Virtual Assistants to the Rescue

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Guest Post By Sara Pedersen

According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, the average small business owner spends up to 40% of his or her time on routine administrative tasks. One great alternative to “doing it all” is to hire a Virtual Assistant (VA). As the name implies, Virtual Assistants offer help “virtually,” working from an office that is likely outside your city, state, or country. They connect with you via phone and email, rather than in person.

If this idea intrigues you, a good starting point is to figure out where you truly need help. Jennifer Rai of Today’s Administrative Solutions, LLC (todaysadmin.com) recommends that you make a list of what you do on a daily basis and highlight anything that falls within a VA’s services. Then you need to determine how much of this work to outsource. Angela Lyons of The Lyons Den (supremeofficesolutions.com) points out that VAs help small business owners realize what they need to delegate.

Virtual Assistants offer a very wide range of services, including, but not limited to:

  • administrative assistance such as word processing, transcription, and invoicing
  • email, phone call, and voice mail monitoring
  • calendar management
  • virtual office management
  • meeting/presentation preparation
  • internet research
  • bookkeeping services
  • database design and mailing list/contact management

Virtual Assistants can assist with marketing tasks as well. This may include putting together press kits, optimizing or updating websites, creating marketing materials, and sending out e-zines or newsletters.

If there is a specific job you need done, be sure to bring this up as you interview prospective Virtual Assistants. Not all VAs offer marketing services, for instance. Lyons points out that, “Having someone who is knowledgeable about marketing is a definite asset to any business.” VAs can also assist with personal errands and non-business related tasks, such as calling a plumber, arranging for pet-sitting, scheduling a doctor’s appointment, or coordinating a move. According to Rai, “Our primary goal is to free up our clients’ time. Whether that is by formatting a document or scheduling a dentist appointment, it doesn’t matter, as long as one more task can be crossed off their lists and put on ours.”

Small business owners will benefit from not trying to “do it all.” All businesses need support in order to grow. Here are a few instances when you may need a VA:

  • You cannot meet your deadlines
  • You have seasonal projects
  • You do not have the proper resources
  • You have limited computer/internet expertise
  • You have limited office space for additional staff
  • You travel and need a contact person

Consider hiring a Virtual Assistant as an investment in your business. It frees up your time so you can make more money, work on a special project, or move your business forward in another way while leaving your administrative tasks in capable hands. Many VAs work on a monthly retainer basis. Clients can pay in advance for a specific number of hours (such as such as 5, 10, 15, 20) each month. (You can expect to pay $35 to $60 per hour or more.) In some cases, a VA may charge by the project.

If hiring a Virtual Assistant intrigues you, the next step is to start the interviewing process. To find a reliable VA, ask your colleagues for recommendations. If you know someone who is currently working with a great VA, start there. In addition, visit VA directories such as IVAA.org. A VA’s website can tell you a great deal about her work. It should have impeccable spelling and grammar, be well written and easy to navigate, and have adequate contact information.

Choose a few sites that you like and contact each VA for a phone interview. You want to find out the following:

  • Does she answer the phone in a professional manner?
    • Does she seem genuine and enthusiastic?
    • Has the VA “arrived” to the appointment on time and is she prepared for your questions?
    • Can you hear any background noise such as children screaming or loud television?
    • Do you get a clear overview of what the VA provides to her clients and what her processes are?
    • What is her professional background?
    • How long has she been a VA?
    • What is her rate?

    As part of the interviewing process, always make sure to speak with the VA’s current clients to get a feel for their skills and work ethic. You are looking for someone who is highly competent and service-oriented. Rai states, “The most successful VA-Client relationships come from open communication and clear expectations.” Lyons concludes, ” For me, being a VA is all about helping people achieve their personal and business goals. When clients delegate some of their work load to me, I know that they will have the time to focus on growing their business. It’s a win-win situation!”

    Sara Pedersen, author of the FREE e-zine “The Marketing Fairy’s Guide to Simple Self Promotion,” is a professional organizer and marketing specialist. She helps small business owners make their marketing dreams come true. Sign up today at http://www.time2organize.net to receive your FREE monthly subscription.

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