I have been on the ground floor of three startups, and the number-one position that I often suggest small business owners fill as soon as possible is a highly skilled assistant who is passionate about their business. You can’t do everything by yourself. And before you hire your entire family, consider death. If every position in your business is filled by somebody in your family, then what happens when Grandma dies and the entire clan needs to disappear and recover for a few days? Life happens.
You can call a temp service, but in the final analysis that’s nothing more than a glorified answering machine. They won’t have time to learn your business and will be left taking messages, not solving problems.
However, an assistant who has been on the team can help you move forward in quite a few areas. Plus, with a virtual assistant you are not limited by geography or time zones.
A Few Things a Virtual Assistant Can Do
You carry the vision. You are not looking for your virtual assistant to brainstorm your business for you. It’s up to you to judge your next best move based on educated suggestions from your team. But your virtual assistant can help you execute these moves.
Take marketing, for example. Once you decide that it’s vital to your business and that you want to put some time and money into your online presence, then your assistant can oversee your online marketing efforts. This may include consistent tweets, growing your Facebook page and engaging fans, and creating a blog filled with helpful articles.
Your virtual assistant can book your travel, schedule your meetings, and collect research for an upcoming speech. The list is endless once you get over the initial belief that you need to do everything yourself.
A Few Things to Consider When Hiring a Virtual Assistant
There are some legitimate concerns when it comes to virtual assistants. Do you need someone who can do everything or a person with specialized skills? Should you hire a team or an individual? And how to navigate this virtual relationship, so that it doesn’t break when they — or you — move on?
Specialized Skills vs. a Jack of all Trades
Consider hiring people to do what they do best. Instead of a general assistant, get someone who uses social media to do your social media. Get someone who specializes in design to complete design work for you. And add a generalist as your point of contact with the entire team as well as to handle research and traditional administrative tasks.
A Team vs. an Individual
Consider hiring a team instead of an individual. If a member of your virtual assistant team gets sick, then your company doesn’t stop moving forward, because another member of the team can pick up the slack.
Systems vs. Shooting From the Hip
Systems protect your business and your bottom line. Give clear, documented instructions and save them for ongoing use. As your team grows or changes you changes you can simply forward the instructions to the new team member.
I Need Help!
Building a team is the a core step to freedom inside your business. If you decide that you are ready for an assistant, then be sure to check out T.J. McCue’s list of virtual assistant outsourcing sites.
Image from auremar/Shutterstock
Nice article! I specifically liked that you mentioned a Team vs. an Individual! So many people focus on the individual VAs working from home alone. Personally I don’t think that is the best person to be helping small business owners.
If you are going to hire a team of VAs, I suggest working with a company who will also provide you with a VA manager. Your job is to run and grow your business, not manage a bunch of virtual assistants.
There are several companies out there who will do this for you, but I’m going to plug LongerDays.com which (full disclosure) is the company I work for.
I love this article. It is so true that too many entrepreneurs try to do everything themselves and it is just not practical. If you are spending your time creating business cards, placing stationary orders, scheduling appointments and maintaining spreadsheets, than you probably aren’t making much money. A virtual office can take some of the burden of the mundane tasks off your plate so you can focus on the important parts of the business. Imagine what you could do with a little extra time in your day.
Great article Jamillah! Thanks for helping to promote the VA industry. Small business owners can become overwhelmed when they try to keep up with all the administrative tasks that they need to get done. They dreamed of running their own business and having a fulfilling and balanced life. However, they are so inundated with the necessary admin work. As a Virtual Assistant I support my cients by freeing up their time so that they can work on other profitable activities that grow their business and increase their revenue. They get to remain the visionaries for their business. The list is indeed endless when it comes to the number of tasks that Virtual Assistants can help their clients with. Other tasks such as Event Planning, Database Management, Email/Voicemail Management, and Document creation.
Jamillah, when you wrote: Life Happens.. it felt like dejavu. It reminded me of my first experience with a virtual assistant I’ve hired who went M.I.A. for a couple of days, and it’s quite a major pain. I agree with you totally on hiring a team, and having a backup plan when all things fail is better than none. I wonder what are your thoughts on virtual assistants you can hire cheap in plenty of online marketplaces – as the prices seem surreal. I’ve encountered someone offering less than a dollar an hour and I thought, what level of service can one get from that? It’s too good to be true. I guess, there’s always an adage: You get what you pay for.
Good article Ms. J. It’s nice to see something positive about the VA industry. Many times, it seems like everything said about VAs is negative.
Something to note; a professional VA doesn’t ‘disappear’ for a few days or leave you hanging. How do you know if a VA is a professional? She has years of brick and mortar (i.e., real world) experience as an administrative assistant, executive secretary or office manager. It’s the experience of being someone’s employee that hones business-savvy and accountability. A professional VA carries this real world experience into her business as a VA, and doesn’t leave her clients hanging or disappear on them.
Working with a VA team can be a detriment. As the client, you spend your valuable time interviewing the frontman for the VA team, and you like the person, but that’s not the person who does your work. The person doing the work may not have the skills or experience to do the work right. Do-overs are costly, because you’ve lost valuable time. You thought you were hiring the person you spoke with on the telephone, but that’s not who you got. In the real world, it’s known as bait and switch.
Because one of the many reasons you hire a VA is to eliminate fire-fighting and chaos in your business, a VA with the sniffles isn’t a big deal. She’s got everything under control, and her taking a day off to get control of her cold won’t impact your business. Because she’s got everything under control, emergencies are few — very few.
You’re correct; cheap VAs are not the way to go. Many lack necessary administrative and technical skills. At best, they’re virtual concierges; they can run errands for you virtually, but they lack the technical, administrative and communication skills to do more.
Donna Caissie, the ExtraOrdinary VA
Lionel Bachmann | Model Trains
Great tips, especially the one about having systems in place. Before looking for virtual assistants, it would save a lot of time if you invest in putting a process together that is somewhat self explanatory. This keeps the assistant from having to guess, or to continue contacting you for more information.
Hi guys, thanks for the comments:
Angela yes “too many entrepreneurs try to do everything themselves and it is JUST NOT PRACTICAL” with extra time we can see the future and make it real a whole lot faster.
Shaleen you asked “I wonder what are your thoughts on virtual assistants you can hire cheap in plenty of online marketplaces – as the prices seem surreal” and I have to say you nailed it. I can’t get the kind of work I want for that price. In fact, when I hire virtual assistants of any kind I am looking for long term relationships, people that can fall in love with me and my business (and vice versa) which isn’t necessarily the cheapest person.
Too many entrepreneurs try to do everything themselves and it is just not practical with extra time we can see the future and make it real a whole lot faster.
exhibition stand designers Great tips, especially the one about having systems in place.
Donna, I like this point “It’s the experience of being someone’s employee that hones business-savvy and accountability.”
I agree with you. Having a Virtual Assistant on the team can really save you time and execute everyday tasks on hand at ease. Picking a reputed Virtual Services company would be a good decision since they analyze your business needs and select the Virtual Assistant who has expertise in the focused area of production. Plus there is no hassle of background checks of the VAs, since the Virtual Services company has already taken care of that. Thank you for sharing.
Great article, but my favorite point is, “Systems protect your business and your bottom line. Give clear, documented instructions and save them for ongoing use.” This is so crucial with working with virtual assistants. It saves both of you time in the long run.
This is a great article. Virtual office is very beneficial to business owners, specially to those who are overseas who has a market outside their own country. Renting a virtual office should not be considered merely as an expense, but also a great investment because of its ingenuity.