The 5 W's and 2 H's of Virtual Assistants
The term virtual assistant and the industry are still relatively unknown and we find ourselves trying to explain what we do to almost everyone we meet, particularly when networking. There is so much to say about virtual assistants - what they do, how they do it, why they are so good at what they do - that it is hard not to ramble on. So, here are the basics of virtual assistants and, with some specifics of how we work with our clients.
Who is a virtual assistant?
This is the most common question we hear. Virtual Assistants (or virtual administrative assistants or administrative consultants) are administrative experts who provide off-site, virtual office support. Backed by a wealth of training and experience as executive assistants, office managers, and other administrative positions, they offer their skills to those who do not need or cannot afford a full-time employee, but find their time being eaten up by administrative tasks. Small business owners themselves, they come alongside other professionals with an understanding of what is necessary to run a successful business and the ability to help make it happen. Some virtual assistants specialize or 'niche' themselves into certain skills or specific industries while others work with a broader range of industries and services. There is a wealth of flexibility and expertise when you look for a VA.
What can a virtual assistant help with?
Think through the tasks you do every day or every week that are necessary but not related to your profession - that feel as though they steal time from the work you enjoy and add stress to your life. If you had a full-time administrative employee, would you delegate some or all of those things to them? We help our clients with the same things as an on-site admin. Below is a list of just a few of the things that virtual assistants receive requests for:
- Social Media Marketing (Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, etc)
- Event & Meeting Planning
- Desktop Publishing
- Blog Set-up, Maintenance & Writing
- Research & Writing
- Spreadsheets & Reports
- Presentations (PowerPoint)
- Phone Calls & Correspondence
- Electronic File Management (Organization)
Where do virtual assistants work from?
Most virtual assistants have a home office - fully equipped with all the tools needed to help their clients. A few work from a traditional or virtual office space. We primarily work from home offices; however, depending on the geographic proximity, we also go to our clients, particularly for physical organization projects or clients in highly regulated professions.
When do virtual assistants work?
Once again, virtual assistants make a decision when they start their company what hours they work. Some retain the traditional 9 - 5 schedule and others work non-traditional hours - around their home life and other commitments. It is not necessary for a virtual assistant to even be in the same city or time zone as their client. In fact, one advantage of choosing a virtual assistant from a different time zone, if you are aware of your own work style, is that they may start work a few hours before or after you, giving you a head start to assess the day and begin delegating. We usually try to retain fairly standard office hours, but have been known to help clients with emergency needs by working non-traditional hours.
Why should I consider a virtual assistant?
Small business owners, coaches, entrepreneurs, executives, and other professionals go into business with a goal and passion for work that they enjoy. The administrative, back office 'stuff' is a business necessity that many professionals wish would simply go away. As your business grows, the amount of admin work increases in proportion which can disrupt your focus - your "why" in business. A virtual assistant can save you time, stress, and reduce the 'clutter' of tasks that you did not go into business for. A lot of businesses need a part-time or full-time admin, but those that don't can save time and money contracting flexible support to meet their needs.
How do I choose a virtual assistant?
When working with a VA, you are contracting a business person to partner with you, not an employee that needs to be trained. Take the time while consulting with a VA to think through what tasks you do on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis, and what among those might be delegated. When talking to virtual assistants, find out what their experience is with those tasks and how they can accomplish them.When deciding to start a business, just like other small business owners, virtual assistants specialize, both in what clientele they work with and the tasks they excel at. Some choose to work only with real estate agents or lawyers, others choose to specialize by task such as social media. If you are in a specialized or regulated field, look for a VA with experience in your field and, if necessary, the appropriate licensing.
Small business owners, entrepreneurs, & other professionals who build a business from the ground up frequently feel that they have to do everything. However, selecting a trustworthy, qualified professional to come alongside and assist, will make a difference in business growth, stress levels, time management, and achieving goals.
How can a VA save me money?
Virtual assistants are skilled professionals with years of experience who charge by the hour and bill only for the time spent on your project. (Rates vary depending upon the type of work performed.) As an independent contractor, they save you money in the following ways:
- Pay only for actual time and material spent on your projects.
- Save money by not paying for payroll, taxes, vacations, benefits, or employee “down” time.
- Skip paying for overhead, physical workspace, or equipment.
- Manage your time more efficiently.
- Concentrate on growing your business, not the back office.
- Access a highly skilled professional.