The rise of the virtual assistant has provided many with the opportunity to spend their time where it matters most. They take care of the tasks that you don’t have time to do, are unable to do or simply don’t enjoy doing - it's no surprise virtual assistants continue to grow in popularity.
We are here to find out the what, why, how and wow of virtual assistants. We will take a look at;
- What is a virtual assistant?
- Why hire virtual assistants?
- What does a virtual assistant do?
- What does a virtual assistant not do?
- When should I hire a virtual assistant?
- Where can I find a virtual assistant?
- How much does it cost to hire a virtual assistant?
- What are the next steps to hire a virtual assistant?
Let’s get cracking!
What is a virtual assistant?
So, what is a virtual assistant? As the title suggests, a virtual assistant is an assistant who works remotely. Virtual assistants go by many different names, from VAs to freelance executive assistants and many in-between. They are ‘highly-skilled, independent professionals who remotely provide administrative, technical and/or creative business support services.’ Put simply, a virtual assistant provides remote, efficient, and flexible support that helps to free up your time.
Virtual Assistants are highly skilled in administrative and personal support tasks. They often also have a particular area of expertise. This might be industry-specific, e.g. specialising in assisting legal professionals or it might be task-specific, e.g. social media.
Many of the best virtual assistants are entrepreneurs themselves. They know what it takes to run a business and are familiar with the ups and downs of business ownership. This makes them so much more than an assistant; they have the inside knowledge needed to provide your small business with the support it needs.
Why hire a virtual assistant?
The rise of the virtual assistant has given many business owners the opportunity to spend their time where it matters most. Virtual Assistants are especially beneficial to those who don’t have time to manage everything on their own. They can prevent you from getting bogged down in tedious and time-consuming tasks, leaving you to concentrate on what matters.
It’s not just small businesses who can benefit though. Virtual assistants are also used by well-established businesses to supplement their teams or help with specific tasks.
Virtual assistants are usually self-employed. This makes them a flexible and cost-effective support option for any business. As they work remotely there are no geographical limitations. This provides a wider choice from which a business owner can find the perfect fit for their business.
Virtual Assistants can improve your lifestyle and elevate your business. They can maximise efficiency, amplify agility and create synergy. Hiring a virtual assistant can really bring the wow factor to your business.
What can a virtual assistant do?
A virtual assistant is a great powerhouse to have in your arsenal. They are highly versatile and have wide-ranging skill sets. They are always keen to learn new skills and usually have a vast network of contacts. If they do not already know how to do something, they are often eager to learn or can recommend someone to get the job done.
But what can a virtual assistant do? Let’s get down to the nitty-gritty. Virtual assistant services are generally broken down into three categories; lifestyle management, general admin/business support, and specialist support. We have broken these down further with some examples;
A virtual assistant can stop your emails from becoming all-consuming. They can carry out a weekly or monthly detox; setting up rules and filters to keep inbox zero within reach and emails easy to locate. They can help you respond to general enquiries and meeting requests, and follow up with potential clients.
Booking appointments, arranging meetings, blocking out time, a virtual assistant can do it all for you. They can also set up the zoom calls, get the directions and confirm the appointments for the week ahead, ensuring you’re well prepared and your time is not wasted.
From formatting existing documents to creating a new one, a virtual assistant can help. Whether it’s a brochure, letter templates, reports, welcome packs, the list is endless.
Preparing, compiling, updating, maintaining, and checking a virtual assistant can do it all for you. Whether it’s your client list, supplier list, portfolio, or the stack of business cards you haven’t got around to digitalising, your virtual assistant can help.
Client relationship management
If you already have a CRM system, your virtual assistant can help keep this in order and help with onboarding and offboarding clients. If you don’t have any CRM software or you’re not sure if your current solution is right for your business, then your virtual assistant can research and help you to find the perfect fit.
Whether it’s researching some new software, carrying out a competitor analysis, researching leads or looking for the best keywords for SEO, a virtual assistant can do it for you.
File management, including document download and labelling
A virtual assistant can help you to stay organised, ensuring you have quick and easy access to the files you need. Whether they are documents, images, videos or audio files, a virtual assistant can label, download, rename and organise on both your computer and cloud storage.
Customer service support
From following up with potential leads to keeping existing clients happy, a virtual assistant can help with a whole host of customer service tasks. They can respond to general enquiries, follow up with clients after meetings or providing updates to keep everyone in the loop. Having personal, proactive, and tailored support can make all the difference to the satisfaction of your clients.
Chasing payment of invoices
A virtual assistant can help make sure you are paid on time by checking upcoming payments, sending out reminders and chasing outstanding balances.
If you have a busy lifestyle, then a virtual assistant ensures those crucial doctors visits, sports days, and birthdays don’t get forgotten.
An inbox detox can help to get your emails under control. A Virtual assistant can unsubscribe you from all those bothersome mailing lists and will set up rules and filters to make email management a breeze.
Whether it’s a simple MOT or service reminder, searching for the best deal on your car insurance, or making a booking at a garage, a virtual assistant can help to keep your car on the road.
Whether it is managing your own property, a rental property, or moving home, a virtual assistant can take on the tedious tasks. Researching the best deals from suppliers, liaising with tenants or supporting you with a house move, the possibilities are endless.
With a virtual assistant, you’ll never again forget a special occasion, appointment, or renewal date.
Organising cards, gifts and flowers
A virtual assistant can help you find that perfect gift, the one which suits both the recipient and your budget! What’s more, they can help you with that ever-growing Christmas card list, ensuring each recipient gets a personalised handwritten card.
Doctors, dentists, hairdressers, solicitors, the list is endless. Why spend your time stuck on hold. Hand this over to a virtual assistant and be free from that awful hold music!
Whether it’s the regular food shop, topping up the wardrobe, or furnishing your home, a virtual assistant can act as your own personal shopper.
Finding the best handyman, researching the best deals or looking for the perfect holiday destination, a virtual assistant can help to narrow the search so you can save time and pick from a personally curated list.
Whether it’s your favourite restaurant or a special trip to the theatre, a virtual assistant can find the details, make the reservation, and add it to your calendar. Leaving you to sit back and relax.
Itineraries, flights, accommodation, your virtual assistant can do it all, and they can even find you the best deals.
Virtual assistants often have a particular area of expertise, whether that be industry-specific or task-specific.
Ashwood VA for example, offer specialist support for the legal profession, estate agents and photographers. We have plenty of experience in these fields, enabling us to provide these industries with the specialist support they need. We also offer some task-specific specialist support, such as basic audio editing and photo editing. You can find more about our specialist support here.
Other virtual assistants will have different areas of expertise, for example, helping the coaching and training industry or specialist task-specific support such as social media management or bookkeeping.
What can’t a virtual assistant do?
Virtual assistants are absolute powerhouses and can perform a plethora of tasks for small businesses. Still, there are some things a virtual assistant does not do. There are also things a virtual assistant cannot do.
The first is anything that requires a physical presence. As virtual assistants work remotely they cannot personally greet your clients, make you a coffee, or file your paper files. That being said, some virtual assistants do offer on-site services. If you are looking for on-site support, ensure you look for a local virtual assistant that carries out on-site duties. Be sure to check their on-site rates and any extra travel costs.
Virtual assistants rarely offer call answering services. One of the most significant benefits of a virtual assistant is their flexibility, this is only possible because they can have multiple clients. Virtual Assistants often set aside time to work on each client’s tasks making it very difficult for them to be available all day to answer calls. There are many call answering companies out there who would provide a much better fit.
Virtual assistants will not carry out any work that they are not legally allowed to. This will often come down to the specialist services that a virtual assistant can offer. For example, a virtual assistant can provide bookkeeping services, but for most there are strict rules on the specific bookkeeping task they can carry out. However if they offer it as a specialist services they are likely to have met the legal requirements. It is essential to check that a virtual assistant is legally allowed to carry out the tasks you wish to assign to them.
When should I hire a virtual assistant?
It is likely to be time to hire a virtual assistant if you can relate to some of the following;
- You’re spending too much time on admin and not enough time on core business activities, such as the revenue-generating tasks that only you can do.
- You’re missing out on opportunities because you simply don’t have the time or resources.
- You know you need help, but you’re not yet ready for a full-time employee.
- You want to grow your business, but you don’t have the time to think strategically, and you don’t have all the resources you need to implement your strategy.
- You want to strengthen weak areas in your business.
- You want to increase productivity in your business.
- You have very little work/life balance.
- You’re feeling burnt out.
- You no longer enjoy running your business because you’re spending too much time on tasks you do not enjoy.
Where can I find a virtual assistant?
If you are looking to hire a virtual assistant in the UK, there are a couple of places you can look.
Firstly, check out the Society of Virtual Assistants Approved VAs. To be an approved virtual assistant, members must meet specific standards. This makes it a great place to find a high-quality virtual assistant.
You can also ask other small business owners to see if they have any recommendations.
Lastly, a shameless plug for our services - why not check out the services we offer and see if we would be a good fit for your business.
How much does it cost to hire a virtual assistant?
The average cost to hire a virtual assistant in the UK is £25.00 - £30.00 per hour. It is often the case that you get what you pay for.
You can hire virtual assistants for very little if you use offshore support. But beware of issues such as language barriers, insurance and data protection.
You can expect costs to be at the higher end of the spectrum if you’re looking for a virtual assistant with specialist skills or knowledge. Companies with several virtual assistants also tend to charge higher prices.
If you find a virtual assistant offering a low price be sure to carry out your due diligence. Check that they are fully insured, and ICO registered. Also, check that they have the necessary documentation in place, such as contracts, disaster recovery plans etc.
It is often worth checking whether your virtual assistant offers any discounts. If you buy retained hours you can sometimes get a discount on their standard hourly fee. They may also offer referral discounts.
The important thing to remember is that you do not need to worry about the costs associated with recruitment and payroll. Virtual assistants are self-employed so you do not need to pay National Insurance, Employers’ liability insurance, holiday pay, sick pay and other benefits. Nor will you need to pay for standard office equipment, licenses for common software or office space. This makes virtual assistants a very cost-effective and efficient solution.
If you’re looking to hire a virtual assistant, why not contact us and see how we can support you.
If you would like to find out more about virtual assistants, take a look at the benefits of hiring a virtual assistant.