VirtualAssistantNetworking.com compiled a list of common questions business owner’s have about working with a Virtual Assistant(VA). All your questions in one spot!
Everything you need to know to get your business relationship with a Virtual Assistant off to a great start.
1. What is a Virtual Assistant?
Virtual Assistants are skilled professionals who specialize in providing ongoing administrative support to clients in one-on-one, collaborative relationships. They are in business to administratively support the client and his or her business as a whole, not just one task here and there. In this way, they gain a big-picture view and understanding of your business and goals. With this kind of context, they can take loads off your plate and extend critical thinking to complete work in ways that better fit and improve the overall foundation of your business. You can’t get that on transactional, piecemeal basis.
Like other professional service providers, Virtual Assistants operate remotely from their own places of business and utilize today’s technology to deliver their services and communicate with clients. Virtual Assistants are first and foremost administrative experts. Some may offer additional, separate specialties that fall under creative and/or technical services. But overall, a Virtual Assistant is the professional you call when you need skilled, ongoing administrative support and employees are not an option.
2. What is the “collaborative relationship” and why is it important?
Administration is not an event. It’s not something that is done once and never needs to be done again. It’s ongoing behind-the-scenes work and activities that must be attended to and accomplished throughout the life of your business in order for it to grow, generate revenue and run smoothly and profitably. It’s the absolutely vital work that keeps your business organized and humming along smartly and efficiently.
Strategic administrative support, therefore, must also be delivered on an ongoing, continuous basis. The results you want to achieve won’t be accomplished by working together only sporadically. By working in ongoing collaboration with a Virtual Assistant, you get someone whose knowledge and understanding of you, your goals, how your business works and what’s important to you grows the longer you work together. That’s what administrative support is all about, and what will give you the greatest, most cost-effective value and results.
3. What kind of work does a Virtual Assistant do?
Virtual Assistants focus on taking care of some or all of your administrative burdens. They do the administrative work that would normally take your time, energy and attention away from clients, marketing, networking and all the work that makes you money. They give you the space you need to brainstorm and be creative. The great thing about Virtual Assistants is that you are getting a higher caliber of administrative knowledge, expertise, and service than you would generally find in a temp, or even an employee in many cases. Our industry surveys of the past five years indicate that the majority of Virtual Assistants have an average of 20 years real-world experience and training before going into business for themselves, and most have at least one college degree.
The core service and true value of a Virtual Assistant are in the collaborative working relationship itself. Administrative support isn’t about single, project-oriented tasks. It’s about a package of administrative work and management that might include any number of tasks, functions, and roles delivered on an ongoing basis. We call this being supported systemically, rather than transactionally. This is how business owners achieve the kind of long-term results and stronger business foundation that working with a Virtual Assistant can bring them.
4. Do Virtual Assistants do other things besides administrative support?
Absolutely. While they may have their own employees and contractors, Virtual Assistant practices are solo businesses where the owner IS the Virtual Assistant. Every Virtual Assistant comes to the table with unique talents and gifts. Many offer additional services that complement their core administrative support services. Just remember, that their profession, expertise and what they are in business to provide is administrative support. You wouldn’t go to a plumber to fix your car, right? Similarly, don’t expect that every Virtual Assistant is also going to do your web design, bookkeeping, copywriting, graphic design, etc. Those are separate professions that require different skill sets, training, and expertise. If you do find a Virtual Assistant who offers additional complementary services, expect to be charged for those services separately from their administrative support.
5. How much does a Virtual Assistant cost?
Professional fees will vary from one Virtual Assistant to the next. According to our surveys of the past two years, the current average market range is between $35 – $70 per hour. Keep in mind that a Virtual Assistant’s support is strategic. You won’t be working with one on a day-to-day basis or for the same number of hours as a full or even part-time employee. Virtual Assistants typically offer value-added packages of support for which you pay one simple monthly fee. They provide a hugely convenient and cost-effective alternative to employees and give you access to a higher caliber skill and knowledge level than you might ever be able to afford in an employee.
6. Who works with Virtual Assistants?
Simple answer: Anyone who wants to! A few of the best reasons business owners choose to work with Administrative Consultants include:
1. They want skilled, professional level, right-hand administrative support, but don’t have the space or equipment for in-house staff;
2. They prefer working alone and don’t want another person in their “space;” and
3. Their administrative workload isn’t large enough to justify hiring (or dealing with the administration, supervision and legal reporting hassles) of an employee.
7. Where do Virtual Assistants work?
From her own offices, of course. That’s one of the reasons their service is so convenient. Because Virtual Assistants are running their own businesses, they also furnish their own equipment, software, and tools. Working together virtually is inherently more efficient and cost-effective. Most of your work together won’t require anything more complicated than simply emailing or faxing each other. When necessary, however, there is a huge amount of technology available that makes it a breeze to work together virtually. Virtual Assistants are experts when it comes to this, and will be happy to share more information with you during a consultation.
8. Are Virtual Assistants like employees?
No, emphatically. That’s a common misconception among many business owners that we are working hard to dispel. Because Administrative Consultants are independent professionals with other clients to serve and are not employees, there are going to be differences in how and when you work together and the kinds of things they do for you. An Administrative Consultant is not going to be instantly available to you eight hours a day, five days a week, in the way an employee who works for no one else but you would be. The nature of your relationship is equal one of professional and client—not employer to employee. Each Administrative Consultant has her own business policies, standards, and procedures for working with clients and will inform you of these upon consultation.
Remember, Virtual Assistance is a convenient alternative to employees—not a replacement for them. For more information on this subject, read Do You Need a Virtual Assistant or an Employee?
9. Are there certain kinds of work that a Virtual Assistant doesn’t do?
When you consult with a Virtual Assistant, she will outline the kinds of work with which you can expect to be supported. Together, you will come up with a plan of support unique to your business needs. The main thing to remember is that a Virtual Assistant is a service provider, not an employee. The support your Virtual Assistant provides is independent of your immediate day-to-day business operations. There are some tasks in particular that are typically not provided by Administrative Consultants:
• Virtual Assistants are not receptionists. Their time is focused on client work and projects, and they have their own phone lines and businesses to take care of. If you have a need in this area and can’t afford an employee, what you need is an answering or call center service, or a live Virtual Receptionist service such as Ruby Receptionists.
• Virtual Assistants do not run errands. That is the role of an errand or concierge service or personal assistant. You might even hire a local high school student or college intern.
• Virtual Assistants are not personal assistants. They are administrative experts who focus on providing support to you in your business, not your personal life. However, the administrative work they do for you will free up more of your time to attend to your own personal needs or hire someone who is in the business of doing that.
• Virtual Assistants are not temps or contract workers. They do not work on-site. They work from their own offices, just like your attorney, accountant, bookkeeper or any other professional does.
10. How do I know I can trust someone enough to give them access to my personal information and count on them to be reliable and competent enough to assign work? What kind of references or assurances can I ask a candidate for? What can I do to safeguard myself if I do hire someone?
Much of this is going to depend on how you go about your selection process. Each Virtual Assistant is an independent business owner. That means you need to conduct your research based on a set of qualifying criteria, review websites and then consult with those Administrative Consultants who pique your interest and appear best qualified to meet your needs.
None of us ever has any foolproof, 100% guarantee that we won’t have any problems with a service provider we select. As consumers, all any of us can do is try to make the most educated decision possible based on value, quality, competence and personal chemistry. And that requires us to do our homework. Beyond that, there simply will need to be a minimum level of trust extended or there is no basis for the business relationship.
Of course, we don’t advise any client to hand over vital, secure personal or business information right off the bat. Remember, administrative support is an ongoing, collaborative relationship. As you continue to work together, you build upon that initial trust. If at some point in the relationship, it makes sense to give your Virtual Assistant access to that information in order to conduct work on your behalf, that’s something you can decide then.
Here is a handy, 10-point checklist to help you make the best, most informed decision: How to Hire a Virtual Assistant.
11. I haven’t completely wrapped my brain around how this works. How do I figure out what to delegate?
That’s the beauty of it. When you hire a Virtual Assistant, you are working with a professional, not an employee. As a business owner, your Virtual Assistant will have her own process for getting things started, helping you determine what to delegate first and coming up with a plan of support.
12. Can a Virtual Assistant help me with marketing, direct mail, telemarketing and those kinds of things?
It depends. The most important thing to remember is that Virtual Assistants are administrative experts. If you need marketing consulting, planning and advice, then you should be contacting a marketing expert. That’s their profession–they are the experts and that’s what they are in business to do.
As far as outsourcing direct mail campaigns, doing mailings, telemarketing, that’s not really what Virtual Assistants are in business to do, although they would definitely help you find a vendor who does provide that service. There are companies who do nothing but that kind of work. That’s all they do, it’s what they specialize in, and they can do those things for you much more quickly, efficiently and affordably than a Virtual Assistant.
Likewise, as administrative experts, Virtual Assistants can assist you with the administrative execution and implementation of your marketing actions. Their expertise isn’t in coming up with your marketing plan–that a job for a marketing consultant–but they can certainly help you implement and take care of the administrative functions of your marketing plan.
For example, your Virtual Assistant doesn’t write your blog posts, but she can take your raw content, proof and edit it, upload it to your blog, schedule posts for publication and make sure it all integrates with your autoresponder, RSS, and subscriber list services. Your Virtual Assistant doesn’t write your newsletter, but she can help you help you create simple formats, upload issues, set up and manage autoresponder systems and subscription managers. A Virtual Assistant doesn’t write your articles, but she may assist you with submitting them to article marketing sites. She may or may not post to social networking sites on your behalf, but she can set up your accounts and help you take advantage of all the various applications and tools that can automate and make those efforts much easier. See the distinction?
13. How do I find a qualified, reputable Virtual Assistant?
Through our Virtual Assistant Directory, of course! We believe as a professional association, we have a responsibility clients as well. Therefore, we screen members to meet our high standards of competence and qualification. You’ll love our directory because:
• Every Virtual Assistant in our directory is running a committed, legitimate business. No flaky, fly-by-night freelancers who are “here today, gone tomorrow” are ever listed in our directory.
• Only the most competent, qualified and professional Virtual Assistants who have been pre-screened to meet our high standards of excellence are listed.
• Unlike other Virtual Assistant directories, we specifically list Virtual Assistants only and not every other professional under the sun, making it vastly quicker and easier for you to peruse listings without overwhelming.
• We keep our directory neat and tidy–no irritating, time-wasting dead links ever.
• Your time will not be wasted trying to sort through any mess.
“Working with a Virtual Assistant.”(January 3, 2011).[Blog post].Retrieved from www.virtualassistantnetworking.com.