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ArborVS - The Smarter Way To Work

Style or Substance – Which do you prefer?

This is the question on the table!

I was recently asked to blog about what it was that got me so hot under the collar when I saw people trying to recruit a VA (Virtual Assistant) as a cheap employee. My view is that there is nothing wrong with recruiting an employee, if this is the sort of relationship you want, BUT a VA is a businessperson who owns and runs their own business, and has probably been doing so for some time. . A VA is an entirely different kettle of fish and is most definitely NOT an employee.

The link to the article is here:
I decided to update my LinkedIn profile following advice that it was too sales focussed. My update was criticised for being too harsh even though it represented the true me. Straight up no messing, either I can or can’t and that is me. If you want to know my hobbies, it is food, food, and more food, but as for the rest, my interests are so eclectic as to make you think I am a complete nutter!

What irritated me in both instances were people telling me to be me – but not liking it when I called it as I saw it.

Both these experiences got me wondering – what do people prefer? Style or substance?

My clients like my straight talking, no messing approach, but I appreciate such up-front honesty is not to everyone’s taste. I know I can’t be all things to all people all of the time, and I’m not trying to be. There are people who like a bit of cream with their coffee, or a complete smokescreen. It’s not that we don’t like flattery; I am just not sure it is warranted when it comes to work.

As I see it, old fashioned manners have gone out the window; these include respect, a simple please and thank you and polite requests to change this and that. Insincere flattery and hypocrisy have taken over along with the disingenuous behaviour that purports to be the way to proceed and can lead to all sorts of misunderstandings and disputes.

If someone really wants to do something, then there is nothing I can do to stop them – after all it is their business and their risk. However this not the approach I would select and therefore will watch and maybe I will learn something.

I like my feet firmly on the ground and I know there are people who think the same as I do. In which case they are likely to be the people I am going to work best with. Like attracts like…
I don’t judge, I don’t predict, but I do know when to shut up…

Written by Rachel Brett of @arborvs and Carole Meyrick of

The art of record taking – and how to save time

“Got it all down, then?” a colleague joked after seeing my furious scribbling during a long, complex meeting. “Yes, made a few notes but it’s all in here [digital recorder].” I was relieved it was on tape . . . there were loads of good quotes, facts and figures, and I would be lucky to grab the speaker long enough later to have it explained again. My shorthand was poor and now I just had to transcribe it . . .

Just? The writer in that story spent several hours painfully starting, stopping and restarting the recording to jot down verbatim what had been said. He didn’t want to misquote the speaker or get the facts wrong – he was a journalist, after all. But what he hadn’t done beforehand was rough out specific enough questions to gain the information he needed without the interviewees going off track. The result: hours of extraneous material to sift through on tape and then cross-reference with his handwritten notes.

Advice on how to take notes

And then you have to ask just how useful were those notes? There’s plenty of good advice on efficient note-taking:
• Why note everything? Write down what’s news to you and leave the rest – you know it.
• Forget keyboards, stick to paper. You will seem more involved to your colleagues and – more importantly – your clients. Then take the “paperless office” idea to a new level by snapping your jottings with your phone, emailing the pics to yourself, and setting up your own, easy-access digital record – not a notepad in sight.
• Keep things organised. Date and title every entry; keep all sets of notes in the same book; keep a marker pen handy to remind you of key comments, facts, revelations, killer quotes; learn shorthand or devise your own system . . . anything to make your access to notes faster, easier and more efficient.

The power of a digital recorder – or smartphone

Sometimes, though, we can’t avoid information overload. Whether it’s writing up meetings or conference speeches, making notes during an on-site inspection, or holding conversations on the hoof or on the road, a digital recorder or smart phone recorder can be a godsend as they miss nothing – and many recorders let you make a digital note of key sections or quotes. But it all takes time – and what if you’re a poor typist as well. It’s time you could be spending selling, writing, marketing, schmoozing with clients . . . anything, in fact, to earn you money faster than transcribing that tape.

And it’s that precious commodity which we at @rborVS, the virtual PA service based near Watford, can help you save in spades. We will convert your digital recordings into word-for-word documents, précis them, or turn them into easily accessible minutes and all within a 48-hour turnaround, completely confidential, and delivered on time.

Please call us, @rborVS, on 01923 521021 or 07747 024607, or email

Calling out for Calling Handlers

One of the services I offer is Call Handling. Very often I get asked by clients to handle their calls and I know I cannot be at my desk 24/7. In fact I could be taking a call at the same time my client’s line is operating. For a VA that is a nightmare scenario. So what can you do?

Well I know this is not the best opening bid there is asking for call handlers, but is in fact, the reason for writing this blog. I am looking for VA’s who are committed to their business, who would like to be able to offer an additional service and in return be part of a team that is both fun to be with and not be alone.

Think of it, you will be able to offer a service that not only you are part of, but also understand how to encourage more clients to join.

You will be part of a team who can help you with various ideas on work without fear or favour and even introduce to more like minded individuals, and you won’t be by yourself (we always have two people on a shift).

You can earn money from your shift and even earn commission on every client you introduce. You will be part of a business that you can help shape as well as learn to gain confidence in running your own.

If there is a catch you will have to buy a VOIP phone to be part of the team, but you should be able to cover the cost very quickly depending on what model you select and you will have to commit to regular shifts – times to be agreed with available slots offered.

So if you are a VA, and are looking to have some regular income that will add to your bottom line as well as be part of a supportive team who are helpful and friendly and are from all parts of the country, then join us at


Coming up to Christmas with all the lights blazing, you feel such a great sense of renewal and wanting to move on. The news on the street and with fellow businesses seems to be there is the feeling of improvement in the marketplace and you want some of that.

As the need to move forward arises, you plan what you would like to do and this of course costs the proverbial penny, or not so proverbial, and that is a dilemma you face. In order to move forward, you need to invest, but what to invest in? Very often you don’t have either the time or the skill set to do what needs to be done, so either you learn a new skill – not uncommon for all businesses to do that to save money or you outsource.

And this is the tricky bit – you say to yourself; “ I want that fancy new video because it will give me the right look”, or “I need to write something to explain what I do, but my English is rubbish”, or “I just need to create a list to be able to send a letter to all my clients, but I just don’t know how.”

Now you know that I am going to say, why not talk to me? But why don’t you? What is stopping you? The consultation is free, and there is no obligation to buy and you never know, you may be able to move forward with a sense of purpose and no longer be alone. And more importantly rather than operating from a sense of fear, you will know what it is likely to cost you for the work to be done. What is the worst that can happen? Better still what is the best that can happen? Be brave and call me to take that step into your future.

Rachel’s Musings – a new beginning (one more time!!)

I have decided to start writing a blog about my musings of life, work, etc. I have no magic answers, loads of questions and most importantly believe the only way things work, is the way things work. And so it begins….

I have just reread Brad Burton’s GOYA and read his second and third book. I couldn’t put them down, because they made sense and struck a chord. These books struck a chord on several levels, most notably the sheer practical nature of what he was saying. Don’t get bogged down by fear, what is the worst thing that can happen by doing nothing, stop pontificating and just get on with it.

I have been struggling for some considerable time with marketing my business. I don’t know about you, I have been told to have a niche, or even two or three of them, but in any event, I need to get clients. One message says don’t be too pushy and then another message says, be completely upfront and in all that maze you need to know how to use Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instragram, Pinterest and so on and so forth to get your message across.

To be honest, I think the best way to proceed in learning how to get a message across is to discuss what works for you. But also, is there a book that really has helped you moved forward? So any thoughts on the above, please feel free to comment.


Below is a list of ways a VA can help in an hour:

1.  Mail merge, print, envelope stuff and post 100 letters

2.  Type a 15 minute audio recording and proof-read it

3.   Create a LinkedIn Company page

4.   Convert Word/Excel/PowerPoint documents to PDF

5.   Set up a monthly email newsletter

6.  Research Travel times, availability and cost for a business trip

7.  Formatting documents, presentations and excel spread-sheets

8.  Set up your Google Calendar and import all your appointments

9.  Find suitable venues for your event

10. Mail-merge and print address labels

11. Remind you of important dates by SMS, phone or email

12. Create a digital signature for signing bulk letters

13. Thank all your attendees with a personal letter

14. Find quotes and arrange printing from a supplier

15. Scan LinkedIn from your target audience and respond

16. Set up your email list

17. Transcribe voice memos/messages on your phone and then email them to you

18. Create a spreadsheet of up to 40 business cards with full details and additional categories if necessary

19. Create a simple budget spreadsheet for an event or conference

20. Warm call 25-30 prospects.

21. Create correspondence for a client or a prospect

22. Edit and proof-read a five page report

23. Research travel, hotel and meeting facilities

24. Update and manage your calendar

25. Create a basic sales / newsletter layout – content to be provided by the client

26. Make calls to confirm appointments, meetings or reservations

27. Edit and post multiple blog entries

28. Create PDF’s for numerous documents and edit them if necessary.

29. Set up and create a Linked In, Facebook and Twitter Account

30. Type handwritten notes from a seminar into a suitable format for redistribution or safekeeping

31. Create a master PowerPoint Slide and Presentation from notes up to 10 slides

32. Build an e-mail distribution list

33. Create either a fillable form or forms with drop down menus

34. Research information on the internet

35. Write a draft blog or report based on research or specific topic

36. Create or update a listing in a spreadsheet

37. Produce a simple SEO analysis on your website/blog

38. Send an informative email to all your customers or potential clients

39. Help manage your emails

40. Respond on your behalf to key clients


And if that is not enough to tempt you, why not look at the special offer’s page as we are offering 1 hour’s free service to try out any of the above between 1st and 31st March 2013.

Brand new me!

Getting back your business feet can be the hardest task to achieve after having to face a few personal challenges. Good fortune and hard work is said to be essential in building a business, even more so when you have been through hell and back.  Well whatever way round it comes, I was fortunate enough to have both good fortune coupled with a decision that I wasn’t going to accept any more rubbish that life was throwing up.

The good fortune is that I have a wonderful family, great friends, excellent colleagues and clients.

The hard work was getting back to good health, keeping the few clients I did have content, and deciding on focussing on one or two key things that I could handle and leave the rest until I was better.

Changing my focus and decision making process was the best choice I could make. Actually, I think in part, I realised I could only cope with certain challenges which meant I had to prioritise what was important to developing both my business and giving support to my clients.

I decided to work on my strengths and outsource my weaknesses and that meant recognising investing in my business by learning new things that I could easily do and outsourcing jobs that I couldn’t! And yes, there is a financial cost involved which has meant scrimping and saving and making sure that I have planned a return to cover those costs.

I am a firm believer that you learn by doing as I never RTM (read the manual), and some things are starting to come together. I don’t know why I it has taken so long to get to this point. The one thing I do believe in, that even though your head tells you that you can do things, it isn’t until your heart actually catches up that it actually happens. I used to think that was just about relationships, but now after all I have been through, I realise it is about life.

So in case you think I am being whimsical there is a book that has been around for a while. It is called “Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway” by Susan Jeffers. If you have got it on your bookshelf, read it again, and if not get it. It is a very good read and excellent for the soul! After all, if you are passionate about your business, you need to feed the heart as well as the head!

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