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An Insightful Reminder to the Endless Benefits of Hiring a Virtual Assistant – Part I

Earlier this year, I had written a three part series on deciding whether or not a Virtual Assistant (VA) is the right choice for your small business or possible enhancement to your personal life.  The articles demonstrated how to organize your priorities into task lists, and then evaluate those priorities into categories as to which tasks would be beneficial for you to self-perform versus which could be delegated to an assistant. From that point, I explained how to search for the most appropriate VA, whether tailored to a particular subject matter such as legal or real estate, or be able to provide a multitude of support.  If you did not act on my marvelous suggestions, have no worries!  There is still time to soak in the benefits of how helpful VAs are and how much easier they can make your life become.

If you act on these suggestions now, you may actually have a chance to enjoy some of that beach time you’ve been dreaming about all winter.

The following are simple reminders on the benefits to hiring a VA:

  • No extra expenses with a VA, such as benefits or vacation pay.  VAs are ideally consultants.  As they work for themselves, they purchase their own benefits, insurance, and there is no paid time off from you.
  • VAs use their own equipment.  That’s right!  No need for you to buy new laptops and printers, not to mention office supplies, as they already have these enjoy summeritems in their home offices.  If you were to hire a new employee at your office headquarters, this would be one of the first additional costs for your business’ overhead.
  • No extra office space required.  VAs have the pleasure of working from home and can be as close or as far to your business as necessary.  Save on construction expansions and go spend a day at the beach with your family.
  • Only pay for the time VAs charge to your project.  By giving a VA a task, they charge you when their time is complete.  You are not paying for down time.  Thus, their time is as efficient as you can expect.  Although, you want to ensure you choose a VA with the appropriate background that can complete your tasks precisely, accurately, and efficiently.
  • VAs are hard working and reliable.  VAs rely on steady income streams just like the rest of us.  They are competitive and will work hard to keep their business successful.  This means that if you choose someone of credibility, they will go the extra mile for perfection and will work hard to keep stability with your business relationship.
  • VAs can assist with specialized tasks.  Do you have real estate work that you need assistance with?  How about legal documents that you need help with?  Sometimes VAs are simply retired lawyers and real estate agents, or those that no longer practice full time.  Of course the more specialized skill sets will most likely require additional charges, but again, this still saves you time and money in the long run.
  • No agency fees when hiring a VA.  Have you ever hired a temp for your business?  This usually involves increased costs through an agency and no real guarantee that the employee will be around for any additional tasks you may need assigned in the future.  With a VA, you will not only avoid agency fees, you will also have a consistent contact for future assignments.
  • VAs are more apt to work outside of normal business hours.  As VAs have a flexible schedule, you may be able to assign a given task at the end of the day and find that it’s been completed and ready for you first thing in the morning. Wouldn’t that be a nice surprise, versus paying overtime to the employee that has to stay past 5 o’clock?
  • Expertise in the areas you are not.   Are you terrible at organizational skills?  How about developing a Power Point with all of the bells and whistles?  VAs are specialized and administration support is a key element with their background skills.  If you put their expertise to work, you will most likely not be disappointed.
  • Office pressure amongst co-workers lessens.  Is there a deadline to meet and Sam won’t be able to get everything accomplished on time?  Well, send a partial amount of the work to Shelly and let her work from her home office.  Through proper email correspondence and phone communication, you’ll have a polished product in no time.

Again, these are just a few of the simple reminders as to how Virtual Assistants can positively change the work flow at your business or increase the quality of life that you wish to have for yourself.  Do you find yourself wanting a few extra days off this summer?  Do you have a few things that you would love to have taken off your plate?  Impact Virtual Services can help with this decision making process and guide you in the best direction that will assist your needs most efficiently.  Make an appointment with us today.   We’d love to be part of your solution.

Stay tuned for more pointers in upcoming posts.  Keep positive and enjoy the beautiful weather to come.

Who’s Ready To Unload Some Tasks For Summer?

Recently, I posted a (3) part series on deciding whether a Virtual Assistant (VA) was the best choice for your personal life or small business.  I thought I would follow-up to this series and further emphasize some other activities which Virtual Assistants are very helpful with.  It’s the big Q2 for most of us, and we’re heading into the nicest part of the year, summer!  Hiring a VA might free up some summer time which could be better spent on family activities or just making time for you!

  • Organization – VA’s have the benefit of working from their homes or an office location outside of your business.  They have the ability to work with online programs, create power point presentations, sort files, and turn tasks into more manageable, organized solutions.  They create precise details at first glance, versus trying to sort through hours of your own personal notes.  Seems like a great idea to me!
  • enjoy_summerSpecialization – Maybe your business deals with more specialized services such as real estate or tax issues?  Virtual Assistants can vary in background specialties.  Usually the more experienced will require a higher price tag, but if it saves yourself time, it can all be worth it.
  • Travel Plans – Does your job require a lot of traveling?  Is it time consuming for you to sit down, find the most cost-efficient flight, car rental, and hotel?  Well, VAs can perform these activities too.  This may seem minor to you, but if it saved you (4) hours a week, would it be worth it to you?  Especially if you figure your wages per hour in comparison to hiring the work, simple things like this can sometimes be a no-brainer.
  • Answering phones – Do you have a business that needs a live person at the end of it in order for the customer to always have a friendly voice to approach with a question?  Well, this is another role where VAs can be very successful.  Again, it saves you loads of time as this simply requires forwarding your phone and the rest is on them!
  • Blogs – Do you have a website that requires a blog, but you are sometimes too busy to write them?  Well, VAs can research topics and publish creative masterpieces for your clients’ viewing pleasure.  As the decision maker for your business, you of course have final say in the content of these articles.  Given the minor task of advising of the final touches, in comparison to writing an article from scratch, will absolutely save you time and money.  Who knows, you and your clients might very much enjoy this new creative perspective VAs can bring to your business.
  • Website Updates – We all want the most innovative and interactive, up-to-date website, but who has time to always post the latest and greatest?  Guess what?  A VA can do this too!  This requires a little more direction regarding your goals and target audience that you wish to reach, as well as a more specialized VA background, but definitely a great task to hire out.

These are just a few of the many activities that VAs can be available for and able to assist with regarding your small business needs.  I’m also excited to make the point that Impact Virtual Services can offer all of these services to you and would be pleased to offer a free consultation to discuss the demands of your small business and how we can offer the most practical solutions.  We’re approaching summer time and this means it’s time to get out and enjoy the weather.  We all work way too hard, year-round, so take advantage of these opportunities and let us know how we can help save you time and money.

Are You Swimming For Success, Yet Drowning In Your Business Tasks?

If so, maybe a Virtual Assistant is your ticket to the Gold. (oh yes we did...still riding the Olympic fever!!)

Are you at a point in your business where you just can’t get it all accomplished in a day, a week, a month, or even by the end of the year? You look at your desk, your task lists, your calendar, and you just see piles of paper, endless mark-ups on post it notes, and pretty much the words “still needs to be completed” on everything?

If so, you may just need to start thinking about which priorities you are able to get done yourself, and which can be handed off to someone else. Here’s what you can do to begin this process:

  • Define your requirements. Figure out if your tasks are specific to a specialty area (IT, web design, real estate, etc), or if they are more generalized (booking business trips, posting for social media, writing blogs). This may require hiring someone with defined skills, versus a background with a general admin skill set.

You will need to also figure out if this work will be on-going or if it’s just a simple, one-time go around. You may find after this step that you actually need several people to complete your tasks versus one person.

  • Define the expected time frames for each task. Who knows your business best? Most likely, that is going to be you! If not and you are still extremely successful, well then let us know your secret! As I am guessing the person that best knows your own business is you, you will need to define the expected time frames for each task you are willing to assign.

As you start with a new Virtual Assistant (VA), it will take longer for them to adapt. They will need to know the base fundamentals of how your business functions in order to complete what you are going to assign to them. Over time, if you use the same key people, you should see efficiency and a value in hiring quality staff.

  • Find experienced help. Or not. It’s 100% up to you how experienced the staff you hire is. The benefit of partnering with experienced VAs is there is a small learning curve and increased efficiency, they can make suggestions on programs/methods/platforms that have worked for other clients, and they are trained at supporting a successful business, all worth the fees they charge. However, the benefit of being able to train a newbie is that you can mold them to perform the work as you would like to see it being accomplished.
  • Pay at a level that also makes sense for your business. You don’t want to take a loss with your business, but you also want to build continuity with your staff and maintain a respectful relationship.

What else should I consider?

  • As far as training goes, a VA works remotely and should have their own equipment and supplies. During the initial partnership, it’s important to remember to keep your patience. Training from a remote location can take a little more time, but if you hired quality, this should be worth it in the end. Remember, you’re saving a ton of money on overhead so the virtual aspect is well worth it. Skype is a great free tool we use with our non-local clients; not only does it give it a live meeting feel where we can see each other, it also allows us yet another tool for quick and convenient IM communication.
  • Ensure that you consider risk management as well. Mistakes are bound to happen and most likely will. Think about the importance of integrity when saying “you’re hired.” After all, the client associates your face with your business. We suggest starting with low risk tasks, and building up the level of risk right along with the trust and expertise that will get established with a bit of time.
  • If there are expectations for reporting hours associated with specific tasks, make sure your VAs know the importance of this and be sure to have the proper tools in place for documentation.

If you’ve read through all of these steps and decided that a VA is the right choice for you, what’s the next step? Hire! You have options to hire locally or seek out referrals. Your success depends on your choices from here on out, so be sure to invest the time to hire quality, especially if you are specializing in a particular area.

I feel if you follow all of these great steps, you’ll be well on your way to saving yourself a lot of time and money in the long run. I know that I could not be more grateful for my team members and hopefully they know this as well…which is a great reminder to end with. Never forget to appreciate and reward your team, even if it’s a simple “thank you”, it will go a long way!

Struggling to Make Deadlines? Don’t Hire, Outsource.

Most small businesses operate under the tried and true adage of “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it.” What happens when the amount of work to be done is starting to eat into your profitability? Outsourcing is a solution that can revitalize your business. Here are a few reasons a business owner should consider outsourcing:

  • You’re free to focus on the core day-to-day operations of your business. For many businesses, small and large alike, the primary motivation to outsource is that it shifts work from the owners, managers, and employees so they may spend their time on activities that directly generate income.
  • Potential to improve growth opportunities. Resource availability is a key component to the expansion of operations and increased profitability.
  • Increasing efficiency and effectiveness of your business. In most cases, outsourcing allows access to expert talent. Outsource service firms can offer innovative approaches, the latest technology, and creative, cutting-edge solutions previously unavailable to your business.
  • Pad your bottom line by cutting your expenses. A skilled contractor can generally perform work less expensively and more efficiently than a full-time employee can. Best of all the costs associated with hiring, training, and maintaining employees are eliminated, along with taxes and benefits.

Here is what you can outsource to increase profitability and improve efficiency all while maintaining the integrity and structure of your business.

  1. Administrative tasks. Everything from scheduling and travel arrangements to data entry and email management can be expertly managed by a virtual assistant. While these tasks are vital to the operation of the business, they are not core business activities.
  2. Lead generation and customer service. Making sales calls is a numbers game, the more contacts made the more potential for leads and sales. Once the initial outreach has been made, closing the sale can easily be handled by an internal sales team. A skilled salesperson is better utilized for closing sales and the management of clients, rather than cold calling. It can also be beneficial to outsource customer support rather than maintain a qualified support staff.
  3. Accounting and financial responsibilities. Accounting firms or individuals can help with many financial related tasks from bookkeeping to accounts payable and receivable. Outsourcing the processing of payroll can significantly reduce cost, not to mention the accompanying headaches.
  4. Marketing. Effective marketing of a business determines how the consumer perceives both the brand and company reputation. A marketing firm or contractor can offer valuable outside perspective that an internal staff cannot.
  5. IT operations. It is often extremely expensive to handle IT operations in-house. The average business has limited ability to manage all of the IT needs that are necessary to operate. IT is a maintenance and repair function, not a core business activity.
  6. Human Resources. Talent recruitment and human resource tasks can easily be managed by an outside agency. External agencies are often more skilled at advertising, screening applicants, and checking references. Using an HR or employment agency to manage employee benefits is also wise, these professionals stay up to date on all the latest employment laws and standards.

Typically the best way to locate high-quality prospects is through recommendations from your professional network. A referral from someone you know and trust is a much more reliable gauge of quality and is usually based on the level of skill and not simply the cheapest cost.

5 Tasks a VA Can Do To Help Your Business

Think of a Virtual Assistant (VA) like any assistant, but with lower costs, no overhead, and more capabilities.  Anything you could wish for an assistant to handle for you, a VA can handle too.  Here are some great items that you can easily hand off to a VA.

Think of a Virtual Assistant (VA) like any assistant, but with lower costs, no overhead, and more capabilities. Anything you could wish for an assistant to handle for you, a VA can handle too. Here are some great items that you can easily hand off to a VA.

  • Repetitive/Daily Tasks - We all have them. Each business and individual is different, but there are certain tasks each of you do every day for yourself and your business. Think about your day and write down tasks you find yourself doing day in and day out. These tasks are IDEAL for a VA to do for you. With a little direction, you could be saving a few hours each day and maximizing the time you have to work on other tasks.
  • Correspondence – All of us correspond with our clients/customers and potential clients/customers daily. Much of this correspondence is basic, template, and very repetitive. We also have many questions to ask our clients/customers each day. This correspondence takes time and can be a process. Both of these types of correspondence can be easily outsourced to a VA. Let the VA know what information you need, who you need to contact, and send them on their way. Some good examples of correspondence are:
    • Follow up on billing related issues
    • New project start questionnaires
    • New client information
    • Project or task related questions with clients
    • Calendar coordination and planning
    • Drafting and formatting letters and emails
    • And much more!
  • Website Maintenance & Monitoring – Do you have changes to your website pages? Want to post new content and/or images? Need to promote an upcoming event? If you can update your website, so can your VA. Giving your VA insight into your business and interests can help them craft content for you, investigate content areas your audience wants to hear, and ensure content is kept up to date, so you don’t have to! Do you have a contact form on your website? Your VA can monitor that too.
  • Social Media – It is hard to find time every day to send out tweets, update your Facebook page, respond to messages and discussion threads, accept or reject LinkedIn invitations, create and post blog articles, and generally interact with your clients/customers online. Keeping all the social media outlets up to date takes time. If this is something you don’t have, or you find yourself falling behind, having a VA control your social media can be key for you. Don’t lose the opportunity to connect, but instead trust someone to manage those connections and keep you informed with what is going on.
  • Finances/Billing – Often I hear people complaining that their receipts are in a pile waiting to be sorted, they need to file an expense report, or need to follow up on outstanding payments from customers/clients. These are simple tasks that a VA can do for you.

All of this doesn’t mean you may not be involved in these activities, but often it takes a few simple questions from your VA, some training on what you and your business are all about, and the desire to want assistance. In the end, you’ll save time and make more money by focusing on what you do best, and not focusing on the nominal day to day activities that bog you down.

Read more about the benefits of a Virtual Assistants.

...and how VAs can save you money!