In the world of entrepreneurs and freelancers using the internet as a source of employment, there are virtual assistants. A virtual assistant is someone who works for you in a personal assistant capacity. However, a VA works virtually, which means they can live a thousand miles away from you in another country and still provide you with these services. Discover how you can run your business more efficiently by outsourcing a virtual assistant in today’s sharing economy.
Where to Find a Virtual Assistant
The first task you have to tackle is finding a virtual assistant. There are several third party hiring sites, such as Upwork formerly Elance, where you can outsource VA needs. However, to find the most legitimate and experienced VAs check out these online service providers:
- Red Butler includes licensed travel experts, receptionists, and privileged VAs that will get you into the top rollers club at hotels, nightclubs, etc.
- Fancy Hands specializes in US-based VAs that handle product purchasing, text messaging, etc. within a 20-minute request window
- UAssist.Me lets you interview different assistants to choose the person who best suits your needs
These are only a few of the many VA services on the market today. Choose a service provider that meets your VA needs, as well as your budget and time constraints for hiring a virtual assistant.
Tasks to Outsource to a VA
But why do you need a VA? More importantly, which tasks could you delegate to a virtual assistant? After all, you are paying for the VA’s time, so you want to make the most of your investment. Start with those tasks your virtual assistant has experience with, which will be their specialty. From there you can gauge how well your VA can assist with other more job-specific tasks. For example, if your VA has experience with managing email, will they also be able to assist with email marketing? For virtual assistants with extensive knowledge of online research, can they also conduct offline research, such as at local libraries or courthouses?
When hiring a VA for a certain task match the skill type rather than focusing solely on the specific experiences they have. This allows for room for professional growth, which most virtual assistants are eager to pick up and add to their own resume.
According to Entrepreneur there are certain types of tasks that your virtual assistant will most likely be experienced with:
- Bookkeeping including bill paying and sending out invoices
- Database entry, such as for your email marketing list of leads
- Data presentations aka PowerPoints and Prezzies
- Keeping up with the latest industry news and trends
- Managing your inbox and sending response emails
- Online research, i.e. exploring new ideas or reading through actual research
- Researching and brainstorming new business opportunities
- Scheduling your work and social calendars
- Social tasks, such as purchasing gifts or sending out greeting cards
- Travel planning including booking airfares, devising itineraries, and researching the country of destination
Best VA Management Advice
Now that you have chosen a task or three to outsource to a virtual assistant it’s time to put your VA plan into action. To get the most bang for your VA buck, take charge with these tips inspired by a Forbes interview between an author and her VA:
- As you are working with someone over the internet, there is an automatic distance in communication. You have to work twice as hard to bridge this gap as communication is paramount for your VA partnership. In the beginning communication is even more important as you each set up boundaries and trusted connections. Start out with frequent communication. Then with time, communication will be less about establishing a relationship and more about the tasks at hand.
- Be open with your virtual assistant. Are they handling your emails? Do they manage your social media accounts? Will the VA be handling your billing and invoices? Each of these tasks require you to share your personal information with the virtual assistant. It is a necessity to get the job done in a timely fashion, so don’t be a hold-out. Consider using a centralized space to share this information, such as with a cloud-based file sharing program like Dropbox. Then as information changes, it will be accessible to both you and the VA.
- Along the same lines you need to be clear about your expectations up front and as these change over the course of your working relationship. How many hours a day, a week, or a month will you need a VA? What do you expect from your virtual assistant? Be specific and lay out everything in a contractual agreement. If your needs change go over these with your assistant and make sure they are always on the same page as you.
- Be friendly with the VA. You are working in partnership with the person serving as your virtual assistant, just as you would have a coworker at an office job. While you aren’t face to face with your assistant, you are working alongside on any number of projects. So make an effort to be friendly and personal with your VA. This will bond your working relationship and make the experience more beneficial to both you and the virtual assistant. Who knows? You might even discover that you’ve hired a potential best friend.
- Show your VA how much you appreciate their hard work by rewarding them. Whether they have went above and beyond the call of duty to help you meet a pending deadline, or they have stretched themselves professionally to learn a new skill in order to better assist you, your VA deserves to feel that their hard work has value. Show your appreciation with small tokens of thanks, such as a verbal thanks or a personalized card. You can also send the VA a gift card to an online store, or offer to pay for their training or materials as they gain new skills to better serve your needs.
A final word of wisdom. Just because you may only interact with your VA via the internet doesn’t mean you should be any less respectful of their time and energy. Virtual assistants are just as real as any other assistant, and as long as you treat them as such you’ll have a much stronger working relationship.