I’d like to talk about virtual assistants. I’m not talking about the virtual assistants like Cortana, Siri, Alexa, those purely virtual assistants. No, I’m talking about human virtual assistants.
VA’s are essentially assistants that you’re typically used to, but they’re online. They are exactly the same as your physical assistant, they help you with tasks, paperwork, etc. but over the internet.
To begin, let me answer why you would need an assistant. As an example, consider someone who has a full-time job and a side business. They love what they do, but in every side business, comes the inevitable paperwork that many people don’t like. They like the work but not all the stuff that comes with the business.
A VA allows you to offload many business tasks that you hate doing or like doing but you need to focus more on important and strategic projects and tasks. Since they’re virtual, VA’s don’t need physical space, phone, or anything like that. A VA is 99 percent of the time, going to be a contractor. The ones I am referring to are overseas, such as India, Philippines, and Pakistan. They are low cost, and if you do your homework and find a good one, they’re worth their weight in gold.
One way a VA can help you with your side business is by sending invoices to clients. Maybe you have a time management system or time tracker. You can build a time tracker that automates a lot of the stuff in the systems, allowing you to put time immediately into your time tracking system. After you put the time in, your virtual assistant could then get immediately notified of your time and automatically invoice the client.
The same with ad hoc sort of stuff. Consider that a client wants to pay you a million dollars to help them with a new product and you have no idea what the new product is about. You need to research the product. Rather than sifting through numerous pages on the internet, you can tell your virtual assistant that you need to know “XYZ” features about this product. They can research the product online and provide you with a summary. Online research is another popular task. The task is all about you being able to properly define the task ahead of time for the virtual assistant. Provide them with clear concise instructions and they’ll complete the task and provide it to you.
If you have a full-time job but no side business, you could hire a VA to do many things for you, but I don’t recommend that. If you have too much work to do, honestly, I would reevaluate where you are and if you’re enjoying what you’re doing, then start your own business on the side. Then hire a VA.
There are a number of ways to hire a VA. I’ve had a VA off and on for probably over a decade for my side business. I’ve hired VA’s through freelancing sites, such as Upwork.com. I’d create a VA job description by first going through all of the descriptions for VA’s in Upwork, and get a good idea of how it should be done then create the job. I always use Upwork.com. The job applications immediately come in. You may get dozens, even a hundred plus applications.
Never hire the lowest cost VA. When it comes to VA, you get what you pay for. When I first started out, I was all about saving money. I would pick the least costly option, which is two or three dollars if you live in the United States, Europe, etc. That’s low wage even in the poorest of countries, but they’ll do it. Most try their hardest to help you.
However, you’ll find some don’t have the knack. Normally, those are from India, where there’s a big cultural divide and language barrier hindering communication. And, generally, the lowest don’t take their job as serious as a VA that may be doing it full-time or charging more. They may have a college education and they may be doing this as a business.
I don’t like to say only hire a VA from a certain country, but I’ve learned that those from the Philippines are more reliable, the communication gap is not there, and they speak great English. You’ll find someone from the Philippines charges around the same as somebody from India, but communicating with them is easier. A great VA from the Philippines generally runs you from only $10 to $20 an hour. So, it’s worth your time to hire somebody to offload tasks for you.
Once you hire the VA, another process starts. One thing I experienced when hiring my first few VA’s was that I expected them to know immediately what I was thinking. I would give rough instructions and expected them to understand what I wanted. However, they had no idea what I was talking about. I’d get frustrated and think, “I might as well do it myself”. It’s just going to be a bad relationship and you’ll end up firing the VA and starting over again.
Once the VA is hired, the best thing to do is numerous screencasts. Forget text, forget email, just use screencasts. Record screencast in Jing, Camtasia or another screencast. If you don’t do screencasts, do documents with screenshots. Make the instructions very clear, and narrate what you want to. Have an example of what you’re thinking about.
You may think you might as well do it yourself but you are going to get tired of doing the same thing over and over again. You’re going to get distracted, make mistakes, and get frustrated. By the time it’s all added up to do a five-minute task ten times, it will be fifty minutes. What else could you have done in that time?
Consider you’re a consultant charging $150 an hour. Instead of writing up a brief statement of work for a client, or doing paperwork that takes about half an hour, you can make $75 consulting. You can hire a virtual assistant to do it for $5 or $10, and come out $65 ahead. You have to put a value on your time. It’s sort of a mindset shift. If you don’t want to spend money on anything, you won’t realize the value of your time.
Invoicing the VA is all done through Upwork. Freelancer is another site you can hire through. I have no experience with them, however.
A virtual assistant is highly recommended if you have a business, if you have a side business, a full-time business, or an entrepreneur, definitely hire a VA now.