Predominately the USA is home to most Virtual Assistants (“VAs”) but it is a rapidly growing business with roughly equal proportion of VAs doing it part time (to supplement an income) and full time. The majority of Virtual Assistants are experienced in working as office assistants and claim to have their first client within one month of setting up.
But how effective are VAs? And how much can they really improve your efficiency? Like with any business practice, there are pros and cons. So, are VAs worth it?
- VAs reduce your employment costs! VAs are independent contractors which means you don’t need to think about taxes, holiday pay, sick days, worker’s compensation or employee benefits such as healthcare.VAs work around your schedule to provide you a service whenever and wherever you need it. Think of them as your ‘on-call’ go to person. No need to hire a part time employee and hope you have enough work to keep them busy for the hours they work. With a VA you only pay for time spent and work can be done outside normal business hours.VAs take on those every day essential tasks you don’t have time for because you’re too busy growing your own business.There’s no need for an actual office as a VA is set up to work from home.There are no agency fees as there are with temporary employees.You won’t pay any overtime and yet you’ll still keep your projects on schedule.A VA may have skills that you don’t have and don’t desperately need, and don’t have time to learn.A VA cares about their business, it’s their livelihood, they want you to call and they want you to tell others about their services. This translates to a superior service.
There are, however, some important steps to look out for when it comes to hiring a Virtual Assistant.
It’s important to determine how long the VA has been doing this type of work. While it’s helpful to know how long they’ve been a VA or an administrative assistant, it’s more important to learn what experience they have in doing the tasks that you want them to do. They may have done them for a previous employer for many years. There’s always a bit of a learning curve as a VA learns your particular business, but you shouldn’t be paying for them to learn new skills unless they’re unique to you and your business.
Ask complicated questions, directly and in writing
- It is really important to note that you must ask complicated questions with complicated verbiage, not because you want to flex your incredible vocabulary, but because you need to understand how good your potential Virtual Assistant’s understanding of English is. Clearly this is only an issue if you’re looking to contract someone that doesn’t speak English as a first language.Once you’ve had an initial consultation and are looking to move forward, email the VA 5 or more questions on the tasks that you wish them to carry out on a regular basis and see how they respond. It’s not important because they may not know the answers or understand the question, but more importantly is how they write, is it proficiently in English.
Give up control faster than you think
- There is a lot to be said for sitting in an office with someone all day, and when it comes to building a relationship and trust, with a VA, you aren’t going to have such a luxury. The result of the distance and lack of direct relationship is that you’re going to be a lot more controlling when it comes to handing over both important and seemingly unimportant tasks to your Virtual Assistant.This makes a lot of sense at first, but once you’ve been working together for a month or so and everything seems to be working well, you must continue to delegate tasks, allowing you to spend your valuable time on more important growth functions. Be sure that you’ve put in proper oversight, as you would with any business relationship, but you’ll likely be amazed at how capable your VA is at executing with just a few minutes of instruction.
Ask for references, a good VA should be able to give you a list of people whom you can contact to advise you about working with them?
Finding the right Virtual Assistant for yourself is important, take your time and give it the attention it deserves. Whether you choose to hire one Virtual Assistant to do all your tasks, or many Virtual Assistants with key skill sets, make sure you get it in writing: how much you’ll pay, how many hours a week or month the Virtual Assistant will work, how often you’ll be invoiced, get an agreement in place and if required ask them to sign a non-disclosure agreement. Then start handing over those tasks!