Virtual Assistant 101 - All you need to know about hiring a Virtual Assistant

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A Virtual Administrative Assistant is just like any administrative assistant or a PA who might help in your office. The difference between a traditional assistant and a Virtual Assistant is that they work remotely from their own home-based office. Their home-based office is fully equipped with all the necessary equipment and software, including and mostly cloud-based collaborative software.

The cloud-based software allows communication with your Virtual Assistant just as easily as if she were in the same office as you are. Important business data can be accessed by your Virtual Assistant or by you from any device with access to the internet.

Virtual Assistants can be of benefit to businesses of all sizes, from a small trade operator with no staff, large organisations, community and sporting groups and can be more affordable and productive than employing staff. (See my article on Productivity)

There are no minimum hours or guarantee of hours for the employer to commit to. A Virtual Assistant can be available to assist your business from as little as 1 hour as a one-off job or a few hours a month to full time.

Some ways a Virtual Assistant can help you….

  • Spend your valuable time mastering your strengths, doing what you do well and generating income. Outsource to your Virtual Assistant the repetitive administration tasks that support your income.
  • Ensure customer invoices are issued and payment received in a timely manner. Chasing the arrears, reconciling payments and provide you with an up to date financial position of your business.
  • Social media is now such a valuable marketing tool, but without regular updating can become redundant. Your Virtual Assistant can keep your Social Media current, research valuable content and post updates regularly enough to ensure your company stays in your customer’s mind without bombarding them. (See article on Social Media)
  • Your Virtual Assistant can source and customise the perfect images to compliment your Social Media and Website content.
  • Create and maintain your website content keeping it competitive and up to date.
  • Respond to Social Media posts and Website enquiries on your behalf.
  • Answer your calls, book appointments, maintain your calendar.
  • Provide backup for staff during annual or illness leave.
  • Writing documentation for staff training and procedures.
  • Create, customise and monitor marketing emails. Report valuable response data on each marketing campaign.
  • Create, update and maintain your client database.
  • Fill that gap, you want a task completed but your staff don’t have the necessary skills. Ask your Virtual Assistant, she’s highly likely able to help.
  • Online research, research your competitors, pricing, trends.
  • Liaising with your suppliers, maintaining inventory and ensuring orders are filled.
  • Design print material, flyers, brochures and arrange printing and distribution.
  • Creation of form templates.

Identify your pain points, consider how a Virtual Assistant can help you….. Start your journey to relieve the pain.

Think about what tasks a Virtual Assistant could help you with. Compile an inventory of the tasks currently needed to successfully operate your business. Check carefully over this list, is there anything on the list you could comfortably hand over to a Virtual Assistant? What is on this list that causes you pain, that you despise doing yourself or feel resentful that your time could be spent in other, more profitable ways. From this list, what makes sense to outsource to someone else?

Perhaps there’s a task you’ve wanted to do yourself for such a long time and have just not had time to get it started, let alone complete. Or perhaps you don’t have the skills, even though you’d like to learn and do it yourself, is it really beneficial to generating income when you could outsource to someone else?

It may take you some time now to identify the tasks you want to outsource, but giving this careful consideration and outsourcing the right jobs you’ll benefit from the freedom this provides. Your free time will allow you to focus on mastering what generates the greatest profit to your business.

What are you looking for in a Virtual Assistant?

Initiative, confidence and productivity - a Virtual Assistant who is proactive, a go getter who believes in herself and takes the initiative to do what seems right. She displays the confidence in her own decisions without being careless. She doesn’t need to come to you seeking guidance every step of the way.

Highly organised, data management in particular must be organised in a manner that your Virtual Assistant can retrieve documentation easily. More importantly the business client has access to all documentation whenever required. The Virtual Assistant may only work for you a few hours each week, for the periods she is working for another client you must be able to access your data.

A highly organised Virtual Assistant will also keep reliable and accurate records on the hours she has worked on your project and this must coincide with invoices you receive. Time tracking is vital not only for the sake of trust between each party, but it may be necessary when your business requires time billing for various projects.

Flexibility – your Virtual Assistant will likely have other clients and must ensure her working hours are flexible enough to assist you when required. You will likely have set blocks of time allocated in each day/week/month which will be mutually agreeable to both parties. There will be occasions however when there may be an unexpected tight deadline, your Virtual Assistant may be required to move some times/dates around with her clients. In a perfect world, this may not occur but it is important for the business operator to keep in mind it can be a possibility when you may benefit or be disadvantaged. Many Virtual Assistants are available by agreement out of normal business hours and on weekends, this option from a Virtual Assistant’s proposed offerings can be a positive one.

Communication skills – there is a high chance the output your Virtual Assistant provides will be verbal or written communication in the form of telephone conversations, emails, letters or marketing material. The importance of excellent English language skills, grammar, spelling and punctuation cannot be over stressed. This is a common oversight and can have a seriously detrimental effect on the professional appearance of a business.

Astute – your business can benefit greatly from an astute and process driven Virtual Assistant who is likely to suggest improvements to your existing processes. They will provide suggestions on improvements that can be made with ongoing processes. In some instances the Virtual Assistant may be able to provide the guidance to office based staff who are usually responsible for these tasks.

Whilst Virtual Assistants have highly transferable skills, there will be instances where a business uses a bespoke piece of software that the Virtual Assistant may not be familiar. To minimise the time taken to train the Virtual Assistant, it is highly recommended you prepare or obtain simple step by step instructions or tutorials for the Virtual Assistant to follow. Your Virtual Assistant is a professional and is used to mastering various software quickly. In a short time, your Virtual Assistant will become so familiar with the software she may even write training documentation for future staff use

How to work with your Virtual Assistant

Documentation is generally scanned and transferred, either sent directly by email or via a cloud-based storage facility such as Dropbox. The benefit with using collaborative cloud-based software such as Dropbox is that the data is backed up on remote servers and can be accessed by any or all parties who are given access.

A basic Dropbox account is free to setup for a limited data storage size. Dropbox is one example only of a cloud based data storage system, your Virtual Assistant will be able to advise you on the best system for your requirements.

Communication preferences should be discussed between you and your Virtual Assistant and if you prefer, agree on a set routine. You can use email, Skype or telephone to communicate, however you choose should be mutually agreeable to both parties and at an agreeable time.

Advantages of hiring a Virtual Assistant

Communication There is an extensive list of benefits to hiring a Virtual Assistant (please refer to my article on Productivity) the key benefits are:

  • No set guaranteed hours to pay staff
  • Hours are flexible, can change based on demand
  • No human resource administration costs
  • No additional equipment or software to purchase
  • No training required
  • No need to provide office space or equipment
  • No tea breaks/water cooler chats, no idle time
  • No training required
  • No sick leave, annual leave
  • No employer liabilities – superannuation, PAYG reporting, Workcover
  • No unproductive, pay for only the hours worked
  • No office space or equipment to provide