What Is Virtual Assistance?

A Virtual Assistant (VA) provides a wide range of business support services online including personal assistance, administrative and secretarial support, tasks such as document creation, calendar, email and database management, client liaison, online research, event coordination, desktop publishing (dtp), organising travel and accommodation and social media marketing just to name a few.

History Of Virtual Assistance
Working from home online is certainly not a new idea, and today it is fast gaining popularity for obvious reasons. Everything from increasing petrol prices, many hours of commuting, longer working hours and a need to better balance work and family commitments, has prompted workers to look at opportunities to earn a living from home.  Women in particular see the benefits of running their own show as it is the best of both worlds. They are still able to have a successful, stable and rewarding career, without sacrificing the welfare of themselves or their family. They also have the ability to work more practical hours that suit their lifestyle and their client’s demands doing tasks they prefer, are skilled at or have the most experience in.  Due to the current economic climate, many professions are facing fewer job opportunities, however with VAs the demand has increased and it is now one of the fastest growing industries today.

While the history of VAs as a concept dates back to the 1970s, modern technology has made it easier than ever for support professionals to provide services to big, medium and small business owners remotely from their own home office. Businesses have started to realise how cost-effective this alternative is, making the shift from hiring p/time, job-share or fulltime workers to outsourcing.

The history of VAs emerged from the 1970s as the idea of creating independent companies to provide secretarial services began. Then in the 1990′s one innovative woman, Stacy Brice, envisioned a new twist on the traditional relationship between a secretary and her boss. She developed the concept of the VA as a partner with her client’s business, as opposed to just a secretary who does administrative tasks with no real understanding of the company or its’ business goals. By 1992, Stacy Brice had begun working as a VA independently from her home and a new industry was born.

In Australia, Kathie M. Thomas pioneered the VA industry establishing the first VA network called “A Clayton’s Secretary” in the southern hemisphere.

Benefits To You And Your Business

  • The client only pays by the hour for the work actually done, at that rate of service
  • There are no overheads such as office space and equipment, employee training, taxation, superannuation, holiday pay etc
  • You have the flexibility and convenience of urgent work done outside of office hours, on weekends and public holidays
  • VAs are already highly experienced in their field therefore no training in software or work processes is necessary
  • If you are an International Client, you have the huge advantage of time difference. You can sleep whilst your task is being done and have it back completed by the time you wake up!
  • You are working with someone who is also running their own business, and is familiar with certain aspects such as marketing and finances
  • A VA wants to help you achieve your business goals, so they will take the initiative rather than wait for your instructions
  • As a VA is working from home in a comfortable and secure environment, you will receive a better quality of service with a higher level of productivity
  • You can easily increase or decrease the number of hours you require support depending on your requirements
  • VAs are far more dedicated to providing great service to you as their business depends solely on your business
  • There is no time or money wasted on personal days off or breaks
  • A VA’s schedule is tailor-made to your needs eg you can converse with your VA anytime of the day that is convenient to you ie early morning or evenings
  • Your VA also has a network of other VAs which can be a great resource for additional services if necessary
  • Once you develop a mutually trusting relationship with your VA, you have a reliable partner in your business

Why Use A Virtual Assistant Instead Of a Temp?
There are many differences between a VA and temp placed by a recruitment agency. The most important one is a VA’s loyalties are first and foremost to YOU, their Client, whereas a temp is selected, reports back to and is paid by the agency. As with a VA, a temp is also paid an hourly rate as agreed by the agency and you. However, the temp is paid that rate whether they are busy, doing menial tasks, or twiddling their thumbs. VAs are only paid by the hour for the work actually done with the rate according to that service.

VAs are also business owners with most having extensive experience and skills, however temping (as the name suggests) is considered more as a means of filling a support gap temporarily or even a stepping stone. As such, a temp is not particularly reliable should you wish to develop a long term relationship with one person. You may find that the temp you’ve had before may not be available the next time you require assistance, so you will have to spend time getting to know and/or train another person.  Also, should you require additional assistance or a particular skill, your VA has access to many other VAs via their network, so you can be sure you will get the service you require.

What Types Of Tasks Can I Delegate To A VA?
From word processing/document creation, calendar and email management, online research to powerpoint presentations, client invoicing and beyond! Click here for more real task examples.

Perhaps you have enough administrative work for 2 full time secretaries but they are highly stressed? What if your PA takes maternity leave, and you don’t really require all day assistance but would prefer someone to just help you stay on track and organised? A VA could provide much relief to everyone!

A smaller business may choose to hire a VA for a specific task ie invoicing, online research, presentations etc. Business owners are very busy people, often multi-tasking and working very long hours, so this would free up much needed time allowing you to focus on the important bigger picture.  If you find you just don’t have enough time or resources to do your job and market your business properly, hiring a VA to look after this area would be very beneficial.

Do I Need To Hire A Local VA?
Not necessarily. Due to the progress of technology and the internet, location doesn’t impact our ability to do your work. It can be distributed via email, IM (skype), fax, telephone, post or you can elect to give your VA access to your network.  For international Clients the time difference is a huge benefit, as your task can be completed and sent back to you before you wake!

How Do I Communicate Tasks & Assignments To My VA?
Whatever you are most comfortable with, as tasks can be given via email, skype chat, fax, or phonecalls. The key to a successful VA-Client relationship is communication, and you will be given tips before you start working together. Click on this article for Tips On How To Get The Best From Your VA.

How Do I know I Can Trust A VA As I’ve Never Met Them In Person? How Do I Know They Will Keep My Business Information Confidential?
If you are considering using a VA, take the time to get to know them a little beforehand to see if your personalities will complement eachother. It is much the same as hiring any office support (except in the case of hiring a temp where that is left up to the recruitement agency). It is very worthwhile learning about a VA’s character in addition to their skills and experience.  Also, in order to find out how a VA can best assist you, it is advised you take 15mins to plan out tasks you need to and are happy to delegate.

A VA’s success depends solely on their Client’s success and satisfaction. Without your business we wouldn’t have our business, so it is within our best interests to continually provide top service to you. That also means we take our commitment to you and your business information very seriously. A contract is issued to you before any work is started, to ensure you are happy with all the terms and conditions. Also, signing a Client’s contract is not an issue.

How Are Files/Documents Sent and Received?
Email, cloud eg dropbox, post, courier, skype etc

How Does A VA Track Their Billable Time and Handle Expenses?
Most VAs use a digital punch clock to keep track of time on each task. This is a highly accurate and effective method to ensure accurate billing and tracking. You can have as much or as little detail in your invoice.  Expenses specific to a Client’s project will be billed in addition to the hourly charge eg postage, photocopying (colour & b&w), faxing, scanning etc.

Comments are closed.