A virtual assistant or VA is remote professional that provides different services to individual entrepreneurs and businesses. Yes, they are not office employees but they are provided access to the necessary tools and data to perform their duties for your enterprise.
VA’s back in the day were self-employed workers who perform specific tasks. These included accountants, secretaries, sales professionals, and others.
Today, as the industry grew, there are now companies that offer virtual assistant services. They have a trained workforce that specializes in the following areas:
- Accounting and bookkeeping
- Data entry and management
- Social media marketing
- Video creation and processing
- Administrative tasks
- Customer support
- Content writing
- Web development
- Audio and video editing
- Database management
- Receptionist duties
- Email management
- Tech support
- And dozens of other tasks
If there is a task that you hate doing but you just need to get it done to keep the business process flow smoothly, then you can outsource that task to a VA.
Benefits of Hiring a Virtual Assistant
There are other benefits to hiring a virtual assistant apart from helping you to do essential tasks that you really don’t like. Here are biggest reasons why you should hire a VA.
Reduce Overhead and Other Costs
A lot of businesses save a good amount of money by outsourcing certain tasks to remote workers. There are two basic ways that you can save money:
1. Reduced Operating Costs and Salaries
With a VA you don’t need to hire a full-time employee to do the small jobs in the office. They can be in charge of a set of tasks and you pay them either on a per-task or hourly basis. You only pay for the actual work that gets done.
You also reduce overhead costs since you don’t need to spend money for an extra laptop, internet connection, office space, and other expenses.
2. Reduced Training Costs
A VA is already a trained professional. They already know what to do and are familiar with the task that you want to get done. First time employees on the other hand will need more training.
There is also a reduced learning curve when you hire a VA. You just need to get them oriented on the tools and systems that you use. After that, they usually know how to get the job done.
You don’t need to spend a lot of time and money training them. However, take note these workers usually take on tasks that they are particularly good at. You can’t hire them and make them do other tasks other than the one agreed upon.
Improve Process Efficiency
Certain non-core tasks can get in the way of your office processes. What are these tasks that take up a lot of time of your staff? They include the following:
- Data entry
- Scheduling meetings
- Internet research
- Handling customer needs and other inquiries
- Sending newsletters, inter-office memos, and emails
Note that even though these are not core tasks, they are essential ones nonetheless. However, you can make the most of your in-house team by making them focus on the functions and tasks that will make your enterprise earn and grow.
Scale Your Business Easily
VA’s represent a talent pool that you can hire quickly to scale your operations. You can hire them for part-time work or on a project basis. You don’t have to worry about rushing your recruitment process since VA companies already have a pool of workers ready for deployment.
You can hire one virtual assistant at a time as the scope of your tasks increase. You can then hire full time employees on the side and grow your team accordingly. You can also move your VA’s to full time employee status if you’re happy with their service.
Offer 24/7 Service
In an age where businesses have a global reach, you may need to offer your services 24/7. You may need someone to review and process orders for customers in Australia. Maybe you need to handle customer inquiries from Japan.
You can hire VA’s that can work in varying time zones. This allows you to run your business even when you sleep. Your regular staff can then maintain their work-life balance and won’t be forced to work overtime or do double shifts.
Qualities of a Great Virtual Assistant
Not all virtual assistants are of the same calibre. If your business is growing rapidly, then you need someone who can pick up the pace and get things done fast. But that is not the only facet that you need to consider.
Here are other essential factors that you should keep in mind:
Every employee must be a reliable one—a virtual assistant is still an employee albeit a remote one. Once you have given the tasks for each day, you should be able to do other things for your business. You shouldn’t have to think about whether or not your VA has done the job or not.
The best VA’s are the ones that do not require hand holding or micro managing. They make your life easier and they’re easy to monitor because they can be relied on to get things done with minimal supervision.
A virtual assistant will be entrusted with a lot of proprietary material, data, and information. This may include client names, their personal information, their financial information, and depending on the business you run, it may even include legal and medical info.
Integrity also applies to the reports that a VA submits to you. The reports must be both accurate and truthful. Paperwork that has been accomplished quickly won’t be that useful if the content isn’t reliable or falsified.
We all know the saying that “to err is human.” It’s part of our nature since none of us is truly flawless. However, a great VA will strive to keep everything – reports included – to be as accurate as humanly possible.
You can also provide tools that will ensure a higher accuracy rate for the work that they produce. This may include spell and grammar checkers, SEO software, and others.
A really good virtual assistant should be able to avoid typos, complete projects on time, and submit quality work.
Consider your VA to be a resource person that can provide you with needed information. They work within a specific niche and they should be able to provide you with ideas and insights as a specialist in that field.
They don’t have to know everything since they’re not the jack of all trades sort of person. But, for instance, you’re working with an expert in search engine optimization, then that fellow is supposed to know tools and strategies that can help you improve your web branding strategy. They won’t be able to answer questions about logistics but that one they can handle.
Multitasking has been a buzzword for a bit of a while. Now, science may have proven that employees don’t work as efficiently as they should when they multitask but still we’re asking virtual assistants to multitask.
By that we don’t mean doing two or more things at the same time. What we’re referring to is the ability to complete more than one task per work shift. Since you’re paying them on a per-hour or a per-project basis, then they should at least be able to complete two tasks before the shift ends.
Tasks don’t need to be complicated. For instance, a general VA can be given tasks like set an appointment with a client, send orders to suppliers, and maybe update your calendar at the end of the day.
If they can do these small tasks efficiently, it makes your tasks more efficient in the end.
6. Working Under Pressure
Yes, you can queue the popular Queen baseline now. Everyone should be able to work under pressure—it’s just a sign of professional maturity to be able to do that. They can take multiple tasks and a virtual assistant may even work with more than one client.
Being able to accomplish tasks with good scheduling and efficiency is the name of the game and sometimes it is critical to professional success.
7. Follow Up and Follow Through
A great VA is one that is able to stay on top of each task on their workload—that is even if you (the entrepreneur) can’t. If you miss certain items on your agenda, a good VA should be able to follow up with you and do other things proactively.
Getting the Most from Your Virtual Assistant
If you are able to get the most from your VA, it will make your professional and entrepreneurial life a lot easier. The following are some suggestions that will help you help your VA’s give their best in the performance of their duties.
Hire Them Like You Would any Regular Employee
You hire your in-house team with care and you often look at having a long-term working relationship with them. That should be the same standard that you should use when hiring a virtual assistant.
That means you should be selective. Gather around a dozen applicants and compare each one point for point. Look at their technical capabilities but you should also consider their language skills as well.
Since they will be working remotely, you should at least do a Skype call to get a general feel about them. By carefully selecting the right VA from the start, you’re saving yourself from a lot of headaches in the future.
Give Them Easy Tasks First
Don’t squeeze the juice out of your VA’s from the get go. Think of the first few days on the job as the weaning period for these people. They’re not familiar with how you do things and they have no clue about your office systems as well.
They need to become familiar with your systems and procedures first. They should also get acquainted with the POC’s that you assigned to them—that could include you but they might have to report or work with someone else in your in-house staff for other matters.
After they’ve gotten their feet wet so to speak, it’s time to give them more tasks to work with. Send them the more complex task later on. The first few days will help you gauge how well they handle work pressure and the demands of your office.
Set Priorities and Expectations
This is one of the things that you will do during the interview process—especially before you make them sign the contract. You should explain everything that you want them to do and what is expected of them.
You should also make time to review these priorities and expectations once a month. You should also set reminders to them, like short memos for example, about the fact that their role is to take administrative tasks off your schedule so you can prioritize other tasks.
You can provide a checklist of goals each week and ask your VA to clear every single one of them by week’s end. Make sure to highlight tasks by their level of importance. Make sure that priority tasks are completed first.
Pair Them Off with In-Office Employees
It will be a good idea to go hands on with your VA for the first couple of days. After that, you should pair them off with one of your in-office employees. If they have any questions or if they run into some work-related trouble, they will consult with the in-office staff instead of bothering you.
This technique will also introduce the virtual assistant to the current culture in your workplace. It also encourages teamwork and more open communication. And it will help them feel that they’re working with others and that they’re not by their lonesome all the time.
Setup Brainstorming Sessions as Needed
You should setup brainstorming sessions with your VA along with your in-house staff as well. These collaboration sessions should be scheduled as needed. Do it when business is picking up and you should also do it when business is experiencing a slump. Give your VA a voice in the team and recognize that their specialty in their chosen field.
Hiring a VA will help you scale and grow your business. They can also make your day to day work a lot easier. You can hire them from a virtual assistant company.
OkayRelax is US based virtual assistance service provider that offers task credit based plans. Their virtual assistants are well-trained and have gone through their intensive training program so that they can provide you with top quality service custom tailored for your needs.
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