Can A Virtual Assistant Work For You?

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With the holidays behind us and a new year laid out before us, many people have made their New Year's resolutions on both the personal and professional fronts. On the career front common New Year's resolutions range from get a raise, to getting more training and education, to providing more constructive criticism and support to your fellow employees or workplace constituents in order to enlighten your workplace environment. Simple small tasks like be better organized and clean out your desk also top the list of work-related New Year's resolutions.

For some people, the new year is a symbolic chance to change the ways things were done in previous years in order to increase efficiency and effectiveness at work. To accomplish these end goals, some choose to outsource work when they can, and some choose to focus on being more productive while at work and really making good use of their time so as to maximize what they are actually getting done.

One way to increase your efficiency and effectiveness at work entails outsourcing some of your work to another person so that you are given the gift of time, which you will hopefully use to focus in on other workplace priorities. Many people, especially consultants, entrepreneurs, and people with home-based businesses, are finding out the rewards that can be reaped from hiring a virtual assistant, or VA.


What is a Virtual Assistant?

According to Wikipedia a virtual assistant is an entrepreneur who provides professional administrative, technical, or creative (social) assistance to clients from a home office. Most often employed by brokers, consultants, and self-employed persons, such as real estate agents, VA's offer many of the perks of a full time employee, but in an economical, convenient package. The going rate for VAs can range from $12-$15 per hour for more basic administrative tasks such as data entry and maintaining correspondence to $30-$50 per hour for more complex tasks like maintaining a website or writing corporate documents.


The Benefits to Having a VA

Because everything is done remotely, having a VA means that you do not need to provide office space for the VA to occupy. Email, online meeting services, phones, and faxes help to keep you in constant contact with your assistant at a fraction of the cost.

Virtual assistants work from their own homes across the country, so geography does not hinder your ability to hire a candidate. If the ideal candidate for what you need done is based in Kansas, there is no reason that you cannot hire that VA for your company, even if you are based in Florida. That means that your applicant pool is fairly large, and not dependent on the available labor and resources within your immediate area, another bonus to the VA system.

You can customize your needs to your VA staffing needs so that they match exactly. If you only require a few tasks or projects done each month, you can commission a VA to perform those specific duties and pay only for those exact office functions that were performed. For example, if you are a real estate agent and you need a monthly e-mailer sent out to the 1,500 people in your database, you can hire a VA to do just that. As the real estate agent you can allot a fee each month for those services that you pay to the VA, and the VA can easily perform those tasks from her remote office, when she has time in her work schedule to perform those tasks. The real estate agent has prioritized her duties and outsourced some of her work to a VA and only has to pay for the part time help she received. The VA wins because she can count on a monthly pay check from that real estate agent for as long as she continues to send out those monthly e-mailers. Money is not wasted, but only spent for services performed, and the VA is only expected to perform tasks within her job description, making the use of the VA a very efficient and cost-effective way to outsource work.


How To Find a VA

If making better use of your time in the upcoming year is one of your resolutions for 2010, it is worthwhile to learn more about VAs and what they have to offer. The International Virtual Assistants Association website (www.ivaa.org) documents that there are over 1,000 members already signed up in this growing field and websites such as, findvirtual.com, guru.com, and entrepreneur.com can offer a long list of available candidates for hire.


Proceed With Caution

While it may sound all too easy to outsource some of the workplace tasks on your plate to a capable VA, it is important to find the right VA for you. Things to keep in mind so that you get the right VA for you on the first try are:


1. Look at various websites with all different candidates so that you know what is out there.Many of these sites also offer information about contracts with VAs and suggested methods for paying VAs.

2. Always ask for references and USE THEM! Call those references and find out how the VA was as a communicator, if she stayed on task, if she was timely in her delivery of projects etc.

3. Communication is key. Make sure that once your VA is selected and hired that you go over your preferred method of communication. Effectively you want to sync your communication MO with the VAs MO so that you are both on the same page at all times. If you tend to be vague in your emails, ask the VA if she understands what you mean so that work is done correctly and so that there is no confusion. If the VA does not understand certain abbreviations that you use or prefers a weekly phone call to a weekly email, then tell her to speak up from the start so that you start off on the right foot.

Having a VA in your workplace corner can really help you start the year off right.

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