Are you overwhelmed in your business? Is all of this stress due to a lot of small and repetitive tasks that almost anyone could handle? If you love your job but you’re starting to feel burnt out from the daily grind, then a virtual assistant may be what you need.
But when considering this option, first ask yourself whether you have an expanding business built and a full plan for how the work can continue to grow. Not everyone can make this investment in their business. When you truly need more hours in the day and always have too much waiting, that’s when a virtual assistant can help.
Introduction to Virtual Assistants
These freelancers of the online world have existed before the Internet in other forms. Essentially they are remote, flexible workers who offer services and support for business owners, executives and anyone else who needs them. Doing much of the same essential work as a secretary or receptionist, some are more specialized to fit a specific business need and others are hired out by organizations.
The benefits of hiring someone to work as a virtual assistant starts with saving you time. Think of all the tasks you need to accomplish and which aren’t worth hiring another full-time employee. By delegating routine tasks that don’t need to be done in person, a virtual assistant frees you to prioritize the work only you can do.
A virtual assistant may also be less expensive than a full-time employee, perhaps if they charge per hour of needed work or per task, and because you won’t need to pay more for their office space or internet connection. They can help grow your business as needed, even just for one project or when you want to test whether you need another employee before hiring someone permanently.
Finally, one often overlooked benefit of virtual assistants is when they work in a different time zone from you. This means they can provide help for global clients closer to those other time zones, giving your business a wider reach and working while you sleep. For example, consider how three virtual assistants working in 8-hour shifts could provide 24-hour customer service.
Common Duties of Virtual Assistants
The most basic task you might ask someone to do is watch your email inbox and notify you of any urgent messages or delete obvious spam. By leaving less important emails for another time, you might be saving about an hour every day. They could also send out emails in response to basic questions and concerns, giving those people a faster response than if you were checking emails between other work.
Virtual assistants often stay busy searching online for whatever you need, from business opportunities to news and trends, and even the research for your next presentation or project. They might follow the online reactions of your customers and what your competitors are doing, answer phone calls and note down important info from them, or create databases of handy information from any business cards and documents you receive.
An experienced virtual assistant should be able to increase the efficiency of your business, preventing problems before they occur and allowing you to do more in the same amount of time. This could include workplace management tasks with records and projects, checking your business’ bookkeeping for debts and waiting payments, and rewriting old content such as audio records and blogs into new infographics and scripts.
When you really trust a virtual assistant, you might ask them to handle your weekly or monthly schedule. They would confirm appointments and send meeting invitations, then remind you some time before so you don’t miss any. Having someone manage your schedule like this can be a huge relief and allows you to better enjoy your time away from work.
Also they might do: accounting, admin tasks, basic content production, blogging, content curation, data entry, document transcription, language translation, marketing, social media management, software development, travel planning, website design, writing and proofreading.
Finding Your Perfect Virtual Assistant
Many first-time virtual assistant employers face difficulties ranging from a lack of communication to misunderstandings on how to complete tasks. Virtual assistant work must start with setting clear expectations and may require remote access to business-specific software and information. Finding someone who can quickly learn what you need done is often a challenge.
Yet most of these issues are the same as any time you communicate with someone at a distance. They want to do the work as best they can, but they need your help. The solution is to carefully describe and model tasks so that you never leave misunderstandings to chance.
First, know what you do every day and create a “job description” for all the tasks your virtual assistant could handle on their own or under light supervision. Separate tasks into what is most necessary and what would be extra or helpful. Looking up example job descriptions from hiring sites may help you get some ideas, and creating the actual job description based on this info helps candidates know what you value most.
The search takes time and effort, but a great virtual assistant will be worth it. Consider the business opportunities you could have taken with more time or help. What would most help you when rushing to complete a job by a deadline? That’s what you are hiring for.
Working With A Virtual Assistant
After finding someone, you should start by making lists for everything they need to do and how. This often takes the form of a checklist of daily tasks or a step-by-step list of how to complete a complex task. A good working relationship with a virtual assistant starts with a clear and complete understanding. Continue to set expectations, ensure that have whatever access they need to your accounts and systems, and ask if anything would be unreasonable or difficult.
Spend time getting to know your virtual assistant, to whatever degree you and they are comfortable with. If they live in a different part of the world from you, politely asking about their culture and traditions around work, free time and holidays can clear up potential misunderstandings.
Also make sure you set up one or more methods of online communication, again to whatever degree is comfortable. Designate one channel for urgent information that should not be overused and another for general communication and feedback. Consider the many free platforms like Discord, Facebook Messenger, Skype, Slack, WhatsApp and Zoom.
After building trust, try giving monthly or quarterly performance reviews based on projects that were done better than others or what needed more work. What is your virtual assistant best at? What do they need more help with? In the future you should modify time expectations as needed. Offer immediate feedback after major tasks and always speak plainly if there might be cultural or language barriers.
Whenever you hire someone, they might take some time upfront for training but this saves you time in the long run.