Virtual assistants are more accurately described as remote assistants.
They are people who are effectively on hand to help you in your business, but do not need to be set up with a desk and equipment in the corner of your home-office, nor paid when you have no work for them to do.
Virtual assistants are dedicated businesspeople who make their living taking the strain from your daily life. Individuals who are in business alone and do not have a secretary can find it very difficult to juggle all that needs to be done in a day. When they also work from home, things can become even more difficult because home and work lives can tangle causing important business issues to be forgotten or left on the back-burner. Communication with a virtual assistant is via e-mail, instant messaging, video call, telephone, fax, and even snail-mail.
Benefits of a VA
Dealing with a business can be hugely time-consuming. It can seem like all you do from the moment you wake to the moment your head hits the pillow is work. And if you’re not physically working, you’re thinking about it, and planning the next day, the next week, the next month, and wondering how on earth you’re going to be able to keep it all together. If you have a family, then such a situation cannot last too long before either your business or your family life starts to suffer.
This is where a virtual assistant earns their money. Those three or four hours you need to spend sending out marketing material when you’d rather be sleeping or spending time with the family can be safely delegated to a virtual assistant. The pressure on you is instantly eased – the physical job of sending out the material and the worry about wondering when you can ever find the time to do it.
Consider all the other areas where a VA could help:
- Computer – A skilled VA will be able to handle all areas of your daily business computing, such as maintaining contact lists, tracking inventory, organising receipts and other documents
- Organisation – Helping to ensure projects run on time
- Search/Research – Locating new business opportunities and researching markets or products etc
- Communication – Following up new leads and reconnecting with existing customers via the Internet, telephone, or by other means
- Internet – Email monitoring and updating websites, blogs and newsletters
- Travel – Making travel arrangements – business or personal
- Reminders – Providing timely nudges when deadlines or meetings are approaching, or customers need contacting
Creating a website/blog
Find the right virtual assistant and you may also be able to finally get that website or blog up and running. It doesn’t have to cost a fortune to set up a website, but failing to do so could easily cost you a fortune in lost business. Some VAs have the tech know-how to create a site for you and to maintain and update it.
Finding the right virtual assistant
You may not be looking for specific skills like website-building, but you must still make certain your VA possesses the appropriate skills to be a boon to your business. The last thing you want is to create another worry for yourself, wondering if your VA has done those important tasks on which your business depends.
Locating a competent virtual assistant is no different to finding a decent mechanic for your car. You’re looking for someone with the previous skills and experience that will ensure they can handle their job spec effortlessly. You wouldn’t be too impressed to find your mechanic thumbing through a Haines manual with your engine in pieces on the floor, and neither should you put yourself in the equivalent position with a VA.
What you need to watch out for are individuals who are simply looking for a home-based job and have decided becoming a virtual assistant will fit the bill. The job requires skills that must be second nature or you will end up having to provide constant assistance to your virtual assistant.
The best VAs will have plenty of experience in a corporate environment, as secretaries, administrative assistants, or executive assistants. If this background is lacking, you may end up creating more hassle for yourself than had you stayed solo. Be sure to properly check out the credentials offered by a prospective virtual assistant, and take up references rather than accept their word. Cynical perhaps, but the success of your business may depend on it.