So you’re considering working with a Virtual Assistant?  Below are some questions I frequently encounter about my practice and about Virtual Assistance in general.

What is a Virtual Assistant?
A Virtual Assistant (VA) is an independent business owner who provides professional administrative support and project management to clients in long-term collaborative relationships.  A VA is a person who has your back regardless of what you’re trying to achieve.  In a corporate setting, executives may have the support of an Executive Assistant or Project Manager.  You, as a business owner, can have that same experienced support so that you can run your business successfully.

Your Virtual Assistant provides the support you need whether you are in or out of the office.  Even though not located physically in your office, a VA uses technology to be available to you and provide you whatever you may need.  A Virtual Assistant gets to know you and your business so that you can free up your time and energy to focus on the things that only YOU can do in your business (such as product development and long-term strategy) while they take care of other items.

How do Virtual Assistants work offsite?
A VA usually communicates with you, your partners, vendors and clients by phone, e-mail and other online collaboration tools. With modern technology at work in today’s business environment, VAs provide quality office support without sitting in your office. If you’re unsure how this would work for you, please contact me.

What is the difference between a Virtual Assistant and a secretarial service?
A secretarial service typically caters to more basic services such as typing, document formatting and resumes.  You need to be able to provide a secretarial service with very specific instructions and defined projects.  A Virtual Assistant, on the other hand, gets to know you and your business on a deeper level and is interested a long term partnership, providing a higher level of individual attention and support.   A VA’s goal is to become your “right hand”; to understand where you are and where you want to be and will proactively seek ways to help you achieve your goals.

I’ve seen ads for VAs in places like India and China and they only charge a few dollars a month for what appear to be full time VA services.  I’ve also seen VAs that offer inexpensive monthly bundles of services.  Why wouldn’t I hire one of these VAs for my business?
You absolutely can hire someone under this business model if it suits the needs of your business and you’re strictly looking for inexpensive completion of taskwork.  However, most service providers who work under this outsourced business model are employees who are paid minimum wage to perform tasks in a “call center” environment.  With this type of setup, it’s impossible for your assistant to take the time to get to know you and your business and to do a truly phenomenal job.  On the other hand, a professional Virtual Assistant is a business owner who has decided to commit to his/her profession for the long haul.  He/she has a solid business plan and a solid set of standards that they have formed to ensure longevity in their businesses.  If you are looking for someone to be actively involved in managing the day to day aspect of your business and someone you can rely on to be proactive about anticipating your needs for the long haul, you need a professionally trained Virtual Assistant.

I’ve had opportunities to work with outsourced VAs and while they tend to be quite studious and timely in their work habits it was difficult to get the high quality of work that I would expect from an experienced assistant.  I often received final documents that were riddled with typos and grammatical errors and there was a significant communication barrier.

Is partnering with a Virtual Assistant more effective than hiring an employee?
This depends on you.  If you’re looking for someone to work onsite at your office or need full time help, there’s a chance that hiring a Virtual Assistant might not work for you.  What I usually find when people ask this question is that they’re not necessarily asking about effectiveness as much as asking about cost.  So I’ll address both cost and effectiveness here as I believe they are different topics.  Regarding cost, many websites promoting virtual assistance will explain how the real cost of an employee is up to 2 ½ times their salary (due to hidden expenses such as furniture, equipment, recruiting, tax, workers comp, benefits, training, etc.) and that, therefore, hiring a Virtual Assistant is cheaper.  However, Virtual Assistants build these types of items in to their hourly fee and you will therefore pay a higher up front hourly fee to a Virtual Assistant than you would an employee.  Therefore, a Virtual Assistant should never be seen as the least expensive option for your administrative needs.  That being said, there are several reasons why hiring a VA is more effective than hiring an employee:

  • Reason #1: Business partnership.  The difference between a VA and an employee is partnership.  With a Virtual Assistant, you are getting a partner who has a vested interest in helping you succeed.
  • Reason #2: High level skillset on a part time budget.  Many small business owners do not need an assistant or a project manager for 40 hours per week but find it difficult attracting part time staff with the high level of experience that is necessary to accomplish assigned tasks efficiently.  It is often easy to find someone to do “task work” such as stamping envelopes or filing, but what they really want is someone who has a high level of experience, can “think out of the box”, and has an abundance of resources and knowledge at their disposal. Virtual Assistants fill that need.
  • Reason #3: Convenience. You pay one set fee each month in exchange for a certain number of hours.  No payroll, workers comp. issues, insurance requirements or equipment to purchase. It’s that easy! (and since your VA is offsite, you also get the option of working in your pjs…)

Unless you need someone to work onsite or need full time help, hiring a VA is convenient, increases your profits and enables you to work with a highly trained professional assistant.

Why shouldn’t I just do the administrative work myself?
It’s just not a good use of your time!  Successful business owners let others handle the details of their business while they concentrate on the execution that will allow their business to grow.  Do you often feel so overwhelmed with the day to day administrative aspect of your business that you can’t seem to find the time to concentrate on the parts of the business that you truly enjoy or the parts that actually contribute to your bottom line?  Do you have several projects in various stages of completion because you’ve been too busy to see the projects through to completion?

My goal is to take care of these distractions.  All this time spent on administration translates to “lost opportunity costs” of time and resources that could be better spent on your core competencies.  Your time is freed up to focus on the parts of your business that you enjoy and that actually make you money, rather than all the other things that get in the way. You will also gain more time for other things that may be important to you such as work/life balance and other interests.  Moreover, you’ll have someone else who is just as enthusiastic as you are about your business and we’ll get more accomplished together than you would alone!

How will I know if hiring a Virtual Assistant is right for me?
Call me!  Let’s chat about everything you want to accomplish. Generally, if you run a busy practice and need a few hours each week of experienced administrative support, you will reap tremendous benefits from utilizing the services of a Virtual Assistant. If you need more than 20 hours a week of administrative support or if you require your assistant to be present in your office, then you probably need to hire an employee.  In order to gain the most value from a relationship with a VA, you must:

  • Be looking for someone who can provide a few hours of administrative support a month
  • Want a long term relationship
  • Be able to respect a VA as an equal business partner
  • Be open to new ideas and approaches
  • Be comfortable working virtually
  • Be comfortable delegating
  • Be organized and have definite goals or have the ability to get to that place with help
  • Be able to meet deadlines without a last minute rush
  • Understand that your VA works for several different people and prioritizes work accordingly
  • Communicate what you want and need effectively by phone and e-mail
  • Feel comfortable and compatible with the VA you choose

Speaking of compatibility, I prefer to work with a client who:

  • Truly understands the value that virtual assistance can bring to his/her business
  • Understands that a VA cannot do everything, and is OK with using other team members for certain tasks
  • Knows how to use a computer and is relatively PC savvy
  • Is easy going and flexible
  • Is honest and interested in others’ wellbeing
  • Can easily afford my services
  • Is already established and successful in business
  • Is not reactive
  • In on retainer for at least 15 hours per month
  • Is fun, interesting and energetic
  • Knows what they want and how to go after it
  • Has good work/life balance and enjoys life

What types of services do you provide?
My strength lies in managing the day to day projects of your business (and personal items when needed too) so that you can focus on growing your practice.  For a detailed description on what services I provide, go here.

Why choose an AssistU Virtual Assistant?
Two words – Experience and dedication.  Unfortunately, a handful of so-called VA organizations have sprung up on the internet and in exchange for a small fee and completion of a basic questionnaire, will certify a VA.  On the other hand, AssistU graduates have paid a significant training fee to participate in a comprehensive Virtual Training Program and only VAs who are actively working in the VA industry may continue as paid members. Additionally, AssistU Virtual Assistants have the ability to take advantage of the continuing education, continuous VA community support and networking that the organization provides. When you hire an AssistU VA, you can be assured that you are getting a professional who is experienced and dedicated to the industry.  I graduated from the AssistU Virtual Training Program in June 2003 and am very active in the VA community.

Additionally, many business owners decide that they want to be a Virtual Assistant, when in fact, they are not VAs at all; they’re bookkeepers, marketing consultants, organizing consultants, etc.  When you opt to work with an AssistU VA, you know that you’re truly getting an administrative professional.

How can I be comfortable working with a VA I have never met?
You need to be sure that you feel comfortable with your prospective VA during and after a phone interview so be sure to schedule an appropriate amount of undistracted time for the meeting.  Before you get on the call, make a list of questions and during the call, ask any questions your feel you need to in order to be comfortable.  In turn, let your VA ask questions about you and your business.  This two-way interview process will ensure that both you and your VA have sufficient information in order for you both to feel comfortable working together.

Contact me and we’ll schedule some time to talk about your needs.  Before our first phone call, I’ll ask you to do a bit of homework so that our call can be productive.  I’ll send you a questionnaire and ask questions about your business, your work style and goals so that I can get a glimpse of the big picture and how I can help you with your short term goals, your long term goals and everything in between.

What are your office hours?
I work at the times when I can be the most productive, which means that part of my day is spent working during conventional business hours, yet often I’ll be at my desk long after the corporate world has closed office for the day. That being said, I’m usually at my desk all day Mon-Thur and always get the job done when promised. If you have special needs regarding availability, let me know.

What is the turnaround time on assignments?
Most VAs have several retainer clients that they work for each month and are adept at juggling multiple priorities.  If you decide to partner with me, you’ll be asked about the deadlines you have for various projects and tasks.  This way, I can prioritize and projects will be ready on time.  If for any reason I’m unable to do something within the timeframe that you need, I’ll let you know up front so that other arrangements can be made.

Do you only work with clients in your immediate geographical area?
No.  Since I work from my own office, I can service clients from around the globe.  I currently have clients in PST, MST and EST time zones in the US and Canada.  However, I recommend that you evaluate the way you personally work on a daily basis.  If you need to have access to a VA during your business hours, it would be a good idea to have a VA in your time zone.  However, if you do not need to have immediate contact with a VA during specific times or are OK with having an overlap of business hours, a VA in the same time zone is not necessary.

How much do your services cost?
I accept clients on retainer at a rate of $65 per hour with a minimum of 15 hours per month.  I have an interview process so that we can both determine if we’re a good fit.  Please contact me for more details.  In the meantime, it may be helpful for you to:  1.    List all the things that immediately come to mind that you’d like to delegate to a VA.  2.    Keep a pen and paper handy for a week and jot down additional items that are taking you away from what you prefer to do.

We can then discuss your needs and determine the amount of your hours you will need each month.

If a question you have wasn’t covered here, I would welcome the opportunity to have a casual conversation with you about how a VA could really help support and grow your business. Please feel free to call me at 678-615-7529 or e-mail me at gayle@buvirtualoffice.com.