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It’s almost impossible to run a business from scratch without getting help from an administrative assistant, right?
Well, then. Here’s good news for you:
These days you can go about things the traditional way—hire an assistant who would report to the office daily and help you with the administrative side of the business—or follow the example of a growing number of business owners and hire a virtual assistant (VA) instead.
Before you make a decision, it would be prudent to learn more about virtual assistance and how you can make it work to your advantage.
What Is a Virtual Assistant?
A virtual assistant is someone who does exactly what an in-house administrative assistant does, the difference being the fact that the VA isn’t obliged to report to your office to work.
In most cases, a virtual assistant works from a home office and offers assistance via the Internet, phone, fax, or email. This means you can hire an assistant from halfway across the globe; what’s important is that he/she has the kind of knowledge and skills necessary to perform the specific tasks you plan to assign to him/her.
Note that there is currently a growing number of individuals offering virtual assistant services, and the expertise of these individuals can vary a great deal. This is why you shouldn’t rush through the hiring process when looking for a VA.
You should make sure not only that the person you eventually hire has the right knowledge and skills, but also that he/she is the right fit for your organization. Even if he/she isn’t required to report to the office, the virtual assistant should still be someone who holds the same values your organization does.
Enjoy the Benefits of Hiring a VA
There are several benefits to be enjoyed when you have a virtual assistant, provided that you’ve successfully hired the right individual for the job, of course. Here are some of the most notable advantages of having a VA:
• You won’t have to spend any amount on equipment. The fact that a VA works from his/her own office means that he/she is responsible for providing his/her own equipment. You also don’t have to provide office space.
• You only pay a virtual assistant for the specific number of hours that he/she spends doing work for you. You also aren’t obliged to provide bonuses and other employment benefits. And because a VA technically isn’t an employee of your company, you aren’t required to pay employment taxes.
• A VA enables you to get more things done because the fact that there is someone who takes care of administrative tasks leaves you free to take care of high-value or core business tasks that only you can accomplish.
A major part of being able to enjoy the above benefits has to do with delegating the right tasks to your VA. Here are the tasks and processes you can safely outsource to a virtual assistant:
Keeping tabs on your expenses and other financial matters is one of the easiest things to assign to a VA. Your VA can remind you of unpaid bills and outstanding invoices to make sure you don’t run into any financial problems.
One of the things your VA can do for you is manage your books of accounts and remind you of outstanding invoices and unpaid bills.
2. Online Research
Why do you need to conduct online research? There are various reasons.
– Perhaps you are hiring and need to vet potential employees.
– Maybe you need information on potential business partners.
– Perhaps there are new kinds of products you are considering including in your selection and you want to learn more about it before making a decision.
For these and other online research tasks, you can rely on your VA. The key is to give clear instructions so that the VA knows exactly what he/she should be looking for.
3. Database Entry
Whatever type of business you’re running, you’ll likely need to information on the following groups of people:
– your business contacts
– existing customers
– potential clients
The task of entering new information or updating existing ones on your database can easily be delegated to a virtual assistant. This is, in fact, one of the most basic things VAs do for their clients.
4. Email Management
Checking your email on a daily basis can be a waste of valuable time, especially if you have to wade through a bunch of useless emails to find the ones that matter and require immediate attention. Your VA can do this for you. The key is for you to provide clear guidelines on what kinds of email to forward to you for appropriate action.
There are plenty of scheduling tools available online that your VA can use to manage your calendar of activities. The VA may then remind you of meetings, business appointments, and other important activities that are on your calendar. You don’t have to stress yourself trying to remember them all.
6. Travel Research
Do you need to book flights and hotel reservations for business trips? You can task your VA to find the best travel deals on your behalf. Your virtual assistant can also keep a record of your trip itineraries and send you reminders from time to time.
7. Social Tasks
There are times when you will need to send thank you notes or holiday greeting cards to business partners and/or customers. With your busy schedule, you probably can’t be bothered with such tasks, but your VA certainly won’t mind taking care of them for you.
Choosing the Virtual Assistant Who Can Help You Achieve Your Goals
As we have been repeatedly mentioning throughout this article, it is important not just to find a virtual assistant, but to find the right one for your business. Here are the things you need to consider when you go through the screening process for a VA:
Even if a VA has all the right skills, if you don’t feel comfortable working with him/her, then it may not be a good idea to hire that particular individual.
Remember what we said earlier?
A virtual assistant has to hold the same values you and your organization does. Otherwise, your working relationship is bound to fail.
2. Knowledge and Skills
Of course, you need to make sure that the knowledge and skills of the VA you hire perfectly fit your specific needs. What specific tasks do you plan to assign to the VA?
The answer to this question should serve as your guide in checking the skills set of the person you hire.
Other than the specific skills necessary for the tasks you have in mind, it is also a good idea to hire a VA who has extensive technical knowledge and skills, considering how businesses are relying more and more on technology.
You’d also want to make sure your VA has excellent multi-tasking and project management skills, as you’ll likely be assigning a variety of tasks to him/her.
During the screening process, take note of how the VA answers the phone and any email you send.
Does he/she answer promptly and in a professional manner? Does he/she speak to you with respect?
This says a lot about how the VA is likely to treat you, members of your organization, and anyone else he/she may come in contact with while working on your behalf.
How long has the VA been in this line of work? Does he/she have any experience in doing the tasks and/or projects you plan to assign to him/her?
It is understandable that the VA will have to learn the specifics of your business, but it pays to hire someone who has at least some general knowledge of the tasks/projects at hand. That way, you will only have to teach him/her the necessary skills that are unique to your business, if any.
Many virtual assistants are freelancers who work for two or more clients at a time. There are also those who have a regular job and only work as a VA part-time.
It is important to ask a VA about the specific times he/she is available to work on your projects, and don’t forget to take time zone differences into consideration, if applicable. You may have found the perfect VA, but if he/she isn’t available during the times that you most need VA services, then there’s no point in hiring him/her.
Making sure you hire the right virtual assistant is indeed an important task, which is why you need to give it ample time and attention. Do not rush the hiring process. In fact, you shouldn’t even begin the hiring process until you’re sure that you’re ready for an assistant.
Have you already delineated the tasks you’ll be assigning to your VA? Do you have the time and inclination to train your assistant? Do you already have a well-defined system of operations? Only when you answer YES to these questions can you truly say you’re ready to hire a VA.
And when you know that you’re ready for a VA, treat the hiring process as if the success of your entire business depends on it. That way, you can be sure you won’t settle for “good enough” and strive to find only the best virtual assistant for the job.