Updated July 18, 2018.
Your business is growing, and you are busier now more than ever. You could use an extra set of hands, so someone suggested that you should use a virtual assistant. However, you have no idea what a virtual assistant is or for that matter, how they can help you. If that is the case, small business owner, it is time for you to become virtual and hire a virtual assistant.
What is a Virtual Assistant?
A virtual assistant is a highly skilled professional who offers business support services virtually. This can consist of an individual or a team of virtual assistants with virtually meaning they are located off-site and work remotely. They are independent contractors and entrepreneurs who specialize in providing an array of services such as administrative, creative, technical, and legal support.
So if you’re still on the edge and not sure if you should allocate payroll funds for a virtual assistant, let’s go through some of its benefits.
Benefits of a Virtual Assistant
- Valuable Skill Set – Virtual assistants are highly skilled independent contractors, including administrative assistants, website administrators, and senior-level executives, all of whom have had a broad range of experience. Most virtual assistants work in a specific niche, meaning they’ll understand your industry better than someone who doesn’t focus on a particular niche.
- Saving on Hiring a Full-Time Employee – A key benefit of using a virtual assistant for your business is the saving aspect. By working with a virtual assistant, you will save on the expense of hiring a full-time employee. This includes the amount of time and money spent on interviewing and training a new employee. This also includes the cost of employee benefits such as health insurance, employee-related benefits, and tax savings. As independent contractors, virtual assistants are responsible for their own bookkeeping and taxes. You will not have to worry about incurring such costs.
- Save on Office Space – Since the contractor is virtual, they work off-site. This allows you to save on expenses such as ordering a new desk and purchasing a computer. As a matter of fact, they use their own resources. So you save on the space that a new employee would incur. This is a win particularly if you happen to work remotely or independently yourself. You can work remotely and at the same time have the additional assistance you need.
- Only Pay for Time Spent on Projects – This is a great benefit for your business budget. When you utilize a virtual assistant, you only pay for time spent on projects. So you can budget for the projects that have a high priority for your business. For example, Creative Business Assistants offers discounted monthly packages, which provides savings to their clients. Their clients know consistently what they will be billed for on a monthly basis or what they can allot for based on a project.
Virtual Assistant Tasks And Jobs
Now that you have a clear understanding of a virtual assistant, let’s talk specifically about some tasks that a virtual assistant can provide to your business.
- Administrative Services – Most businesses need a good administrative assistant. A virtual assistant can handle all types of administrative services, which include managing company email, scheduling and confirming appointments, managing business correspondence, entering data, and assisting with bookkeeping. They can also take on additional administrative projects that you don’t wish to handle. Thankfully, you will find that many virtual assistants are Microsoft Excel experts.
- Social Media Assistant – Handling social media for businesses can become time-consuming for business owners and other staff. This is time that can be spent on other revenue-generating tasks. However, because of its importance in a business’s marketing plan, it can be delegated to a virtual assistant. According to Chris Ducker, every business should have a social media plan. And this is an area where a virtual assistant can help out. A virtual assistant can plan and schedule your social media marketing on your Facebook business page, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google pages as well as on any other social media site that you use. They can research content, monitor and engage the users, and assist in building your network. This is a great task to outsource to a virtual assistant, as most businesses spend anywhere from five to 20 plus hours per week on social media.
- Web Site Designer/Administrator – You will find a pool of virtual assistants who specialize in website design and management. You will find a lot of virtual assistants in this arena who are experts in web creation using software such as WordPress and others like it. Specifically, you can easily find virtual assistants who promote WordPress as their niche. If your company needs assistance with its website, which includes a blog, using this type of virtual assistant would be great for your business.
- Marketing Assistant – Similar to the function of a social media assistant, a virtual assistant is a great tool for marketing. This would include assisting with launching any marketing campaigns and tracking their success. A virtual assistant can be used to assist in implementing your marketing plan by helping with email campaigns. They can assist you with this by first scraping your email list to ensure that all the addresses are updated and do not include any errors. This can include helping you segment your lists as well source them. Secondly, they can help you implement and track the analytics of the email campaign itself. Another great way to use a virtual assistant in marketing is to have them promote any blogs that you may have. This is a much-needed aspect for any business that has a blog. It must be promoted, updated, and managed. So all these tasks are great to delegate to your virtual assistant.
- Customer Service Representative – For a busy entrepreneur, customer service is a great task to outsource to a virtual assistant. You can forward calls to your virtual assistant, and they can become a virtual call center designated specifically for your business. With the enhancement of technology, there are companies such as RingCentral that make this an easy option for small businesses. Additionally, the virtual assistant can handle any follow-up calls as needed.
How to Hire a Virtual Assistant
Now that you have a feel for what a virtual assistant is and the benefits of using one, how do you go about hiring one?
First, there are great resources out there that can assist you in finding a good virtual match for your business. Two good sites that specialize in matching virtual assistants are Elance and oDesk. There are also organizations that provide helpful information and house directories of virtual assistants by skill such as the International Virtual Assistant Association.
Second, once you have a list of candidates, you should start by interviewing them. Decide first what tasks you would like to delegate to them, and decide what skill set you would like them to have.
Third, once the selection is made, you’ll create a contract with the virtual assistant. You’ll have to come to an agreement of terms. This should include the fee, billing and payment terms that you have agreed to pay the virtual assistant, the work that has to be completed, cancellation terms and procedures and processes for sharing of information. Once you have agreed on the terms, some type of agreement should be drafted and signed by both parties. This is done to protect both the business and the virtual assistant.
Lastly, virtual assistants can be a great resource for all phases of your business ownership. In some cases, businesses contract with virtual assistants for short-term projects. In other cases, businesses have chosen to have a virtual assistant on standby or provide ongoing services over the life of the business. Whatever your particular need is, a virtual assistant can be a great benefit to your business.
Having working capital on hand can make it easier to hire virtual assistants, or even new employees. Some online applications can be completed in minutes so you can quickly access the funds you need to help your small business thrive.