Most of us work online, and we don’t have a physical office or have an in-house team to assist us with our work. If you look at all the successful people, you will find that they have one thing in common: Assistant. A good assistant is one who takes care of all your needs like checking your mail, scheduling appointments and so on. By having your own assistant will help you to save a lot of time on time-consuming work, and you can focus on what you are best at. Assistant model works great when you are working offline, but in online world there is an alternate route to it: Virtual assistant.
To begin with, let’s just get our basics right. A Virtual Assistant or abbreviated as VA is basically a person, who by means of a computer works virtually and not present in physical terms. Virtual assistant is all about the self-employed and home-office. Making use of Virtual assistants would shift mundane tasks off your schedule and free up time for doing more productive tasks.
An employee is the one who is hired and has to physically be present at the employee’s office for doing the job. A virtual assistant defies that rule and lets people work from the comfort of their own home in their pyjamas. Stacy Brice is the one to be thanked for her kind endeavour of presenting the world with this concept.
Stacy Brice pioneered the concept of ‘virtual profession’ back in 1996. The next year she spread the concept of virtual assistant and started the first official company for hiring professional virtual assistants – AssistU. Although I haven’t had first hand experience of working with a Virtual Assistant, I know of a friend who runs a publishing business and has worked with two Virtual assistants before. Everything has a few drawbacks added up to compensate for its advantages. So, I’ll try and list everything related to the virtual assistant profession and get your basics cleared up about the concept.
Who is a Virtual Assistant?
No offence, but if you still couldn’t comprehend what exactly a VA is still, here’s what its all about in short. A VA is an independent professional who provides administrative, creative, and technical support to business owners, entrepreneurs and other busy professionals. A VA works from the comfort of their own place and are not physically present at the job.
A VA is void of pay for breaks, lunches, vacations and other benefits at the expense of the comfort they get in return.
What all tasks a virtual assistant can do for you??
What can a VA do? Well, there are endless possibilities for that situation. A VA could do tasks almost similar to a regular employee and reduce your work of dealing with mundane tasks. Below are just a few of the examples how a VA could work for you:
- Take your calls and schedule bookings,
- To update the content of your websites,
- To update your social media accounts,
- Manage your Emails for answering clients,
- Data entry,
- Calendar management,
- Research on behalf of you,
- Organize your contacts,
- Set up appointments for you,
- Booking travel,
- Writing board reports, etc.
This should get you a basic idea of what a VA could do for you. The possibilities are limitless, what you hire for and whom matters the most.
How do I know if a VA’s working or not?
You are not physically present to check out on your employee if he’s working or not in case of a VA. So, how do you know if your VA is working or playing Farmville the entire time? The advantage a VA has here over an employee who fakes work is you end up paying only for the amount of hours the work is done. You can also pay for the amount of work done.
If you’re a suspicions soul and can’t trust your employee or VA, you better hire a professional who has a good track record and also gets things done on time and before deadlines. Although you don’t a have a solid proof that your VA’s working, you can make use of tools that’ll be covered below to get a grip of your VA.
Advantages of hiring a Virtual Assistant over a local employer
The best thing about working with a VA is that you get instant support of a highly skilled individual, also only when you need their services. The cost of hiring someone similar locally would almost be double. The most visible advantage is a cut in your expenses at the same time not having to compromise on the amount and quality of the work done. There is no wasted downtime working with a VA; you end up paying only for the time the VA spends working on your project or tasks.
A VA can save you two of your precious resources: time and money. If you’re a business owner, you should be more concerned with your products/services rather than administrative chores. That’s where a VA exactly fills in the shoes and could take care of your paperwork, bookkeeping, customer service, inbox, manage your schedule, and much more.
Any drawbacks of working with a VA?
Yes, they do. Here’s a few of them that might be or might not be of great difference to you, depending on what you want to get done.
No matter how advanced the technology might get, a good talk with an employee is no match for hours of IM or emailing. It is more difficult to communicate effectively over email, chat and phone. You can’t convey nuances of human emotions over the mail.
- Physical tasks
Your VA could not, in no way do physical tasks for you if you need them immediately done. You can’t have a non-local virtual assistant run a package down to FedEx for you. Physical tasks may take more of your time than you realize and your VA couldn’t help you with those tasks. This was one of the key drawback that my friend previously mentioned me of. He says the best would be if someone would help him with physical tasks, and here’s where its a drawback of a VA.
- Language barriers
Just because you hire someone who speaks English doesn’t mean they can send emails on your behalf. Different parts of the world have different forms of the language and if you need someone to handle correspondence/writing tasks, you may spend more time proof-reading their writing than it would take to do it yourself.
What about giving away access to your personal information to someone you haven’t met, let alone trust. This is not about saying that remote assistants aren’t just as trustworthy or even more trustworthy than a local person. A simple solution to this would be to hire a VA through a trustworthy company with a good reputation.
You might not be success in finding a good VA at one go, but once you find someone affordable and syncs with your need, it will help you to grow your business big time.
How much do VA’s services cost?
The pricing of VA’s are of a wide range and are different from different parts of the same country. You could find someone who works for as little as $1/hour to $50/hour at Odesk. You could find many VA’s working between the range of $2-$5/hour at Odesk. Reputable companies in India could cost you anywhere between $8-$15/hour. You could find that the range is much more flexible if you’re looking for someone in the USA. You could find VA’s for $7/hour who live in the parts of the country where the cost of living is low. A good administrative assistant could cost you anywhere between $20-$50/hour.
You could find more information about the pricing of VA’s at sites like Odesk and VA service providers.
Where to find good Virtual assistant for hiring?
Websites that would help you locate your ideal Virtual Assistant:
Some of the individual trustworthy companies that offer VA services:
Minimum qualities that a VA must possess?
The qualities that a good VA must possess should differ from individual to individual and so its up to you what you want. But below are a few of the qualities essential to a good VA.
- Good Verbal English.
- Good written English.
- Quick learner.
- Active and prepared.
Tools for helping you work easily with your VA
A particular tool set should guide you through this task swiftly. Managing a remote employee could be a daunting task, only if you’re not well equipped with suitable tools.
Below are some of the tools that are essential to work efficiently with your VA:
- Skype - Video conferencing, IM, Calling.
- Acrobat Connect – Screen sharing and Video conferencing.
- Basecamp/Asana/Activ collab – Project management tools.
- Google Web apps.
- Dropbox – File sharing.
- LogMeIn or Teamviewer- Screen sharing and remote access network.
How Can you become a VA and make money?
If you have the soul of an entrepreneur, a hustle in you for the practicality of an at-home employee and want to make money on the way, then the answer is Yes, you can become a VA.
Below are a few tasks that a VA could do and if you are able to answer most of the questions positively, then you are good to become a VA.
- Willing to do research?
- Help to plan an event?
- Take and return messages?
- Coordinate travel plans?
- Create and manage a database?
- Do transcription?
- Do web design (at least website content updating) or create e-mail promotions?
- Answer letters and e-mails?
- Help people remember important dates?
- Write a press release and/or articles?
Have you ever hired a Virtual assistant? How’s your experience so far? Do you have any tips to create a better relation with your VA? Do share your thoughts via comments. If you find this article useful, do consider sharing it on Google plus and Facebook.
What do you think about hiring a Virtual Assistant/Remote employee over a local employee? Share your thoughts and comments below.