Small Business Tips: Why Use a VA?

Guest Post: Tamara Baranova

If you are in the exciting position of running your own small business you probably wish you had more than 24 hours in a day to do all the work that comes with it. Being a small business owner requires mucking in and turning your hand to many tasks that might not be your forte. When you find yourself spending more time on peripheral tasks rather than business-driving tasks, this can become a problem. A simple solution to this problem is starting to work with a Virtual Assistant (VA).

What is a Virtual Assistant?

A “virtual” assistant is so-called, because they are located at separate premises, and communicate with you using email, phone and online instant messaging. VAs are hired as contractors either to work on a specific project (event organisation) or a set amount of hours to complete ongoing tasks (diary management). Most clients usually retain good virtual assistants for months and years.
Your virtual assistant can complete tasks similar to any administrator, secretary, PA would do in an office environment. This can cover any aspects of business administration from phone calls handling, book-keeping, data entry, scanning to email and diary management and writing reports. Some VAs have specialist skills in marketing, IT, web design or publishing. Some VAs specialise in working with certain business sectors like coaches, speakers, associations or IT consultants.
Many virtual assistants work in teams to cover for each other and serve many clients worldwide. Around the world today, there are an estimated 35,000 VAs, most of them women working in the comfort of their home to help people in business achieve their desired goals.

Where do you find a VA?

It’s important to find the right VA for the role you are looking to fill. If you are looking for a more general support with a variety of business tasks look for someone who’s an expert in your niche market. If you need to outsource a specific project – look for someone with specialist skills and a solid track record.
Remember, that the actual location of your VA has no relevance to the quality of work or adhering to deadlines. However the principle “you get what you pay for” would stand true in many cases so be careful before using a VA who sounds unbelievably cheap. You can look for VAs on Twitter (Twellow), in online directories like UK Association for Virtual Assistants, Society of Virtual Assistants, Alliance of UK Virtual Assistance, VA Support Group.

How does a VA work?

A good VA will have an initial consultation with you to identify your business goals, your requirements and the level of support you require. It may be that the VA will actually prefer to refer you to someone else who, in his/her opinion, would be better suited to assist you.
After the consultation you will receive a proposal detailing the requirements, fees and main T&Cs. Once you sign the contract the VA will establish online system for sharing documents, managing your diary and email, project management, time tracking, reporting. Most of the communication will be done via email, IM (Google talk, Skype, MSN), sms or phone.

Why should you use a VA?

Many people engaged in offline and online businesses have recognised the great benefits of having a virtual assistant.
1. Expert knowledge on hand – when working with a VA you gain a real specialist on your team who can provide advice and guidance to your business. Virtual assistants invest in their own professional development so as a client you will always be using the best technologies and systems available at the time.
2. Cost effectiveness – you don’t have to pay for the overhead associated with hiring an employee. You don’t need to worry about NIC, PAYEE costs, office space and equipment, training or managing someone all the time. VAs only work for you when you need them so you don’t have to pay for idle time or holidays.
3. Convenience – VAs can work with you 24/7, regardless of your time zones or state holidays. You don’t need to keep on monitoring them on a daily basis. A good VA will focus on your business goals therefore you will see some positive results in your business very quickly.
4. Business efficiency – a good VA will be focused on your business goals and is a fast worker.
5. Continuity – unlike some employees who could join your company, receive all the training and work experience and then leave to work for your competitor, your VA is here to stay for as long as his/her business is up and running (provided there are no payment or other issues between you). The longer you keep on using the same VA – the more work you will feel confident to outsource and the more impact of the previous four benefits you will see in your business.

What sort of tasks can I give to a VA to do?

  • General administration: call answering, scanning, data entry, business cards processing, receipts processing, sourcing the right suppliers for your business, printing & posting letters of your behalf.
  • PA services: email and diary management, travel arrangements, typing, transcription, document formatting, spreadsheet creation, presentations design and formatting, expense claims, mailshots, research.
  • Financial: book-keeping, invoicing, credit control, VAT.
  • Events and conference organisation.
  • Marketing: copywriting, graphics design, desktop publishing, lead verification, scheduling appointments, PR.
  • Web support: creation and maintenance of your website, social media profiles creation and optimisation, online networking, blog maintenance, creation and sending of e-newsletters.
  • Design: graphics, logo, templates, website, artwork.
    Customer service, handling email and phone enquiries, managing an online ordering system or a shopping cart, telesales.
    And many more!

So if managing your business is becoming stressful to you, consider getting a VA to do the minor tasks or even just the tasks you don’t like to do. This way, you can focus on what you love to do and get on with running your business.

Tamara Baranova is a managing partner in TJConsulting Virtual Assistance, specialising in executive PA support for IT professionals and Internet entrepreneurs: social media coaches, Google PPC professionals, IT and SEO consultants. TJConsulting also offer extensive social media maintenance services for profiles, blogs and e-newsletters including WordPress template customisation and newsletter design services.

About the author

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Nichola Stott

Nichola is Founder and Director of theMediaFlow; with over 10 years experience in online marketing, over six of which in search. Nichola learned all about search at Yahoo! as head of UK search partners.

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