A virtual assistant is someone who offers support services to a business from a remote location. Such assistants typically take care of administrative tasks but they might also assist with other requirements that a business may have.
What is a Virtual Assistant?
Simply put, a virtual assistant is a person who helps out a business remotely.
As tech advancements through the 1990s brought reliable internet to more homes, businesses realized that they didn’t have to depend on an employee in office to get work done. This is what led to the emergence of the first set of such assistants.
Virtual assistants are particularly in demand by online businesses and entrepreneurs who need help of different kinds but don’t necessarily want to spend money on an office space for their staff. Many small and medium-sized businesses use virtual support for specific tasks like social media management.
Why You Need a Virtual Assistant
In theory, a virtual assistant can do anything that another support staff might do. Even though there are limitations, technology is quickly advancing ways to work around those limitations. For instance, such an assistant might not be able to physically bring you coffee in the morning but they can place an order for you through a food delivery service.
Virtual assistant duties are not limited to clerical work only. They can be equipped to provide assistance with web designing, marketing and bookkeeping among other services.
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Tasks You Can Outsource to Virtual Assistants
As stated earlier, a virtual assistant is somebody that specializes in offering administrative services to clients from a remote location. Common tasks you could assign to such an assistant include making phone calls, scheduling appointments, making travel arrangements, managing social media and responding to emails.
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Types of Virtual Assistants
Virtual assistants are becoming more and more popular with time. They provide a range of services to business owners. It is not uncommon for small and medium-sized business owners to have such an assistant who does everything – from preparing expense reports to making travel arrangements.
1. Administrative virtual assistant
These assistants are responsible for all personal and business administrative work. They are responsible for a variety of tasks such as email management, bookkeeping, scheduling of appointments, filing paperwork and preparing expense reports. They also provide other standard services such as social media management and customer service. Administrative virtual assistants are typically hired to support leaders and executives who wish to free up their time to focus on administrative work.
2. Bookkeeping virtual assistant
These assistants specialize in maintaining accurate records for their employer’s company. They may be employed by an accounting firm or they might independently employ themselves to work with multiple clients at once. This remote staff usually lends support to the finance teams in small and medium-sized businesses.
3. Social media virtual assistant
Such an assistant is responsible for managing the social media accounts of their employer. Not only do they keep track of all posts made by the company on its social media platforms, but they also schedule posts in advance, write content, manage comments etc. Additionally, social media virtual assistants help decipher the type of content that should be shared while analyzing how this content affects sales and overall reach. They work full-time to keep online channels such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn updated with content so you don’t have to worry about the same.
4. Real estate virtual assistant
Such an assistant is hired by a real estate agent to help with paperwork, property showings, scheduling of appointments, taking calls from prospective clients etc. Real estate agents can tap the skills of such assistants to generate new leads and focus on improving sales while they spend more time building relationships with their customers.
5. Shopping and e-commerce virtual assistants
If you are looking to keep track of all the items in your shopping cart, you need such an assistant. They help oversee all the items that a shopper may have placed in their virtual shopping cart through affiliate links and ensure that none of these items get ‘lost’ in the process. E-commerce virtual assistants are also skilled at managing online shops and product listings on websites like Amazon, Shopify and Google Shop among others.
6. Blog virtual assistants
These assistants are helpful to bloggers who are just getting started. They look into the technical aspect as well as the behind-the-scenes work that constitutes blogging. A blog virtual assistant would help you set up your blog, ensure that it runs smoothly, assist you in creating high-quality content and also schedule social media posts for your timely needs.
7. Customer service virtual assistants
These assistants handle all customer-related concerns and issues via chat, email or phone calls. They set up new accounts for customers, respond to queries related to products and occasionally even handle refunds.
8. Computer virtual assistants
These assistants focus on computer-related functions and tasks. They will do anything from operating computers to playing audio-video files, sending emails to even browsing the internet on your behalf. Some may also be skilled enough to help you solve more complex problems like repairing your computer when it’s faulty or implementing security measures for your company’s network.
9. Data entry virtual assistants
Such an assistant is able to input a large amount of information into a database, transcribe audio recordings, toggle notes in online calendars, enter names and addresses into contact lists etc.
10. Graphic design virtual assistants
Such assistants are trained in graphic design and can help you with designing web pages, creating logos or simply maintaining your portal. They can also work on creating fliers, brochures and advertisements through applications such as InDesign or Photoshop.
Virtual assistants are trained in many different tasks so the above list may not necessarily be exhaustive but it should be able to give you a general overview of what their job entails.
Benefits of Hiring a Virtual Assistant
If you are a small to medium-sized business owner, you will know how often your daily administrative tasks are overlooked. This causes entrepreneurs, who are making a fresh start, to run into a plethora of administrative problems. Some chores are put off until later and some are even forgotten. With the help of such an assistant, your business will be able to function smoothly in the background as you continue to focus on the bigger picture.
- 1. Save time
From the daily grind of calculating profit and loss to processing invoices – these tasks can feel like real time-killers. But with the help of a virtual assistant, you can free up some of your precious time and focus on the things you need to. In business terms, time is money. That is why it can prove to be really beneficial when you have someone else taking care of the back-end work. Spare some time to train your assistant and show them all the ins-and-outs of your business. Once you’ve developed a working relationship with your assistant and you feel confident that they know the ropes, you will be able to focus your attention on important things like operating your business and growing it.
- 2. Save money
As the term virtual assistant implies they will be helping you remotely, you are able to save a lot of money on overhead costs. Such assistants work from the comfort of their own home or space which means you don’t have to bear the cost for an office space, office supplies or office coffee even.
- 3. Increase productivity
When you hire such an assistant, you increase your productivity by leaps and bounds. With someone else handling mundane tasks like managing your email and keeping your spreadsheets, you can enjoy the extra ability to focus on growth. Once you hire a trusted assistant, they will look into your daily tasks like answering phone calls, entering data, communicating with vendors and coordinating with clients. This will allow you to free up not just your time but also your resources and that’s a great plus for everybody. A good assistant will be able to point out ways in which you can free up your time and be more productive.
- 4. Be flexible
While choosing an assistant, look for someone that can stay in touch with you round the clock. If they are ‘on call’, they will be able to answer late night calls from clients or respond to emails in the wee hours of the morning. This flexibility will prove to be valuable especially if you are running a hectic business and need someone who can get tasks done on the run.
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Virtual Assistants vs Freelancers
With freelancing services being affordable, many people tend to opt for freelancers but they have often found themselves to be dissatisfied. Slowly but steadily, individuals are moving towards hiring such assistants to get the results that they desire. Though freelancers and virtual assistants are both experts in their respective fields, the former would be an expert in a single subject matter whereas a virtual assistant company would be able to give you access to a team of experts from various fields.
How to Hire a Virtual Assistant?
As a small to medium-sized business owner, there will come a time when it’s impossible to do everything by yourself. And even if you are still able to do everything by yourself, you will likely lose the ability to do it all as effectively and efficiently as possible. Hiring such an assistant frees up your time in such a way that you can focus on the facets that make you money and grow your business. Besides, if you hire properly, you will realize most assistants are better than you at certain tasks. It’s always more intelligent and less expensive in the long run to outsource duties you’re not skilled at.
The first step to hire a virtual assistant is to list out the tasks that you wish to outsource. Make sure the list is complete and prioritizes tasks you wish to delegate. The next step is determining who you hire. To find a virtual assistant, you can engage the services of a company like Virtual Employee, who won’t only help you hire the right talent from their existing pool of resources but also train them if and when the need arises. You could also consider engaging your network for a referral. Hiring an assistant that is already vetted by someone you trust will save you time and energy.
Related Article: How to Find and Use a Virtual Assistant?
How Much Do You Pay a Virtual Assistant?
There are a few factors that come into play when determining how much you pay your assistant. The type of work that needs to be done, the experience that an assistant brings and their nationality all help decide the final pay.
For your convenience, you can think of approaching a virtual assistant company, which functions as an online agency for such assistant jobs. All you need to do is contact one of these websites and they will connect you to an assistant that’s a good fit for your business. As you don’t have to sift through applications on your own, these virtual assistant companies can help save you a lot of time and effort. Additionally, as the assistants working with you will belong to agencies, you can be rest assured of the screening process that’s in place.
When you hire an assistant through a company, you needn’t pay for individual jobs. Instead, you buy a package, which will be time-based and can range from 10 – 75 hours or more. You will have a lot of flexibility and enough support along the way to have your demands met. At Virtual Employee, you can hire virtual assistants for as little as USD 4.5 per hour.
It is no longer rare for business owners to seek the help of virtual assistants in becoming more productive. In fact, now it’s almost a necessity for small and medium-sized businesses to hire such assistants when they wish to scale up. Having that one person to go to for pretty much all your business needs is a great assistance that individuals or businesses can’t seem to function without.