You may have heard of the term VA or “virtual assistant” a lot these days. Lots of entrepreneurs and SME’s have been claiming that having them around has helped them scale their businesses faster – and have helped them achieve a healthier work-life balance as well.
But what exactly do VAs do? More specifically, how can they help you accomplish your goals faster?
Let’s take a closer look.
What Is A Virtual Assistant?
In a nutshell, a virtual assistant typically offers administrative support from a remote location.
There are also many types of VAs, and they can be categorized into two: generalist virtual assistants and industry-specific ones.
Generalist Virtual Assistants
They carry out duties across various fields, like marketing, accounting, and customer service.
As such, a generalist often has a broader set of skills compared to a specialist.
These are VAs that cater to a particular niche and have extensive knowledge in that field.
Some of the most common industry-specific VAs are in the following fields:
For Real Estate
A real estate virtual assistant can assist research properties and find good leads.
They can also post real estate listings on multiple online platforms as well as coordinate meetings with your clients and prospects.
Some VAs have a legal background and can take on legal research, which frees up your schedule so you have more time to network and attend to your clients.
Some VAs with the right medical background also carry out administrative tasks in clinics or private practices.
They can also take calls from patients and schedule their consultations, as well as keep medical records, which increases a medical professional’s overall efficiency.
An executive assistant (EA) typically supports upper management.
Aside from the usual admin tasks, EAs are responsible for managing an executive’s calendar, scheduling meetings, and even attending these in their boss’ stead if required, making travel arrangements, creating itineraries, organizing reports, etc.
VAs can enable you to grow your business faster and more sustainably.
Whatever skill set your current team might lack, there is a virtual assistant out there who can fill that gap.
How a Virtual Assistant Works
A VA mostly operates out of their home offices. Their daily tasks usually include providing administrative support like responding to emails, managing calendars, and updating in-house databases, among others.
Overall, a VA is a cost-effective solution for many startups and SMEs.
Work Environment for a Virtual Assistant
The world of a virtual assistant is a dynamic one. A VA has to anticipate your needs and should be quick to adapt as they’ll be working independently most of the time.
As VAs are considered independent contractors, there is not much of a need for office space. Thus, there’s no need to lease additional space or pay for utility costs.
Virtual Assistant Duties
As pointed out in the previous sections, there are a variety of virtual assistant jobs:
Administrative tasks are necessary to your daily operations, but it’s better to let your administrative assistant handle these instead so you can focus on more critical activities like key decision-making, business development, and corporate strategy.
Business travel is pretty common among entrepreneurs, but making arrangements can be time-consuming.
Instead, you can delegate booking plane tickets and accommodations to your VA.
Keeping track of several meetings can be difficult.
A virtual assistant can organize your calendar so you don’t miss any crucial meetings with other business owners and clients.
Your business may receive numerous calls in a day, so you may not have the time to answer them all.
Why not let your virtual assistants handle these and route the ones they deem worthy of your attention to you instead?
Certain VAs can also help manage your company’s financial records. However, make sure they have the appropriate accounting background and experience before handing them this responsibility.
Staying on top of an entire company’s finances is no mean feat.
This is where a VA with bookkeeping expertise and experience can come in handy.
A VA can also take care of certain personal errands for you. This includes buying gifts for your family and friends, purchasing anything you need online and arranging for its delivery to your doorstep, and even reminding you of important dates like birthdays and anniversaries.
Establishing good relationships with your customer base is one way to strengthen your business.
A competent VA can provide good customer service by addressing your customers’ issues and concerns with empathy.
Perhaps one of the more straightforward tasks for a virtual assistant is data entry. And while it’s a pretty simple job, your VA has to make sure that the information they’re encoding is accurate and correct.
Social Media Management
Just about every successful maintains an active social media presence these days.
Hiring a social media-savvy virtual assistant can do wonders for your brand’s online presence, especially if you have trouble connecting with your ideal audience.
VAs can also manage your company’s content across online platforms. Here are some of the specific content marketing tasks you can delegate:
Some VAs can generate interesting and engaging content for your brand.
They can also recommend the type of content that works best for each social media platform.
Apart from creating videos, graphic design, and other marketing materials, some VAs can write blogs that provide your customers with valuable information too. This, in turn, boosts your business’ credibility and positions it as an authority in its industry.
Virtual assistants can also do research on your competitors and dig up other vital information that can help your business stand out.
They can also assist with scouting leads and establishing connections with potential clients and other business owners.
Email and Contact Management And Communications
VAs must have excellent written communication skills because they will be corresponding with your clients on your behalf via email.
If you run an online store, your virtual assistant can help manage it.
Aside from overseeing inventory, your VA can handle the order processing and tracking, invoicing, and of course, competitor and market research.
While a virtual assistant may not play a direct role in business development, they take tedious tasks off your plate so that you can concentrate on activities like expanding your product line or by reaching out to a wider customer base.
VAs can step in and represent you in certain meetings, especially if you’re needed elsewhere.
They can take down important notes for your reference later.
VAs make sure everything runs smoothly in your office. They can purchase and update office supplies, equipment, software subscriptions, etc.
Apart from that, they can also relay your employees’ concerns to you, if there are any.
Things a Virtual Assistant Does Not Do
While a virtual assistant can take a huge load off your shoulders, they can’t do everything.
For instance, they shouldn’t be in charge of making executive decisions or figuring out your company’s strategic direction. These don’t just fall outside of their skill set. They are also tasks that only you can and should do.
Virtual Assistant Qualifications
Now that you’re better acquainted with the usual tasks that a virtual assistant does, what should you look for when hiring one?
Virtual Assistant Required Skills
A VA needs to have basic computer literacy because they will be working with different apps and programs while carrying out their tasks online.
They should also have decent verbal and written communication skills as they will be corresponding with clients on your behalf.
Lastly, your VA must have superb organizational skills because they will likely be balancing a lot of tasks on a daily basis.
Virtual Assistant Required Equipment
At Remote Staff, each applicant is required to have their own laptop and a reliable Internet connection (unlike, say, if you hire from LinkedIn, Upwork, and other job portals).
However, if there is any specific software you would like your virtual assistant to use, be sure to give them access or a subscription.
Why You Need a Virtual Assistant
There are plenty of reasons why companies hire virtual assistants. These include:
Virtual Assistants Can Let You Focus on What Matters Most – Your Business.
Got neither the time nor energy to deal with phone calls, scheduling appointments, invoicing, and other mundane and time-consuming administrative tasks?
Try having a virtual assistant do it all for you instead. Done right, a VA can enable you to shift your efforts towards growing your company instead of getting bogged down by paperwork.
Better Use of Your Employees.
Instead of having one of your in-house staff do your bookkeeping, data entry, and manage your company’s social media accounts for you, you can hire a virtual assistant. This frees up your in-house team to do their actual jobs and give you better results.
No discussion of why companies hire virtual assistants is complete without mentioning this. Having a VA in your team enables you can help you save on labor costs instead of hiring an in-house employee to do your administrative tasks for you.
Saving Salary Cost
The no. 1 reason why business owners hire virtual assistants, particularly from countries like the Philippines, is that you can still pay your virtual assistants a competitive salary while saving on costs – all thanks to the competitive US dollar- Philippine peso exchange rate.
Saving Training Cost
Entrepreneurs also save training costs because most virtual assistants are already equipped with the skills needed for the job.
Money isn’t the only thing saved when you hire a full-time virtual assistant. Having one allows you to get more done in less time and to focus on tasks that actually move the needle forward.
What is a Virtual Assistant Salary, and How are They Paid?
Since many VAs work in remote locations outside the US, it can be challenging to pay them. If you hire from Remote Staff, however, we’ll take care of all payroll concerns for you after you settle our service fees via a simple electronic funds transfer or through your credit card.
Since we’re on the subject, here are other factors that can affect the rates you’ll need to pay your virtual assistant.
Type of Work
One factor that can influence your virtual assistant’s rate is their niche. Further, you may have to pay them more if you add more responsibilities outside of their job description.
Experienced virtual assistants will always command a higher salary since they have a broader and more developed skill set. However, you can always hire a less experienced one and then let them learn on the job if you have a tight budget.
What Makes a Good Virtual Assistant?
The most important is reliability. A good VA should be able to submit their deliverables on time. Next, they must possess basic computer skills, so that they can conduct basic troubleshooting if something goes wrong, such as suddenly losing their internet connection.
Your virtual assistant must also be able to communicate effectively and should have a proactive approach to solving problems.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, your virtual assistant should have the same values as you and your team.
How to Hire a Virtual Assistant
If it’s your first time hiring a virtual assistant, it might help to read the following guidelines:
Before hiring a VA, you must determine what tasks you expect your virtual assistant to do.
Need someone to take on administrative tasks like fielding phone calls or scheduling appointments? You need an Administrative Assistant. However, if you need someone to assist you personally, such as handling your travel arrangements and assisting in project management, you need an executive assistant.Another thing to consider is whether you need your VA to work full-time or part-time.
Decide on a Manager
Once you’ve established your VA’s scope of work, decide who they will be reporting to. It could very be you or someone else that you trust on your core team.
Create a Budget
Now that you know what your VA should be doing and who should be handling them, determine the available budget you’ve got for a VA. This will help narrow the candidates further.
Interview Them and Give Them a Test Task
Ultimately, the best way to see which applicant is the most suitable is to have a one-on-one interview with them. Besides asking the usual interview questions, you should also have them carry out a few tasks to assess their skills.
Managing Your Virtual Assistant
First time handling a VA? Bear the following in mind:
At Remote Staff, we work hard to match each client with the right VA.
If you require a specific certification or a particular skill, make sure to let us know so we can either find suitable talents in our existing pool or scout someone who fits the bill.
All great relationships rely on excellent communication. In your VA’s case, this keeps you in the loop about their progress on certain tasks and any updates that may require your intervention.
Another foundation of a great working relationship is trust. This usually means giving your virtual assistant space to work instead of constantly hovering over their shoulder. And in turn, they’ll trust you to assess their performance fairly and to assign tasks that are within the agreed-upon scope of work.
How Do You Track the Time a VA Spent on a Task?
Since VAs usually work remotely, most clients worry about how to keep track of their progress. Fortunately, here are methods to keep tabs on your VA, even from afar:
Use a Time Tracking and Monitoring Tool
Most companies use time tracking and monitoring tools to make sure that their VAs are doing what they should. These tools measure how long your employee has been working on a specific task and also take screenshots as evidence of their work.
How Do You Know They Were Actually Working During Those Hours?
Remote Staff has a lot of effective ways to check if your VA was working during their shift. Primarily, our clients can check the screenshot taken by the monitoring software installed on your VA’s computer/laptop (with their consent, of course).
Allocating Tasks and Monitoring Progress
Another way to know whether your VA is truly working during their shift is by assigning various tasks to be achieved within a specific time and monitoring their progress.
How Do You Maintain Detailed Records of Your VAs’ Tasks?
It helps to have these detailed records on hand to resolve any issues over productivity or tracking. The ways to go about it often include:
A timesheet report clues you in on your VA’s efficiency while working on their tasks. Apart from that, timesheets also help with the accuracy of the payroll.
Timeline Daily Report
Remote Staff generates a daily timeline report sheet reflecting the tasks a VA is currently doing, the ones they’ve already finished, and what they’ll be working on later.
If you’ve assigned a long-term project to your virtual assistant, you should have them write a report detailing its objectives, milestones, and current challenges and progress. It’s a great way to monitor how your VAs achieved their project goals and to see if they’re on track.
Web and App Usage Report
Remote Staff’s report also reveals which apps and websites your VA frequents the most during their shift.
This allows you to investigate their online activities if they’ve been falling behind on their tasks and thus ask for our assistance in carrying out the necessary action.
Poor Time Usage Report
Keeping a record of the times your VA has been late on submitting a task or been caught wasting time helps you determine whether your VA is doing their job – and whether you need us to replace them with a better candidate.
Having a second attendance report aside from the timesheet report gives you a secondary source with which you can verify your records.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do You Require a Degree for Your Virtual Assistants?
Not at all. There are plenty of virtual assistants that don’t have them yet are very skilled in their virtual assistant jobs. Some often take relevant online courses and have the certifications to prove they’ve completed them.
Do You Hire a Virtual Assistant With No Prior Experience?
It depends on your needs and budget. If you only require basic administrative tasks, then a VA with little to no experience should suffice once they receive a bit of training.
But if the job will require more complex tasks, you should consider hiring someone with more experience. That said, expect that these candidates often come with a higher salary range.
What is the Difference Between a Virtual Assistant and a Personal Assistant?
On the whole, “virtual assistants” is an umbrella term encompassing many types. VAs may also sometimes support an entire office, but a personal assistant usually only reports to one person.
Instead of trying to find the right virtual assistant by yourself, why not hire one through legitimate outsourcing companies such as Remote Staff instead? We’ve got 15 years (and counting) of experience matching our clients with the best VA for them – and you can be sure we can do the same for you.
Schedule your call back today to get started.