What’s a Virtual Assistant?
Virtual assistants are independent contractors or entrepreneurs who provide administrative assistance to multiple clients. Unlike regular assistants, they work out of their homes rather than at your business’ physical location.
There are numerous advantages to using a virtual assistant:
- Location. If you work from home, you don’t have to find a place to put an employee.
- No Overhead. They provide their own office supplies, desk, computer, software, and phone lines.
- No Benefits. They’re not your employee, so you aren’t responsible for paying social security or income taxes, holidays, insurance, vacation or sick pay.
- Lots of Flexibility. It’s significantly easier to find a virtual assistant who can work evening hours or weekends—after all, they’re working from home. And you can give them more or less hours as your needs change.
There are virtual staffing companies that match virtual assistants with small and home-based businesses who need help running things.
How Do I Know What I’m Getting?
Gayle Buske is the president and CEO of http://TeamDoubleClick.com, a highly reputed virtual staffing agency. Her clients are often concerned about hiring someone without ever seeing their face. She reassures them that because the agencies don’t get to meet the people they send to their clients—often they’re in different states—their hiring processes are a great deal more stringent. In fact Buske admits, “We turn away about 70% of the people that we interview.” Those who make the grade go through a 9-part interviewing process and then are trained and certified.
Virtual agencies try to match each client with an assistant who is a good fit for their needs. They look at qualifications, personality and work style, and hours of availability—both number and times. Whatever your unique requirements, they’ll work to find someone who’s a good fit.
Common Client Concerns
- How do I know that my assistant is actually working the hours I’m paying them for?
To allow you to track their progress, many agencies have their staff send daily reports of their activities. They may say how many inbound calls they received, how many outbound calls they made, how many appointments they set, what documents they worked on, as well as how many hours they put in for the day and their cumulative hours for the week. This can help you stay on budget—if you see they’ve already worked the total hours you planned to pay them for, you can push back other projects until next week.
- How hard is it to work with someone from a remote location?
Buske points out, “There’s so much technology now that really facilitates working virtually.” She contends it’s as simple as hitting the speed dial instead of the intercom or attaching files to an email rather than walking them to the next room. Most of your communication will be via phone, fax, and email. There are also online meeting programs (http://GoToMeeting.com) that let you do demonstrations and presentations, such as for training purposes.
And their skills run the gamut—everything from accounting to marketing to graphic design. Whether you need someone to answer incoming calls and do mailers or someone who can manage your entire business when you’re away, you can find staff with all levels of skills.