Have you ever used a virtual assistant (VA)? If not, you may be missing out on an easy way to boost your productivity. A VA is an administrative assistant that works for you from a remote location. Often it’s former corporate employees that are very good at administrative tasks and project management and just want to work for themselves. They usually have a number of different clients they serve for a flat fee or retainer every month. Some specialize in particular software (think Infusionsoft), some are super good at data entry and some prefer overall project management and marketing.
What are some pros to using a VA? First of all, no employees to add to payroll. Make sure to find a VA that has their own business form, such as an LLC, set up. Make sure they service a number of clients and that you don’t need to train them. Secondly, the right VA will be highly trained for the skillset you need if you take the time to find a good fit. If you’re looking for someone to manage software, focus on that. If you want someone primarily doing data entry, find a specialist. In you need more all-around administrative help, look for someone with an agency approach that has a number of employees with skills to service your needs. Finally, if they don’t work out, it’s much easier to terminate the relationship than having to fire a payroll employee.
What are the downsides of using a VA? Well, they don’t work for you. If your business has very short turn-around times, like same day or sooner, most VAs won’t guarantee short deadlines because they work for a number of other people. Secondly, because you’re not training them and spending one on one time with them, the quality of work can vary. Finally, your VA doesn’t really have to answer to you. If your VA goes on vacation for two weeks, you might be SOL if they don’t have reliable back-up.
I’ve used a number of VAs to support me in my business and I’ve gotten mixed results. Overall, it’s been very effective when I make sure to pick specialists with the skill sets that match the tasks I want done. For example, if I need copy carefully edited or written, I don’t go to a data entry specialist. If I need someone with particular software skills, I make sure they have adequate experience and are up to date on the program. At times it could be necessary to have more than one VA, depending on your business needs. If you’re drowning in busy work that can easily be delegated but don’t want to deal with hiring a payroll employee, give a VA a try.
Sarah E. Holmes is a Philadelphia business attorney and strategist that helps start ups and established businesses looking to expand, protect their assets and increase their profits in an approachable, down-to-earth way.