Virtual Assistants: What are They?
Yep, it’s a real job title...
I have to be honest. I didn't even know Virtual Assistants were a real thing until 2019 when I was frantically trying to figure out how to make a living as a stay-at-home mommy. After a significant amount of time doing my “googles,” I realized people can make a decent amount of money doing this! I compiled a list of questions I needed answers to for my reference, and thought it may be helpful to others as well. This new career was definitely a good fit for what I was looking for personally, while also checking off the boxes required for me professionally. It was actually a no brainer -- I get to stay home with my babies AND make a difference in the bottom line? COUNT ME IN!
Things to consider before hiring a VA?
A Virtual Assistant is an administrative Swiss Army knife for small business owners and entrepreneurs. They are self-employed professionals who provide administrative, technical and creative support to their clients remotely. Administrative support may include calendar management, client correspondence, data entry, travel coordination and research. Technical support may include general website updates and maintenance, software and system implementation and maintenance. Creative support may include social media management, event planning and coordination, or producing newsletters and email campaigns.
Myth: Virtual Assistants have basically the same job as in-office assistants.
Reality: Although Virtual Assistants (VAs) can provide administrative support in various areas of the business, they are not the same as a full time IN office executive assistant. What does that mean? When you are working 40 hours a week side-by-side with C-level executives it is far easier to learn nuances and be able to take initiative.
Example 1: Kim Taylor, director of operations has weekly team meetings every Monday and often checks emails prior to that meeting. Her executive assistant sits right outside her office and will go knock on the door with the printed meeting agenda 10 minutes prior to the meeting so Kim is not late.
Myth: Virtual assistants are experienced administrative professionals and should be able to hit the ground running.
Reality: This is both true and false. During the interview process you should be able to have a good gauge on the skill level and experience of the VA you decided to hire. Let's talk about what is true -- MOST administrative professionals should be experts in email etiquette, customer service, data entry, task management, meeting minute transcription and meeting coordination. These skills translate regardless of the industry/specialty.
Example 2: Susie Moore, VA, is responsible for responding to general inquiries. She is fully confident in drafting the majority of the email, but will need access to supporting documentation, templates and/or software to obtain company information requested in the email request.
Here’s where it gets tricky… Most times VAs are working with small business owners and entrepreneurs. This usually means there is no formal HR onboarding process. Why does that matter? Typically formal new hire orientation includes a detailed overview of the company, a new hire manual and a list of resources and tools necessary to be successful in your new role. If you are considering hiring a VA or outsourcing any job functions, take the time to create templates, standard operating procedures and resources that will help your team be successful. This will also help ease the transition, and you will be less bombarded with questions.
Hiring is the easy part. The challenge is everything leading up to outsourcing!
Identifying what you need help with
Figuring out what you would be comfortable delegating
Determining a comfortable budget
Having systems and processes in place to successfully manage a team
Start slow. Look at your schedule and identify what you want to get off your plate. A good start would be non-client-facing tasks -- data entry, creating social media graphics, research. These are also tasks that require minimal guidance. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has a great article on Virtual Assistants and what they can do.
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