Brain on vacation – Back to normal

Finally tax day has come and gone, and now my brain can vacate for a few days. It’s been a busy few weeks but was well worth it. Now to relax into a more steady work schedule.


I can never say this enough having your accounts in order whether they’re done by you or a bookkeeper/accountant, it’s so much easier when it comes to taxes and annual accounts. Doing your accounts ever month, every quarter or even six months will be beneficial to you the business owner/independent contractor in that it helps you keep track of what your income and expenses are.   It also lessens the stress when it comes to doing your annual accounts and your profit and loss statements and other reports that you need at the end of your financial year.

So if you haven’t done your first quarter accounting, now would be a good time to get it done or hire a bookkeeper to do it for you.

Enjoy the week.

Althea – VYPA

How to write formally without sending readers to sleep.

I came across this article on the website How to Write Better. There are some good insights on making your writing more precise and to the point when writing formal documents for your business. But these tips can also apply to any kind of writing that we do now a days may it be formal or informal. So enjoy what the author of this article by Penny Dent has to say on the matter. I found it very interesting.

7 key tips to writing good formal documents, reports, letters and more

When we are writing something formal and structured, such as a document, report, or a letter, it is even more vital to be clear and get it right. This is no casual conversation, this is something that will make a difference. I spent twenty years producing formal documents that made a difference to children’s lives, so I know how important it is to follow a few simple rules in order to say what is needed.

Structure – keep it simple. What is the main objective of what you want to say? Don’t be tempted to muddy the waters by expanding on your message in too much detail or digressing into other areas. The more you keep it short and focused, the more likely you are to have your message heard and understood. If you are writing at length, consider including an introduction and conclusion; “tell ‘em what you’re going to tell ‘em, tell ‘em and then tell ‘em what you told ‘em.”

Layout – tempt the reader onwards. I am a great believer in using the layout of what you say to ensure that the message is read. So no long paragraphs, with multiple clauses, but not too many short, snappy sentences either. Avoid repetition, contractions and jargon. Keep sentences all the same length, wherever possible. Do the same with paragraphs; I really dislike long paragraphs and I would never put a single sentence as a paragraph in a formal piece of writing, unless I wanted to create real emphasis.

Break it up – I use punctuation and paragraphs to provide the basic structure, but if I am writing any length, I use other formatting to help invite the reader onwards. Bullet points are usually preferable to numbering in my view, as they highlight individual points without putting these in any particular order. Sub-headings are useful, even when contained within the text, as I have done here.

Language – of course the words we use are vital in communicating our message. Using complex or unusual vocabulary is counter-productive unless we are aiming to deliberately confuse or mislead our reader. Or if you want to impress them with what a bombast you are! Jargon is a definite no-no, as this may not be understood by those outside the sphere of its use. Writing formal documents on children with special educational needs for many years, I used to take on writers with no real knowledge of the field, so that they would not be tempted to use the jargon; I would tell them “if in doubt, leave it out.”

Grammar – when we are writing something more formal, we do not generally use the same grammatical structures we use when talking. This has become harder to define and maintain now that so much of what we write is casual and written in a conversational tone, such as in emails, texts and blogs. However, I think it is still useful to be correct when writing, as much to avoid silly mistakes as anything else. Mistakes or chatty grammar distract from the message we are trying to convey, which will make it lose its impact.

Tense – I try to write in the present tense as much as possible. Even when you are writing formally, this has more impact than writing in the past. Narration has traditionally been written in the past tense, or if you are writing a report and explaining what has happened, this will also be described as having happened. If you are explaining how to do something (as I am here) then I would keep it in the now as much as possible. These days books are often written in the present tense, making them more exciting and relevant.

Active or passive voice – using the passive voice used to be standard for any formal writing; “the words used are vital in communicating the message.” Nowadays we are much more personal and direct in what we say, so that even formal writing is related to our own experiences and views. This makes it easier to understand and follow. However, there is a difference between writing in the active voice “I really dislike long paragraphs and I would never put a single sentence as a paragraph in a formal piece of writing” and being too chatty “I hate long, boring bits of writing and wouldn’t put a sentence on its own”.

Overall, whatever the purpose of the writing, my number one tip is to keep it as short and simple as possible. People are lazy! So no matter how interesting your writing, they will not read it all carefully or thoroughly, unless it is riveting. As with any writing, set it down, walk away and then come back to check it, reducing the number of words and simplifying the message. Less is more.

Windows 10 upgrade available until July 29, 2016

windows 10

Hi Everyone,

I hope you’re all having a great Sunday and Happy Father’s Day to all the fathers out there. I just want to remind all the users of Windows 7 & 8 that the free windows 10 update is still available until June 29. So you have 10 days to get your laptops or PCs updated for free.

By now you should have received a notification in your update ready section telling you that you can update your windows product, but if not you can click on the link and get the download from Microsoft. This link will become inactive after July 29. Link courtesy of

Windows 10 upgrade – FREE

I’ve had windows 10 for almost a year now on the free upgrade and it’s great to work with. Now all my laptops and computers have it on.

Happy updating.

Althea – VYPA




Spring has Sprung – Part 2: 6 Tips to help with your digital spring clean.

As you go through spring here are some tips to help with the digital clean up that we should all do.

Dust bunny

As spring rolls on here are some tips to continue to clean up our digital lives

Passwords. It’s a good idea at this time of year to look at all your accounts and change the passwords. As suggest by many digital security sites and professionals the mix of upper and lower case with numbers is one of best ways to create a secure password. So take a look at your passwords and update them. And if remembering all the passwords for your different accounts is too much then there are apps such as Lastpass or Passwordbox to help.

Get rid of files you don’t want any more. Just like clearing out our work space, desktops, and emails, you should also clear out files that you no longer need. Many of us have files on our computers that we no longer use, and that takes up valuable space and are at time home to viruses. As as you delete all these files remember to empty the recycle bin.

Security software. Your security software should be up to date and running the most recent version. It’s a good time to check your security software and make sure that it’s running at its optimum best. Some of the better security options are the ones that are paid for as they are automatically updated, the ones that are available for free generally require you to do manual updates and also come with additional software that you often times don’t need.

Social media. Social media is very popular and one of the main ways we keep up with what’s happening around us. If you’re a fan of Facebook you’ll notice that every so often their privacy policy gets updated and this will in turn change your privacy settings. Check in on your digital footprint with your social media and check that your privacy settings are intact to where you want them to be.

Subscriptions. Over time we have all subscribed to numerous newsletters on a variety of topics that at one point in time was useful to us. But as we move on in life many of these newsletter emails just add to the clutter that we all experience. Go through your subscriptions and unsubscribe to all the unwanted newsletters, email alerts, and updates you no longer need.

Smartphones and tablets. Not only do we need to clean up our computers and laptops but also we need to do the same with our smartphones and tablets. There are normally countless apps that have been downloaded that are not needed and it’s a good time to also clean up the apps on our phones and tablets to make them work much better for us.

As you go through your spring cleaning remember to always empty your bins, recycle, email and the physical ones.

Happy cleaning.

Finding your niche in a crowded marketplace (Re posted)

Hi everyone, here is and article that I thought was very interesting and something that I have focused on in the past. Creating a niche or focusing on your product is something that we all need to do to progress our business.

Finding your niche in a crowded marketplace

By , Published May 31, 2012

In a Crowded Marketplace, You Need to Find Your Niche Fast as to Gain a Bigger Share of the MarketIn a Crowded Marketplace, You Need to Find Your Niche Fast as to Gain a Bigger Share of the Market

There might be times when you have the kind of feeling that to compete in a crowded marketplace is highly difficult for you especially if you are a new business; the winners are usually the big timers or companies with huge financial standing. However, finding your niche in the crowd is possible, and this will make your business a epitome success for underdogs.

So how do you find your niche in a very crowded marketplace?

1. Innovate is a Bad Word. Start a New Market Instead!

The Word "Innovation" has been Over Used. You Need to Take it Out and Throw it AwayThe Word “Innovation” has been Over Used. You Need to Take it Out and Throw it Away

Have you noticed many businesses around you will usually ‘shout’ out in their advertisements that they have revolutionary and innovative products? Well, to the consumer, innovative is nothing to him or her if the product does not help or does not mean anything to them.

As time goes by, the word ‘innovative’ somehow has lost its meaning as everybody is using it without exactly what the consumer really wants. To the consumer, being innovative is just like putting a paint on the car or a simple improvement that the others.

The new word or I should say the new phrase today, should be “Start a New Market!” Well products that claimed to be innovative still share the same market, the same group of target consumers and the same piece of cake with its competitors. Why not create a new market instead?

Creating a new market doesn’t mean inventing a whole new product. But it does mean educating a new group of consumers and solving an existing problem in the current market that consumers are currently facing. It also means creating a new category of market that is an alternative to the existing market where many of your competitors are fighting on.

By starting a new market, you will gain first mover advantage while competitors will have a hard time copying  and following what you doing. Hence for the first few years, focus on educating, and improving on your product so that you can prepare yourself should your competitors come in to ‘invade’ the market that you created.

2. Focus on Productive Things

Do Productive Things Daily

Young companies who want to grow exponentially fast in a crowded marketplace may need to work a little bit harder than the seasoned ones. However, this doesn’t mean that they work harder on unnecessary stuffs. Due to time  or funds shortage, the marketer must waste no time.

Focus on doing productive things. The meaning of ‘productive’ means the steps which make your business one step closer to your potential client. Take designing a marketing flyer for example. You may take 3 month (exaggerating a bit) to design a advertisement flyer which in your opinion you think it’s the best. While your competitor has already design a simple flyer with a clear call to action in an hour. While the next day, the competitor has already sent its flyer to about 100 prospective clients. While the action of putting the flyer into a prospect hands is productive. While designing the advertisement is not productive.

In today internet age, with the help of social media such as like Facebook and Twitter, as well as popular Search engines such as Google, it speeds up the process of doing productive things. Hence, if your budget is high enough, try to leverage on these media first. Rule of the thumb, the smart marketer will constantly do things that are very productive and at the same time, does not make him or her tired

For example, compare giving out flyers and starting a Google adwords campaign. You should focus on the adwords campaign instead as it will give you a faster and larger group of targeted prospects that have a relatively higher possibility of needing your products and services.

3. Build Branding Reputation

Focus on Building Your Brand Reputation, Brick by BrickFocus on Building Your Brand Reputation, Brick by Brick

Think about what you going to achieve for your business 10 years, 5 years, 1 year or  6 months from where you are now. Think of how to make your company brand name stands in the minds of your consumers. Be creative. Be the first to create, think and do something that your competitors never thought of doing. Notice the word that I have repeated thrice here? Yes, you need to be constantly thinking about how you going to make your brand stand out from others.

Eventually what you want to have for your business, is a strong brand reputation. And this will takes time to see the results. Brand reputation is so powerful that it will make your things and services sell faster and easier. This is because brand reputation adds credibility for your business and hence confidence for your customers in buying your products and services.

So long you focus on building your brand, it doesn’t matter whether your company is new or not, your business will eventually gain an upper hand than most of your competitors who prefers making fast money while ignoring the importance of building a brand.

4. Never Cheapen your Brand

Cutting Prices in Order to Win Customers, is Like Cutting Your Own FleshCutting Prices in Order to Win Customers, is Like Cutting Your Own Flesh

Slashing prices, giving bulky discounts and telling the whole world that you sell cheap stuffs, are the fastest for brand suicide. Try to be firm on your pricing. Never think of cutting prices as a means to win clients. People buy for many reasons and not solely based on low prices.

The moment you have cheapen your brand, people especially your loyal clientele will start to lose confidence and begin to doubt the quality of your products. Take for example, if one day renowned apparel Gucci, announced that they are going to slash prices down by 70%. It may cause a buying frenzy in the short run. However, in the long term, when people confidence on the brand falls, the sales turnover in the long run will eventually fall as well.

Hence, the advice, never ever cheapen your brand.

To end, let’s take this famous advice from ADDIDAS,

“Impossible is Nothing”.

Branding yourself Online – Ebook review

Branding is all about the image of your business. The concept doesn’t only include style, emblems and logos, but also the image of perceived quality. The perceived image may be of total quality, reliability, and more.

Branding Yourself Online

Branding yourself online is a great read for business owners looking to gain knowledge on branding and it’s various aspects.

“The thing to remember about branding is that it helps produce an image about a business.”

“Branding is all about the image of your business. The concept doesn’t only include style, emblems and logos, but also the image of perceived quality. The perceived image may be of total quality, reliability, and more.”

The book looks at what to consider when looking at logos, colors, your target market, how competition affect your brand and even how to research competitors in the market.

One main goal of branding is that it gives businesses a professional look and helps you to build trust, recognition and exposure.

Read Branding Yourself Online and see how you can add to your business!

Is a business name necessary?

Why do I need a business name and what are the costs.

Do I need a business name

For someone just starting out or even playing with the idea of providing a service part time or full time, the question of needing a business name always comes up.  Any one who is going into the VA field should consider a having a business name and here are some reasons why.

  1. It identifies who you are and what you do
  2. It looks professional
  3. It helps to keep you focused on running a business

With that said, in some cases you can operate under your own name and many virtual assistants do.  But if you have explored your options and want a name that will become your trademark then think very carefully about it before you make a final decision. Once you have chosen a business name then there are some costs that will be involved. Some of these costs also apply if you intend to use your own name.

Now that you have your business name then the following expenses kick in:

  • Business set up fee or incorporation fees
  • Domain name – for your website
  • Business cards
  • Letterheads and other business stationery such as complementary slips
  • Logo
  • Possibly invoicing templates with company branding.

A name for your business is important and is necessary, may it be your own name or otherwise. The costs can be minimal and stationery can be created very easily with software that you already have available such as with Microsoft. Business cards are also available at very reasonable prices from sites such as Vista print. One thing that you might not be able to do yourself is create a logo and although there are sights that offer do it yourself logo design it is best to get someone with that skill to create one for you.

These are only the first steps to getting started, so good luck and have fun.

Have a great weekend
Have a great weekend

Please leave a comment or ask a question, I will be glad to help.

Check out the post on Branding Yourself Online  an ebook review it will surely be useful.