Before the computer, the Internet and Google no one had heard of a Virtual Assistant. An assistant had a desk and chair and sat next to the boss. But since the enormous growth of the Internet and home-based working, Virtual Assisting is one of the fastest growing new roles, followed closely behind by “Digital Moms”.
What exactly is a Virtual Assistant?
A sci-fi mind image may be that of a Barbie-sized hologram appearing on the desk to be at one’s beck and call. The reality is a Virtual Assistant (VA) is exactly what the name says it is, a person that assists one from a virtual office space, usually a home-based office. Usually self-employed professionals, VA’s do multiple different administrative jobs for different clients. Most VA’s work for multiple people, splitting their time up between each client. This is an attractive, affordable option for small business owners who don’t need their own full-time administrative assistant.
VA’s can assist with anything from marketing, diary management, booking and confirming meetings, assisting with personal requirements, research assistance, administration, writing, and reception. In fact, anything one needs assistance with that can be done from a virtual office would fall into a VA role.
Why hire a Virtual Assistant?
Traditionally, companies have a few people taking care of the various departments such as accounting or bookkeeping, marketing and I.T.
For start-ups and small businesses, it’s common for business owners to attempt to manage everything themselves for cost-effectiveness. While doing everything yourself is a fast way to learn all aspects of running a business, it can easily become overwhelming and lead to burn-out. Its true that every part of running a business is important, no matter how small – but some things are worth paying someone else to do. There comes a time in every successful startup company where you have to outsource work. Hiring a VA is an affordable way to get the help you need with tasks, allowing you to free up your time and invest it to get the most return to manage and grow the business. One of the first things to outsource are the small administrative duties, which a Virtual Assistant can do. As the business owner, you know that your time is valuable, and it should be spent doing the important things you excel at.
Pros to hiring a Virtual Assistant
Having a Virtual Assistant is a huge help especially if your business is growing. It will save you time and it will also save you money because you don’t have to make an actual office. What you need is a virtual workspace. It’s something that’ll make your communication easier without spending money on bricks and mortar.
- Time: Free up your own valuable time to focus on revenue and growth
- Speed: Tasks get done faster by an assistant who is experienced in those specific areas
- Space: You don’t need to provide additional office space, thereby reducing the cost of having an in-office assistant
- Delegate tasks you’re not good at or knowledgeable about
- Delegate tasks you don’t enjoy
- Reduce stress from trying to juggle everything in your own business
- Help you earn more: you shouldn’t be wasting your time on tasks you can pay someone else hourly to do
Successful outsourcing of business tasks frees you up to make money. As your business grows, you may want to offer your VA more hours or take on multiple VA’s to build your business without investing more of your own time.
- Financial cost: an assistant will free up your time to earn more but initially, you need money to pay for help
- Your own difficulties delegating: sometimes it’s difficult to let go of tasks because you worry they won’t be done as well as you can
- Training period: initially, you will need to train your VA to your specific needs
Common Virtual Assistant tasks
- Managing your Schedule
- Administrative tasks
- Accounting and bookkeeping
- Creating advertisements
- Graphic design
- Writing press releases
- Email inbox management
- Online networking and outreach (i.e. finding blogs you can guest post on)
- Blog & article writing
- Website maintenance and updates
- Social Media management
Some individual VA’s can do a variety of things while many of them specialise in a certain area. The best place to start is to determine what tasks you need to outsource and search for a VA who specialises in those tasks.
Are Virtual Assistants expensive?
Usually, Virtual Assistants charge an hourly rate depending on their skills, level of expertise and experience. You can ask for their rate up front, and with your budget in mind, you both can determine how many hours you require them to work per week.
The best VA’s out there may charge a higher fee per hour, but they are professionals at making things easier for you, which is worth every penny. If you are looking to hire someone very cheaply, expect a less advanced quality of work. It shouldn’t be hard for you to find a VA that fits your budget, as long as you are realistic and budget for a fair wage for fair work. Not having to hire a full-time employee with benefits is already going to save you a lot of money, so invest properly in a good VA.
Choosing the right Virtual Assistant
When interviewing a Virtual Assistant, apart from assessing their skills, find out about their home office set-up. What kind of computer do they use, and do they have the required software? What’s the internet connection speed, and are they able to video conference? Ask how many other clients they assist and for how many hours per day they are already working. At RecruitMyMom we keep a record of the hours we allocate our Virtual Assistants to ensure they do not take on too many hours and under-deliver to our clients.
Find someone whose personality compliments yours so that you’ll find it easier be understood and get along well. Set up a test-phase with your new VA. You’ll be able to assess if she is nice and competent, but most of all a good fit. Start out with a probationary period long enough to work out any kinks, but short enough that either of you can terminate the contract if it’s not working.
If you find your business is growing to the point where you can’t do it all on your own, you’re no doubt feeling you are going to need to bring someone else on board. Whilst the thought of becoming responsible for paying someone else’s livelihood can feel scary, it doesn’t have to be. Hiring a VA takes the pressure off having to pay someone’s monthly salary, as you’re only paying for a portion of their workload.
Global employers sometimes hire Virtual Assistants in countries where labour rates are lower due to lower labour cost and exchange rate gains. In South Africa, we are seeing a rapidly growing demand for Virtual Assistants from varying sectors as Internet speed improves and technology makes virtual assisting a breeze.
Find the right VA and you will feel much less stressed, able to really focus on where your business needs your attention to grow from strength to strength.