Virtual Assistants: What Can They Do For Your Business?

* Do you want an afternoon to go golfing rather than answering email?

* Or four hours to spend with your family?

* Or five hours you can spend doing whatever you want?

And no:

– Payroll Tax

– Vacation Pay

– Sick Leave

– Health Insurance

– Office Space or Equipment

You only pay for the time you use.

You can have more time and continue to build your business – hire a Virtual Assistant.

When I started my own business, I knew I couldn’t do it all myself. The best use of my time is on sales and the sales strategy consulting that I do. That is my Brilliance — the things I’m best at and love to do. I aim to do my Brilliance activities 85% of the time.

I couldn’t have done all I’ve done without a team of Virtual Assistants. I’ve worked with Virtual Assistants (VAs) for a long time. I’ve written three ebooks, many articles, given teleseminars and produced audio CDs. I’ve also developed consulting, marketing materials and presentations to show my clients how to do this for their own businesses – so their income is not solely based on their time. They can sell information products online even when they’re not working with clients and bundle products with services for additional income.

Virtual Team members are valuable and make a huge difference in my business. It means that I don’t work all the time, even as my business continues to grow. I can focus on doing the things I do best and know my Virtual Team members are there to take care of the detail work and things that are not my expertise.

What is a Virtual Assistant?

“A Virtual Assistant (VA) is an independent entrepreneur providing administrative, creative and/or technical services. Utilizing advanced technological modes of communication and data delivery, a professional VA assists clients in his/her area of expertise from his/her own office on a contractual basis.” (http://www.ivaa.org)

They do the work for entrepreneurs that a corporate assistant would do in a corporation.

What Can a VA Do for Your Business?

To give you an idea of what’s possible, here are some of the things that a VA can do for you. Review the list and mark the ones that you could have someone do for you:

~ Power Point presentations

~ Prepare proposals

~ Vendor coordination

~ Shopping cart

~ Send out your ezine or newsletter

~ Event Planning

~ Customer Service

~ Handle client needs

~ Project Management

~ Scheduling

~ Billing

~ Proofreading, Editing

~ Transcription

~ Spreadsheet development

~ Handle CD production

~ Develop forms

~ Research

~ Organization

~ Web design and maintenance

~ Put workbooks together

~ Graphic design

~ Compile, maintain databases

~ Keep you on track, help you meet deadlines

~ Set up and manage autoresponders for e-mail marketing

~ Automate systems for your business

~ Compile and maintain lists and databases

~ Submit articles to online directories

~ Take care of all the details – coordinate with others, make sure it all gets done

~ Keep things going when you travel: check and respond to voicemails, e-mails, phone calls

~ And many more . . .

I’ve chosen to work with a team of Virtual Assistants because I want to have each team member do what they do best and love it. Productivity, satisfaction and quality of work are higher. And, with the Internet, I’m not limited by geography. I can work with the people who are the best in their areas of expertise, no matter where they live.

How Do You Find a VA?

The best way to find a VA is to ask other people who use a VA who they use. Tell them what you want a VA to do for you, and ask them what their VA does, so you’ll find someone with the skills you’re looking for. If you are a member of a forum or professional organization, post a request on the board outlining what you’re looking for in a VA. List the types of things you want them to do for you, and some of the skills you’re looking for.

I call this “Jan’s 10-Foot Rule” – Ask everyone within 10 feet of you what you’re looking for, and someone will come through. Try it! It works.

There are also organizations where you can look for a VA or you can do a Google search. I’ve always found my team members by referral, so I have no experience with the organizations. There are certifications that a VA can get. My experience is that there are good VAs with and without the certifications. The certifications add credibility and professionalism. Certification is not a criteria that I require a VA to have, though I do take it into consideration.

* AssistU — http://www.assistu.com/

* International Virtual Assistant Association — http://www.ivaa.org/

* Elance – http://www.elance.com. This is good for project work. You post a description of the work you want done, and people bid on it.

Interviewing a Virtual Team Member:

Interview at least 3 to 5 people before you decide. Interview them the same way you would for a permanent hire for your business. Get their name, phone number, e-mail address, and website. Check out the website before the interview.

The following questions have paid off tremendously for me in hiring the right people:

* How did you decide to start your VA business (Web design business etc.)?

* How long have you been in business?

* What do you like best about your work?

* Tell me about one of your favorite projects for a favorite client – what you did, how you approached it, how you worked together.

* Here’s an example of the work I want you to do for me. (Describe your project with details, outcome, deadlines, etc.). How would you approach it?

* Who are your best clients?

How Do They Work? What Do You Pay Them?

A VA works in several ways. You can hire them on an hourly basis, project basis, and on retainer. Retainer fees are usually lower than straight hourly fees, depending on how many hours you pay them on retainer.

Have a good idea of what you want them to do and a time budget for your work. If you don’t know, describe the project and ask them how much time they anticipate it will take.

They will most likely have a welcome package and an agreement for you to sign before you start working with them. Review it as you would any agreement. If there’s something you don’t agree with, ask about it. If there’s something missing that you want in the way you work together, tell them. For example, I ask my team members to sign a non-disclosure agreement. And I want them to itemize the time they spend in a way that I can analyze my business from the operations perspective.

Off to a Great Start: Working With Your New Team

Working with Virtual Team members is similar to working with a local person. It’s critical that you communicate clearly. Be sure your first conversation and project are off to a great start:

1. Assure a smooth transition, and minimize the time you spend on it yourself. Outline for yourself exactly what your project involves: the purpose, audience, desired outcomes, and exactly what you’re looking for them to provide.

2. Set up a weekly coordination call. Always have an agenda. Give them specifics about the work you want them to do – purpose, timelines, time estimates. Tell them what’s planned and coming up in the next few weeks. No surprises. They can often meet tight deadlines if they can plan ahead.

3. Tell your team members what you expect in working with them. For example, that you want close communication and no surprises. If they have questions, let you know before they proceed with something.

4. Manage them as you would a local person. Let them know what they’re doing well, what could be improved. Always ask them for their input on the way the work is done. Ask them if they see a way to simplify or streamline processes.

5. Pay them promptly.

6. Know their work schedule. What day/time will they do your work? Plan accordingly. Arrange a day for them to do your work. Get things to them quickly.

7. Let them know their value to you, the work and your business. Praise them for good work. Refer other people to them.

Hiring a VA gives you time and helps you build your business so you don’t have to work all the time. Decide what work you really want to do, and outsource the rest to a Virtual Assistant. You have all the benefits of an assistant on a flexible basis that fits your business and your budget. I could never do without a Virtual Team.

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