GUEST BLOG: What can small businesses gain from using a Virtual Assistant?
This week we have a guest blog from Sophie, a Freelance PA / Virtual Assistant about how VA’s can help us small businesses.
What is a Virtual Assistant?
A Virtual Assistant is typically someone who carries out admin and business support tasks on behalf of another business owner. Most of us work from home, with our own equipment, managing our own workload. Most VAs have experience of working in an office, so we understand the requirements of a business; trust, professionalism, and reliability.
The name Virtual Assistant is still quite unknown. I don’t particularly like it to be honest, to me it sounds like a robotic support service provided by someone you don’t know or have never met. For this reason I have branded myself as a Freelance PA. I’m a Personal Assistant working on a freelance basis. This means that my clients hire me on a casual contract for a set number of hours and they only pay me for the hours that I work.
What can a Virtual Assistant do?
What can’t we do, actually…? A VA can be hired for a WHOLE RANGE of support services. To give you an idea, here’s a list of some of the tasks that I carry out on behalf of my clients on a daily/weekly/monthly basis:
- Income and expenditure reconciliation
- Diary management
- Inbox management
- Project coordination
- HR support
- Cloud based filing
- CRM implementation and maintenance
- Social media content curation
Some clients come to me in a mess with absolutely no idea of what they need. Others know exactly what they want and are ready with a set of instructions. I’ve helped people at all kinds of stages of their business, the important thing is to recognise when you need help and to not be afraid to ask for it.
You might want a VA who specialises in social media, to curate your content and schedule it for you. Maybe you need some help with marketing or even a second pair of eyes to proofread your blog posts. Whatever support you think you might need, there will be a VA ready to help you lighten the load.
Who do we work with?
So, we look to support any small business owner/freelancer or sole trader who recognises that they need some support but don’t want to take on an employee. This could be for a whole host of reasons but generally it’s because a) they can’t afford to, b) they don’t want to commit or c) they don’t have enough work for them to do.
Taking on an employee is a big step. Recruitment costs can be high and you have to commit time to the process. There are employment law guidelines to follow and you need to know your way around the Disability Discrimination Act. Then you need to think about employer’s liability insurance, pension, IT equipment, holiday entitlement…need I continue?
With a VA there is none of that hassle.
How do we do it?
We work on a virtual basis which means we can do everything online. If you know that you’d prefer a VA who you could meet up with once a week/month then make sure you hire someone who is local.
We use a variety of online sharing tools like Dropbox, WeTransfer and Google Drive. We will set up sharing access to your CRM, email, financial and project management systems. Most of us use time tracking software and will send a report at the end of the month with our invoice so you can see exactly what’s been done, how long it took and how much you owe.
Everything we do, we do to make your life easier. A good VA will say to you “you know that thing you asked me to do? Well I’ve worked out a much quicker way of doing it that will save me time and you money.”
We can keep in touch on the phone, over Skype calls, via a project management system; however you prefer.
We want you to become more productive
Let’s not beat around the bush, we’re all here to make money, right? If we can take the weight off you, that then enables you to focus more on your business which means you’re going to earn more money.
The more productive you become, the more money you will earn and the more likely you’ll be to need your VA.
Of course, we love what we do. Seeing businesses thrive as a result of our support is AMAZING. It’s in our best interests that your business is successful, it’s that simple.
You’ll be held accountable
A good VA will keep you on your toes. She/he will know what you’re working on, what your deadlines are, how much money you’ve got coming in and how much you’ve got going out. They will also set up robust office management systems for you and expect you to use them.
If I notice during a Skype that a client’s desk is littered with post it notes and scraps of paper, I’m going to ask her what they’re doing there (in the nicest possible way!). If you spend money on me to create these super organised online systems, then I’m going to make sure you use them.
Having a VA makes you look really professional
You know you’re a VA and your client knows you’re a VA, but you don’t have to advertise this fact.
Imagine if you were pitching for a big piece of work or a tender and you needed to set up a meeting. Imagine if you could say to the big company “my PA will be in touch later today to provide you with some dates”. How good would that make you feel?
What about a company, who you hated working with, who is a week late paying your invoice and ignores your calls? You can bet your bottom dollar that they’ll be quick to make payment when your ‘Finance Manager’ gets in touch to remind them of your late payment charges…
You will 100% save money
Yes, we expect to be paid for our services, but I can pretty much guarantee that by taking on a VA, you will save money. Of course, this is only if you use the time that your VA saves you to work on your business. It might mean that you’ve got more time to network, more time to spend on your marketing strategy or simply more time to get in touch with people in your industry.
So many of my clients have won big projects recently because they had to time to put themselves in front of the right people.
You have to look at taking on a VA as an investment in your business.
It gets done
Let’s face it, everyone is happier when their to-do list isn’t scribbled on a piece of never ending loo roll. A good Virtual Assistant will have the organisational skills to manage their way through the most chaotic of situations. Your VA will hold you accountable, she/he will give you a nudge before a task becomes overdue and may well give you a telling off, if it becomes clear you’re pushing it to the bottom of your list!
Remember, our primary aim is to support you to succeed. If your business is not successful, then we’re out of a job (and we have shopping habits to feed).
Do you need a VA?
If you’re feeling stressed about your to-do list, if you keep putting something off because you don’t know where to begin, if you know that you could focus properly if you had a bit of support; then you’ve already waited too long.
There are people who can help change your life and now that you know that we exist, start to have a think about how we could help you and your business.