Do you own a small business? If so, you may want to ask yourself this very important question: “Are you working IN the business or ON the business?” The difference is that when you work in the business, you focus on the details of the business’ daily operations. Working on the business, on the other hand, means you are focused on long-term results and on the future of your business. If you find that you are currently working in the business, you should definitely take the necessary steps to switch to working on the business instead.
So, how can you relieve yourself of administrative burdens so you’ll have more time to devote to growing your business? One obvious answer, of course, is for you to hire a full-time administrative assistant. But that would mean at least one more person to provide not only with a regular salary, but also with office space, supplies and materials, and full employee benefits. It also means going through the usual employment process, which entails additional cost. What if you can’t afford the additional cost? One alternative that’s currently growing in popularity is that of virtual assistant to take care of administrative tasks for you.
What is a Virtual Assistant?
To better understand why virtual assistance has become a popular industry in recent years, it pays to gain a better understanding of what a virtual assistant actually is. Simply put, a VA is a self-employed individual who takes care of administrative work for his/her clients. A VA usually works from a home office. Contrary to what many people think, a VA is more than just a home-based secretary. Sure, virtual assistants can take care of clerical and secretarial work for you, but they can also handle other administrative work such as social media management, events planning, and bookkeeping, among other things.
Benefits of Hiring a Virtual Assistant
Why are more and more small business owners choosing to hire a virtual assistant instead of hiring an in-house administrative assistant? Here are the most significant benefits you can get from hiring a VA:
1. You get access to skills you need but don’t have time to master.
As a self-employed individual, it is safe to assume that a virtual assistant has taken the time to master a wide set of skills in order to cater to the specific needs of his/her clients. Some of these skills may just be what you need to run your business smoothly, but you may not have time to learn them and perhaps you can’t afford to hire in-house personnel with those skills.
2. You aren’t required to provide benefits to VAs.
Because they are independent contractors, you aren’t required to provide such benefits as paid leaves, health insurance, and worker’s compensation to your VA. And even if they choose to work on your project outside of normal business hours, you aren’t required to provide overtime pay.
3. You pay a VA only for time spent on your project.
With in-house employees, you are required to pay salaries even for days when they don’t have anything much to do. With a VA, you pay for their services only when you actually have a project for them to work on.
4. You won’t have to pay for employee training.
A virtual assistant is also an entrepreneur, with his/her skills as the commodity being offered to clients. Naturally, he/she would already have invested in the necessary training to make his/her “service offering” attractive to potential clients.
5. A VA pays his/her own taxes.
As mentioned earlier, a virtual assistant is an independent contractor. AS such, he/she is responsible for paying his/her own taxes; the clients have nothing to do with that part of the VA’s business.
6. A VA has his/her own office space, supplies, and equipment.
Since virtual assistants work remotely, you won’t have to provide them with office space. And they buy their own office supplies and equipment like computers and printers with what they earn from their clients. You won’t have to shoulder any of those expenses.
7. A VA is generally more dedicated and committed to maintaining high work quality.
It’s easy to understand why a VA would care about his/her work more than an in-house employee would. It is his/her business; he/she invested time, money, and effort in setting up the practice. And as any independent contractor knows, clients don’t normally come flocking to you; you have to build a solid reputation and maintain it. And the best way to maintain a good reputation is to always do good work. When you hire a VA, therefore, you’re assured of always getting quality results.
Who Needs a Virtual Assistant?
Just because you own a small business doesn’t automatically mean you need virtual assistance. So, how do you know if it is indeed an excellent idea for you to hire a VA or if there’s still a way for you to switch from working in the business to working on the business without virtual assistance? Here are some of the most important signs that you are a good candidate for virtual assistance:
- You have no time to create and maintain an updated prospect and client database.
- You work nights and most weekends (maybe even on holidays) just to keep up with the routine administrative tasks associated with running your business.
- There are so many routine tasks you handle, which you don’t really like doing because they take time away from the more important aspects of your business.
- More than once, an excellent business opportunity passed you by simply because you missed a deadline for following up on the deal.
- There are some exciting projects you’d love to take on, but you just don’t seem to have the time to get started on them, much less to see them through to completion.
If none of the above applies to you, then congratulations! You’re probably doing great in growing your business. But if you find yourself nodding your head and being able to relate, then you definitely should consider hiring a virtual assistant.
Going About It the Right Way
In order to fully benefit from virtual assistance, you’ll have to go about it the right way, of course. You can’t just hire the first VA you come across; you’ll have to make sure the person you hire has all the skills you’re looking for and that you can afford his/her fees. Here are some tips on how to make the most of doing business with a VA:
1. Get recommendations.
Some of your friends who are also running their own businesses may currently have a VA or perhaps had a VA in the past. Ask around for recommendations so you’ll have the advantage of knowing the VA you do business with is indeed trustworthy.
2. Screen for compatibility.
Even if the VA was recommended by a close friend and given high praises, that doesn’t necessarily mean he/she is the right VA for you. Conduct a phone or in-person interview to see what kind of rapport you have with the VA. Make sure you are compatible with the VA you choose so you can build a comfortable working relationship. No matter how skilled the VA is, the arrangement isn’t likely to work unless you feel comfortable with each other.
3. Set clear expectations.
A VA may be multi-skilled, but mind reading probably isn’t one of his/her skills. Don’t expect him/her to instinctively know what you want him/her to accomplish. If you want to get the best results, you’ll have to be very clear on what you want the VA to do for you. What specific results do you want from him/her? When do you want to get those results? The VA has to know exactly what is expected of him/her.
4. Start small.
It’s a good idea to first give your VA a small project to work on. The project will give him/her an idea as to what kind of work you’ll regularly have for him/her. At the same time, it will give you an idea as to whether you made the right choice or not.
5. Don’t nag.
A VA does not always follow a regular work schedule the way “normal” employees do, so it can be a bit difficult to know when he/she is working on your project and when he/she isn’t. But this doesn’t mean you have to constantly check on the project’s progress. What you may want to do is ask for a daily or weekly progress report, depending on how long project completion is expected to take.
As a small business owner, you don’t have to do everything on your own. Technology has advanced so much that we can now accomplish much via the Internet, and a virtual assistant can help you do just that.