Using a Virtual Assistant
Increase your productivity by outsourcing tasks.
Virtual Assistants aren’t a new idea but they’ve definitely become more popular as of late. They seem to come up in conversations a lot lately. If you haven’t heard of them yet you’re not alone. Until recently they’ve been one of the better-kept secrets of successful entrepreneurs. The right Virtual Assistant can help you achieve greater levels of success than ever before possible by increasing productivity and expanding your presence, quickly and with minimal cost.
So backing up, just what IS a Virtual Assistant?
A Virtual Assistant is sort of like today’s version of Microsoft’s Clippy – but actually useful. A Virtual Assistant (or simply “VA”) is someone who provides, in varying combinations and degrees, remote support. This support is usually in the form of administrative, technical, creative, or other web-based services. Virtual Assistants operate as independent contractors, eliminating tax or benefit concerns and they do not require office space or equipment be provided for them. VAs are usually based overseas (mine are in the Philippines and in a later post I will lay out some suggestions on how to find a good Virtual Assistant) reducing their rates dramatically compared to the wages I would have to pay in the US for similar service.
What Does a Virtual Assistant Do?
Determining the right VA for you depends on your individual needs. Very similar in concept to how larger companies outsource services like payroll or manufacturing, VAs take on the repetitive or mundane work which is preventing you from accomplishing tasks made of greater substance. This can materialize in many forms depending on your industry and needs. Just a few suggested tasks you can outsource to a Virtual Assistant include:
- Manage social media accounts
- Publish web content
- Manage internet ad campaigns
- Collect and store client data
- Prepare paperwork and materials
- Research anything and everything
- Manage your calendar
- Book travel arrangements
Your industry and personal requirements will determine what to delegate to your own VA. Simple tasks preventing you from focusing on growth and development should be first on the chopping block. A Virtual Assistant allows even single-person entities to operate much like larger companies, reinforced by their own administrative and technical support sections in the form of a VA.
The top 3 benefits of using a Virtual Assistant are:
- Asynchronous Productivity: Work while you sleep! Well, not really, but they can. Virtual Assistants tend to be located internationally; their day begins just as yours is ending. My VAs can prepare packets of client paperwork for me overnight, for early-morning delivery, and I never lose a beat.
- Increased Efficiency: Think of it as multiplying yourself. The entrepreneur’s lament is there are never enough hours in the day…but imagine if there were. Increase your productivity with an affordable extra pair of hands.
- Business Growth: Increase the size and scope of your business without added office space, equipment, or overhead. That’s the “virtual” part –maintain your individual office setting while enjoying the increased productivity of a larger staff.
How Do I Use MY Virtual Assistant?
I’m a realtor. This means I spend a lot of time with my customers and on the road, and very little time in the office. I’ve been using VAs for several years now to manage my client database and calendar, and to prepare packets of documentation. It has become such a large part of my business that my VA had to hire other VAs to work under them, just to handle the workload. They’ve even created their own process manual, making it easy for any new VAs (and for me) to quickly catch up. I’ve had phenomenal success outsourcing tasks to my Virtual Assistants. One of the smartest things I’ve outsourced to my VA was management of my client relations.
Here’s how it works:
- A large part of self-employment is the distributing and collecting of business cards. All day, every day. This could be at conferences, business breakfasts, networking events, or just about anywhere. Those cards quickly stack up, making it difficult to remember context or complete a proper follow-up.
- When I get home with my pocket full of cards, I make a note on each card about what we talked about, where I met them, and something I can do to follow up. It’s not enough to say, “We had a great chat”. A specific note will help you bring that conversation to mind later on, after it’s been awhile.
- I then ask my in-house assistant to scan the stack of annotated business cards into Evernote, a great tool for keeping track of details and information that I use often. You can scan them yourself if you don’t have an assistant of course, without losing too much time. Once they are scanned it’s time for the VA to step in.
- First, my Virtual Assistant works as my second set of eyes, verifying the data to be scanned correctly from the business card. This helps me to capture any missed information that could cost a client or relationship later on. After verification, they input that data into my client database. There are many options for digital customer relationship management (CRM) available on the market; I recommend exploring what’s available to see what fits into your industry.
- Next my VA logs into my iCloud account, creating a full contact card for each person I’ve met. The VA saves all the client information, includes any notes I made about the conversation, and the iCloud server automatically uploads it all to my phone. The changes made in the Philippines are automatically reflected on my phone here in Houston. Additionally, my VA logs in to my Facebook and LinkedIn regularly, managing my social connections and presence.
- If the contact is also a customer my Virtual Assistant can easily add them to my calendar for a personalized follow-up as well. I use project management software Asana, something my VA can easily access remotely. My VA can create client follow-ups and meetings, and “action steps” for me. I only need to wake up and glance at my calendar to get caught up and, using my pre-loaded contact information I can easily begin making phone calls.
“Virtual Assistants are an awesome way to get time-consuming, mundane tasks accomplished without sacrificing productivity.”
Increase Your Efficiency
The old saying holds true: “many hands make light work”. Delegating simple tasks so that you may focus on more important projects is just smart business. Don’t just tread water, swim ahead. Virtual Assistants take care of the ‘heavy lifting’; they can save you hours per day in simple administrative or technical labor. Delegating low-level organizational tasks frees up time and mental space for company growth strategy and customer/vendor relationship-building. When you free yourself of the mundane, behind-the-scenes details, you are free to pursue and achieve your peak state of production.