How to work with a virtual assistant
This post should help small business owners and entrepreneurs to understand what a VA is, how to work with one, how NOT to work with one, how to find one, tasks you can outsource, and the benefits involved.
What is a virtual Assistant?
So what exactly is a Virtual Assistant? Put simply, a Virtual Assistant (VA) is a business owner who works remotely, online, and who provides support to other business owners. They usually work from home but they can work pretty much anywhere with a wifi connection.
What does a VA do, and why do they do it?
Most people think of a VA as a ‘virtual secretary or PA’ providing services such as calendar and inbox management, organising travel etc.
It is true that lots of experienced VA’s have come from a successful career in Exec support or a high level PA role.
Actually, there are many types of VA:
* Online Business Managers
* Social Media Managers
* Technical VA’s who set up and manage software, such as webinars, learning platforms, Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems or membership sites.
* Freelance web designers
* WordPress/blog/online content VA’s.
And more . .
Whatever they choose to call themselves, the freedom and flexibility of this emerging sector has created a huge variety of roles and ‘niches’ for VA’s
* Supporting certain industries, for example, coaches, or healthcare professionals
* Providing a certain service across all industries e.g. bookkeeping
* Some offer a hybrid of both (I do, because I like variety and can provide support across many areas).
VA’s have tons of reasons ‘why’ they got started. Many decide not to return to their ‘9-5’ career after the birth of their first or second child, because they can’t make the maths add up in terms of paying for childcare, and have decided to spend more time with their young children.
Most want to spend their time more efficiently and have a great work life balance. The long, costly, time wasting commute is often a factor.
Others enjoy the freedom and flexibility of working where they like, with whom they like, and on their own terms
3 things to consider before you start
For some business owners, it can take a shift in mindset to get used to the idea of working with someone remotely, rather than hiring an employee who you need to manage, and who sits in your actual office.
~ Think about the services you actually need – focus on the things that you either can’t do, put off, or that don’t add value to your business (tip – consider your own hourly rate – should you be spending so much time on tasks a freelancer could do?)
~ Adjust your mindset from ‘sole proprietor who does everything’, to ‘business owner who is happy to identify and delegate tasks in order to focus on growth.’
~ Consider time frames. Do you need someone on a general retainer who can do a variety of tasks? Do you want someone to focus on one or two specific things? Are these tasks daily, weekly or monthly?
Hire the person who can provide both the services AND the benefits you need.
Relax . . and learn to Delegate
Too many CEOs and leaders hold tight to their early days as task-oriented solo acts, without realizing that they are now the conductor of an orchestra.
Bryan Miles, Guest Writer for Entrepreneur.com
How Not to work with a VA
Remember Alan Partridge and his long suffering PA, Lynn?
This award winning British comedy followed the highs and lows of Alan’s broadcasting career. His success as a mainstream TV chat show host spectacularly bummed when he accidentally killed a guest live on the show.
What followed was Alan’s series of desperate efforts to ‘bounce back.’
He seemed to have a new idea every day (and way too many working titles!), and his sidekick Lynn was always there, pen and pad at the ready to help Alan turn his ideas into reality.
You can’t knock Alan’s enthusiasm, but boy did he need some support.
Lynn would often be summoned at all hours of the day for non urgent reasons. Her loyalty was unwavering.
Alan regarded himself as the ‘talent’ while Lynn was pretty much taken for granted, underpaid, abused and kept down.
What made the show so funny, was that we all knew that actually, Lynn was the backbone of Alan’s empire.
It’s a classic example of a creative, ideas led, extrovert person who needs a grounded, details focused, practical person to rein them in and make their ideas come to fruition!
In a nutshell, your VA should complement your skill set but they should be respected and treated as a business associate, not an expendable employee at your constant beck and call.
What things can you delegate to your VA?
The best thing to do is to delegate tasks that take up too much of your time, or cause you stress because you leave them on the ‘to do’ list for too long. Examples might include:
~ Blog posts
~ Website maintenance
~ Monthly newsletter
~ Back office systems (electronic filing etc)
~ Social media posting and analytics
Some VA’s offer advice and consultancy. You and your VA can put your heads together and your VA will help you turn your ideas into plans, and make those plans reality:
~ Strategies (content, social media, marketing etc)
~ Process mapping
~ Researching which tech platforms you need
Where can you find a VA?
Freelance University has a great directory
In this article, sites such as Fiverr Upwork are suggested.
Personally, I would recommend you start with LinkedIn. Lots of VA’s have a LinkedIn presence. Facebook is another good place to look.
Enter ‘virtual assistant’ in the search box, and get reading.
Next, you need to have a consultation, (often known as a ‘discovery call’) or face to face meeting to find out what the person can offer, and see whether they are a good fit. Remember, this is not a job interview – it’s a two way conversation and the VA will have their own checklist to help them find the right kind of client.
If you find a local VA, you will be able to meet your VA in person from time to time.
The online conference call technology available means you don’t have to meet in person – a video call using Zoom for example, can be a great way to get to know your VA, and to keep in touch on a regular basis. The VA will probably expect this as they may have multiple clients, some overseas.
5 benefits of working with a vA
YOU’LL HAVE MORE TIME to focus on what you love to do best and have a healthier work-life balance
A virtual assistant can free up several hours in your day – use the time to hook up with new clients, explore new business opportunities, lunch with friends, go to your kids’ nativity play, enjoy your hobbies and spend more time with your family.
IT’S MORE COST EFFECTIVE than hiring staff
It’s more than just a job to us. A VA is a self employed business professional who comes to you equipped with the latest skills, training, hardware and software so you don’t have to spend money on training or additional equipment. We hit the ground running! A VA is a business owner like you, and we pay our own taxes and release you from employee niggles like sick days, time wasting and payroll headaches. You can be clear and direct – no need for office politics or games! By working with a VA rather than hiring staff, you can enjoy risk-free scaling.
YOUR PRODUCTIVITY & PERFORMANCE WILL IMPROVE BY FOCUSING YOUR TIME ON GROWTH ACTIVITIES
VA’s want your business to succeed and we come up with ways to make it run better. A VA fills the gaps in areas you’re not trained in which strengthens weak areas of your business. You don’t have to learn endless new things or keep up with the latest technology. A VA will free up your time and enable you to maximise your business efforts by spending your time only on growth activities. Plus, if your VA works in a different time zone to you, your business could be active 24/7.
YOU’LL ENJOY THE FLEXIBILITY OF A ‘PICK UP AND PUT DOWN’ SERVICE
VA’s are there for you when you need support, and costs you nothing when you don’t
Most VA’s love variety and we will often have several clients on our books. You can offer a VA however many hours of work you need, which may change from month to month. The work can flex depending on your needs and budget and you can put your VA ‘on hold’ when you need to. They will understand and be happy with this!
YOU’LL BE HAPPY HAPPY HAPPY!
You won’t be stressed and you can fall in love with your work again by focusing on work you actually enjoy doing
You’ll feel supported because you’ll have someone to knock ideas around with, and delegate work to. Your VA has your back. Your VA can do routine tasks you’ve been bogged down with. And they will be there to support you, guide you and help you.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jackie Salmon is a freelance web designer & virtual assistant based in Northumberland, England.
She offers website design, Mailchimp and online content support & training for people who help people.