Is it time for a Virtual Assistant?

by Aug 21, 2014Productivity

A common theme among many of my clients is that they need or are close to needing a Virtual Assistant but aren't sure which type, what they would do with them if they had them and if they will also buy their groceries.

What is a Virtual Assistant (VA)?

A  VA provides administrative, technical, personal, marketing or social assistance remotely. 

How do I know which type to hire?

You definitely want to vet the service or person and get recommendations or referrals because there are a ton of them out there. I'm personally familiar with Fancy Hands and Virtual Staff Finders, as well as solo VAs who assist a few clients. Some VAs stick to a local market if they need to perform physical tasks or errands, i.e. send marketing materials to a printer, pick them up and deliver them to your venue, and others work with clients anywhere. 

Most VA services come in packages. With Fancy Hands, you pay per task or request and you may get a different person working on it every time. A task could be scheduling 3 months worth of meetings with a client or booking of your vacation or next travel endeavor. Examples of common Fancy Hands requests.

Other services may give you a dedicated VA from 8-55 hours per month.  This is one step up from a Fancy Hands type service. One isn't better than the other, it just depends on your need. I was surprised to hear from my first VA that served several business owners, I was one of her only clients that used up all their hours each month. I guarantee you they had tasks to give her, they just didn't understand or weren't willing to delegate.

A benefit of hiring a local VA is that it's not completely virtual. Audrey Janshego of Your Virtual Assistant, states that she often meets her clients at their office or for coffee or lunch to discuss the scope or status of a project, for brainstorming or help in finding other tasks they can get off their desks or out of their brain. Many clients like the more personal touch of occasionally meeting face to face rather than just hearing a voice on the phone. 

Audrey's top three requested tasks are: 

  1. Database maintenance. Adding contacts to an actual CRM software, Nimble or just simply into an Excel spreadsheet. Scanning a stack of business cards to import/add to a database. By using Dropbox or Evernote, you always have access to your spreadsheet.
  2. USPS mailings. Drafting letters, pick up existing mailers, creating merged labels, applying the labels and stamps and sending the campaign on its way. Draft/send email campaigns via such software as MailChimp, iContact, or Constant Contact.
  3. Drafting/sending of client or vendor correspondence. This can be the initial response to general “inbox” emails, prospect correspondence, or obtaining information from prospective vendors (pricing, services offered).

Within different VA services, you can specialize and hire people for:

  • Administrative Tasks
  • Web or technical to help you with your website, post blogs
  • Social Media
  • Customer Service
  • Personal services – buying groceries, running errands, light cleaning, dog walking (ok, this isn't always virtual but still a type of assistant.

Do I have to be a Fancy Pants or Money Bags to employ one?

Heck no! But you can certainly waste a lot of money NOT hiring one. Are you doing a lot of $10 per hour tasks when your hourly rate is $50 or $100? Those are the tasks you should be delegating. Now, I'm not saying a VA is $10 an hour, nor am I saying that is their value (it's much, much higher) but you should be working in your line of genius, not sending calendar invites.

You also don't have to be a business owner to have a VA. Maybe you can't use one for your job with your company, but you can use one for the personal tasks that are timesucks or you don't like to do and free up your time.

Click here for a comprehensive article on VA Assistant salaries. 

Can I hire them short-term or for projects?

Yes! That's the beauty of a VA. Just need help with setting up your social media? Hire a VA! Only busy during certain times of the year? VA could be the answer! This could also be an opportunity to use fiverr.com, which I have also used and had 75% good luck with. These are generally one-off services. Anything worth value is usually more than $5 but still a good deal.

How do I know which tasks to give them?

Start writing down all those tasks that you don't like doing, as well as the $10 tasks. Once you have a list of 5-10, start jotting down how much time it is taking you to do them. If it takes you more than 3-4 hours per week, think about how much revenue you could have generated or time you could have spent doing something else. Examples of tasks include:

  • Scheduling
  • Invoicing (this is great for people who are uncomfortable requesting money and following up – just have your VA do it!)
  • Bookkeeping
  • Internet research on a potential client, venue or area of interest
  • Scanning and organizing documents or business cards
  • Editing posts and letters
  • Answering and managing your email – train a VA to let you see only those that matter
  • Creating presentations

This is just a primer on Virtual Assistants to get you thinkin'. If you need help figuring out what you would delegate and what type of VA would suit you best, schedule an inquiry at www.marceyrader.com

What is the first task that comes to mind that you would delegate if you had a VA or Personal Assistant?

Your Weekender Snapshot and Tim Ferriss’s Five Bullet Friday are my favorite emails I receive.
jim west

Principal and Managing Director, GFF Architects