Tips On Finding And Using A Virtual Assistant

One of the questions I recieved asked for tips on finding and using virtual assistants.

A Virtual Assistant, also referred to as a VA, is technically an administrative assistant. They handle a wide variety of tasks and work to make life and work easier for the busy professional. In most cases, VAs are contracted by small business owners and entrepreneurs.

The key difference between a virtual assistant and an administrative assistant is the fact that the VA is an independent contractor or self-employed individual, while the administrative assistant would be your employee.

 When you use a VA, you do not have to worry about taxes, insurance, and a variety of other expenses as you would have to with a traditional employee. Furthermore, a VA takes responsibility for their own equipment and needs, which means further savings for you.

Before choosing a virtual assistant, you need to be clear about just what they’ll do for you, as well as your own responsibilities. Furthermore, you should know whether or not you really need a VA.  Ask yourself some questions to find out:

  1. Are you having trouble meeting deadlines?
  2. Are you overwhelmed by the amount of work you have to do?
  3. Do you find that you need more help, but cannot hire due to lack of resources or space?
  4. Do you not have enough time in the day to get things done?
  5. Are you focusing more on administrative duties than you are income-producing activities?
  6. Are you spending your time doing minimum wage work?

If any of these apply, then yes, you might have a need for a virtual assistant.

What Does A Virtual Assistant Do?

A VA has many duties.  They are there to help you and your business succeed. Aside from traditional administrative duties, they are also there to help you in outsourcing. When you need more help, whether it is to complete projects on time or because you lack experience in a certain area, a VA can help you find someone to get the job done.

Other duties include:

•           Preparing Documents – such as correspondence, presentations, reports, statements, and so forth.
•           Data entry
•           Research
•           Bookkeeping
•           Billing
•           Reminders
•           Mailings
•           Emails
•           Transcription
•           Appointments
•           New Client Services
•           Paperwork
•           And much more.

As you can see, a virtual assistant can literally be the backbone of your business.

What should you look for in a virtual assistant?

Because the VA will be working closely with you, the first thing you want to look for in a VA is a personality that meshes well with your own.  Here are some other things that you want to look for:

1.         Experience – this is an important factor, however, just having experience as a VA or administrative assistant is not enough. You will need to look for experience in tasks that you will specifically need. The services provided will vary from one virtual assistant to the next, so be sure that they offer services that you will actually need.

2.         Organized – Organization is an absolute must. You need your VA to be able to organize your projects, and quickly. You need them to know where everything stands when asked and be able to provide you with an update at the drop of a hat. This does not mean that they have to memorize everything, but having things organized will make their life, as well as your own, so much easier.

3.         Training – Having someone who is a certified virtual assistant or who has taken classes specific to the title is a good idea. Of course, you can also look at experience or degrees if they exist. This goes right along with experience. When they have the right training, they will be more efficient and valuable to your business.

4.         Has The Ability To Meet Deadlines – Deadlines are important to any business. If you must meet deadlines regularly, be sure to choose a virtual assistant that takes responsibility and meets any deadline that you set.

5.         Communicative – You need a VA that will maintain communication with you regularly. They should report to you, by any means that you choose and keep their channels of communication open and clear during working hours.

You can start finding the right VA now.  You can start your search with websites like International Virtual Assistants Association ( http://www.ivaa.org ) or sites with freelancers, like www.elance.com.


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19 Responses to “Tips On Finding And Using A Virtual Assistant”

  1. Al Rusca says:

    Ken, Your article about the duties of a VA is very interesting. As a realtor dealing in the current market with short sales and foreclosures, the additional paperwork needed for those transactions has become a real burdon to my business. A VA would surely free up some valuable time. Can you shed any light regarding the typical cost of such a service? Thank you, Al R.

    [Reply]

  2. April Jones says:

    Excellent explanation of what a virtual assistant does and how they can help!

    I think some business owners or freelancers are hesitant to shell out money for tasks they can do themselves but its better to look at it as an investment in your business because it frees up some time that can be spent on income generating tasks rather than administrative work.

    Another good resource for finding a VA is by submitting a Request for Proposal to VANetworking at http://www.vanetworking.com specifying your needs so that you can find a VA that would be a good match for you depending on what your needs are.

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  3. Good definition of a Virtual Assistant, Ken. I would like to clarify a few things, though.

    A Virtual Assistant does not work for minimum wage. Most Western VAs charge upwards of $35/hr. Eastern VAs charge much less, but clients complain of language barriers, multiple redo’s and poor outcomes. In addition, Eastern VAs are more like virtual concierges; they do virtual errand running and not typical administrative work.

    Professional VAs do not recommend utilizing freelance sites to find a VA, as those sites cater to cheap labor which frequently equates to lousy results.

    A professional VA will do what she can to help you meet your deadlines, but remember, you’re not her only client. Unlike an employee, VAs can’t “hop to” every time you say jump. If you need someone to “hop to,” then you need an employee not a VA. Because VAs work for multiple clients, they handle multiple work requests in different ways. Some VAs handle work requests in the FIFO (first in, first out) method, and some use whatever method works best for them.

    I have a document with tips for finding a Virtual Assistant. Anyone who wants a copy (FREE), is welcome to email me for a copy. The document contains steps for finding a VA as well as a list of VA associations and several worksheets to guide you through the process of finding a VA.

    =>Donna Caissie, Virtual Assistant
    ExtraOrdinary Assistance
    dcaissie@extra-assist.com

    [Reply]

    Gail Lockyer Reply:

    @Donna Caissie, Well said Donna – “pay peanuts, get monkeys”
    I don’t belong to a VA group as a portal for my work, I seek other professional like-minded persons in my local area from networking events or through my website.

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  4. Jean Ann says:

    I have to agree a bit with Donna, it is critical to have a professional virtual assistant, if you hope to truly reap the benefits of the relationship.

    Of course, price and quality vary, so folks really need to check out options that work for them. Just keep in mind that high quality work is not free.

    [Reply]

  5. admin says:

    Hi Al,
    In answer to Al’s question above, the cost of hiring a VA varies. As Donna Caissie mentions above, the typical cost is about $35 per hour in the US. But depending on what you want done, the cost can be lower or higher. However, some VAs might charge a monthly retainer to offset lower hourly rates. So it might all even out.

    I know a US VA that charges $24 per hour for data entry if you pay a monthly retainer and $30 per hour if you don’t, $28 per hour for spreadsheet design with a monthly retainer and $35 per hour if no retainer, $40 for website dev/hosting with retainer and $50 without.

    My suggestion is that you make a clear and extensive list of what you need done, and get proposals from 3 or more VAs. Then do a ROI analysis to see what’s best for you.

    [Reply]

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  18. Brenda says:

    Great article. I have hired a Virtual Assistant at VA Talks and believe me my life wouldn’t have been so easy, as these guys are working on almost everything on my behalf starting from organizing my professional calendar, building social media strategy, making business plans to assisting me into my day to day work. So, if you need a Virtual Assistant, make sure you check out these guys. Highly recommended! I believe they are still giving a FREE trial at http://www.vatalks.com

    [Reply]

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