Everything You Wanted to Know About Virtual Assistants but Didn’t Have the Time to Ask

Every entrepreneur knows that keeping costs down is paramount to successfully running a business. However, it’s a common misconception that doing everything yourself will save the company money. It is tempting to try and do everything yourself in order to afford incurring costs, however in doing so, you may actually be holding your business back.

There comes a time in the life of every successful startup or growing business where you have to share your workload in order to focus on the important things. Ultimately, spending time on replying to emails, chasing invoices, scheduling projects and tracking expenses is time less spent on generating revenue. That’s why it’s better to have somebody else do those things for you.

Hiring a Virtual Assistant, a VA, is a great solution for startups and SMEs who require the flexibility of high quality operations support without having to take the big step of employing someone permanently.

What is a VA?

A Virtual Assistant by definition is a self-employed professional who provides administrative, operational, technical and creative (social) assistance to clients. They usually work for several clients and split their time between them, working remotely or from a home office.

In real terms, with many VAs, you’re likely to get a lot more than just an assistant.

Being business owners themselves, VAs come equipped with the knowledge of what it takes to effectively drive a business forward as opposed to just providing basic admin support. VAs often come with more experience or with a more senior background than an “actual” assistant.

Many VAs tend to specialise in specific areas such as law, HR, project management, languages etc. so it’s worth looking for someone who has the right skills and background to suit your business needs.

Some VAs, such as myself, aren’t exclusively “virtual”. I offer a more personal service than your standard VA. I often work with my clients from their offices, which allows me to get an even better understanding of their business than I otherwise would from working only remotely. It also enables me to be proactive, to start anticipating your needs intuitively, take ownership of tasks and make suggestions as to how to improve processes, as opposed to having to rely on instructions and guidance.

Personally, I prefer to call myself a Freelance PA and Operations Manager. Unfortunately there is no term for ‘VA-who-offers-a-lot-more-than-basic-VA-support’.

What do VAs do?

Virtual Assistants do anything that frees up their clients’ time, so that they can focus on the more important stuff. This could be email and diary management, managing projects and resources, dealing with clients etc.

As good as VA’s are they can’t read minds, well not all the time. One thing to bear in mind before deciding to hire a VA is the importance of having a clear idea from the outset of which tasks, or which sorts of tasks you want to outsource. Lack of preparation is a common pitfall and can lead to disappointment on both sides as well as wasted money. It’s important for you to do a bit of homework before hiring a VA, which is something I’ll get into in my next blog post.

If you’re running around like a headless chicken and want a VA to run your business then this isn’t going to work out for you!

Is the service expensive?

As with anything in life, you get what you pay for. If you scrimp, then you can expect to get a quality of service that reflects this. Good VAs charge anything from £25 per hour upwards. The question you should be asking is — “will this save me money?”

Ultimately, the job of a VA is to enhance your productivity and make your life easier which should be worth every penny, and don’t forget by not hiring someone full time, you’ll be saving on all sorts of other costs such as holiday and sick pay and NI and pension contributions etc.

Most VAs charge by the hour, which is a great option if you know exactly what you want them to do each week or month and for how long.

I also offer other flexible fee arrangements. If your work is fluctuating and you’re worried that the costs may spiral out of control, then you might want to consider agreeing a retainer fee, which means you’ll pay for a set amount of hours each month. Your VA keeps track of their time and notifies you when you’re nearing the limit. The rate in this case usually depends on the volume and type of work you want done.

If you need support for a specific project you could ask your VA if they’re happy to agree a fixed price for the entirety of the project.

The benefits of bringing a VA onboard in a nutshell

Hiring a VA is a cost effective solution to outsourcing jobs that eat up your time. The service offers flexibility without long term commitments. It’s designed to support you through busy spells, helping you elevate your business to the next level.

A VA is a one stop shop for various support roles, so there’s no need to recruit an admin assistant, a project manager, a bookkeeper and so on. Many entrepreneurs swear by the fact that their productivity has skyrocketed after hiring a VA.

Finally it’s crucial that you find the right fit for you, someone you trust and get along with, and when you do, you’ll find yourself less stressed and more productive. Ultimately giving you more time to focus on driving your business forward, meeting more clients and taking on more work will mean greater revenue and more money to reinvest into your business.

If you have any questions about hiring a VA, get in touch or leave a comment. We’d love to hear from you.