Archive for January, 2012

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