The Beginner’s Guide To Outsourcing Work To A Virtual Assistant

A virtual assistant is a professional who provides administrative services to businesses.

Virtual assistants work remotely and often using their own home as their office space. Most virtual assistants are self-employed and work as independent contractors.

What can a virtual assistant help you with?

Here are a handful of tasks that a virtual assistant can do for you:

  • Arrange appointments
  • Order products or services on your behalf
  • Take care of travel arrangements for you
  • Answer your telephone calls and emails
  • Write letters and deal with invoicing
  • Create and format various documents
  • Manage your website or blog
  • Manage your social media profiles
  • Conduct research for you

You can outsource to a virtual assistant many of the tasks which don’t require your physical presence. However, you might be wondering why you would want to pay someone to do things that you can do yourself?

How a virtual assistant can add value to your business?

When people start their own business, they often do it for two main reasons:

  • They want to be their own boss.
  • They want to earn more money and improve their lifestyle.

However, once their business starts to take off, most business owners find themselves in an unenviable situation of working more and more in order to meet their goals, fulfill the needs of their valuable clients and possibly feeling overwhelmed and stressed.

A virtual assistant could help you deal with these difficult situations. By outsourcing the repetitive tasks and those that don’t require your attention and physical presence to a virtual assistant, you can free up valuable time.

If you have someone answering your emails, your phone calls, dealing with your accounts and keeping your website and social media accounts up to date it means you can get on with what you’re best at.  You are able to focus solely on the job your clients are paying you for while your virtual assistant can deal with all the other tasks.

Many micro businesses may be concerned about the cost implication of outsourcing work to a virtual assistant, but when you do the calculations you can see the immediate benefits.

If your hourly rate is £50 an hour and you work 7 hours per day, that’s potentially £350 per day.  You could outsource all the above tasks (and more) to a virtual assistant, who manages to get them done in around 2 hours per day, you’re paying them £25 per hour.  Your earnings would be £350 – £50 = £300.  If you do all these tasks yourself your potential earnings have dropped to £250 per day as you have lost 2 of your working hours doing all the tasks you don’t get paid for.

A virtual assistant saves you money; saves you time and helps you accomplish more in your business.

How to hire a virtual assistant?

Virtual assistants are usually self-employed, they’re not employees and you wouldn’t advertise in the local newspaper if you wanted to hire one.  This is possibly why not many people know about them.  In fact unless you come across an article online about outsourcing to virtual assistants or speak to someone who has hired one then I doubt you’d have heard of them either.  If I am totally honest when I started out as a virtual assistant a year ago I didn’t even realise how many were out there.

There are various places where you can hire a virtual assistant.  The best way is through a recommendation.  If you know someone who has hired virtual assistants in the past, ask them to give you a recommendation.

Another way is by looking at virtual assistant directories online.  Some of the popular ones are the Virtual Assistant Forums, BeMyVa and the International Virtual Assistants Association and Virtual Assistantville.

If you use social media, then other places to look are LinkedIn where you can do keyword searches and the same goes for Twitter and Facebook.  There are also some freelancer sites where you can place an job request and then registered freelancers can bid for the work.  Of course you could just use Google (other search engines are available) to bring up a whole host of virtual assistants ready to work with you.

There are some things you need to remember when hiring a virtual assistant.

  • You have to know exactly what it is you need if you want to find a virtual assistant who is a good fit for you.  What is important to you?  The accounts, social media, customer services?  Virtual assistants often specialise in one or two areas, so ensure you understand your own needs before hiring.
  • Virtual assistants work virtually, some will happily visit your office on the odd occasion, in which case you’d need to make sure you hire someone fairly local.  If this isn’t important then you have the whole world at your finger tips, there are virtual assistants all over the world.
  • It will take some time initially to get your new virtual assistant up to speed with your business, but it will be worth it in the long run when you’re able to leave your virtual assistant to get on with things. Just imagine all those holidays you could take and have peace of mind that your business is in safe hands.

There is a virtual assistant out there for everyone who needs one.  Micro businesses don’t necessarily have the means to hire an assistant who comes into the office each day.  You have to consider PAYE, sick benefits, maternity pay and all the other overheads that employing someone brings.  Hiring a virtual assistant is a very easy way of getting the help you need for your business without all the extra costs, you pay them for the hours they work and they deal with the rest.

micro business actionToday’s Micro Action

Are you struggling for time/ Could you benefit from hiring a VA? Take 10 minutes today to jot down which jobs you could outsource and take stock to see whether it makes sense for your business.

Jo Harrison

Jo Harrison of Writer’s Block Admin Services is a British Virtual Assistant based in South West France. Jo specialises in eBook formatting, WordPress websites and social media management.

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Comments

  1. Very useful information, I have been looking into VA’s over the last few days so this info has helped.

  2. I’ve been looking at hiring a VA for a while. One of my main concerns is confidentiality. It’s not possible to separate out confidential client emails from non-confidential ones, and so confidentiality is a big concern. For certain businesses, like accountancy, law and health, it’s not just contact details that are at stake. I’d suggest to VAs with a background in confidential industries to say so on your websites. Not many do, and I’ve seen a LOT of VA websites.

    A second point is that VAs are perfect for managing blog and website spam that gets through the filters. I had this yesterday. A lot of spam looks like a real comment, except to human eye. Even I needed to check (thank you for helping, Robert Peters) before I binned it. A VA would be brilliant at doing that essential, but time-wasting, task.
    Rosie Slosek recently posted..Thinking about your tax return?My Profile

    • Hi Rosie, that is a very good point about confidentiality, obviously many of us agree to confidentiality in our businesses and this is something which I have written into my contract with a client. I worked in a confidential environment at my previous job (mental health clinic), so I will take your advice and put this on my website.

      Managing blogs and websites is also something VA’s are great at, I agree. I had a client who was getting very bogged down with all the spam on his website, luckily with WordPress I was able to try out a few plugins and now his problem has been solved – so the plugin saved me time as well as him.
      Jo Harrison recently posted..The Elusive Twitter Monitoring ToolMy Profile

  3. I’ve been using VA’s for years (well since 2007 anyway). I want to point out some sources to find great, affordable VA’s. My preferred source is Odesk.com. Other popular sites are Elance.com and VWorker.com. I’ve also had great luck running ads on Craigslist.

    The key to hiring a VA is treating the process just as if you were going to hire them as an employee. You want to check out their resume, what others say about them, etc. Most importantly, you want to interview them to make sure they are a right fit.

    To address the question of confidentiality, I have only allowed one VA in my years of doing this to have access to sensitive information and even then I didn’t give her access to highly sensitive information. I figure that information is best kept in my hands. However, every other aspect of my business can be helped with a VA.

    Travis Van Slooten
    Travis Van Slooten recently posted..Will Google Places (the Brand) Ever Die?My Profile

    • Thanks for your comment Travis. I agree that the sources you have used can find some affordable VA’s, but many VA’s find it frustrating that businesses outsource to overseas individuals who may charge very low rates. I personally used People Per Hour when I first started out, but couldn’t afford to give my time away for such low rates people were looking for in the end.

      I have to disagree with your way of hiring a VA though, we are not employees, we run our own businesses and should be treated the same as anyone else you do business with. Of course you would need to check resumes and testimonials, but I don’t think an interview is appropriate. A telephone conversation where both parties can find out each others needs is important, but I would certainly not agree to a client interviewing me for a position. If you are hiring from the likes of Elance and Odesk, then maybe an interview would be necessary, especially if you’re hiring someone who doesn’t speak your native language as their first language.
      Jo Harrison recently posted..How to Fully Utilize Google Plus for More Traffic and IncomeMy Profile

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