Do You Need the Help of a Virtual Assistant?

Running a business, whether large, small or in your home, is full of challenges. Getting the day-to-day tasks completed, e-mail, faxes and telephones answered, bills and statements sent out, reports run, schedule updated, travel arrangements made, marketing pieces and website updated, as well as a plethora of other tasks, can be downright daunting.

In swoops the "Virtual Assistant" to handle these and many other tasks for you and help your company's bottom line. In case you're still working out of a cave (as you may be if you're still doing it all yourself), a Virtual Assistant, who has been touted as one of the must-haves of the modern entrepreneurial arsenal of time and money-saving tricks, is a highly skilled independent contractor who handle their client's administrative (and sometimes personal) needs in a large variety of ways.

Because Virtual Assistants (VAs) are business owners themselves, they have a vested interest in your company's success -- your success leads to their success. They really aim to please because their business depends on it. And who better to understand the trials and tribulations than another business owner? Also, most VAs came from the corporate world and were executive or administrative assistants (secretaries), customer service managers or representatives, paralegals, project managers or coordinators, database administrators, or bookkeepers.

Here are just some of the services a Virtual Assistant can provide:

Typing / Word Processing,
Database Management and Entry,
Proofreading and Copy Editing,
Accounts Payable and Receivable,
Calendaring / Scheduling / Reminder Services,
Travel Arrangements,
Customer Service (including answering forwarded phones, making outgoing calls and answering e-mails),
Presentations,
Event Planning,
Research,
Web Services,
Ordering Supplies and Equipment,
Project Coordination / Management,
Marketing Projects,
Incoming and Outgoing Mail,
Expense Reports,
Reporting.

You have a lot of work you could delegate to a Virtual Assistant, but you're still not convinced one would be right for your business. According to Hackett Group, a Hudson, Ohio consultancy, "outsourcing, in general, can cost 50% less than hiring a full-time employee." Because your VA is an entrepreneur and not an employee, you don't have the extra expense of paying additional taxes, providing insurance, purchasing office supplies and equipment, updating software, sick, vacation and personal time, office space to provide, and you only pay for the time the VA actually works (you're not paying for coffee breaks, downtime, etc.).

Hiring a temporary can come with a whole host of problems including their lack of skills, the need to provide equipment, supplies, and office space, as well as going through several temps (or agencies) to find one that can adequately provide the skills you need! Also keep in mind that temporary services normally take about 1/2 of the monies you pay them -- when the temp only receives $7 - $11 an hour, you really can't expect a high quality person. If you still think it's best to do it yourself, you'll find that your time is much more profitably spent on revenue-generating activities. Outsourcing to a Virtual Assistant adds to up increased profits for your business.

Work is transmitted via e-mail, fax, mail, overnight service, etc. -- they will coordinate with you to provide the work to you in the most timely and inexpensive manner possible. You can also keep in touch via telephone, e-mail and instant messaging.

Costs of a Virtual Assistant run from $15 - $50 per hour (depending on the scope of the work and their skill level) and some work by the project or on a monthly retainer. I know of a few VAs that are willing to barter for the right products and/or service. Always read any potential Virtual Assistant's website and take a look at their testimonials, client list, etc. If you notice grammatical and spelling errors anywhere on their site or newsletters, you can be assured that your work will come back with spelling and grammatical errors. A highly skilled VA will be very detail oriented and will not put out work with these errors.

I recommend contacting a few VAs via e-mail, then by telephone to see if the rapport is there, which is very important for anyone you work with. The one you are most comfortable with that charges a reasonable cost is the one to try first. You may want to keep the contact information of your second pick where you can easily find it in case your first pick is unavailable for any reason. Then give them a small project and work up from there.

Soon you will find that a dependable, accomplished VA will become your indispensable partner for years to come.

(c) 2005 Nita Helping Hand? - All rights reserved

You are free to use this material in whole or in part as long as you include the following:

About the author: Nita Ammon is a professional proofreader, copy-editor and the President of Nita Helping Hand? Please visit Nita's website for additional information about proofreading, copy-editing and other administrative needs available at http://www.NitaHelpingHand.com or contact her at [email protected]. Nita is your 'Partner In Perception'.

In The News:

Small businesses get boost at Bentonville market event  Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

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