A virtual assistant is a freelancer who does a variety of tasks normally done by personal or admin assistants.
As contractors these people work offsite, usually from home.
They provide their own equipment and workspace, and only ask to be paid for the service they render, whether it is on piece rate or hourly basis.
Work is done and submitted online; all an employer needs to provide are a contract and payment for services rendered.
It is easy to find ads for virtual assistant services online, these days, but it is best to remember that they come with many different skill sets and levels.
In most cases you get the quality you pay for.
What Can A Virtual Assistant Do For YOU?
The short answer to that question is almost anything that can be done online; and that says a lot!
While it is true that the role of virtual assistants evolved from secretarial and general administrative services, there are now literally dozens of specializations VA’s advertise service for scientific research, scheduling and logistics, legal research, data entry, bookkeeping, social media, internet marketing, web development and programming, web SEO, and much more.
Basically you can think of VA services as a way of passing off tasks that:
You are not good at: Some doctors are very capable physicians but cannot find their way around computers, and some businessmen are just poor at scheduling and logistics. There are VA’s out there who do these things day in and day out without getting bored – it is what they do for a living!
You don’t want to do: Whether we admit it or not, there are some activities we absolutely hate to do, even if we know somebody has to do it. For some that may be filing, answering phone calls, or even engaging in social media. There are VA’s out there who enjoy the tasks we dislike.
You are too busy to do yourself: Even if you just consider hourly rates, at some point your rates would be far too high to spend time entering data. Then there is the fact that if you are at a stage where there is more work than you can effectively handle, the logical answer may be to hire a VA.
Diverts you from your core activity or competence: This is true especially of businessmen. The role of a business owner is to strategize and plan ways to increase the bottom line, not to handle the books, maintain a website, or worry about SEO.
Benefits Of Hiring A Virtual Assistant
Reduce stress. It can be quite stressful to do certain tasks which, though they need to be done, you do not really enjoy doing. It just ruins the rest of the day for you. The good news is that you don’t have to be the one to do it! Some virtual assistants enjoy doing the types of work that you dislike.
You can expect VA’s to have the skills, training, competence, office space, and equipment to handle the tasks you ask them to do.
Pay only for the time you use. You only need to provide them a contract and to pay for whatever service they render.
VA’s don’t have to be provided with the usual employee benefit package which usually include social security, insurance, HMO, vacation leave, sick leave, etc.
You also don’t need to worry about keeping a VA busy, or about employees wasting time in social media sites.
A VA can provide almost all the services an onsite admin assistant or personal assistant does, without all the hassles.
Just don’t expect virtual assistants to make you coffee or give you back rubs online – technology has advanced a lot, but not that much!
Who Can Use A Virtual Assistant?
Another way of appreciating the definition of a virtual assistant is to list some of the people who benefit from their services, such as:
An online business owner who neither has the time nor the skills to navigate the complexities of online marketing and SEO can sure use the help of a VA. There are VA’s who can create and maintain websites, create videos, podcasts, landing pages, auto responders, or draft and post articles to improve your SEO ranking, etc.
Businessmen who want to get their message across to their target market in an efficient and effective manner usually hire VA’s to create newsletters, articles, advertisements, and the like for them. While some of them are perfectly capable of producing good copy, their time is much too valuable.
The doctor who needs to get his patient records transcribed, but does not have the time, or patience, to do it himself. It is interesting that though most medical records are transcribed from voice recordings, some are still from hand-written notes; it takes expertise to be able to read most doctors’ scribbles!
An accountant, who suddenly finds a temporary surge in work demand as tax due dates or fiscal year ends loom, can certainly use help from a VA with accounts experience. The beauty of a contractual arrangement is that once the work surge ends, it is easy to end the contract.
A law office, which normally hires paralegals for legal research, may find that hiring a VA with legal skills a more convenient and more affordable option.
An academic can use some help from VA’s offering research services on the field of study they are involved in. There are so many people offering VA services that you can be sure to find someone with the education and skills you want.
Then of course there are those who need basic secretarial services like email drafting, phone answering, data entry, and filing. Secretarial services make up the bulk of VA contracts but, as we have shown, VA’s can do a lot more.
Why Consider Hiring A Virtual Assistant?
With the ease with which a VA can get things done for an employer without involving a large cash outlay, the more appropriate question is why not?
VA’s can be used to handle both periodic and unexpected work surges.
Their services are immediately available; no need to wait for medical screening, compliance with government regulations, purchase of furniture, equipment and supplies. Best of all hiring a virtual assistant allows you to dip your toes without much cost.
If you are not satisfied with the results, it is easy to end a VA’s contract. Then you have a choice of whether to look for a more suitable VA or just discontinue the service.
Virtual Assistant VS. Employee
By now the benefits of hiring a virtual assistant versus an online employee should be very clear: Employees use up space, need to be provided equipment, supplies, insurance, social security, vacation pay, HMO coverage, etc.; all you need to give a VA is a contract and payment for services rendered. There is no contest.
One other advantage of virtual assistants over physical employees is that discrimination is taken out of the picture entirely.
As contractors, VA’s are paid for results – almost the way you would define the phrase “merit based pay.”
Whether the VA is male, female, tall, short does not matter. They operate on a level playing field those corporations hiring lots of physical onsite employees can only dream about.
The term ‘workplace tensions’ does not apply or, at the very least, the VA does not contribute to it.
The next time you think of virtual assistants, think of them as angels always ready to lend a helping hand!