August 2009  
All of your business needs. One easy solution.
Volume 6 Issue 8
Vacation Success

Last month I wrote about my vacation preparations and turning that email over... so, did it work? Was I successful in not checking my email? The answer is, I think, yes.

We had some glitch where I still kept getting one of the emails and I responded to something on day 2... my lead bookkeeper scolded me because she had already taken care of it and basically told me to go to the beach and butt out. So I did. I only responded to things she forwarded to my personal email account or dealt with those. Everything else was just handled by her or someone else.

I was actually amazed at how little I'm actually needed. Perhaps I'll go away again like that. It was very freeing not to feel tied to email or worry about what was going on. Everything was just "handled".

So, those of you thinking that you "can't" - you can. A virtual assistant (and a rockin' lead bookkeeper...major shout out to Lanel Taylor here!) made it happen.

And yes, I will definitely be doing this every year.

In this issue...

Email Etiquette
by Kathie M. Thomas

It is important to consider that when emailing people you are on show, whether you like it or not, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. This is one of my 'pet' subjects on which I speak when giving a public presentation about the Internet. I am constantly amazed at the number of people who have never thought about it, including secretaries, but once it's mentioned they say "Oh, yes, I hadn't thought about that!" Let's face it many people use email at work AND at home but who they are does not change.

It is best to type messages in full, and do not use phonetic spelling or lots of abbreviated words and half sentences. I know it is common practice on chat programs to shortcut the process, but email is quite different, and these days, generally accepted almost the same as a written letter. The reason not to type email in the shortcut form is that it can become habit-forming and not something you would want to promote to prospective clients, bosses or other business associates. It is important to remember that your 'professionalism' is on show 24 hours a day via email - a small point, but important.

Another thing develop a signature block and let people know who you are and what you do! I have it set as an automatic feature whenever emailing, or replying to email, and sometimes forget to delete it when emailing my parents or other family members but that doesn't really matter. The thing to remember is that anyone is a potential business associate and letting them know who you are and what you do helps promote your business or your industry. It is a business card that is on show all the time.

Third take notice of the correct spelling of people's names. I've lost count of the number of times that people have replied to an email of mine and spelt my name as either Kathy or Cathy it's neither. In addition, I'm sure the spelling of your own name is just as important to you and it is quickly noticed when someone spells it incorrectly.

It's these little things that make the difference between an average business operator and one who does that extra something every little thing counts when it comes to attracting clients and associates and keeping them. Taking the time to care about these things and looking after even a client's name goes a long way to developing good business relationships.

Kathie M. Thomas, AFAIOP, MVA, ASO is the founder of "A Clayton's Secretary", a Virtual Assistant Network with members in many countries. Dedicated to teaching others about operating business over the Internet, Kathie is a multiple award winner as both a secretary and Virtual Business Operator, and has over 30 years' experience in the secretarial/administrative field. She registered her business in March 1994 and is one of the senior VAs who launched the industry globally.

QuickBooks Tip
How Do I Enter Payments/Retainer Fees?

Q: My company requires a deposit or retainer fee prior to any work being performed. We've been entering as payments, but I know this is wrong because it skews our accounts receivable figures. What is the correct way to post deposits/retainers??

A: By setting up an Other Current Liability account named Client Retainers (or Deposit), retainers can easily be tracked by QuickBooks. A liability account is used because money is received up front for which services have not yet been provided - it is an unearned retainer.

Once the services have been performed, an invoice is created for the service items provided. The Retainer (or Deposit) service item follows, with the retainer amount you are applying entered as a credit against the invoice. Any outstanding invoice balance would indicate service provided above and beyond the initial retainer contract that is due and payable. Once the full retainer amount has been applied, the liability is fulfilled and the Client Retainers account is zeroed out. To see the status of the Client Retainers account at any time, a Quick Report can always be run which identifies the retainer received and the services invoiced against it.

Note: Check with your accounting professional before doing this to be sure that's how they'd like it done. YMMV!

Have an article you'd like to write for our monthly newsletter or want to be spotlighted? Have a QuickBooks question or something you'd like to see in the Tech Tip?


The OffAssist newsletter is made possible by the copywriting/editing skills of Ink Think VA, and the coding talents of VA Lab Designs.

Tax Deadlines
August 17
- IRS Monthly payroll tax deposits for July issued payroll

August 20
- State Sales & Use Tax Return for monthly filers

September 15
- Individuals, Pay Third Installment of2008 Estimated Taxes

- 1120 & 1120S Returns due for those filers with timely extensions

- IRS Monthly payroll tax deposits for august issued payroll

September 22
- State Sales & Use Tax Return for monthly filers

September 30
- End of 3rd Quarter
Tech Talk With Tom...
Palm Pre Tips

I fought it and I fought it, but for Father's Day this year I gave in and got a Palm Pre. I had been looking at several Windows Mobile-based iClones, but they all had several issues (bad keyboards, poor resolution, and shoddy workmanship). The only other phone that met all my requirements (touch-screen AND full QWERTY keyboard) was the Palm Pre.

I am very happy with my Palm Pre. I have had a Palm PDA or phone since 1998 and I always felt lost the few times that I had to do without. However, some things are not as simple or as intuitive as I would like. Here are some tips that will help you get the most out of your new Palm Pre:

Power On/Off
There is a "Power Button" on the upper right-hand side of the phone. However, pushing it seems to only turn on and off the screen. Hold the button for 5 seconds and you will be treated with an option screen. You can turn the phone off, go to "Airplane Mode", or cancel the operation. Hold the button for 5 seconds to turn the phone back on.

Screen Shot
Press the Orange key, Sym key, and P key. It is as simple as that. You can then attach the picture to an e-mail or sms, or even use it as you background.

Delete All
Just type in a bunch of stuff and realize that it was not really what you wanted to say? Hit the Sym key and the back arrow and all will be forgotten (or at least deleted).

Typing Short Cuts
Select Text: Press and hold Shift and slide finger over text

Copy Text: Press the Gesture area and C to copy selected text

Cut Text: Press the Gesture area and X to cut selected text

Paste Text: Press the Gesture area and V to paste text

These are just a few of the many, many shortcuts and tips that are available at The Pre is a great phone and very flexible. Sometimes, though, it can also be a little hard to find out exactly how to do this or that. These forums are a great place to start. If all else fails, Google "Palm Pre Hints and Tips". You might be surprised at all the articles already available. I know I was.

Tom Beauchamp is the marketing and tech expert behind OffAssist. He can be reached at
Spotlight On...
Passionate About Her Virtual Assistant Business...and Event Planning

As significant changes in her family took place, Sheila York was given the opportunity to take advantage of telecommuting and dividing her work/life between the office and home, thus allowing the flexibility she needed. The transition did not interrupt the work flow of the department and was indeed successful...resulting in a win/win situation. Sheila now has the opportunity to extend her knowledge and experience on an entrepreneurial level to other small and medium sized business owners, larger businesses, and independent entrepreneurs by providing assistance without the extra overhead costs involved with hiring an onsite employee.

Since her passion is in events and she has a background in administrative support, Sheila initially decided upon the name "What's The Protocol". That didn't go very far and from there she went on the hunt again for a catchy name. Next came the name "Signature Assistance by York". But further conference with her friends resulted in York Signature Assistance, Inc. - and voila, the name was born.

Sheila's ideal client is a professional in need of administrative support, particularly in the hospitality industry, but not limited to that industry. Caterer, Wedding Planner, Director of Events, Invitation Entrepreneur.

To find out more about Sheila, check out her website at If you're into social media, you can find her on Twitter and LinkedIn.
Have you nursed a secret longing to be in the spotlight, center-stage, all eyes on you?

If you would like to be featured in the OffAssist spotlight column, and have not been featured in the past twelve months, contact and we'll see if we can put you in the limelight.

Two accountants are in a bank, when armed robbers burst in.

While several of the robbers take the money from the tellers, others line the customers, including the accountants, up against a wall, and proceed to take their wallets, watches, etc.

While this is going on, one accountant jams something into another accountant's hand. Without looking down, the second accountant whispers, "What is this?" to which the first replies, "It's that $50 I owe you."