Any entrepreneur or start-up knows that time is money, especially when both are running low. In a world where a million things happen every day, certain mundane tasks often get pushed to the side. That can lead to decreased productivity and failed strides when the rubber meets the road.
This is where a virtual assistant comes in.
Like the name implies, a virtual assistant is a contact made over the internet that assists in day-to-day tasks. Yes, like an assistant, only virtual!
Furthermore, these assistants don’t just help your business run smoothly, they help your life run smoothly. Whether it’s sending a thank you card to a friend or researching potential investors, a virtual assistant can do just about anything. They take charge of not only the day-to-day business tasks, but can even take hold of day-to-day personal tasks so you can keep focused on what’s at hand. They can send flowers, thank you cards, or even just schedule an Uber or Lyft so you can go from one venture to the next without a single hiccup.
However, it is just about anything.
There are certain limitations to what they are allowed to do legally, and what the internet allows them to do. Certain tasks are perfect, but others can be deemed rude or could be legally wrong to ask. Much like a physical assistant, there are certain limitations to tasks that can be performed and often a virtual assistant cannot take the place of an employee. They can, however, take some tasks that other employees would be doing in order to spread the work load and make sure those employees are focused on growing the business instead of focusing on upkeep.
With all of that, it’s hard to pin down what exactly a virtual assistant does because they often do so much, barring only a handful of limitations. While these limits are in place, there is certainly a grey area that most virtual assistants can meddle in, often performing certain tasks instead of full-out jobs.
So let’s start at the top to figure out what a virtual assistant does, how that can impact your business, and where you can find one.
Now, before money is laid on the table, it’s important to know exactly virtual assistant is going to do.
A virtual assistant covers the gamut in terms of different tasks they can accomplish from travel to personal life to scheduling to social media. However, there are a few key areas that they focus on in particular.
One of the largest areas that is a huge time-saver is getting research done. Virtual assistants can do the ground work of researching for your business, brand, or start-up to save countless hours of time and energy. Whether it’s identifying potential investors, finding events or office space, or gathering market data, a virtual assistant can do it. This is huge because not only do most business experts have the time to do research, but they often can’t focus on the ever changing environment that research must adapt to while still running a business.
Furthermore, they can do a lot with this information. Virtual assistants can research and plot competition, goals, market share, etc. and compile the information in a presentation that you can share in with potential investors (that they probably helped find), clients, or your own team.
A lot of people go in with the notion that virtual assistants can help with taxes. While they can help manage it, virtual assistants cannot do actual accounting. However, they can maintain budgets, make purchases, and keep tracks of expenses so tax session is a breeze when it rolls around. You’ll make a very happy accountant having all of the information stored and organized.
What they can operate (and operate well) is social media. For any modern business, start-up, or brand, social media is one of the most vital aspects for growth and a virtual assistant can not only manage your accounts, but help grow them. In addition to scheduling posts and keeping up with daily content, virtual assistants can gather statistics, create reports, and monitor interactions to help grow social media presence.
The reason this is so important is due to how content is consumed now with social media and how you can get the attention on you. Often, business leaders can become detached from what is going on in the world because of all the things they must manage in order to not only keep their business on track, but grow it. Having a virtual assistants report back with statistics and current trends can make sure you know the right direction to make your next move in. This helps grow your social media, opens up doors for clients, and makes you more aware of what is going on in the world so you can stay on top of it.
In addition, virtual assistants can deal with writing content for a website, blog, and more. They can ghostwrite and edit to maintain a constant stream of content on a particular website. Content creation can be one of the biggest tools for growing the presence of a business overall. Having a constant stream on content can lead to people finding an article in a search engine, clicking on the page for valuable information, and converting. Do note, however, this can be quite a large task, so it may be wise to find a dedicated ghostwriter or content creator.
Riding on the back of web-based tasks, virtual assistants can help manage inboxes of emails in a company. As a business owner, I cannot tell you how useful this is, with about a billion different email addresses and no one to keep track of them. Virtual assistants can answer contact e-mails, job inquiries, general questions, and even more through email. It should be noted that they generally cannot do full time customer service, though. They can, however, answer e-mails, create filters, organize e-mails, and respond to a limited number of customer service inquiries. This gives all the information flying into your business so vital practicality.
Much like a regular assistant, virtual assistants can also handle all scheduling tasks. Whether they are scheduling meetings amongst a team, organizing a calendar, or making daily itineraries, a virtual assistant can focus on the nitty-gritty so you can get back to work. Waking up every day to a full schedule that you didn’t have to create is one of the most liberating things in the world, and makes sure that you are utilizing every moment of the day to accomplish as much as possible.
Most business leaders need to travel, and they need to travel a lot. Booking flights, reserving cars, arranging pickup, and booking hotels can take huge chucks of time to get done, especially if you’re traveling all of the time. A virtual assistant can cover all of these tasks for you. That way you can roll up to the airport with a suitcase and rest assured that everything has been taken cared of.
Outside of work, virtual assistants can still be on the clock. They can maintain daily tasks of your personal life like scheduling appointments with your doctor, sending gifts on your behalf, and answering phone calls. This can be great to send a last minute thank you card, or make sure your personal schedule is up to date since so often personal and work life overlap as a business leader.
Everything that a virtual assistant can accomplish is impressive. It’s really nice to look back and see the massive workload that can be lifted off of your shoulders by hiring one, not just in your business, but in your personal life as well. However, in a world of return of investment, the question becomes; what can a virtual assistant do for my business?
Thankfully, the answer is that a virtual assistant can do a lot. They can relieve huge workloads of monotonous tasks like social media, e-mail marketing, answering phone calls and more. This doesn’t mean that you suddenly have less work to do, it just means you can spend more time on focusing on things like innovative strategies and pushing the business forward and let them handle the day-to-day tasks.
Ultimately what this works out to be is more productivity in your business. Even while having a social media manager, accounting team, etc. a virtual assistant can offload some day-to-day tasks to get the teams thinking more creatively and thus driving business forward. Scheduling social posts, answering emails, and tasks that must be completed in order to keep a business operating can be worried about by the virtual assistant. Your teams can then start putting their heads together on how they’re going to grow whatever department they’re in to ensure that it is running at peak efficiency.
The major upside to all of this is that virtual assistants are long-term contracted work. This means a lot of costs being saved as opposed to hiring an actual assistant. While there may be a bit more in upfront costs considering virtual assistants can be a bit more expensive than hiring a physical assistant, it can mean a lot of money being saved further down the line, which is an important aspect to think about. Often, virtual assistants only work for 10-50 hours over the course of an entire month. While it may seem like you’re paying a ton per hour to get tasks done, you’re actually just paying a little bit higher for highly productive hours of work. Often assistants are clocking the same hour as those they’re assisting and not always completing tasks in that time. A virtual assistant gets rid of that hurdle.
Being contracted work, there is very little pain in separating from a virtual assistant as well. If, for some reason, a virtual assistant is working out, then you can easily move on to a new one after the contract is up. The agreement is already put out there so there is never that awkward firing hurdle to overcome if something isn’t working out. Often, a virtual assistant can be hired for specific tasks as well that are not long term. This means you can hire them just to research potential investors, or just to gather data on social media presence and reach and report back to you. That kind of flexibility is paramount for an effective business.
Furthermore, it opens up options to find the assistants that fits your needs best. Since an assistant is often such a personal role to play in a company, having one virtually allows you to find the one that best suits the needs of your business, again increasing productivity and output, so you can focus on that, and not focus on problems or tensions that may come up between leaders and employees. This means you can hire a virtual assistant for very specific tasks to test the waters with them before putting a long term contract in place. That kind of freedom is something seldom experienced in a hiring process.
So, after all of that, you may be wondering where you can actually find a virtual assistant, and how you can find a good one. This realm can be a bit strange since so many virtual assistants are freelance workers. To further complicate the process, virtual assistants are contracted for specific jobs or for long term assistance, so defining roles is key. For anyone who has ever been involved in the freelance process, you know that freelance postings often get hundred if not thousands of replies and it’s hard to sift through all the garbage to get to the person you feel confident moving forward with.
This is why I recommend sites like Upwork for those who are seeking to hire a freelance virtual assistant (or any freelancer for that matter). While the process is similar in that freelancer respond to postings you make, Upwork streamlines the process to make your life easier. Different freelancers can bid on your posting near the amount you set, sometimes for more or less money, and you can easily navigate to their page to see their experience, ratings, and more. While there still is a lot of groundwork to be done, Upwork can help make the process a little less tedious, which is always a huge plus.
Thankfully, Upwork has a pretty good network of other users, both of those commissioning jobs and those bidding on jobs. Because of that, most people end up leaving ratings so you can easily track where the people bidding on your jobs are at. That is a huge time saver, especially if you know the feeling of going through a billion resumes.
However, not everyone is on Upwork and you may not find the perfect match there. Plus, there are a lot of inactive accounts and accounts that have zero experience that can apply to your listing. If you’re not afraid to tackle it the old school route, resources like Craigslist and ProBlogger Jobs can help you find the freelancer that works best for you. Job boards here, and ones like them, are typically a bit more hidden on the internet. What that means is that there is a decent amount of work that they have to do to even apply for the job. All of that amounts to better candidates ultimately applying for your job in the end. It takes a lot of e-mails and a lot of sifting, but you may stumble on a goldmine.
If you want a quick solution, companies like Zirtual that set up virtual assistants for you. These companies offer different virtual assistant packages based on your needs and have granted virtual assistants in companies like Google, Skype, Facebook, and more. This can be great if you’re trying to save time and just have a virtual assistant work (after all that is the point of getting a virtual assistant in the first place). The packages can range from 10-75 hours a month and sometimes even more. There’s a ton of flexibility and support to staff to ensure that you get the right package for your business and that you find the right virtual assistant for you.
It should be noted that there is quite the hefty premium being paid for these services. Both companies take money off the top of what they pay their assistants, and dealing with a middle man can sometimes be troublesome. It’s not a complete deal breaker, but it can cause some issues if you like direct conversation in case you want to give the virtual assistant a raise of something similar. On the flipside, sometimes a middle man can help mediate a situation if terms are not met on either side of the coin. If you’re not worried about the extra hurdle or the extra money though, these services can be a very efficient way to get a virtual assistant working right away.
Overall, a virtual assistant can be an invaluable tool to a business, startup, or brand. They can handle mundane tasks like scheduling, researching, social media, and more to make sure your business is more productive. Furthermore, they help teams that already handle these tasks to start thinking more creativity and thus driving the business forward. Keeping your teams focused and energetic about the future can help develop a business beyond what is happening in the day to day. This will allow your business to grow instead of staying stagnant.
The idea of offloading tasks like this can not only make you more productive, but can free up head space so that you and your teams can think more creatively and drive the business forward. In all reality, a virtual assistant can help run the business and give you vital insights so you can steer it in the right direction. After all, insight into how to steer your business is absolutely invaluable. While there is so much to focus in a day, what’s happening at a macro level in the world can fall by the wayside. A virtual assistant can help alleviate those tasks so you can focus on the future.
As far as finding one, it’s much like finding any employee. Thankfully, since it is freelance work, you have the freedom to move quickly with different virtual assistants to find the one that works best for you. Sites like Upwork alleviate the process a little bit, but certain hurdles like inactive accounts and accounts with no experience can cause the process to slow down. If you’re not afraid to a little more hand-to-hand combat, than going old school with sites like craigslist of freelance blogs and forums can bring about more valuable prospects. At the end of the day, the easiest route is still to go with sites like Zirtual. They do all the work for you and you find the best match. It costs quite a bit more and you don’t always have the freedom of negotiation with the virtual assistant, but it can save a lot of time if efficiency is your game.
If you’re caught up the day to day and not focused on the future, then you run the risk of your business going off of a cliff. A virtual assistant alleviates that problem and allows you to steer whatever you’re running the right direction and avoid potential train wrecks. They even provide you with tools that you need to steer it in the direction that your audience and the market is going in as a whole. Whether they are scheduling meetings, sending emails, running social media, or even sending flowers, virtual assistants can be the extra grease that allows a business, start up, or brand to run smoothly. Make sure, however, that you take the time to find the one that is right for you.