What is a Virtual Assistant

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What Is A Virtual Assistant?

And what could one do for you

Virtual Assistants have been around for many, many years and yet this concept is still not well known to a lot of people.  I have been asked many questions about what a VA does, what a VA can do or why would someone chose to have a VA.  These questions often seem to group Virtual Assistants into a singular, mythical being rather than seeing them as the individuals they are.  They can also be seen as having skill set yet unknown to man or there are questions on trust of the work being done or being done to a high standard, questions on the rates VAs charge or them being viewed/treated as an employee rather than the business owners that they are.

Here I will be going through, from my perspective, the answers that people may be looking for and shed some light on what a Virtual Assistant is and what one could do for you or your business.

Firstly, what is a Virtual Assistant?

A Virtual Assistant is a person, often self-employed, who works remotely offering services that do not require a physical presence in a workplace.

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Who becomes a Virtual Assistant and why?

Virtual Assistants are predominantly female, although there are a growing number of males in this field.  Often people become VAs because they want to be their own boss and working remotely not only offers a good work/life balance, particularly for those with a family or due to personal circumstances, but it does also mean there is a broader scope for gaining clients and can, therefore, focus in on what they want to do and who they want to do business with.

Why do people hire VAs?

People hire VAs for a multitude of reasons – cost, space, flexibility, quality.  When hiring a VA you are cutting out a lot of overheads compared to an employee as  these are costs taken on by the VA, eg. office space, equipment, holiday pay etc.  You only take on a VA for the actual amount of work that is required and for as long as required – no need to pay for a full or part-time employee if there isn’t enough work to justify the expense.  It can be particularly hard to find someone willing to go into an office to do one or two hours work each day as their travel expenses may exceed this, for example.  You also aren’t constrained to people in your vicinity.  You have the scope of the world to find the best person for the job you need doing. 


What does a Virtual Assistant do?

What skills does a VA have?  These questions I have seen a lot where people have assumed all VAs do exactly the same thing.  It isn’t as cut and dry as that.  Each VA has their own skill set and may well specialise in something depending on their background or what they enjoy the most.  

In a broad sense VAs offer: office services, eg. work on a computer; customer service, eg. answering the phone; personal assistant services, eg. diary management; online services, eg. social media management.  The list is extensive -marketing, copy writing, proof reading, design, website creation, website management, book keeping and so on, but this isn’t to say all VAs can do all things.  Some will offer general services, some will be niche.  If you look you you can find a copywriter who specialises in construction or a virtual medical receptionist.  If you are looking for something in particular you should shop around until you find the best fit for you as they will be out there.

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What schedules do Virtual Assistant work?

A VA will work any schedule of their choosing.  As long as the work given to them by the client is completed by the due date a VA can choose exactly when they focus in on this work to get it done.  If a client requires a VA to work specific hours then this would have to be agreed ahead of work commencement. For example, it is reasonable for a client to ask for a VA to work 10 hours a week split across five days or to ask the VA to be available at a specific time each day for a meeting.  Anything along these lines would be discussed in the enquiry stages.    

A VA could work a couple of hours a week up to, well, as many hours as they can fit into a week.  As their own boss they decide how much work they wish to take on.

How much does a VA get paid?

A VA will price their services at what their time is worth, to put it simply.  Their skills, knowledge and experience will all play a role in deciding how much they will charge.  If a VA has quite a niche skill set you can expect to see higher cost to reflect this.  It is quite similar to hiring an employee in this sense.

They will, of course, have to factor in their running costs and this is often something that can be overlooked by potential clients.  They have to pay for their own equipment, electricity, the space they work, insurance etc. If you are a business owner think of all the costs that go into making your business run.  A lot of these costs will be the same for a VA.

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How can you trust a VA to do the work or do it to a high enough standard?

This question is one I find to to be quite insulting if I’m honest, but it is one that does get asked or at least thought of.  If you consider hiring a VA in the same manner as you would hire a regular employee into a business the answer is the same.  You take on someone to do a job believing that they will do what they are being paid for – this stands regardless of their location.  It is always possible to hire someone who will then not meet the standards the business seems fit, but in the case of a VA it is often their own business that is on the line.  A VA often gains clients through word of mouth, so it is important for each job to be completed successfully and to have happy clients so they will then go on to spread the positive word or to retain the VA for repeat/ongoing work.  If a VA is bad at what they do or don’t do the work etc. then they simply won’t get any clients and they won’t be working as a VA for very long at all.

What can a VA do for you?

A VA can do pretty much anything you require.  You can always find one who is willing to take on big or small tasks, long or short hours and contracts.  They can support you in areas in which you have little or no expertise, they can advise you and they can help you to gain back some of your precious time.  

It is important to remember that a VA is a business owner, not an employee, and should be treated as one.  You can create great working relationships by remembering this detail.

Outsourcing to a VA is something that can be highly beneficial to you and if you are already thinking of getting one it may be time for you to take the plunge.

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What do you think about hiring a VA?  If your a VA, what is your perspective?
Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

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