What Are Virtual Assistants?

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Managing a team or a business is hard enough with everything you have to do. On days where you’re fully loaded, there doesn’t seem to be enough hours in the day for everything to be done. Having an assistant help you take on your daily workload is necessary once you set your sights on growth. But the cost of executive assistants or any type of assistant for this matter might not warrant their use, especially for start-ups or small companies. Virtual assistants are the solution to this problem and have been used by businesses around the world for quite some time now.

What is a Virtual Assistant?

A virtual assistant is a remote professional that provides various support services to a business. The three key characteristics of a virtual assistant that makes them stand out from in-office assistants would be their remote nature, their price points, and the types of professionals that can be hired. Being remote, VAs bring the benefit of not taking up space in the office. Without the extra costs of materials such as a desk, chairs, a computer, and all the peripherals needed to work, part of the financial load is taken off your shoulders. One of the most common reasons business owners hire VAs is due to their cost. With the job being remote, their search isn’t held back by conventional boundaries. If the VAs in a different country charge less and are just as efficient, then the logical choice would be to test them out to see if they fit your company’s culture and needs. The versatility of VAs is what makes them so cost-effective. They can do a wide range of jobs depending on your requirements. Searching for the right VA is important as searching for the term “virtual assistant” will yield a variety of professionals, all with the ability to do the general assistant role, but they will differ when it comes to their specializations.

How to Find Virtual Assistants

There are two main ways to hire VAs:
  1.  Through a full-service BPO
  2. By searching for freelancers
Hiring freelancers has always been sort of a gamble. Either you find a rockstar who does the job perfectly and at a cost within your budget, or things get a bit dicey with communication and deliverables not living up to expectations. This being said, freelancers can be found at a wide range of prices. Some are fantastic value for the money while others are overpriced and not justified. Hiring a virtual assistant through a BPO comes with a number of advantages, namely, you will never have to deal with the administrative minutiae that comes with hiring staff. This service also includes the recruitment of your staff, meaning all you have to do is narrow down exactly what your VA will be doing and the BPO recruitment team start their search. On top of the time you’d save in your day by having a VA, you will get to focus solely on their productivity.

Wide Variety of Specializations

There are virtual assistants that have become specialized in certain industries and with that, they’ve learned specific skills that help them excel in those fields. These industries include real estate, medical, financial, architectural, and tech or startup companies. The tasks themselves may be similar, but the industry-specific details will differ. In the real estate industry, VAs will usually do appointment setting on top of their other administrative tasks. This is a sales task that can be given to your VA in the event that you need more appointments made. Specific information such as knowledge of the properties, the tax in specific regions where you do business, and the applications used in the industry won’t have to be trained if you look for someone who’s been a VA in the region where you operate. The other industries listed will all have some form of specialization, just like real estate VAs. The technology used will always differ and in some cases, the exact software won’t match, but the knowledge can be quickly transferred. For example, medical VAs might be familiar with eClinicalWorks or NueMD but unfamiliar with the system you currently use. The shortcuts and layouts may be different, but overall the basics will still be applicable. Generally, all VAs will be setting appointments, making calls, handling all matters regarding your traveling needs, or organizing emails. Most, if not all experienced VAs will know how to work spreadsheets, though they might specialize in a specific working ecosystem, such as Google Suite or Microsoft Office. Being in a remote position, you can also ask for VAs who are fluent in certain languages, though English is spoken by the vast majority of them already. Do take note that asking for VAs fluent in more than one language means that you will be paying them more.

The Value of a VA

Virtual assistants can be thought of as your “man in the chair”, like Alfred to Batman or if you’re a younger marvel fan, Disney’s Spiderman has Ned, his Filipino “sidekick”. Everyone needs help, whether they admit it or not. In the case of business owners or managerial staff, they need back-end help that will allow them to have more time to do actual management, instead of being stuck doing administrative tasks all day. Having someone take over certain aspects of your job saves time. This is where the true value of a VA comes from, followed by the monetary value they save you. Unlike money which can be earned, once your time is gone, you aren’t getting it back. All the paperwork, scheduling, and calls that you might have had to do before, all free up time for you to do work that actually impacts your bottom line. If back-end tasks took you an hour a day and you worked the usual 260 days a year, that’s 260 hours saved (about 10 days) out of a year. Now realistically, all your back-end tasks take way longer than that, especially if you habitually put them off in order to do other tasks. As mentioned before, there is a monetary benefit to having a VA; this may sound confusing because not having a VA doesn’t cost you anything. But if you happen to forget a meeting, or don’t book a flight, or scheduling errors occur and you don’t attend a meeting, you’re losing possible income. Virtual assistants keep your business life, and in some cases your personal life as well, in order. From calendar reminders to setting appointments and even booking flights, your VA will make sure that you’re on point by having everything neatly organized for you.

The Wrap Up

Remote work has risen in popularity over recent years. Remote assistants or virtual assistants function almost exactly like their in-office equivalents, with two major benefits, their cost and ease of recruitment due to the search being across multiple countries. You can have your VA do a wide range of administrative tasks as well as some customer or client-facing ones as well. With their support, you’ll be able to focus on mission-critical tasks that help improve your bottom line and ultimately grow your business.

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