Hands up everyone who has too much work to complete today. It’s not a new phenomenon, but it seems to be getting worse. As a small business I have peaks and troughs … there seems to be more peaks these days, but not enough for me to consider hiring a full time employee. So recently I engaged a virtual assistant to help with a particular project.

But it’s not just small businesses, large businesses, start-ups, entrepreneurs and established businesses all have peaks and troughs, major projects, events and social media campaigns with barely enough staff to manage the load.

That’s where a Virtual Assistant (VA) can make all the difference. They are efficient and can be engaged for regular amounts of time, for example: four hours per week to handle the social media posts, or on an as needed basis: to help with a specific customer campaign or project.

The advantages of hiring a VA are many and varied. For example:

  • They are highly skilled in areas that, as business owners, we may not be. They usually have a wealth of previous experience and expertise from a broad and varied career, which they bring to your business.
  • One estimate suggests that a VA saves up to 78% on operating costs. That may seem a little high, but when you consider the on-costs of having someone in the office, at a fully equipped desk, with leave entitlements, superannuation, payroll tax, and all the other on-costs, it must be getting pretty close. Not to mention the drama of dealing with poor performing or misbehaving staff.
  • It is estimated that the average salaried worker is only productive for 5.5 of the 8 hour day. In comparison, you only pay a VA for the hours they are working productively. It’s a competitive market, so they are generally very efficient – or they won’t last in the business.
  • Time is your most valuable asset. Don’t waste your time on things that aren’t growing your business, you don’t enjoy or can be done more efficiently by others.
  • For larger organisations, a VA allows your staff do the work they excel at and outsource the “administrivia” that consumes their time. Thereby reducing absenteeism, burnout and turnover.
  • As a VA works from home they may be available to work outside normal hours (ie overnight or weekends). There may be an extra premium for this, but it just might be worth the extra expense to make a big impression at your client meeting on Monday morning or to accommodate customers in other time zones.
  • We all know that a strong on-line presence is important these days, but all that social media stuff is so time consuming. A good VA knows the platforms and they have access to software to help create and schedule your on-line presence.
  • When I’m travelling or presenting I can’t answer the phone, but a VA can take the call, check my diary and make a booking, keeping my business operating in my absence. In a similar way when a physiotherapist, clinical psychologist or other professional has back to back clients, a VA can ensure the client doesn’t go to another provider by being available when they call.
  • A VA can help you get quotes, source supplies and ensure the best deals.
  • The very best VA’s use their experience and initiative to add business insights and alert you to problems before they occur.
  • VA’s are well networked, so if your favourite one doesn’t have those particular skills, or the available time, chances are they know someone who does.
  • There are agencies to help you find the best VA for your needs, however they may add a finder’s fee. It may be better to seek out an independent VA and reward the individual directly for their efforts.

 

On the issue of agencies, there are some agencies specialising in overseas VA’s and whilst they are cheap, there are a few cautions I would add:

  • Firstly, a portion of that tiny fee is going to an agency, so the actual VA is getting a very small hourly rate. I’ll let you work out how that sits with your own personal morals or organisation’s ethics.
  • A major issue could be language and cultural barriers. A lot of admin work requires a deep knowledge of language, grammar and the nuances of syntax, let alone an understanding of colloquialisms. It’s not just the work either, sometimes the instructions can get ‘lost in translation’ making things awkward.
  • While a different time zone has its advantages (they are working when you are not), it can also cause delays in instruction, edits or rework.
  • The cost may be less per hour, but the quality of work may not be up to standard. Remember you get what you pay for. The work will take longer, there may be multiple revisions due to the language and cultural barriers and so it may not be as economic as you first thought.
  • You can’t meet your VA in person due to geography or contact them directly as you have to go through an agency. This adds to the complexity and a loss of the control you would have with direct access to your VA.
  • If you have issues with the work, confidentiality or your intellectual property, you may have no legal recourse if they operate in a country with different laws.
  • On a personal observation, offshore VA’s often have a ‘factory’ or ‘churn’ mindset, whereas local VA’s are business owners, entrepreneurs in their own right, and bring that mindset with them to each new client. At least that is true of the VA I use, who works for my business as if it were her own. Without that you lose the value of your VA contributing their insights into your business.

It’s a small price for more higher productivity, business growth, a better work-life balance … not to mention your sanity.

If you are interested, here is a link to Virtually Everything Admin, who I work with and recommend: www.veadmin.com.au.


Article by Adam Le Good, Director of Fundamental Training and Development