You've probably already heard about the term ‘virtual assistant’ once or twice, especially these days when the transition to digital has become even more prevalent as opposed to the past few years. But do we really understand what virtual assistants are and what they do? How do you even find one, much more so hire one? How do we know that someone is the right fit for the virtual assistant role that I’m hiring for? But perhaps the most important question here is: do I even need to hire a virtual assistant in the first place?
What is a virtual assistant?
The technical definition of a virtual assistant is an independent contractor who provides a myriad of services (usually, but not limited to, administrative work) to a client (often entrepreneurs, but may also be various other busy individuals such as professors, doctors, real estate agents, parents, and more) from a remote location.
They provide multiple services that are also offered by full-time employees without the commitment that in-house employees require. This means that virtual assistants can be there only when you need them, and they won’t take it to heart when you tell them that you’re no longer in need of their service. But once you hire a virtual assistant, it seems quite impossible to go back.
Theoretically speaking, you can ask virtual assistants to do anything within their skill set that can be done remotely. They can provide business support services as well as personal assistant services, and act as your virtual administrative assistant, real estate virtual assistant, virtual teaching assistant, virtual executive assistant, virtual sales assistant, research assistant, editorial assistant, email assistant, website manager, social media manager, and basically anything else, depending on your specific needs. More than being able to provide customized services tailor-fit for what you need, no matter where they are in the world, virtual assistants are also trained to adjust to your timezone so that they could be there for you at any time you need.
Essentially, virtual assistants are precisely what their name suggests: assistants who provide various services virtually. They may not be there physically, but you’ll be surprised at how much they can become integral parts of your business or personal life.
What can virtual assistants do?
As previously mentioned, virtual assistants can provide tons of services that can be done remotely, but in this section, we’ll be giving you a better overview of exactly what kind of tasks you can delegate to your virtual assistant.
Primarily, entrepreneurs hire a virtual assistant to focus on administrative work because this is one of the most popular virtual assistant services that they are needed for. A virtual administrative assistant carries out administrative duties to ensure the smooth and efficient operation of a business. These duties include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Answering and organizing emails
- Scheduling meetings and other appointments
- Calendar management
- Making travel arrangements
- Taking down minutes during meetings
- Conducting research
- Organizing files
- Data entry
Given these, a virtual administrative assistant must be adept in basic Microsoft Office programs such as Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, or Google office programs like Docs, Sheets, and Slides, among others.
Moreover, he or she must also be ready to become an email assistant who is familiar with the nooks and crannies of typical email services such as Gmail, Yahoo! Mail, AOL, and Microsoft Outlook, among many others. Among these, Gmail is most widely used, as it also offers a myriad of features to help you better organize your inbox. Your virtual assistant should be able to understand how this works and know how to communicate well, so that the accumulated hours you spend going through your messy inbox will be long gone.
With a virtual administrative assistant to manage your email for you, all the irrelevant email and spam messages that go through your inbox will be filtered out and you would only have to respond to the more important messages that require your attention and expertise. For everything else, your virtual assistant should be able to either delete insignificant messages or respond to emails that they already have the knowledge and authority to answer. Gone are the days when going through your inbox takes hours on end.
While a virtual administrative assistant and a virtual executive assistant may have a lot in common, the latter may also be tasked to carry out management duties in your absence. This is not to say that they will be the designated acting Chief Executive Officer of your business when you’re not around; it basically means that they have more in-depth knowledge about the nature of your business and are able to provide various business support services for the company, as well as personal assistant services for you.
More than the aforementioned tasks performed by a virtual administrative assistant, a virtual executive assistant, sometimes referred to as a virtual secretary, may have more confidential and important duties and responsibilities, having to work with upper management. Primarily, they act as the point of contact between senior-level executives like you and internal and/or external individuals and teams. This entails your chosen virtual assistant to be someone who is absolutely reliable and trustworthy, as he or she will be relaying important messages between team members, departments, clients, and even friends and family.
Furthermore, a virtual executive assistant handles all the nitty-gritty clerical tasks and correspondence so that senior-level executives like you can focus on core responsibilities that require higher-level decision-making and expertise. Essentially, your trusty virtual executive assistant is an extension of yourself, and ensures that the support they provide will help you become even more effective and efficient at work.
If you’re starting to get bored with all the business-y talk, you might not be an entrepreneur looking for someone to help him out with managing his business. Instead, you might be someone who just really needs help with balancing his professional and personal lives, but find it difficult to organize everything while being able to fulfill his tasks properly and in a timely manner.
Sounds like you? Well, my friend, you might just be in need of personal assistant services from a reliable and cheap virtual assistant (wink). You could be a parent, an artist, a businessman, a hobbyist, or maybe even all of the above - and maybe you’re just looking for a little helping hand so that you could still be able to relax on the weekends and enjoy some quality time with your loved ones.
Well, whatever or whoever you are, an online personal assistant can definitely help you with whatever support you might need in your daily life. Perhaps you’ve been spending too much time planning your meals at home that you don’t have enough time for your weekly reports? Your online personal assistant can do that for you, so you can focus on work.
What’s more is that he or she will also make sure to remember all your food and dietary preferences so that your weekly menu is tailor-fit for you and your family. Think that’s amazing? They can also shop for the ingredients online so that you can have your grocery items delivered straight to your doorstep with no fuss. You’d think it’s such an easy task, but wait until you have a mountain-load of work to do over the weekend, leaving you with virtually no time to complete your weekly meal plan and grocery shopping for the week.
Another task you can delegate to your online personal assistant, especially now that the holidays are drawing near, could be gift-giving! We all have our daily work responsibilities to focus on during the weekdays, and weekends are supposed to be spent relaxing and catching up on some quality time with your family and friends. As you might already know from years of experience, coming up with a budget and a list of gift ideas, compiling a list of recipients, looking gifts up online, ordering them, wrapping them, and eventually, sending them out, can be quite time-consuming.
Your virtual assistant can do all these for you with the same level of quality that you prefer, but with more focus. Delegating this responsibility to your online personal assistant will ensure that your loved ones would still get the perfect gifts that they deserve, while giving you the leeway to spend your free time with absolutely no stress.
More than meal planning and gift-giving, your online personal assistant can also fulfill other tasks such as research on what the best schools in your area are, what age-appropriate activities you and your kids could do over the weekend, what extracurricular activities you and your kids could enroll in online, and more. To put it simply, your online personal assistant is your very own Google or Siri with a more personalized touch.
SEO Packages for Small Businesses
Some virtual assistants possess more specialized skills that could be beneficial for your business, especially when you’re just starting out. Having a small business, especially in the midst of a global health and economic crisis, can be challenging, and thus a reliable virtual assistant can truly make a world of a difference for you and your business.
In case you don’t know yet (and perhaps this is precisely why you’re reading this article in the first place), there are also virtual assistants (who are often from virtual assistant service providers such as OkayRelax) who can carry out tasks that require a higher skill level than a regular virtual administrative assistant. These virtual assistant services offer different plans that may either be hour-based or task-based, but also have packages for more specific services required by businesses. One of the plans with the highest demands from virtual assistant providers are SEO packages for small businesses.
If you’re curious about the specific tasks that may be included in these SEO packages, we have compiled a list of the most basic services of these said plans below.
Social Media Management
The tasks and responsibilities under Social Media Management depend on your specific needs, but generally include the following:
- Community engagement
- Graphic design
- Content creation
- Content planning
- Content scheduling
- Content development
- Campaign planning
- Hashtag research
- Research on latest trends
- Ads management
Managing a website can be so time-consuming and trivial, yet is very crucial to your business. Not only should it be aesthetically pleasing, but the contents should also be interesting enough for your target audience to visit, linger on, and come back to. This is where your virtual assistant comes in. Some of the tasks that revolve around website management include the following:
- Blog article writing
- Content development
- Content creation
- Search engine optimization (SEO)
- Content development
- Web development
- Web design
- Site and data back-up
- Website maintenance
- Analytics monitoring
- Customer service
Basic Digital Marketing
Digital marketing packages offered by virtual assistant services generally include most, if not all, of the tasks mentioned above under Social Media and Website Management. Typically, virtual assistant providers that offer digital marketing packages gives you a lot of bang for your buck. More often than not, these packages give you everything you need without driving too deep a hole through your pockets.
Virtual Assistants are Flexible
Perhaps the point we are driving at with this list aside from providing you an overview of what types of tasks you can delegate to your virtual assistant, is that virtual assistants are flexible and can meet most, if not all, of your demands. A virtual assistant is basically an all-in-one package that’s definitely worth the investment, without the commitment of a full-time, in-house employee. There are really more pros than cons here, as the only con we could think of is that it can be quite tasking to find the perfect virtual assistant for you because it’s hard to find reliable professionals these days that fit the exact requirements that you need. Lucky for you, we’ll be tackling just that in the next section of this article.
Where do I find the perfect virtual assistant?
Looking for the perfect virtual assistant for you can be a challenge, that much is true. Hiring a virtual assistant whom you can rely on to accomplish trivial, yet important, tasks for you bears so much weight as you will be entrusting a huge chunk of your life to this person. This is why finding the virtual assistant who is the right fit for you is such a huge responsibility.
Regular Job Sites
One of the first places to consider when looking for a virtual assistant are regular job sites such as Jooble and Indeed. You can post an ad for a virtual assistant and list out the exact duties and responsibilities that you will require from them, and wait for several days or weeks until you find the candidate that you feel most comfortable with.
Of course, social media is also one of the best places to find a virtual assistant as this gives you a more personal look into the candidates who respond to your job post. Most social media users don’t even bother to alter their social media profiles when applying for jobs on Facebook or LinkedIn, so you would more or less get an authentic look into who they really are as individuals. It’s an advantage for you, really. You can either post a job on their jobs section, or join groups that are relevant to the position or industry you’re hiring for.
Online Job Sites
With the rise of remote jobs over recent years, tons of online job sites have sprung up. These job sites are filled with remote positions from various parts of the world, and this is often where virtual assistant hopefuls turn to in order to find the perfect client for them. Some of these online job sites include, but are not limited to the following:
Virtual Assistant Providers
We might be biased on this, but we genuinely believe that the best way to find the perfect virtual assistant for you is through virtual assistant service providers such as OkayRelax, among many others. Why? Here are a few reasons:
- You save time. By signing up for virtual assistant services, you don’t have to spend days and weeks trying to find the right virtual assistant for you.
- This significantly reduces the risk of you investing on something uncertain. When you don’t feel like the virtual assistant assigned to you is the right fit, you can request for a new one at no additional cost. Simple as that! No time, money, or efforts wasted.
- You can cancel at any time. The best thing about hiring a virtual assistant, especially through virtual assistant services, is that you can cancel your subscription when you don’t need their services. So basically, you only spend what you need without having to worry about your virtual assistant losing their job - because they won’t.
How much do virtual assistants cost?
Virtual assistant rates vary depending on the situation, but on average, general virtual assistants charge anywhere between US$350 to US$800 per month. A myriad of factors affect this, such as location, skill sets, and number of hours per month, which explains why virtual assistants with higher skill levels generally cost more.
If you want a bang for your buck, opt for virtual assistant service providers such as OkayRelax, Fiverr, FancyHands, and VAStaffer, among many others. As previously mentioned, hiring a virtual assistant through these companies is less risky and will cost significantly less without reducing the quality of service that you’ll receive. On average, virtual assistant plans or packages range from anywhere between US$29.95 to US$800, but may also cost more depending on the package inclusions and number of hours.
- Starter Plan - 5 tasks for US$29.95 per month
- Professional Plan - 25 tasks for US$99.95 per month
- Executive Plan - 100 tasks for US$299.95 per month
If you’ve reached this part of the article, congratulations! You now have more or less a better idea of what virtual assistants are, what they do, and how much they cost - information that we hope would be helpful for you as you decide whether or not hiring a virtual assistant is the right fit for your business, and whether or not you need to hire one today.
But if you’re to take our word for it, we assure you that hiring a virtual assistant to help you out with your business will probably be one of the best decisions you could make for your and your business’ growth. Most of all, when you hire a virtual assistant, you can finally reclaim your valuable time - because, my friend, you deserve to relax.