By Sean Drayton
There’s no doubt that everyone will have at some stage within the last couple of years heard of the term “virtual assistant” being thrown around in conversations, especially in the business world. Let us start with what a virtual assistant (VA) is for those few who may not already know. A virtual assistant is an individual who will generally work from their home behind their laptop providing assistance on a professional level to remote clients based somewhere else in the world.
Some things to take note of about virtual assistants and their working environment and roles:
- If a VA isn’t working out of their residence, or from another remote location of their choice, then they are not considered a virtual assistant. Instead, it is taken into consideration to be a short-lived contract or a form of part time or full time employment. Among the requirements for being a virtual assistant is having the freedom to work where you want.
- Another important aspect of classing a VA is the distinction that is made in the job summary. Most virtual assistants will dislike the suggestion of being called a freelance employee. Technically, a freelance employee is one who only does the job for added revenue. Whereas an online VA is not viewed as a short term freelance type of role, because generally a VA and employer will be looking to create a sustainable long term working relationship.
The online digital world is dramatically changing with an ever growing online assistance work force, which can operate 24/7, so even while you are asleep your new VA work force could continue to operate your business. It is highly recommended to mention to businesses that you work with that your operations also include VAs, because some businesses have restrictions around whether they are able to use or indirectly use offshore staff.
Beyond the advantages of 24/7 operational support hours, there is also the incredible cost savings. The majority of VAs these days are based out of third-world countries where their cost of living is far lower than first-world countries. For as little $3 an hour, you are able to employ a quality degree accredited VA for your business.
Moving along to the main subject of this article, here are five things you should consider in deciding whether to employ a virtual assistant:
- Does the VA answer their emails, voicemails and various other correspondences in a timely and expert manner? It is very important that if this person were to help you, then they must operate in such a manner that your clients / customers feel comfortable with their service delivery abilities.
- How good are they at task management? Juggling tasks nowadays is crucial. If an individual cannot complete a reasonable number of tasks within with in a set time frame then you may want to consider an alternative VA for the job. This does not necessarily mean that your VA needs to have multitasking abilities, it merely means that in the current busy working environments we work in today, its paramount that action is taken to deliver to the expectations of the market place.
- How many other clients do they work for? Many VAs will hold down other jobs which may be day jobs or simply other VA part time jobs, which will affect the availability time of your VA. An additional issue which needs to be kept in mind is the problems that VAs run into in the third world locations in which they live in ie: Power Outages, Internet Connectivity issues, etc. It is therefore not unusual for an employer to be flexible with their assistant’s operating times. Our best recommendation to get around this issue is to just split the job function between two or more VAs, if you have the capital to do so that is.
- How well do they perform an initial assignment? We highly recommend that you create an initial test activity for the VA to perform that will display their commitment to delivering on time and to expectations. Ensure your VAs deliver the Test properly as well as to your satisfaction prior to offering them employment Obviously provide some sort of financial compensation them for the time they spent on the test tasks, as that would be reasonably fair. We recommend that you set up several of these types of tests for several VAs, so that you can identify who performs the best.
- What do their references say about them? Can the VA offer you a checklist of individuals which you can call who will inform you concerning working with her or him? Obtaining feedback from a previous manager, or employer will certainly give you the confidence to proceed with your choice of VA.
You will find that a lot of virtual assistants will work hard on building a good relationship with you and your business, because they will generally become very loyal and wish to work in your business as if it were their own. Always remember that you are working with very intelligent people who are human beings just like you and me, so they will often carry similar if not the same personal and work ethics as we do.
Sean Drayton is a Perth SEO Expert and the Founder and Managing Director of Top SEO Pages (http://topseopages.com.au). Sean has an extensive career in the IT industry spanning over 20 years and numerous qualifications to accompany that experience. Combining his IT experience along with his entrepreneurial business services, his company is well positioned to help businesses grow their online presence.