What is a

Virtual Assistant?

 

The short answer: A professional working remotely doing outsourced tasks.

A Virtual Assistant, also called a VA, is an extension of your current team in any field that you might require additional assistance. VA’s is not a new thing, it is an addition to the outsourcing scene for over 20 years.

Only recently did Virtual Assistance came to the forefront when an Author by the name of Tim Ferriss with his industry changing book “The 4-hour Workweek” written about how he grew his business exponentially working only 4 hours per week with the help of Virtual Assistance.

A Virtual Assistant will be the perfect extension to any start-up, entrepreneur, busy executive or SME in the growth phase. A huge benefit of a VA is that you only pay for the task at hand, no office space or equipment, no HR issues, no smoke breaks or personal Facebooking.

When you find that you and your VA are not working productively, you can always change your VA.

The Benefits of Using a Virtual Assistant 

There are many benefits of using a “virtual” assistant versus bringing an assistant into your home office.

  • You don’t have to share your computer, or set up a second computer, for the assistant to use. A VA uses their own equipment and computers. In addition, you don’t have to set up an extra desk in your office for an assistant.
  • Instead of having a fixed schedule of hours each week, with a VA you only pay for the hours you use.
  • You can hire a VA to work a specific numbers of hours per month on a retainer which guarantees availability. Some VA’s work on a per-project or per-hour basis as well.
  • You can find VAs with specific skill sets, from certified Pastel specialists to those with graphic, internet, marketing, or technical skills.
  • VA’s own their own business, so they know what it’s like to be self-employed.
  • A VA works as a consultant, not as an employee. Therefore, you won’t have to pay employment taxes or benefits for your VA.

When Is It Time To Hire A VA?

It’s a rare entrepreneur who doesn’t feel overwhelmed wearing all the hats and doing all the tasks alone. But when is the right time to hire a VA?

First, look at your task list and determine which tasks should be delegated. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking, “I can do this so much faster and better, I won’t delegate this task.” The question isn’t whether you can do a task; the question is whether you should be the one to do the task. Think how you will use all the time you free up from administrative tasks to create more income for your business.

Second, look at your budget. How much can you afford to spend? Remember to include in your budget calculating the fact that you’ll be able to generate more income, and design more products and services, with the time that is freed up by hiring a VA.

What Should You Consider When Hiring A VA?

  • Click. I interviewed many self-employed people about how they chose their VA. Almost every single person said that the first thing they looked at was the VA’s personality: was there a “click” between the VA and the entrepreneur? You want someone who is friendly, enthusiastic, and detail-oriented, with extraordinary customer service and follow-up skills. She should be confident without being arrogant, articulate, a good listener, and comfortable to speak with.
  • Professionalism. Does the VA answer her voicemails and emails in a timely manner? Does she answer her phone professionally? Does she put you on hold to take another call? If she promises to send you something, does she follow-up quickly? Does she treat you with respect? If she treats you well in your initial conversations, then it’s likely she’ll treat your customers well, too. (After you hire a VA, it never hurts to follow up with customers and ask them how your VA treated them.)
  • Project Management. It also helps if the VA has good project management skills. Over time, you are going to be giving her a huge number of tasks and you need to know that she can juggle all these tasks, understanding priorities and deadlines, while also juggling her other clients’ needs.
  • Skill Set. There are many, many tasks that you can delegate to your VA. It helps if you have a list of tasks you want your VA to perform, and make sure during the interview process that you review that list with a potential VA to determine if she can do all those tasks. Does she have the skills you need to do the work required?
  • Technology Skills. Most self-employed people rely upon technology to help run their business, from QuickBooks, to websites, to Microsoft Word. Using technology can help your office run efficiently and save time and money. With this in mind, it’s critical that your new VA have excellent technical skills. Ask her what software products she knows how to use, and how well she knows them. Make sure your new VA uses the same software that you are using, so that you can share files. If you have a website, ask the VA if she knows how to do website maintenance (and ask how many websites he currently maintains). If you have technology associated with your website, like an online shopping cart, ask the VA if she knows how to maintain your specific shopping cart. Finally, if your VA needs new software to be compatible with your own systems, determine who is responsible for paying for this specialized software.
  • Image. Take a look at the VA’s website. Are all the words spelled correctly? Is the grammar acceptable? Does it have a consistent and neat look? A VA who doesn’t pay attention to her own website probably won’t pay attention to your work either.
  • Availability. Does the VA work full-time or part-time? Is she available evenings and weekends (if that’s when you work)? What time zone is the VA located in? While I have nothing against part-time VAs, I found I needed someone who was available during my full-time working hours.
  • Experience. It’s important to determine how long the VA has been doing this type of work. While it’s helpful to know how long she has been a VA or an administrative assistant, it’s more important to learn how long she has done the tasks that you want her to do. She may have done them for a previous employer for many years. There’s always a bit of a learning curve as a VA learns your particular business, but you shouldn’t be paying for her to learn new skills unless they’re unique to you and your business.
  • References. Can the VA give you a list of people whom you can contact who will tell you about working with her?