appropriately. If they will need to sign papers, have the relevant areas marked and pens available. Whatever files and papers are necessary for the meeting, have them all out and ready to use.

3. Have Beverages Available

It is polite to offer a client something to drink. This is dependent on the length of the meeting, but it can help to relax them and make the meeting more comfortable. Try to have water, soda and coffee or tea available. This is important to pay attention to especially if the meeting is expected to last more than half an hour.

4. Make Sure Relevant Qualifications are Displayed

To help solidify the professionalism of your business and instill trust in the client, try to have any degrees, certificates or other qualifications displayed visibly on the walls. Depending on the design of the home office, you may want to consider having the documents lighted for emphasis.

5. Make Sure the Client is Comfortable

On the day of the meeting, it is important to make sure that the client is comfortable and that the setting is as professional as possible. The client will understand that it is a home office, but it can still help to try and remove unnecessary distractions.

If any family members are home during the time of the visit, ask them to try and be quiet. Put any pets away or outside. Make sure that the path from the front door to the office is clean and free of obstructions. Also ask your family to not disturb you while meeting with the client.

Once inside the home office for the meeting, make sure to close the door. This will help to create a sense of privacy and prevent outside distractions during the meeting.

Being prepared for a client visit is half of the battle. Knowing that everything is clean and organized will help to free up mental space to focus on the client. Having all of their paperwork at your fingertips will also help. By following some common sense rules and creating an atmosphere of relaxed professionalism, the client will feel at home in your home office.

Interested in gizmos and gadgets, George Baker specializes in vacuum bags as he writes about Bosch vacuum bags and other products.

10 Ways to Boost Virtual Office Productivity

Virtual teams present special challenges, primarily because they are so geographically dispersed. Because you never meet face to face, out must rely on technology to get your workers trained. Remote workers in the form of IT specialists or personal assistants are great ways to save money or assemble teams with unique skills, but they require some special handling to keep them focused on their assigned tasks. Here you will find 8 ways to boost virtual office productivity so you get your money’s worth.

  1. Set your expectations early: You need to make sure you discuss your communication methods and how often you must get updates. Be specific concerning the outputs you want to see and when you must see them. By setting the standard early you can develop a better relationship and also have a framework by which you can provide evaluations and take corrective action if necessary.
  2. Route tasks effectively: A thorough knowledge of your virtual workers’ skill will help you route work properly. Virtual workers all have different specialties, so make sure that you delegate appropriate work to each person. This will help your virtual workers be more productive and you will get the results you need.
  3. Get an address: Your virtual office can include physical space services that have a real address with a real receptionist to sign for packages and provide notary and other services. Space services give you the ability to maintain a prestigious address without the overhead associated with the high rent district. With a virtual address you don’t have to worry that anyone will find out that you do most of your work in your pyjamas.
  4. Use software tools: Training and planning can be done with online project management tools such as the online BaseCamp subscription service. With online tools you can stipulate that all work be documented and you and your team can pick up and move on should one of your virtual workers quit unexpectedly.
  5. Trust, not fear should characterize your relations with virtual workers: As with any employee or contractor you take a risk, although you never get to see most of your virtual team. You also should recognize that your virtual team may have never seen you either, so they have a lot at stake too. Rather than trying to keep your team members on a short leash, let them go about their work and while you go about yours. Most of the time your worries will prove to be unfounded.
  6. Start smart: With a lot of deadlines looming you may feel pressured to assign a lot of work to new virtual workers. Realize that they have to get used to you and the way your organization works just as much as a physical employee would have to do. Start small with simple tasks while your team learns the ropes and gradually allow them to develop into the productivity engine you need them to be for your business to succeed.
  7. Get some legal advice: If you are new to virtual work environments, take some time and money to get competent legal advice. You want to form relationships that don’t leave you vulnerable to legal action should one of your virtual workers become unhappy.
  8. Be culturally savvy: If you have foreign workers on your virtual team, take some time to learn about their cultural nuances and practices. Be aware of their holidays and work routines and be careful not to unintentionally insult or offend them. Everyone must have respect for each other in order for the global workforce to succeed.
  9. Provide support: Virtual workers will have concerns from time to time that you need to address promptly to keep them productive. Pay issues are probably near the top of the list with workflow issues being close by. If your workers need online or other tools to get their work done, go ahead and support them by getting them what they need. If you’re willing to work to accommodate them, they will be more likely to accommodate you.
  10. Respect: To have a productive virtual office, you must show your workers respect. Take the lead in this area and be patient while your workers adjust to you and their virtual surroundings. After you’ve been fair and respectful with them for a few weeks, demand respect in return (if you haven’t received it yet). The virtual office is just like a physical office: everyone must get along in order to accomplish the mission.

Chart your course to success with these 10 ways to boost virtual office productivity. You will you’re your experience with this modern workforce to be fun, exciting, and profitable.

John Brook is a regular contributor to other blogs where he posts about improving productivity. He works at OfficeKitten.co.uk where he writes about presentation supplies and office supplies.

Five Tips for Improved Intra-Office Communication

Become more productive with these time-saving productivity tips.A business that improves communication between workers in an office will improve morale and boost productivity. Ultimately, a large office with poor communication will pay the price because miscommunication usually affects the bottom line. Fortunately, however, the digital revolution has resulted in numerous online communication services that can make intra-office communication drop-dead simple.

Here are 5 ways to get started on improving intra-office communication in your office.

1. Allow Workers to Use Instant Messengers

Instant messaging (IM) is used in many offices for employee collaboration. They use it either to replace email or in addition to email. Offices that use both systems use IM for quick messages or conversations and email for messages not requiring immediate attention or for longer FYI messages. Originally a social tool to chat with friends from a home computer, IM has been adopted by office workers as a way to avoid telephone tag or leaving a desk to discuss a project. All IM communication requires is an Internet connection and a small application loaded onto the local computer’s hard-drive.

Within an office setting, IM is much easier and faster to use than email and creates more of an instant conversation rather than a long-drawn out email rally. There are three reasons why IM is more efficient than email:

  1. First, a pop up mechanism displays a message almost as soon as it is sent.
  2. Second, it has a “buddy list” that can be organized efficiently, editing, adding, or deleting contacts.
  3. Third, it signals if a “buddy” is available for conversation or does not want to be disturbed. For example, if a status message indicates that someone is out of the office, then the sender can write an email or leave a voice message.

2. Set up Yammer

Yammer is like Twitter or Facebook, but within a private, secure social network. It’s creating a quiet revolution in office communications. The enterprise level software helps a business achieve rapid communication, complete collaborative tasks, and meet long-term goals. Rather than long-drawn out telephone conversations, endless meetings, and consulting on technical problems, it provides increased communication. It can be used in a large office where workers are scattered over a large area or it can be used in connecting with remote workers. Signing up for this service only takes a minute. A company email address is all that is necessary to get started with Yammer.

3. Create a Private LinkedIn Group

LinkedIn is a professional network service, a social networking website for business relationship building. Apart from allowing users to create a resume-like profile page, it also allows for small, private groups to be created.

A Linkedin group permits users to discover a conversational thread; participating by liking and commenting on the thread; learning more about the top influencers in a thread by clicking a link that takes you to their profile; distinguishing between old discussions and fresh, new ones; reviewing the popularity of a discussion by seeing how many people signaled that they liked the thread and how many commented on it.

The major benefit of this tool is to stimulate brainstorming and pooling of information and ideas. This is a perfect tool for a technical company where people with different levels of knowledge and skills can collaborate, share ideas, offer feedback and come up with new ideas.

4. Keep Employees Informed With a CRM Tool

Use an online customer relationship management tool to allow staff workers to see what other workers have said to a client. Highrise is an example of an excellent relationship management application. Their catchy theme slogan is that the software remembers so that you don’t forget. Highrise provides the following 6 staff-client recording services:

  1. It stores every oral or written conversation.
  2. It stores every email contact.
  3. It stores every telephone call.
  4. It stores every meeting.
  5. It stores every document.
  6. It stores every deal made.

These services provide the following 3 benefits:

  1. You’ll know which staff members have talked to the client.
  2. You’ll know what was said.
  3. You’ll know when to follow-up.

5. Use a Dedicated Project Management Tool

An application like Basecamp makes projects simple and clear. What makes Basecamp different from most project management software is that it takes a completely different approach to managing a project. By focusing on collaboration and communication rather than stats, graphs, and charts, the tool brings people together, empowering them to harmoniously work with each other. During a recent survey, approval rating was an astonishing 98%. Customers said that they would gladly recommend the software to anyone involved in a collaborative project.

John is a writer for Office Kitten, a specialist supplier of stationery online in the UK.

Typography: The Message Conveyed by Printed Characters

TypographyYour choice of font paints a picture with words, effectively conveying whether your message is playful or formal, sophisticated or aimed at children. Fonts can be used to emphasize the most important parts of an advertisement or article, especially for online readers who tend to quickly scan instead of carefully read. The type of font used is just as important as the colors or background in setting the mood of a message. So with this in mind, here are some points to take into consideration when choosing fonts and how they impact upon your readers’ opinion.

1. Use Styling to Denote Importance

Font size and thickness can be manipulated with any font to divide a message into parts of varying importance. Messages or advertisements often contain one most important element. Using a large, bold font for this element, whether it is the name of a company or an important date, makes that element stand out easily. The bolder and blockier the font, the more the words will jump out at the reader. Car dealerships or furniture stores often make use of large blocky fonts to announce a special sale.

Fonts such as Swiss and Futura are ideal choices when simple, chunky fonts are needed. These fonts have no serifs, which are the wispy extensions of the bottom and top of letters found in common fonts for newspaper or magazine text. Swiss and Futura come in varying thicknesses, from light to extra black, and condensed versions are also options when space is an issue. Many advertisements end with a small disclaimer at the bottom. This should always be the smallest font size of the ad and the thinnest version of the font. In articles, copyright lines or credits would follow the same format as a disclaimer.

2. More Formal Messages Require a More Stylized Font

Script fonts such as Edwardian or Zapfino come into play here. The elegant, swooping characters extend sometimes from thick at certain points to thin at the ends, like a willow branch reaching in the wind. Ideal for businesses such as wedding planners and five-star hotels, script fonts really convey a high-class image.

In addition to script fonts, formal messages sometimes use fonts that are simpler yet highly stylized. Examples are Camelia and Bernard Fashion, which are thin, rounded fonts. Their unique look draws the good kind of attention and states that the company is fashionable. These fonts should not be used for advertisements having a lot of text, because the words will easily get lost.

Only use script or stylized fonts when the message is simple, or just use them for the major headline or company name, and use a simple font for the rest.

3. Use Different Styling of Same Font for Easy Reading

Breaking up text with different styles of the same font makes for easier reading. The first, most important line should be bold. If there is a subheading underneath that, it could be italicized. Then, the main body should be regular text, which is called “Roman” or “Book.” If there is contact information or a company name at the end, it should be bold.

Setting up an advertisement or message in this way gives the brain an easy framework to understand and shows the chain of importance from greatest to least at a glance.

4. Use Special Display Fonts for Certain Holidays

Fonts to use for Halloween include Sand and Quake, which are squiggly, spooky typefaces, and Metropolitaines, which varies from very thick in the middle of a character to thinner and rounded outward toward the end. For Thanksgiving, Victorian and Harrington are good choices, because they have an old-fashioned yet domestic feel. For Christmas, the Snowcap font caps the top of each letter with a mound of snow. Graphic fonts such as Zapf Dingbats replace letters with images of shapes, including different types of snowflakes, which are handy to use in Christmas advertisements.

5. Italicized Fonts are Often Associated with Solemnity

Announcements such as thank-you messages for generosity of friends at a time of loss of a loved one should stick to italicized or light script fonts. Super-fancy script should not be used because the words will be hard to read. A script that has simple extensions at the tips of letters and maybe a strategically placed curl is good. Italicized versions of serif fonts like Garamond or Goudy work well, because they are easy to read yet fancier than a simple block font. Display fonts should be avoided, because they convey a more informal, happy tone.

Fonts work with all parts of an advertisement, article, or webpage to convey a solid, clear message. Elements can be manipulated to better cooperate. Background color can be altered to complement or contrast text color, or vice versa. As long as both color or shade and typeface set the same mood, the image will be enhanced by the complement. Typography does with characters what a painter does with brushstrokes. The result of both is an image that can be discerned as having a distinct mood. Proper use of fonts is key in painting the right picture.

This post was contributed by James who writes about design on the CreativeCloud. Click here if you would like to read more of his writing.

9 Tips for Finding the Virtual Office Assistant of Your Dreams

Virtual office assistants are a great way to get more done without spending a lot of money, especially when your business is small. You get to pay someone only for the time spent working for you or by the tasks they do for you without worrying about all the overhead associated with hiring a traditional employee. Although the concept is good, sometimes getting the right person for the job can be challenging. Below you will find 10 tips for finding the virtual office assistant of your dreams.

  1. Evaluate your requirements – Before you jump the gun and take on a virtual assistant, define what you want the assistant to do. What projects will the assistant work on? How often do you need to meet? Can you use an assistant who is located anywhere in the world or do you need someone locally, regionally, or nationally? Develop a set of criteria that you need your virtual assistant to meet before hand so you get the best match.
  2. Request proposals from several virtual assistants – When you do this, specify your work requirements and get feedback from each candidate. Find out how their fee structures work and how they intend to fulfill your responsibilities. If your assistant needs specific qualifications, the time to find out if they have them is at the start, before your project gets underway.
  3. Take out ads on online job boards – Advertise for a virtual assistant much in the same way you would look for a regular employee. List your job specs and terms and see how many applications you receive. By getting candidates to come to you, you spend less time finding leads. Also you may get lower rates when they are coming to you rather than have you going to them.
  4. Consider freelance sites – If you have isolated tasks or an eclectic mix of jobs that must be done, think about posing them on a freelance site. This way one or more worker can choose the jobs they are able to do for you and then report back when they are done. Often you can get more work done this way since multiple workers can work on the same project at the same time.
  5. Use an outsourcing agency – Companies like Virtual Staff Finder (http://www.virtualstafffinder.com) eliminate much of the work involved with finding a virtual assistant that you can depend on. By handling the screening, qualifying, and testing process, these companies help you quickly hire a virtual assistant. Like many traditional staffing agencies, these companies charge a fee for their services as they partner with you for success.
  6. Consider former employees – If people who used to work for you might still be willing to work for you, they may be one of the most potent pools of virtual assistants. Since they already know you and your business, they will be able to adapt quickly to your new requirements. Also, the flexibility of being a virtual worker will allow them to earn some extra money without disrupting their schedule.
  7. Experience matters – When hiring a virtual worker, you will need to make sure they have sufficient maturity and experience to be useful to you. Your objective is to save time and money, so the burden of training a virtual worker will not be beneficial to you at all. Ask for resumes, references, and examples of work before closing the deal with your new assistant.
  8. Look for traditional qualities – Don’t let the fact that you are looking for someone in the modern workforce cause you to forget the old fashioned qualities of loyalty and diligence that add to the value of an assistant’s creativity and competence.
  9. Be fair – Just because you are hiring a virtual assistant doesn’t mean you should exploit their labor or treat them worse than you would a traditional worker. Be reasonable with your demands and with your pay and the word might get out that you are a good virtual employer, helping you to attract even better virtual workers in the future.

Use these 9 tips for finding the virtual office assistant of your dreams to launch your business to new levels of success.

John Brook is a regular guest contributor to blogs where he posts about business productivity. Currently working as a writer at Office Kitten, John spends a lot of his time analysing office stationery for businesses based in the UK.