The Virtual Assistant: the secret weapon of successful people - 35 Thousand

The Virtual Assistant: the secret weapon of successful people

Posted by Susannah Taylor on

  • Discover how a VA could assist your business and your life
  • Where to go to hire a VA for the particular skills you require
  • How work with your VA and get the best from them

Bethan Trueman has been a virtual assistant specialising in design and digital marketing for five years. Here she talks us through the life-changing benefits of employing a VA and why you may not have realised you needed one – until now.

“For many of us trying to build a business or career, time is the one thing we’re short of. And, in the midst of trying to juggle work and life, we can often feel overwhelmed.

Imagine having someone else to take some of the pressure off by handling some of your workload or the personal tasks that drain your brain and your time. This is where a Virtual Assistant or VA comes in. By outsourcing your tasks, you can free up valuable time in order to do what you do best and focus on the bigger picture of your life and business.

A virtual assistant can help with a lot more than just admin tasks and diary management. They can play a huge role in your business and life, offering skills such as business management, accounts, marketing, graphic and web design, social media, book keeping, IT support, organising travel, and even managing your personal diary and the family calendar (all those school dates? Imagine them inputted and sorted immediately.)”

How to find the right VA for you

“There are an array of highly experienced VA’s to choose from with a huge spectrum of skills and backgrounds who are proficient in a variety of different industries and professions.

You can either go directly to an independent VA operating as a freelancer or business owner, or use an agency (Bethan works through Time Etc and has her own business, TEG Virtual). This way, you are using the services of another business and therefore establish a B2B relationship with your assistant. The alternative is to employ an in-house VA, which of course comes with extra responsibility, and potentially less flexibility than outsourcing.

Not only can a virtual assistant offer all of the support an in-house assistant would, they offer increased flexibility and often come at a fraction of the cost. And don’t think that just because they work from home that they are any less motivated than an in-house assistant would be – they are responsible for managing their clients and also themselves so tend to be highly organised and driven individuals.”

How your virtual relationship works

“With remote working on the rise, the demand for virtual assistants is growing fast. They can support you with anything an in-house person would, but instead of working face-to-face you simply communicate digitally, whether it be via email, Skype, Zoom, WhatsApp, or over the phone.

Assistants can be hired on an ad hoc basis, or you can choose to work with them long-term. Some might bill by the hour, per task or project, in blocks of time, and others might charge a monthly retainer. If you work with a VA through an agency you will probably pay a monthly retainer for a certain number of hours. How the assistant works and invoices should be established during your consultation, so that you understand the working process from the beginning and to ensure that you are a good fit for one another.

The relationship between a virtual assistant and their client should be mutually benefitting; the role of a VA is an incredibly rewarding one, and assistants often learn from their clients just as much as their clients can learn from them.

From the outset it’s important to discuss with your virtual assistant how much time you require of them, and how you would like that time to be managed. Your assistant should work with you to devise a schedule that works for the both of you, whether that involves weekly calls, blocking out hours or splitting hours over the weeks in a month.”

What a VA could take off your plate

“You can find a VA to help with almost anything. A virtual assistant might specialise in a specific area such as marketing, or website management, or offer their help with a broad range of administrative tasks. They can also respond to emails and take phone calls for you, essentially acting as an extension of you, on demand. But their skills don’t have to stop with just your business – VA’s can take a lot off your plate in your everyday life too. Have them act as your family assistant, organising travel, holidays, repairs, receipts, and diarising events such as your children’s school dates and occasions.

If you’re a busy mum, you could even hire a VA to help out with booking appointments, planning events, and even online grocery shopping. Personally, as a VA specialising in design and digital marketing, one thing clients particularly love is that they get all of the services they need in one place – there’s no need to find individual PA’s, graphic designers, and social media managers.”

The Do’s and Don’t of hiring a VA

With over 5 years experience, Bethan can sure share a thing or two that might help you in your quest for hiring a VA. We asked her as well as top Virtual Assistant business AVirtual for their ‘do’s and don’ts’

DO your research

You can find virtual assistants via an agency, on social media (LinkedIn and Instagram are particularly great for this), by placing an ad or simply doing your own research. But if you do choose to work with a VA who hasn’t come recommended or through an agency, be sure to do your own due diligence before going ahead. Things to look out for include examples of their work, testimonials, their insurance and terms and conditions.” We at 35Thousand have worked with Time etc and AVirtual with great success.

DON’T think that you’re the only one who can do the job

“Many people resist outsourcing at first, reluctant to give up even the tiniest portion of their work for fear others can’t do it as well. Your business is your baby, and I get that, and trusting someone else to manage your social media, communicate with your clients, and manage your inbox can be rather scary. However, letting go of your task list and letting someone take the reins for you is often one of the best decisions you can make. Of course, you need to make sure that you hire a trusted individual who is the right fit for you and your business, which is where the due diligence part comes in.”

DO establish your communication preferences

In a virtual world, communication is most definitely key. Good communication will be a determining factor in the health of your relationship between you and your VA. To avoid any mishaps, it’s good practice to establish your communication preference during the onboarding process. Do you prefer to use Whatsapp, email, a cloud-based project management tool, or have weekly calls? Make sure your assistant understands how you prefer to communicate, and how often.”

DON’T underestimate the time a job takes

“It might feel like a weight has been lifted off your shoulders once you start outsourcing but that doesn’t mean the task will be completed within half an hour. To avoid uncertainty and potential frustration, establish a time limit with your VA per task, and check with them whether the allocated time is feasible before they begin work.”

Virtual assistant business AVirtual says “Entrepreneurs and business leaders tend to work at lightning speed, but assistants are not mind readers. That job you sent through may require a bit more information. Especially in the beginning stages, it’s important to include too much information rather than too little. Ask for questions and make sure they are aware that you are expecting more questions along the way.”

DO be realistic with your expectations

Obviously it depends on the size of the job, but in virtual assistant land, anything within one week is considered a fast turnaround, and you might find that some VA’s charge ‘rush fees’ for any tasks that require completion within 5-7 days. VA’s usually work with multiple clients and need to manage their workload accordingly.”

DO always check with your VA what other skills they might offer

Before spreading out various tasks between various employees, check with your VA if they have the skills and capacity to help you first. For example, you might have a VA working with you on social media management but they may also be able to help you with the graphics and video content for your website as well. And if they can’t help you with a particular skillset they may well be able to find someone else who can.”

Do invite them to be part of your team

AVirtual recommends that you treat your assistant as part of your work posse if it’s appropriate, “Adding your assistant to your inter-company networks, such as Facebook, Slack Groups, etc. will make him or her feel part of the action. Scribing meetings is a sure way to increase industry knowledge. Invite your assistant to join off-site and company meetings remotely.”

DON’T refrain from sharing feedback

As with any profession, it’s important to receive feedback in order to improve and provide a better quality of work. If you feel that your VA isn’t quite on the same path as you, it’s important to have a constructive conversation about what you’d like to achieve and how they can better support you. Also remember that feedback goes both ways, so if you’re assistant is doing a great job, tell them.”

“Everyone likes a pat on the back when they have worked hard” say the team at A Virtual

DO provide your assistant with everything they will need

As part of the onboarding process, you should provide your assistant with anything they might need in order to complete work for you. This includes logins and passwords, email access, shared folders, etc. If you’re hiring an assistant to do design work for you, whether that be a website, flyers or social media graphics, make sure you give them your media kit including brand guidelines, logo and font files.”

DON’T expect your VA to be at your every beck and call

Understand that a good VA will be in demand. Although we are very efficient, we do have other clients and each task needs to be managed and prioritised accordingly. Please do not expect your VA to reply to every email within minutes of you sending it. Your VA might consider a reasonable response time to be within 24-48 hours during busy periods, but you might think otherwise. This is why it is important to establish these expectations during the onboarding process, so you can set up your working relationship for success.”

DO organise yourself

“Finally, have your business processes and systems ready to set your VA up for success. By investing in an assistant the right way, you’ll be able to see the value of your investment. Get those ducks in a row and it’ll make the onboarding a smoother process.”

Take a look at Bethan’s website here and her company here.

Time etc and AVirtual both offer highly skilled VA’s with a variety of skills as well as maternity cover and temporary staffing.

If you love reading this article then you will also be inspired by our feature ‘How to Boss your Work Appraisal’ here.

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