Ask the Mompreneur:
One of my friends recommended that I look into using a virtual assistant (VA) for my growing small business. She has been using one for years and finds the service to be indispensable. What advice can you offer on getting started?
Every business owner has a different set of needs, many of which can be served by using a virtual resource. VAs are self-employed individuals or teams providing professional administrative, technical, and/or creative (marketing, promotion, social media) assistance to clients from his/her own office.
Here are some tips to help you decide if a VA might be right for you.
Tip #1 – Think big
A virtual assistant can do a lot more than just schedule your appointments. Here is just a partial list of typical services.
· Database Management & Data Processing
· Electronic Newsletters and E-Zines
· Event Planning
· Graphical Presentation
· Internet Marketing, Social Media
· Marketing Support
· Mail, E-mail Services
· Personnel & Human Resources
· Project Management
· Purchasing & Supply Procurement
· Real Estate Assistance
· Secretarial and Telephone Services
· Website Design, Development, Maintenance
· Word Processing
· Writing, Editing & Proofreading
Tip #2 – Consider ROI
An experienced VA can pay for him- or herself many times over by bringing you more paying clients. For instance, s/he can research where your potential clients congregate online and find industry-related groups and organizations you can join. S/he can help you brainstorm questions you can answer there to establish you as an expert in your field, follow industry websites and blogs, and suggest updates and posts you can use to build your visibility online. If you have tips and articles for clients, the VA can glean short, to-the-point segments to post to your social media sites or submit to e-zines and blogs.
Do you put off billing clients? E-mail the VA time notes and s/he can add up your hours, prepare attractive invoices, and send them to your clients. S/he can also save time by setting up an easy, cloud-based time tracking program that integrates with your bookkeeping system.
Keep in mind that a VA has to cover their overhead, so their rates may seem higher than an hourly employee. Just like accountants and building contractors who juggle several clients, VAs’ overhead can be 50%-75%, so their “take home” pay may actually be half to a third of the hourly rate they charge.
Tip #3 – Leverage technology
There are advantages to a helper not taking up time or space in your office or on your computer. You can both be doing productive work and just check in with each other as needed.
Imagine your VA was located on another floor of the same building; you’d probably contact him/her by phone, text, e-mail. You can do the same with a VA a thousand miles away using scanner and fax. Even better, a VA can set you up with online sites you can both access.
With online banking and free document-sharing programs such as Dropbox, Evernote, and Google Apps, you and your VA can view your work simultaneously. They can even check your e-mail and screen your phone calls.
Finally, remember the freelance advantage. You can try out a VA without making the commitment of hiring someone as a full-time employee, so you have everything to gain by trying out virtual resource for your business.
Jennie Wong, Ph.D. is a syndicated business writer, executive coach, and the author of “Ask the Mompreneur: Small Business Advice on Starting and Growing Your Own Company,” available at www.JennieWong.com. Email your entrepreneurship questions to TheJennieWong@gmail.com. Guest bloggers welcome.