Monday, 26 January 2015

Are Hand-Written Cards a Thing of the Past?

The Lost Art of the Hand-Written Card

Email, Facebook, Texting... the internet has all but replaced the well-meaning, thoughtful, handwritten note.

Case in point:  On December 5, 2014 I had only received three Christmas cards; one from my
mother, one from my niece in England, and one from my dear Aunt Rose who never forgets. A few
years ago at that time, I would have had at least a dozen Christmas cards.

My mother taught me very early on that a hand-written note goes a long way. She still writes cards
for every occasion, and sometimes just because. Most of us only receive bills and junk in our
mailbox, so an actual piece of personally addressed mail is exciting! My 5 year old gets so excited
when mail comes with his name on it, and I find myself getting excited along with him. You know that whomever has sent that card, has put in thought and effort, and that is to be appreciated.

I offer a card-writing service as part of my VA package. Why? Because I believe in its value. The
fact is,when you send a hand-written note, it's read, it's enjoyed, it will be remembered, and
some will keep it. Look around your office and you will see a card on someone's desk. Do they
keep the Happy Birthday text and read it again a few weeks later?  Probably not.  I have a special box that I keep meaningful cards that have been sent to me by colleagues, clients, friends & family.  Some I keep because they are hand-made, some are too beautiful to toss, some are funny (the ones from my husband), and some have sentimental value... but all are appreciated by me.

Below are some tips for writing a great card:

1. Put some thought into it! If possible, pick out a card especially for that person. People love
beautiful pictures or meaningful quotes. Find someone who makes cards and get some specially crafted to suit you. A blank card is ok too, as long as it is personalized on the inside.

2. Hand-written!  This personal touch goes a long way. If you are sending a large amount of cards, a signature stamp is acceptable, but try to stay consistent.

3. The envelope is important too! Did you know that a hand-written envelope is almost guaranteed to be opened!! I even have a client who prefers that I choose special commemorative or seasonal stamps for his mail outs.

4. It doesn't have to say a lot, as long as it's legible and meaningful. Sometimes all you need is a
simple "Thank you"  or "Thinking of you" to let your customer know you appreciate them.

When they read it, they will smile, and that makes it worth the effort and the cost of the stamp.

I will also note an amazing service called SendOutCards, a monthly membership program, that makes card sending especially easy and efficient.  Please contact me for more information. 

Michelle Callipari, Virtual Assistant
MSC Business Solutions

(picture below - some of my favourite cards that I have received recently that hold a place of honour on my desk)

Friday, 5 December 2014

What to Outsource to a Virtual Assistant?

If you own a business, chances are that at some point, you are going to need an extra set of hands.  However, if you are not in need of an in-house assistant,  or you don't have a bricks and mortar establishment, then a Virtual Assistant (VA) may be a great option for you.

The question is, where to start?  Here are a few tips to help you narrow it down:

1.  Write a list of everything you do for your business.  This means everything from purchasing, ordering, paying bills, invoicing, designing and stamping, to labeling, blogging, marketing and social media.

2.  Take out everything that you personally love to do.  If you are an artist, you might love creating your piece, blogging about it and then finding avenues to market your piece.

3.  Take out any items that are income producing, i.e.  meeting with prospective clients/customers, designing and making the product, follow up calls, customer service calls, etc.

4.  You should be left with two categories:  The things that you don't like to do, and the things that are non-income producing but still need to be done.

5.  From this last list, take out anything that you are not able to relinquish control over.  For example, I have a client who's  email Inbox is her biggest "time-sucker".  It's overloaded, she has too many emails sitting in her Inbox, not enough folders, etc. However, she is  not willing to hand over her Inbox to anyone else.  As she says, it's organized chaos, but she knows exactly where everything is.

Complete Steps 1 through 5, and this is the perfect place to start.

Once you are satisfied with the list of jobs you would like to outsource, begin your search for a Virtual Assistant.  Keep in mind, all VA's will have specialties and have certain skill sets, so don't be afraid to "shop around", ask for references, ask to take a look at their work, and interview until you find one that suits your needs.  If that is too overwhelming or time consuming for you, there are many reputable agencies that can help you find the perfect VA.  It is important to note that there is a "settling in period" for both you and the VA, so give it time.

Do what you love, outsource the rest!

Michelle Callipari, Virtual Assistant
MSC Business Solutions

Friday, 17 October 2014

Why Your Business Should Have An Appropriate Business Email

Do you have an email address for your business?

Working as a VA, one of my jobs is database management, which means entering in customers contact information into a company's database.  This enables the company to find customers quickly and follow up when needed.

One of the things I've noticed is that some professionals and entrepreneurs do not have a designated email address for their business.  Whether you are an independent contractor like a real estate agent, an insurance agent, etc, or have an online shop or home based business, you should separate your personal email from your business email.  Emailing business related items from "" or "" is not professional. While both may be true, it's still not professional.

I've also noticed a lot of independent contractors use their family email for business purposes.  Again, not professional.  If you want to distinguish yourself in your field, create your brand.  For example, is great for family and friends, however, makes you recognizable and can be used for both business and personal.  Even more professional would be  Which email would you open?

Here are a few tips that I've come up with to help you set up your new business email address.

1. DO IT! Take the 5 minutes and set one up, or let a VA like myself do it for you!  Your business is your brand!  Create brand awareness so your brand name gets recognized.

2. Make it recognizable. For example, when I was looking at email addresses, my business name is my initials, so I stuck with my name as my email address.  This also allows me flexibility should I choose to go with a domain name as my business grows, which I have also done and I will link them both together once my website is finished.  Most websites come with a domain name... use it.  Your email address should be able to grow with your business.

3.  K.I.S.S. - Keep It Super Simple - While I realize that is technically my brand name, but wow, is that long and difficult to type.  Would you want to have to type that?  Choose something easy on the brain and the fingers. would work nicely.

4.  If you are tight on cash or don't have a website (yet), use a free account, like gmail, for now.  I try to stay away from phone provider emails because should you change providers, then you have to change your email... that's a pain for you and your clients.  TIP: When registering a domain name for your website, buy both .com and .ca so no one else buys it.   GoDaddy is a great resource for this.

5.  Give yourself some options.  Make a list of your top 3 choices and ask some close friends and mentors for their opinions.  Your top choice may not be available, so it's good to have another go-to option.

Good Luck and Happy Emailing!

Monday, 8 September 2014

I finally found "my thing"!

I'm not gonna lie, after becoming a first-time mom at 38, I thought stepping back into my travel career would be easy, but just a few shorts months after my son was born, I knew that the travel life was no longer the life I wanted, or the career that suited my family and I.

After 4 years of trying my hand at many different things, ie. inside sales, real estate, customer service at an optometrists office, temping as a secretary at our Catholic School Board, I was really struggling to find my "career identity".  It wasn't an easy time for us.  Transitioning into parenthood is difficult enough, but trying to find out where you fit back into the corporate world can be completely unnerving.  I realized that I didn't fit back into the career I once knew, and that really threw our family life into a dither.  As I jumped from job to job, tensions and emotions ran high, and the bank account ran low.  Financially we were drowning because my emotions would take over and I would carelessly spend on frivolous things, everything we couldn't afford.  I was in denial about our financial situation and pretending like we had the same income we had "pre-child".  Little did I know at the time, I was also struggling with anxiety, mild depression and un-diagnosed postpartum depression.  This made every decision more difficult and extremely emotional.  Just when I thought I found something I liked, I would get depressed and anxious about being away from home for so many hours a day, and the vicious cycle would start all over again.

Finally in the winter/spring of 2014, during a networking event at our local Staples, I met a "Virtual Assistant".  Not really knowing or understanding what a "VA" was at the time, I asked her a few questions and then continued on with my day.  One week later, at another networking event, I met another Virtual Assistant.  This time my interest was piqued and I asked more questions.  I went straight home and looked up Virtual Assistants on the web.  Oh the plethora of information! I was giddy with excitement while reading it all.  Was this it?  Did I finally find "my thing"?  

Fast forward a couple more weeks, and many excited conversations with my husband (God bless that man...), I had coffee with a friend that I had recently reconnected with over Facebook. We were discussing our lives... careers, families, current triumphs and failures, having a good laugh and enjoying sharing our stories with each other.  It was then I starting talking about this amazing "thing" called a Virtual Assistant, and that it was something that I truly believed I could do, and do well with my background.  Plus, I felt that it would also give me the balance I needed to work from home, bring in an income, feel successful AND be flexible for my family.  I was excited, even though I had absolutely no idea where to begin,  

My friend looked me straight in the eye and said to me "I think you would be fantastic at that... and I have a proposition for you.  I'd like to hire you. I think we can work something out."  On the outside, I put my business face on and remained friendly and composed (ok, I may have giggled a little), but on the inside I was bursting with excitement!  WHAT DID SHE SAY?? Could this be my first client??  Little did I know that my friend was in the process of starting a new financial consulting company and they really needed an extra set of hands.  MY HANDS!!  This is where my business finally started to take shape!

Shortly after this conversation, tax time came around and I was discussing this new VA business with my accountant (God bless him as well).  He quickly became one of my biggest supporters and assisted me in the start up information I needed to get my new business off the ground.  

It is amazing how the planets start to align when you are on the right path and you enlist the support and knowledge of people you look up to and admire.

Here I am 6 months later, a Registered Business owner, a Virtual Assistant, and I couldn't be happier. I have embraced working from home, found a routine that works for us, and I have a few wonderful clients that keep me busy during the day, the bills paid, the flexibility we need, and our family life has settled into a nice, peaceful existence.  My children are thrilled that I can be there for their school events, sports and extra curricular activities, and my husband appreciates the flexibility and the paycheques. 

Thank you, THANK YOU, to everyone for your words of encouragement and support.  Thank you to my clients who have trusted me to help guide your business and provide you with remote support when you need it.  And thank you to all my future clients for taking a chance on me! 

If you are in need of remote administrative assistance, below is a list of my current services.  I would be more than happy to provide you with a free business consultation.

Please contact me fore more information!

Michelle Callipari, Virtual Assistant
Owner, MSC Business Solutions
Professional Assistance ~ Virtual Guidance

MSC Business Solutions ~ Services Offered

With over 20 years in Sales, Customer Service and Administration, here is a list of services that I, as a Virtual Assistant can provide for your business. This is just a few of course, the list is endless! If you need help with it, we can find a way to make it happen!

1. Transcription – digital or paper, online or tape recorded.
2. Email marketing, creation and updates
3. Social media set up, education and maintenance
4. Answering emails, organizing and clearing out your inbox
5. Spreadsheet creation and maintenance
6. Travel arrangements
7. Ordering business cards and other marketing materials
8. Research
9. Appointment setting
10. Organizing your workshop attendees, taking payments, etc.
11. Newsletter creation, updates, printing
12. Mail outs
13. Sending greeting or thank you cards to your clients and personal contacts
14. Creative brainstorming sessions
15. Proofreading and editing of documents and website copy
16. Resume screening and human resources assistance
17. File organization
18. Data collection
19. LinkedIn and Facebook management
20. Fielding questions from potential customers via email, setting up canned responses and auto-responders.
21. Event planning
22. Invoicing
23. Resume creation
24. Visual presentations
25. General administrative assistance
26. Holiday card creation and send out
27. Moving and relocation services
28. Concierge services, including travel planning, car rentals, etc.
29. Organizing business cards and contacts
30.  CRM and database management
331.  Client appreciation/thank you gifts

Virtual Assistants are professionals with a variety of professional backgrounds and specialized skills.  This is just a brief introduction to the many services I may be able to provide.

I look forward to working with you.

Michelle Callipari, Virtual Assistant
MSC Business Solutions

Proud Member of the Canadian Association of Virtual Assistants, the Strathroy Chamber of Commerce, the Optimist Club of Strathroy and the London Momprenuers


Monday, 25 August 2014

Boys, don't lose your fun & colour!

Actual conversation with my 4 y/o boy this morning:

Sam: Mom, I love my nails, I'm so happy. We have to remember to take it off before school starts.
Me: Why buddy?
Sam: Because I don't want the kids to make fun of me.
Me: Why would they make fun of you?
Sam: Because boys don't paint their nails.
Me: Some boys paint their nails, and I think all boys should paint their nails cuz it's fun and colourful. Sometimes we forget how to just have fun buddy, but that's not your fault and you shouldn't worry about what other people think.
Sam: (thinks about it for a minute)... Mom, thank you for saying that. I feel better now... can we paint my fingernails tonight too?
Me: Sure buddy.
Sam: YEAH! I'm the happiest boy in the world! (Gives me a big hug & kiss).

If only everyone could remember what it was like to be 4 and to just want to have fun and be colourful. 

Boys, if you paint your nails (or want to paint them just for fun), please send me a picture so I can show Sam. 

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Things I learned today...

1.  Even though I think I am organized, I am not.  Really.  Not.  Just because you put all your receipts, etc into a large box, and your emailed invoices into a folder called "Taxes 2013", that does not make you organized  In fact, it makes for a very large, disorganized, headache come tax time.

2.  I get distracted too easily.  Oh look, the sun is shining. I see dust bunnies! Where's my Swiffer?  Was that the laundry buzzer?  See what I mean?

3. Even To Do Lists don't seem to keep me on track.

I need to work on that...

Monday, 23 September 2013

A TV Commercial Perfect Life

Hello Blog World! I decided to start blogging again!

I am now officially a WAHM and I am so excited.  I quit my last "job" in June of this past year, took a much-needed family vacation to Texas to see my sister, and then spent the summer with my family and working on my home based business.

You see, in May of this year, I had a breakdown... or a breakthough as I prefer to call it.  I had realized that since my son was born, almost 4 years ago, I had yet to spend a summer with him, and September, his first day of school, was looming just around the corner.

I was full of regret. I was too busy working, changing careers again, and again, studying, finding new "jobs".  Where did the 4 years go??  I really thought that once I had my own children (or child), I would be able to find that balance, the right career or job, that would give us the income we need plus the time I wanted to be able to spend with same.  I was looking for that TV Commercial Perfect Life!

I'm learning that life is not perfect, nor is it meant to be perfect and it is CERTAINLY NOT like a tv commercial.  It's meant to be full of ups and downs, highs and lows, laughs and tears, excitement and tiredness, but most of all it's meant to be enjoyed.

Here's a funny story of life in my house:

This weekend I was away at a conference in Edmonton, Albert, and I had the pleasure and honour of meeting NVP Kelly Greening-Thoburn.  She was kind enough to invite us back to her room for a party with her team (who are all awesome btw). While chatting, she is telling us this beautiful story of how lucky she is to have found Arbonne because it enables her to wake up her boys every morning by climbing into bed with them, telling them how much she loves them and how lucky she is. Just like a TV Commercial and I'm thinking to myself, "Self, this is the mom you want to be!".

So this morning, I gently climb into Sam's bed and lean over to give him a kiss and my four year old promptly smashes his hand into my face and says "Mom, what are you doing in my bed?! I'm sleeping!" I calmly reply "I just wanted to cuddle before we have to get up for school." To which he answers "NO CUDDLES, JUST SLEEP! GET OUT OF MY BED"! There goes that dream... clearly my child is NOT a morning person and that was definitely NOT a TV commercial. LOL 

On a happier note, five minutes later he did call me back into his room for cuddles, because "now I'm ready to cuddle" he says, so there is hope for my family. 

The same thing happened yesterday at the airport.  Arriving off the plane and walking to get my bag, I am looking for my husband and son.  I'm watching all the other families, there is lots of hugs and kisses, tears of joy, smiles and laughter, and I am looking for the "perfect airport arrival".  You know the one I'm talking about.  The hubby is there waiting with a smile, the son comes running into your arms and hubby picks up your bag with one hand, your hand in the other...

So, I'm looking and looking, no hubby, no son.  So I text and he says "on my way".  So with a smile, I collect my own bag and head outside to wait... and wait.... and wait.  Half an hour later, the terminal is empty, it's freezing cold outside and my hubby is still not there.  Ten more minutes later, the smile is gone, I'm frozen, and they finally pull up.  I put the smile back on my face, hubby takes my bag (no kiss) and says "Sam has to pee".  This is my welcome home #1.  I open the back door, lean in to give Sam a hug and kiss and he says "Mommy! I'm so happy to see you!!  Now take me to pee really quick!!".  This is my welcome home #2.  Yes my friends, this is my life. 

I really need to stop comparing myself to other people, comparing my life to others and trying to be like other people.  Our life is our life. Is it perfect?  No.  Is it funny, heck yes! I think we make the perfect tv family.