If you agree that your time really IS your life, then a virtual assistant can be a lifesaver. I’ve been working with a rockstar VA, Fiona Z, and when I tell friends about her, their first question is, “So what does she do for you, exactly?” Here are some of the ways she has saved me oodles of time and mental bandwidth so I can do more, better, less-distracted work, and have more, better, less-distracted time with my loved ones.
- Coordinating meetings/calls and getting them on everyone’s calendars with phone numbers, location, etc. We share a calendar that syncs up to my work calendar and phone.
- Pre-meeting prep. Before important meetings with new contacts, Fiona checks Google, LinkedIn, news, Twitter, Google Scholar, etc., to create a mini-dossier including mutual contacts. It helps me connect better.
- Paying some of my bills. Parking tickets, medical bills, summer camp, etc. Anything that I can snap a picture of and ask her to pay online with the prepaid debit card we share.
- Online research with a human touch. Birthday present for my daughter. Restaurant for a meeting. Flowers for a thank you gift. She looks for matches to my taste, checks reviews, and offers great suggestions.
- Building and maintaining my website on SquareSpace. It’s a minimalist site (here), which was just what I wanted.
- Sending some emails on my behalf (not personal ones) from a shared Gmail account.
- Hiring and managing freelancers for specialized help with graphics, etc. Fiona will post an ad, sort through responses, send me a short list of candidates, and manage the project and payment.
- Hiring and scheduling domestic service providers. Electrician, appliance repair, cat sitting. Fiona will find well-reviewed providers, schedule appointments, make payments, and post reviews.
- Travel planning, logistics, and ticket purchases for work travel. Sending options, booking transportation, and getting all the information on my calendar. Helping with visa stuff for international trips.
- Coordinating meetings during my business trips and making sure these, along with the flights, etc., get on my calendar in the correct time zone. (It seems simple but is not; I easily screw it up.)
- Tracking work-related expenses. We share files in a Google Drive folder.
- Helping me file expenses and following up to check on reimbursements.
- Calling for reservations and appointments, both professional and personal. Restaurants, dentists, hairdressers, plane tickets, you name it.
- Communicating with customer service reps so that I don’t have to spend hours on hold or get frustrated.
- Keeping me accountable/checking in on specific important tasks.
- Online shopping, including finding discounts, so I don’t get distracted and spend a stupid amount of time on it.
- Hunting things down. I can send her a picture of the piece of my refrigerator that’s broken and a picture of the fridge info/serial number, and like magic, the replacement part arrives in the mail.
- Hunting people down. Sleuthing an unlisted email address for a famous author. Finding photographs of a relative who had passed away and I wasn’t sure how to spell his name. Not just online research but calls and reaching out to her own social network for advice.
- Posting to social media.
- Figuring stuff out and making it happen. “How can we share an electronic calendar that will sync with my Exchange server Outlook account?” Done.
- Sending or filing forms for me. I send her a screenshot, pdf, or photo and she takes care of the rest.
- Basic video editing, and posting clips to YouTube.
- Basic graphic design, including Photoshop.
- Managing services and subscriptions like Flitter and MailChimp.
- Adding new contacts to LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.
- Curating Spotify playlists I use for teaching. Like collecting upbeat love songs in a variety of languages.
- Event planning. Researching event spaces, reading reviews, getting pricing information. Making reservations, tracking RSVPs, coordinating everyone.
- Coordinating other people’s travel to meet with me. Giving them the information they need, scheduling dates, transportation, getting this information on their calendars.
- Finding images for presentations and purchasing the rights. Keywords don’t always get you what you need, and it takes time and esthetic sensibilities to track down an image that has the right feel.
- Tracking time on all our tasks so I can separate personal from professional ones for accounting purposes.
- Catching my errors. Like when I ask her to double book my calendar. Or when I have the wrong date for an event.
- Catching other people’s errors. Like when she realized as I was on my way to the airport that Delta hadn’t sent a confirmation. She called to discover they’d been having computer problems and hadn’t actually booked my ticket. By the time I arrived at the airport, she’d smoothed everything out.
- Managing our check ins. Fiona calls me & goes through our list of tasks so that I don’t have to keep track of what she’s working on.
That’s my list; yours will be tailored to you. An experienced and talented VA should be able to do anything a smart, entrepreneurial person can do — often better and faster than you can. Especially if they’re native to the country where you work and thus know how things really get done. They should be easy to work with and communicate with, giving you peace of mind as well as freeing up your time. And they should be able to help you with personal as well as professional tasks.
How can you find a VA?
When I was desperate for help, I interviewed a few firms before realizing the most talented VAs are freelancing. So I posted a Facebook request for a referral to a trustworthy, rock star assistant — and got a personal referral to Fiona. OMG #goodlifechoices. She’s typically at capacity, but has a blog with some helpful information on topics like hiring and getting set up, etc. that you can find on her site (link).
Fiona’s advice about hiring a VA is to post on the Virtual Assistant Tribe job board on Facebook (link). She has had good experience with hiring her own help there and has referred a number of others who had good results as well.
Here’s to you finding the VA who can save your life too!