Evidently I’ve been living under a rock. Recently, I stumbled across the small business solution that turned my overwhelming to-do list into something manageable. It’s called Virtual Assistance, and it has freed me from the burden of what would otherwise be time-consuming busywork. Simply put, a Virtual Assistant is an off-site employee who provides web or administrative support services, conducting nearly all transactions electronically.
Not only was I surprised to discover this neat lifesaver, I was even more amazed to find that it has it’s own association: The International Virtual Assistants Association (www.ivaa.org). The IVAA website is a great place to find what will most certainly be an indispensable resource for you: Your own Virtual Assistant. Below are the top seven reasons to hire a VA:
1. They are all business. Your Virtual Assistant will support your needs, not the other way around. Since they bill their hours for the work they accomplish – some in increments as small as five minutes – you are not paying for personal phone calls, late arrivals, childcare crises, or sick time. If you detest the forced socialization of a corporate workplace, or listening to the humdrum minutiae of your co-worker’s life story, a virtual staff solves that problem.
2. You’re in control. Your working relationship is based upon a contractual agreement whereby you state in no uncertain terms what you expect. They either do it or they don’t. If you want a web designer who uses Dreamweaver instead of hand-coding HTML, then you specify that. Or, you can entirely defer to your Virtual Assistant’s expertise and focus your energy elsewhere.
3. Professional rapport. Your Virtual Assistant is in the entrepreneurial boat, too. They work at home, market their services, prospect for clients, and provide a service just like you do. It’s a great way to add to your network base, as they may have found ways to solve problems you never even thought of. Often they have their own network of resources that they utilize for printing, document processing and promotion. Tapping into their resources doubles your own.
4. Cost savings. You can hire a VA from anywhere on Earth. It’s as competitive an industry as any other, and you can expect a wide range of fees for various services offered. If you like the fees for web design, but think a particular service is too expensive for document editing or proofreading, you can hire multiple VA’s to do different tasks to keep your own costs low. You are not under any obligation whatsoever, except, of course, to pay your bill.
5. Pride in their work. If you are hiring a VA for tasks such as web design, you can easily preview their work. Often the VA service will place testimonials on their site or examples of web pages they have designed. Examine their portfolio pages to determine the depth of their skills and experience.
6. Virtual freedom. No on-site employees means no liability, no worker’s comp insurance, and no payroll taxes to calculate. Everyone is an independent contractor. You can utilize a virtual assistant for either ongoing work or on a per-project basis.
7. No strangers in the house. If you have a home office, hiring employees to work on-site could be intrusive. If you have children at home, or a spouse who works odd hours, or you just don’t care to open up your private space to others, a virtual assistant is ideal. Most likely, your VA will never darken your doorstep.
When you hire your Virtual Assistant, be sure to ask them to furnish a detailed list of the types of services for which you will be billed. Some VA’s will charge to accept your phone calls, read your email instructions, or the time it takes to download a file. There should be no surprises if you have good communication with your VA. Remember, you cannot see your potential VA to evaluate their credibility, nor they you. Consider several exploratory conversations prior to signing on the dotted line. This will ensure that you and your Virtual Assistant will have a productive partnership.
Copyright 2005 by Laura Gillson. All rights reserved.
Laura Gillson is a speaker, author and educator specializing in disability awareness, advocacy, accessibility and assistive technology. For corporate, community or caregiver training, visit Eloquent Insights at http://www.eloquentinsights.com . If you need help with in-home care, you’ll find it at In-Home Insights at http://www.inhomeinsights.com . Finally, you’ll discover a site for sore eyes at Accessible Insights at http://www.accessibleinsights.com . The author's email address is email@example.com .