All the "stuff" | Productivity
27 August 2021
As an entrepreneur or small business owner, you’re used to keeping multiple balls up in the air.
There’s a lot to juggle, especially when there are many distractions just waiting to pull you off task.
You may have already tried every productivity hack in the book, but still wish there was a way to be more efficient.
Sound familiar? Then it may be time to get a virtual assistant (VA).
So, What do Virtual Assistants do?
If you’ve never worked with a virtual assistant before, you may wonder: “But, what can a virtual assistant do for me?”
When you’re used to handling everything yourself, it’s hard to see what responsibilities a VA can take over for you.
A virtual assistant is an independent contractor who takes on key tasks in your business. They perform many of the same tasks you might expect from a traditional administrative assistant, but they work independently and remotely (hence, virtual).
Here are some common tasks for virtual assistants:
- Triage and respond to emails
- Handle your calendar and scheduling
- Manage travel bookings
- Keep track of invoices and expenses
- Perform data entry
- Run social media accounts
- Transcribe meeting notes
- Perform online research
- Research leads and business development opportunities
- Proofread and format documents
This list is not exhaustive. The long and short of it is you can hire a virtual assistant to take on almost any task you can think of, and there are many VAs who specialize in particular areas.
Benefits os Using a Virtual Assistant
Hiring a virtual assistant can be a major step in maximizing productivity and growing your small business. But the benefits of using a virtual assistant don’t end there. Here are some of the top reasons for using a virtual assistant in your business.
Think about the value of your time. Every time you spend an hour on basic admin tasks is an hour you’re not focusing on value-building activities.
A virtual assistant saves you money by taking those tasks off your plate, freeing up time for you to grow your business and bring in revenue.
A virtual assistant also helps you limit your employee overhead. One payroll software company estimates that payroll makes up 68% of a businesses overhead.
With a VA, you’re hiring an independent contractor, not a full-time employee. That means no payroll taxes, no need for office space, no purchasing equipment, no benefits. This makes most VAs more cost effective than hiring someone in-house.
Manage your Online Presence
In 2021, you need an online presence. Your website is your virtual storefront. Your email is your customer service line. And social media is one of your prime marketing tools.
Having a polished, well-organized and up-to-date online presence is critical for attracting new leads. Responding in a timely way to current and prospective customers through email or on social media is key to building brand loyalty.
Depending on the expertise of the VA you hire, they will probably have skills you don’t, be able to handle tasks that are time-consuming, and may even have ideas for how to up your game.
Focus on the Big Picture
There are many repetitive and mindless tasks that are nevertheless an important part of keeping your business going. Renewing a critical software license for your team, tracking expenses, entering contact details into your CRM. All important, but not necessarily the best use of your time.
A VA can take these important tasks off your plate so that you can focus on the bigger picture, whether it’s preparing for a make-or-break presentation or getting ready for an audit.
Access Top Talent
If you’re hiring for a local, in-person role, your talent pool is limited to the people who live in your area (or will move there). With a virtual role, however, the world is your oyster. You can find the best person to fit your needs, regardless of their location.
Give you More Personal Time
When you try to do everything yourself, burnout is a real risk. In one study, a full quarter of entrepreneurs were suffering from moderate levels of burnout.
Balancing your time between work and personal life is key to avoiding burnout. Using a VA can help you find the time to spend time with friends and families, enjoy your hobbies, and take care of your physical and mental health. Remember, your business benefits when you’re at the top of your game, which means prioritizing making space for rest and recovery.
How to Make the Most of Your Virtual Assistant
Once you decide to hire a VA, you want to make sure you get the full benefits of their work. This means focusing on hiring the right person and setting them up for success.
Hiring a Virtual Assistant
- Clarify what you’re looking for: Before you begin the search for a VA, make a note of all the tasks you’d like to hand off. Get clear on exactly what you’re looking for, so you’ll know when you’ve found it.
- Create and post a job description: Once you know what you want done, it’s time to create a job description and post it online. Top tips for creating a job description include:
- Include details of the size and scale of your business
- Summarize the key tasks and responsibilities you expect your new VA to have
- List any software or skills you need (including language requirements)
- Note any experience that is critical for the role
- Include an Easter egg or keyword, e.g. ask candidates to include their favorite breed of dog somewhere in their cover letter. This helps weed out candidates who are mass applying to every open role, or who lack attention to detail.
- Review applications and interview: Sort through your applications and identify your top 5-10 candidates. Then schedule interviews with these VAs, ideally using a video conferencing software such as Zoom or Microsoft Teams. This will allow both you and the VA to determine if there is a good fit. Some questions to include in your interview are:
- “How do you handle competing priorities?”
- “How do you structure your workday?”
- “Tell me about a time when something went wrong at work. How did you manage the situation?”
- Give top prospects a trial task: Before you commit to working with a particular VA, have your top 2-3 candidates undertake a trial task, to give you more of a sense of their skills. Pick a task that will be a regular and important part of their responsibilities and have them perform a trial run. For example, if social media management is one of your core needs, you might ask your candidates to draft an editorial content calendar for a week.
- Hire the candidate who aligns with your needs: Go back and double check your list of requirements. Make sure the person you’re considering matches what you’re looking for.
Making the Most of Your Virtual Assistant
Once you’ve hired your new VA, you’ll want to set them up for success so that you can start reaping the benefits. To get the most out of your Virtual Assistant:
- Allow enough time for onboarding and training: It’s important to recognize that there will be a ramping up period while you get your new VA familiar with your style, brand, mission, software and processes. While they might not be at 100% speed during their first week, this doesn’t mean they’re failing.
- Set time aside for your VA’s first week: There’s no such thing as over communicating as you get started with a new VA. Clear time in your schedule to have daily check-ins with your new VA during their first week to make sure they’re adjusting and so that you can answer questions. Make sure they know how to reach you if any issues arise.
- Provide plenty of examples and documentation: The fastest way to get a VA caught up is to give them access to the information they need. This could include examples of previous work, templates, style guides, process charts, etc.
As your VA settles into their new role, continue to ask for regular reporting and check-ins (usually on a weekly basis), and offer them feedback on how they’re doing.
It’s important to have realistic expectations of your new VA. Remember, they are not full-time employees. Virtual assistants will usually set aside an allotted amount of time for each client, and they will probably have other clients that they work with. If you need more support, consider hiring your VA full-time.
One last thing to remember is that there’s nothing wrong with realizing that a virtual assistant isn’t working out and ending your contract. If your virtual assistant isn’t making the grade, it’s time to move on.
There are Virtual Assistant Apps?!
Yes, these days there really is an app for everything… including virtual assistants.
Charli is a virtual content assistant powered by AI. Just like an IRL VA, Charli’s job is to keep your content organized—just send Charli your email attachments, expense receipts or documents, and Charli will file away your content right in your Google Drive. Charli retrieves your key content when you need it most, and makes it easy to share and collaborate with your team.
While Charli may not do everything a VA can, for many entrepreneurs and small business owners, a Virtual Assistant app can provide many of the same benefits as hiring a VA without the hassle of finding and managing a new team member.
Try Charli for free and reclaim your time.