Does Your Small Business Need A Virtual Assistant?

August 19, 2011

by Justine Parsons

 

Virtual Assistant. The mere utterance of these words can make a small business owner ecstatic or apoplectic – all depending on their experience with this increasingly popular administrative help.

You may already have dipped your toes into the world of Virtual Assistants (an online Personal Assistant) and due to a poor choice or the wrong personality match found it not to your liking.  Try again!  With the right Virtual Assistant you will find the pressure of your own workload reduced, free up time to work on your business and present a professional image to your customers.

By doing your homework, you will realise what many other small businesses already enjoy – hiring the right Virtual Assistant for your business has enormous benefits.  I strongly belief that  almost every small business could benefit from hiring one.

Here are just a few signs that a VA might be a productivity enhancer for your small business.

  • You’ve blown a business opportunity because you missed a deadline to follow up.
  • You’re not on top of business development because you have no up-to-date client and prospect database.
  • You have exciting work projects you would like to take on but always seem to be too tied up with the day-to-day running of your business to get to them.
  • You work nights and weekends to keep up with routine administrative tasks.
  • You have routine work items that you don’t like doing which take time away from other more creative and important tasks.
  • You send out a newsletter but not regularly and while you would like a blog for your business you’re not sure where to start or how to find time.
  • You have more work than you can cope with but not enough to justify hiring another employee (which itself creates more paperwork and the need for further resources).  A virtual assistant is there for as little or as often as you need them.

If you’re shaking your head at this point and saying, “Huh, what is she talking about,” stop reading. If you’re nodding your head, read on to learn the best practices for bringing a VA on board to your small business.

Five steps to successfully outsource work to Virtual Assistants

1. Discover the routine tasks you dislike doing. During the next week, keep a log of all your activities. At the end of the week, sit down and review the list and determine which activities you need to do yourself, and which you could delegate to a Virtual Assistant. For example: uploading a week’s worth of pre-written tweets, physically posting your weekly blog, following up on invoices, etc. Those are perfect projects to give to a VA.

2. Find a list of potential VAs. As with all good resources, the best place to start is within your own network. Send out an email to a list of business associates, telling them a bit about what you want help with and asking if they have a VA they would recommend.

Search Google by entering “virtual assistant.”  If you prefer to meet your VA face-to-face initially, Google will place sites matching your locality first.

Another option – contact me!

3. Screen the candidates for compatibility and professionalism. Now that you have come up with some candidates the next step is to do some research, first by reviewing their websites and secondly by conducting a phone interview.  Here are some sample questions for your interview:

• Do you have experience in handling (insert task you want done)?
• What are your hours (times, days) of operation?
• What are your fees? Do you bill hourly, by project or on retainer?
• Do you have the time availability in your schedule to take on my project?
• How quickly will you get back to me when I email or call you?
• Do you have a team to support you? If yes, will I be working directly with you, or will I occasionally work with other members of your team?
• What services do you provide (and what services don’t you provide)?
• Can you give me an overview of how you work with clients?
• How long have you been in business?
• Are you in full-time or part-time practice?

If they pass muster on the interview, ask for and contact at least two references.

4. Start small. Once you have done your due diligence and found the VA you think might be the delegation partner of your dreams, start with a small project as a way to test your theory. Let the VA know up front that you’re beginning with a trial project to see how things go.

5. Hire slowly, fire quickly. Doing your research up front helps minimize problems down the line. However, on occasion, once you begin working with a VA, you may find that despite a brilliant start, things turn sour. If your VA misses several deadlines, makes the same type of mistake again and again, or is difficult to deal with, you may decide to call it quits.  It’s best to put the request to terminate the services in writing and be sure to include the date on which the services will cease and any work already paid for that you expect the VA to complete prior to that date.

Do you have any tips about how to hire or work with a Virtual Assistant? I would love to hear your comments.

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