- Hiring a virtual assistant to help a starting business at the very beginning is beneficial for a number of reasons: it's cheaper, less formal, and frankly, it's sometimes even better for the business.
- Due to the technological advancements it's only a matter of seconds for someone to send files to each other, share and even work on the same thing at the same time - while still being away from each other.
- So if you're just starting your small business and need a helping hand of a good assistant but aren't sure whether you should hire a VA, read this personal story of a VA success, and you'll be pleasantly surprised.
The title says it all. I’ve been in the Virtual Assistant industry since it birthed in the mid-90s. Luck would have it that I was in the right place at the right time, with the needs that drove me to make sure I made this thing work.
I’d left a corporate job after 22+ years so I could be home for 5 young daughters, 4 of whom were in Primary School and the eldest had just begun Secondary School. We were an isolated family, in that neither my husband nor I had family members in Victoria – we’d shifted from SA only 2 years prior.
We had a small number of friends but none we could ask to look after a sick daughter, or all of our kids during school holidays. Cost for care back then was expensive, as it is still today. The best thing we could think of was that we buy a computer (40MB HDD – who would need more than that?), some software, a chair and a desk and I could open a home-based secretarial service.
And then entered the Internet. I’d been told by a Telstra technician about this new thing called the Internet and I should check it out. That I could have national clients. I thought she was mad and told her so. I’d had enough on my plate driving around Melbourne suburbs picking up and dropping off work while the kids were at school, how on earth could I run a national business?
She told me I didn’t understand but one day I would. And she was right. Today I run an international business. Never thought that would happen from my home office.
That conversation happened in 1995 and during the mid-90s I had to contend with people thinking I was a ‘backyarder’ (read second-rate) and therefore should be charging very minimal rates. People saying to me they could get the high school girl down the road to do something for them for just $10 an hour, why should they come to me when I was charging more than double that? I had people assuming I was managing kids and getting my work done in between watching TV, going shopping and so on.
Amazing what people think is happening versus what the reality is.
How does the communication with the VA happen?
Today technology and our industry have changed somewhat but there are still some similarities there. Particularly regarding assumptions to our rates and what we do all day. But the biggest challenge most new clients face today is how it works virtually. How can they get the work to me and how can I get it back to them? And there is an easy answer to this.
Imagine you’re working in a corporate office and you have a PA. When you go to another building, or another city, or even overseas, how do you communicate with that PA? Email, phone, text messages, and so on.
You send instructions and if you need to share a file, you do it by email, Dropbox, Google drive or even website downloads. The same happens in return when the PA sends the work back to you. It’s my simple way to explain it but that’s how a VA works too.
The way files are shared today has changed a lot since those early days, as files get bigger, technology gets more advanced, and new options are made available to us on a regular basis. But it’s educating the client about how to do something, especially if they’re technologically challenged, that remains the first hurdle. Once we’re over that, things happen quite smoothly.
In earlier days I would go to a client’s home or office to show them how to do something so they could send work to me. These days that can be done via TeamViewer, or YouTube videos or a number of other ways.
Once a client has their head around how the work can be sent and received, the rest is pretty much left up to the virtual assistant to manage on behalf of a client. And when a client finds a good VA they tend to hang on to them for years, as has been the case for me.
What you need a VA for
So, what are the types of things a virtual assistant might do for a client? The list is quite varied these days. It began as purely administrative and secretarial support but has expanded due to the changes in technology. This includes:
- editing and proofreading,
- Internet research,
- phone answering services,
- database management,
- website maintenance and management,
- social media support,
- data entry (spreadsheets, etc),
- taking minutes of meetings,
- managing membership based groups,
- recruitment services and the list goes on.
Please note that not all VAs do everything, and in fact, it would be rare for the one VA to be able to do everything. Think about a corporate office where you have an accounting department, a HR department, a PA, a receptionist and so on. And so it goes that any business operator could also engage 2 or more VAs to fulfil their support needs in a similar manner.
Benefits of having a VA
What are the benefits of engaging a VA? Simple. It helps to free up the business owners’ time to concentrate on activities that help generate more income for the business. If you’re tied down with administrative activities that need to be done but are taking up valuable time, then it’s worth taking on a VA to provide support to you.