When you get invited to a US Embassy event to meet some guy working with the government, your reaction is?

Mine was … *blech

But today I was in GEEK HEAVEN I tell you.

So there is this guy called Alec Ross who is associated with Clinton and ran Obama’s election-winning Twitter campaign. Used to run a NFP. Wants to meet bloggers and ppl active in social media. The Embassy sends some bio that I skim through but all I see is “blah blah blah blah blah”. But I go anyway. I am soon moving to Peshawar (another story for another day … or  maybe not) and thought what the heck. I’ll go see the guy. And then I have never been accused of saying NO to free lunch. So that was a good incentive as well.

So I arrive at the Ambassador’s house. Am greeted by the Ambassador … had no idea who he was until much later during the conversation. Am introduced to this young-ish guy. We shake hands and he says, “Hi, I am Alec”. Me, being me, said, “Hi Alex, I am Maria”. KILL ME!

Small gathering – made me feel very fancy shmancy and important. Then Mr. Alec decided to come and sit with me and start asking about what I do. I give my very rehearsed pitch about WDL. And the usual “oh wow, how great, wonderful, excellent, fabulous” followed. Americans do that a lot, no? I have picked up on it too. “Mr XYZ, what do you do?” “I do blah blah blah”. Me: “Oh how wonderful!”

I was saying …

Yeah, I mentioned how I found most clients through LinkedIn. And he takes out his BB and says you know what – Reid Hoffman is my friend and he will be very happy to hear about this so I am gonna email him right now”.




I find it hard to type any more. My heart stopped for a minute and all I could do was give him one of my goofy grins coz I didn’t trust myself to speak. I knew I was gonna start screaming. And he asked, “You know who Reid Hoffman is?”

Gun – trigger – face – BANG

I don’t know who Hilary Clinton is but I sure know Reid Hoffman.





Just thinking he has my name in his inbox in an email which he will prolly lay his eyes on in the next … say … 3 hours (he is on US PT) does funny things to my heart. SHIT!

Emailing Reid Hoffman <3

I can’t talk any more. But just so you know – I wasn’t a complete idiot. I remembered to ask about PayPal. Dudettes, back me up on that one.

The land where unicorns graze in rainbow colored fields exists …

and that’s where I am gonna be for a while.


Webcam Credit Card Reader (?)

Now that sounds like gibberish, right? It did to me. But then found out about Jumio on TechCrunch (of course). Here is how it works:

You plug it into your website, it turns your webcam into a credit card reader, you hold your card in front of your webcam, authorize a purchase, and you are done. Plus, it’s more secure than other conventional online cc transaction as it requires the physical presence of the card in order to work. Jumio even has a wordpress plugin so those using WP for their websites can also benefit from it.

Do you still not understand my excitement? This could be the solution to my PayPal woes. I could add it as a payment option on my website (will tell you my website plans in another post) and customers won’t hesitate too much using it thinking ‘give my credit card details to a Pakistani website? I guess not!‘ because you are actually sending the data to Jumio and not to me.

Did I mention it’s FREE? Yes, dahlins – you heard me right … the darn thing is free to install. You don’t have to pay a one-time fee, a monthly fee, a yearly subscription fee …. nothing. Well obviously, it’s not a charity … they charge 2.75% of your transaction but considering I am using a friend’s PayPal account (OK, who am I kidding -am using the 25-yr old’s PayPal) that’s based in Singapore and costs me about 10% in transaction fees (PayPal fees, converting US $ into Singapore $, then converting it into Pakistani Rs = 10%) 2.75% is almost free.

Now, what I need to find out is how I can withdraw the money. Can I have the money wired to my bank in Pakistan? Would they give me a debit card like Payoneer, or what? The site is temporarily down (uh-oh, not a good sign) but considering the product just went online a month ago, I won’t make an issue of it.

To see how the thing works, check out the video below:

That’s all for now, Folks …


How does a VA get Paid?

PAY PAL! Yippppeeee …that was easy.

Stop rubbing salt into my wounds – there is no PayPal in Pakistan!

Yep, if you are a VA working from Pakistan you have to start thinking about how you are going to get paid for your work. PayPal is what most clients prefer but unfortunately they don’t offer their service in Pakistan. Last time I checked it had something to do with the tax laws in our dear ol’ country.

Clients want the easiest most convenient way to work with you. That’s the whole point of hiring a VA – picking up a BB or iPhone or HTC (seriously, who buys an HTC or any other smartphone if they can afford an iPhone??) and telling the VA what to do and knowing it would get done. The same applies to payments – picking up the smartphone, connecting to the Internet and paying you.

I have lost a lot of clients because they can’t pay via PayPal but over time I have figured out a way to go around it. First it was MoneyBookers. I heard about them during my oDesk days. According to the website, Moneybookers is a tool that allows you to safely send and receive money via email – instantly. You can send money from your credit/debit card, transfer money to and from your bank account. Use Moneybookers whenever you need to send money to someone (settle a debt with a friend, pay for online purchase/auctions…) or when someone needs to send money to you. What’s the catch? The client has to be a registered member to use it and most big clients don’t want to bother with setting up an account on a website they haven’t heard of before for you.

This brings me to Payoneer. I am not even gonna bother writing about it because they have also stopped their services in Pakistan. Hurray – happy times! Grrrr … ^%&*^. If you want to read about them, just Google them.

Western Union works wonderfully except their fee for wiring the money varies from country to country and even state to state. Plus, you have to actually go their offices to send the money. So, again too much hassle. They do have a web-based option but that asks for your debit card number and sometimes clients may not have debit cards so again you are screwed!

If you are in a country that PayPal does not support than your only choice would be a simple, old wire transfer. Yep – you give your AC # and your bank’s swift code to your client and she’ll just wire you the amount. It typically costs about $20 to send a wire from the US so you might want to set a minimum number of hours that clients can purchase. I have about 5 clients with pending invoices and the reason why I can’t invoice them is because they owe me less than $35 each and I am still hoping they’ll want more work done so I can bill them.

That’s all, Folks! Plus, considering it took me so long to write this post, all 5 of you (yes, my blog has 5 readers!!) are advised not to hold your breath for the next one. Ciao. :D