Virtual Assistant Services are a key ingredient to helping startups and early stage companies get off the ground. Entrepreneurs are superheroes, or at least they like to think they are. Being a micro-manager may be necessary at first, but as time goes by it’s important to start letting go of the steering wheel just a little bit.
Create these 3 lists to identify everything you can outsource
When you’re the sole proprietor of a small business, you have hundreds of tasks you have to fulfill before the day is done. Everything from bookkeeping to social media management, as a small business owner (SBO) you have a lot on your daily plate.
Chris Ducker, a virtual CEO and publisher of ChrisDucker.com, recommends every entrepreneur to create a “3 Lists to Freedom” for immense entrepreneurial success. These three things help you delegate your time more effectively and boost productivity.
Here are the three things you should write down:
- Things you hate doing.
- Things you can’t do yourself.
- Things you shouldn’t be doing.
The first item is very simple: write down what you dislike doing in your business on a day-to-day basis. This could be anything from bookkeeping to administration.
The second thing are daily elements of the company you don’t have any experience in, which could consist of social media marketing to graphic designing.
Finally, according to Ducker, the third placement will fundamentally change your business and is a “game changer.” So ask yourself honestly: what shouldn’t I be doing? Remember, you’re not a superhero.
Ducker says this is essentially the road map to taking on a virtual assistant, or VA.
What are Virtual Assistant Services?
And how can they help me?
Virtual assistant services have substantially grown since the economic downturn a few years ago. The role of being a virtual assistant (also known as a VA) is attractive: flexible hours, remote working, competitive pay and more family time.
If you don’t believe just how popular VAs have become then look at any website that has contract listings. You will see thousands of VA job postings. There is plenty of work available.
A VA can both scale your business and shave off hours from your work week. SBOs can also receive an array of benefits from hiring a VA: no employee-related expenses, no separate office space and no worries concerning downtime. You simply pay the VAs for the services they performed according to the terms of their contract.
Business experts posit that a professional and reliable VA becomes very important to the team akin to a permanent employee and should be treated as such. When there is trust and dependability, VAs suddenly become integral to the organization, and this is when you realize you have a diamond in your hand.
Sometimes, you can be overloaded with tasks and responsibilities, particularly if you’re a one- to five-person operation. The prudent decision would be to hire a VA, but some businesses feel it’s not feasible cost-wise.
Here are the seven primary roles that you can outsource your tasks to virtual assistant services for rates as low as $3 per hour:
- General Virtual Assistance
- Content Writing
- SEO & Digital Marketing
- Social Media
- Web Developer
- Audio & Video Editor
It’s important to realize that VAs will likely not maintain expertise or complete assignments in all of the above fields. SBOs have to take on a VA who has a specific acumen and then move on from there.
For instance, if a VA is adept in writing then you can hire them for content writing and digital marketing. Or, if they’re experienced in administration then you can assign them data entry, reminder services and appointment scheduling.
As you focus on the growth of your company, VAs will hone in on tasks that usually kill your time as an entrepreneur.
Essentially, VAs are time savers, and time is an important commodity in business (and life).
Responsibility: General Virtual Assistance
Similar to labor costs, administrative costs are a major burden on small businesses when measured in both time and resources.
Administration – emails, payrolls, invoicing, sales reports and customer inquiries – can diminish the amount of time an employee or even the SBO can focus on another important part of the business. This is where a VA fits in.
A VA will likely be hired specifically to perform these types of duties and will be assigned with general virtual office responsibilities. By completing these various jobs, entrepreneurs can boost their productivity levels and help the small business grow to new heights.
- Bookkeeping and payroll duties: calculating hours, adding expenses, updating salaries.
- Receptionist duties: answering calls, leaving voicemails and checking messages.
- Database building, entry and updates (sales, contacts, CRM, etc.).
- Performing banking needs, like paying bills and transferring funds.
- Writing and sending invoices to clients.
- Creating, filing and presenting weekly reports on sales, deliverables, hours and tasks.
- Checking email, responding to customer inquiries and managing spam.
- Organizing technical support tickets and participating in chat support.
- Creating and sending out greeting cards, invitations, newsletters and thank you notes.
- Establishing, updating and managing a calendar of important events.
- Scheduling appointments with clients, businesses and salespeople.
- Launching and maintaining cloud computing accounts (DropBox, OneDrive, Google).
- Converting, merging and splitting .PDF files.
- Preparing training manuals for new staff members or remote workers.
- Composing documents from handwritten drafts, faxes and dictations.
- Create forms or surveys for customer feedback.
- Proofreading documents and other office materials.
- Producing graphs from your spreadsheets.
Responsibility: Content Writing
One of the biggest myths around is that anyone can write content, including content marketing endeavors. This idea is untrue, which is why a a lot of content marketing projects fail. Like anything else, content writing is an art form and is usually performed by a writing and/or marketing expert. In other words, a graphic designer or web developer shouldn’t be in charge of writing blog posts, press releases or newsletters.
An excellent content writer will understand how to write to a specific audience, how to write in a conservative yet engaging tone and how to get the point across without spending several paragraphs to get there.
- Article and blog post creation.
- Guest posting and guest blogging.
- Composing press releases and newsletters and submitting to news release directories.
- Producing content marketing material, such as infographics, white papers and ebooks.
- Designing brochures and creating content to put inside.
- Publishing extensive how-to guides and industry-related book reviews.
- Writing and submitting op-ed pieces to newspapers and websites.
- Generating so-called listicles (list articles) on industry-related matters.
- Responding to comments made on the business’s blog.
- Interviewing industry sources to write an in-depth report on market.
- Interviewing previous customers to compose case studies.
Responsibility: Search Engine Optimization (SEO) & Digital Marketing
You have a website. You have a product. You have plans for the future. That’s great, but you also need the first two to attract eyeballs and gain recognition in order to meet those plans for the future.
A VA with experience in SEO and/or digital marketing will prove invaluable to your company. The right VA can boost web traffic, sales numbers and brand ubiquity with the right SEO and digital marketing techniques and strategies.
- Developing, updating and optimizing an SEO and web marketing strategy.
- Conducting a keyword research for website and performing a blog analysis.
- Setting up and creating a landing page.
- Starting an in-depth competitor analysis (targeted keywords, ranked content, SEMRUSH positions).
- Sitemap and webmaster submissions.
- Beginning a link-building campaign and generating sufficient number of backlinks.
- Off-page optimization: commenting on other blogs, participating in forums and message boards and responding to the public on YouTube and news websites.
- Monitoring weekly and monthly Google Analytics reports; observing site traffic.
- Designing advertisements (banners, side panel graphics, etc.) and finding appropriate, high-traffic websites to place them on.
- Creating new list of email contacts, email newsletters and promotional copy.
- Establishing follow-up emails and auto-responders and edit according to response rate.
- Designing logos, ebook covers, headers, icons and other graphic elements.
- Looking for a content marketing firm or publisher to post branded content.
- Reach out to media outlets and influencers to garner profiles by publishers.
Responsibility: Social Media
This year, companies will grow their social media spending by 70 percent, especially when it comes to mobile marketing. Social media marketing has become essential to the growth of businesses. With a large portion of budgets being allocated to this area, you don’t want to waste more than you have to on labor.
A VA with a stellar social media acumen will understand how to get noticed, retweeted, liked and shared on all of the social networks. Simply put: they know more than just hashtagging.
As an entrepreneur, you may believe that it’s simple enough to tweet and like on social media. But it isn’t, and you shouldn’t spend your valuable time on something that you don’t know much about. Leave it to the VA and save time and money.
- Opening social media accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Instagram.
- Coming up with detailed profiles and inserting links to company website.
- Writing, editing and sharing posts on social networks (a content creation strategy).
- Performing a social media audit: conduct thorough analysis on traffic, shares and mentions.
- Observing the company’s competitors on social media by looking at rankings, online visibility and keyword prioritization.
- Ensuring the small business has a mobile social media strategy for full optimization.
- Researching key hashtag conversations of the day and find out if it fits in with company’s messages and marketing objectives.
- Engaging with audience: responding to inquiries, sharing relevant information, thanking customers for mentions and purchases and posting promotions.
- Updating all social media accounts on a regular basis.
- Creating pinnable pictures for Pinterest.
- Run a social media contest or challenge.
- Uploading photos to Flickr, Pinterest and Instagram as part of marketing strategy.
Responsibility: Web Developing
Although content management systems (CMS) have made it a lot easier to start a website, the web development of your business should be left to a seasoned professional who studied this in school.
Web development has greatly evolved in the last 10 years alone, and the coding aspect has become a lot more difficult to understand.
Your VA will have the skills necessary to produce a website that will have the following traits:
- Quick loading times
- Easy usability
- Business and contact information
- A good navigation system
- A high ranking on search engines
It may be easier said than done but sometimes it can be a lot harder to achieve these aims.
- Planning, designing and developing WordPress websites (if there is no business website).
- Providing technical support through coding on WP webpages.
- Installing, customizing and updating WP plug-ins and themes.
- Maintaining integrity of website as well as functionality, security and troubleshooting.
- Installing and supporting payment gateway and ticketing systems.
- Understanding user interface (UI), cross-browser compatibility, general web functions and standards.
- Adding tags and images to website and blog posts.
- Doing regular backups to prevent data loss.
- Creating online forms for content submission, customer feedback or inquiries.
- Launching company’s own affiliate plug-in and program.
- Setting up, monitoring and managing other affiliates and respective links.
Responsibility: Audio & Video Editing
Again, the likes of YouTube and Microsoft have made audio and video editing somewhat easier. But this is for very simplistic audio recordings and videos. If you want to amplify the quality of a podcast or a YouTube video then you have to employ better software, equipment and editing.
The company’s VA will understand all of the above, especially editing. Even if you have weak equipment, your VA will make your webinars and podcasts look and sound amazing and stand out from the rest of the crowd in your niche.
- Basic video editing: splicing intros and outros and inputting graphics and music.
- Uploading files to YouTube, DailyMotion and Vimeo.
- Editing audio files by removing background noise and improving volume levels.
- General knowledge regarding audio and video equipment (cameras and mics).
- Trimming footage segments and producing rough and final cuts.
- Recording, editing and setting up podcasts and inserting them onto webpage.
- Creating and editing rudimentary graphic design tasks on Photoshop and other image editing software.
Sometimes, you just need to have some random things done around the office. It could be anything from taking notes during meetings to buying items for the office. After a while, you realize that you’re spending a lot of time on non-essential tasks, which hurts your business by taking away productivity.
Here is what Alec Bowers of Abraxas Solutions told the Huffington Post:
“It became clear when tasks from my personal life started to interfere with my ever-growing schedule. It wasn’t as much of a problem before — but after that line was crossed, it became a trade-off between getting all my work done or neglecting the personal errands.
Thankfully, now I can delegate much of my personal life to my assistant, as well as some of those small business tasks that ate time.”
Your VA will accomplish these general tasks while saving you money on higher labor costs.
- Writing down minutes from meetings and then creating a detailed document.
- Transcribing voicemail, video or audio, podcasts and meeting recordings.
- Recruiting for potential team members and contractors or freelancers.
- Researching on important data, statistics and facts for meetings, presentations or blogs.
- Performing generic errands for the office, including buying items online, arranging locations for office parties and hiring a cleaning service.
- Placing ads career websites, reviewing resumes and contacting the right candidates.
- Interviewing job applicants and speaking with references.
- Training on-site employees, virtual staff members or freelancers.
- Turning raw data into a detailed report and slideshow.
- Developing and delivering slideshow presentations.
- Searching for hotels, booking airfares and mapping out trip itineraries for business.
- Monitor and report on latest industry developments and trends to brief SBO.
- Collecting documents for tax season.
- Create a business-wide project management system online.
- Managing projects: staying in touch with subcontractors, emailing reports, using online calendars and calling team leaders informing them of deadlines.
- Sending a gift card or thank you note to your clients on holidays and anniversaries.
- Speaking with customer service representatives for tech support, banking issues, etc.
- Conducting background, credit and criminal checks on staffers.
- Running an internal office or challenge so employees can receive bonuses.
- Putting together welcome and goodbye packages for both clients and staff.
- Searching for and contacting industry experts or guests to participate in podcasts and webinars.
- Providing suggestions and recommendations when company is not meeting monthly, quarterly and annual goals.
- Taking care of customer refunds.
- Producing customer care scripts for customer service requests.
Today, businesses of all sizes are attempting to minimize costs, boost profits and become lean and mean. With the costs of taking on employees soaring – payrolls, benefits, taxes and insurance – it has become more feasible for a company to outsource work to virtual assistance services.
It is definitely understandable if you are concerned about taking on a VA. You may think they are unreliable or won’t get the job done at the cost you agreed to. You may even feel they’ll subcontract out the work. These are all reasonable worries.
However, take a look at a recent survey conducted by VA Networking that painted a picture of what the typical VA is like: married with children, college educated, working full-time (31 to 40 hours per week), maintain one to seven clients, majority don’t subcontract and have a very low turnover rate.
This type of professional won’t risk losing clients with shoddy work and deceptive practices.
If you’re looking to grow your business at an effective cost then a VA is your solution.
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- 98 Tasks You can Affordably Outsource to Virtual Assistant Services - September 1, 2015
- Employee Extinction? The Rise of Contract, Temp Workers in Business - July 7, 2015
- 4 Common Tasks for Virtual Assistants - June 2, 2015