Twenty years ago assistants were only available to senior executives, managers & hot shots! Today, the internet allows even the most modestly funded entrepreneur & employer to hire their own assistant for practically any task of their choosing.

Q: What is a Virtual Assistant?
A: Virtual Assistants or VA’s are freelance workers that  assist executives, entrepreneurs & busy professionals by providing administrative services for a fee

Q: Where do they work from?
A: VA’s work from their own office away from their clients

Q: How do they charge?
A: Usually by the hours and it will vary from between £15-55 per hour depending on the services provided and the amount of hours used. Most VA’s will sell blocks of time to clients who use them on a regular basis and usually for a reduced hourly rate.

Some interesting figures:

74.1% of VA’s are based in the USA, followed by 9% in Canada, 8.2% in Australia & 3.3% in the UK.

Unless you get to meet your VA face to face you will probably find them via on-line networking & marketing sites so it can be hard to know who you can trust unless you have had a recommendation or referral. So here are a few things you may want to consider:

  • Look for VA’s with higher education or equivalent experience working as an executive PA with a large business or corporation or has the equivalent experience as a VA
  • They should have experience with common software such as email, Word, Excel, Publisher etc as well as many of the on-line programmes used for accounting, databases, newsletters etc
  • Ask about their ability to meet a deadline unsupervised and give them achievable ones – they are human after all and not super heroes!
  • Any VA should know their own skills and market only those. Beware of any VA who offers to do it all
  • Ask for at least one supportable positive reference.
  • Identify their credentials and experience
  • Many VA’s have a high level of education and experience in business situations. Remember, this person will be handling your personal arrangements and various work tasks so screen candidates carefully and look for someone whose background matches the work you require

Once you have found your VA you will need to spend some time with them (usually remotely) going through the tasks you want them to take on and sometimes showing them how to use any software they may not be familiar with.

  • Assign all regular tasks that divert you from your core duties. These tasks should be ones that are not crucial to the work you do & will unnecessarily eat up your time such as scheduling meetings, reservations, sending out newsletters or updating the CRM
  • Be clear about the deliverables you expect. This includes format of the file, number of files, method of delivery, due date etc. Leaving things to chance is a recipe for disaster
  • Give detailed instructions. In the early days your VA will not know your preferences. During the first few weeks/months be explicit in your communication about what you need – dates, locations etc – so there is no confusion about the process
  • Establish a process and policies. Over time begin to organise your preferences into polices. This will make it possible to send simple requests and know that it has been handled as you required
  • Define & reinforce these policies over time. The first few times your VA impresses you with their actions commend them on their work and emphasise that this is exactly what you expect in the future

Things to avoid

While the precise methods you use to develop your VA will vary, there are several mistakes that can be damaging to your working relationship. Avoid the following:

  • Do not use your VA to do tasks best performed by yourself.VA’s are there to free up your time and not to perform critical tasks on your behalf.  For example do not use VA’s to compose your blog posts – you are the expert in your field and know what you want to say. However use them to load the post to your site and give it the exposure it requires
  • Do not give your VA too much responsibility too soon. Allow them to prove themselves on increasingly bigger projects before trusting them with important documents or your credit card details!
  • Do not send instructions that could be misinterpreted. Every vague detail introduces the chance of confusion and the best instructions are those which are not ambiguous
  • Do not overreact to early mistakes. Even the most experienced VA will make mistakes in the beginning. So you should accept that your VA will occasionally make small errors
REMEMBER…DO WHAT YOU DO BEST & DELEGATE THE REST

An interesting blog by Jigsaw Box click here

The more your business grows, the more administrative tasks you have; the more time you spend on administrative tasks, the less time you have to generate new business.

How much is your time really worth? More than it costs to use a Virtual Assistant?

Time is your most valuable asset because it is your responsibility to generate new revenue for your business. Your second most valuable asset is your VA!

Doing small and often trivial administrative chores yourself does not really add value to your business and the sensible solution is to delegate those less profitable tasks by hiring someone more than capable of carrying them out, but whose hourly rate is somewhat less than your real financial worth. So what’s stopping you?

You may have a multitude of reasons that prevent you from hiring a full-time personal assistant. You may not need a full-time, or even part-time employee but just require someone for occasional or limited secretarial services. Then there are the employers responsibilities, employees are entitled to sick pay, maternity leave and paid holiday and often seek generous benefits packages. It is estimated that the true cost of an employee is over double and often up to triple the cost of their annual salary in terms of benefits and liabilities.

Significant for some potential employers is also the loss of privacy and space – are you working from home or have limited office space? You may not want an employee working from your home or simply not have the room for an additional employee in your office or all the equipment they may need.

Wouldn’t it be perfect if you had a business assistant that was always ready to work for you, but only when you need them? Providing administrative services from their own home or office, using their own equipment?  Meet the Virtual Assistant (VA), an invaluable work force that provides a practical solution for small businesses owners. A VA frees up your valuable time so you can concentrate on the important things that only you can do in your business.

There is no need to share office space or even for your VA to live in the same town or city. Work assignments are communicated through email; telephone, fax or post and web-based tools such as instant messengers and online calendars and planners are also often used as a means of keeping in touch.

Because your VA is self-employed, and invoices you only for the actual hours worked or by tasks completed, and is dependent on referrals and steady work flow from existing clients, she/he can be the perfect solution for a busy small business or entrepreneur. When you hire a VA you get all the benefits of outsourcing – no employer liabilities, tax and benefits issues, along with knowing you have someone to whom you can delegate.

You can easily justify a virtual assistant in terms of your greater productivity and your greater efficiency. You need to be the leader in your business and your VA will insure that you focus on what is important, rather than urgent. Your VA can also lend “size” to your company, which will impress potential clients.

As more and more businesses move their marketing and communications to the Internet, VA’s are becoming the obvious solution to staffing issues. For an hourly fee often less than the real cost of employees, businesses can take advantage of professional assistance and a variety of skills at the click of a mouse.

Karen Leland: Does Your Small Business Need a Virtual Assistant?

Who Shouldn’t Hire A Virtual Assistant? | Society of Virtual Assistants.

Utilising a Virtual Assistant

In the past we have been taught to work on our weaknesses. Current psychological research has discovered that this formula will give you marginal success at best. Operating to your strengths and doing what you do best is how to be successful. But that is not the only part of the mix and the second is to delegate your weaknesses. In fact, when you delegate a weakness to someone who does it better, faster and more efficient than you it becomes a strength.

If you choose to do those tasks that you enjoy or need to do then you are choosing not to do “something else”. This “something else” could be time with your family, friends or for yourself and of course not forgetting the bottom line – time with your clients. Your talents are better utilised where only you can perform particular tasks.

For example, if you move all your database information to a web based application it is accessible even when your computer is not and your VA and you can be using the application simultaneously in real time. Your VA will be able to make follow up calls, send out correspondence, post articles, do email marketing campaigns etc. When you’ve collected business cards this information needs to be checked and uploaded to your database. By using a Virtual Assistant you can delegate the post administrative tasks and this translates into time you can spend with clients instead of on administrative work. Your job is to show up and do what you do best. That is the idea. Do what you do best and delegate the rest!

Have a very clear picture of what you enjoy and what you are good at and make these the areas you spend your time on. Look at the areas of your business you put off or find difficult to do as these are most likely to be the areas that you need to delegate out to someone who is quicker and better at it than you.

For your business to grow and prosper effective delegation is the key and without the right team behind you, you cannot work to your full potential!

When is the right time to hire a virtual assistant?| CanDoCanBe