Virtual Assistant (VA) is still a young profession (I’ve been doing it for 5 yrs+ and I’m a relative old timer now!). Word is slowly getting out about what VAs do and how they can be your secret weapon in accelerating your business and magically having more freedom to focus on both your professional and business goals. Indeed, there is oftentimes confusion as to whether we’re real people with digital companies increasing offering their own ‘helper’, be it Google’s assistant or Microsoft’s Cortana. Real and bots – we both have our place – but it’s good to know how VAs like myself can seriously reduce your business pain points at an affordable price.
Virtual Assistants are your back office co-pilot
Virtual Assistants are your back office co-pilot, providing services that you buy-in tailored to meet your business needs. The VA world is a diverse one: some VAs are your typical PA/EA – only the entire role is delivered virtually. Within this, VAs specialise – so you may need a VA with property, insurance, medical or legal experience. However, VAs are a talented lot and have branched out to find their own niches: you’ll find digital/social media VAs, sales, graphic design…
Take a look at these two links for a flavour of what a VA can do for you:
I think it’s true to say that every single solopreneur, SME and business could benefit from a VA’s services in some shape or form. Just think about it: you buy-in services (the VA is freelance so manages his/her own tax affairs, no sick pay, you can purchase a monthly package of services, hourly rates or opt for an ad hoc/pay-as-you-go model); this is flexible in the extreme. You also have more chance of finding your perfect VA as your search isn’t restricted by geography; you’re more likely to be talking time zones if your ideal VA lives thousands of miles away. By definition, VAs work virtually so most VAs are tech savvy as every working day is spent in cyberspace: expect to become familiar with words like Trello and Asana (project management tools), Toggl (time tracker), Wave (book keeping package) and LastPass (password security), Zoom (group call conferences, share screen function, webinar platform) and Dubsado or 17Hats (CRM).
The client-VA relationship is of paramount importance
The client-VA relationship is of paramount importance; as with any working relationship, the chemistry needs to be spot on (I’d always suggest a trial period). You may want your VA to be the virtual ‘face’ of your organisation, so you need to have confidence that he/she is an ambassador for you and a good fit with your professional and personal values, company’s goals and mission etc. You may find that you use different VAs for different tasks, depending on their strengths. As with any colleague, I’d advocate reliability and a long term relationship as being key factors underpinning success.
A case study
So, I’ll use myself as a case study here to see a VA in action. I’ve been a generic VA for five years, and recently founded Be the Difference VA Services which is a niche service, targeting people and companies who are in the business of ‘doing social good’ (philanthropists, CSR professionals, social impact consultants and social enterpreneur). I help them accelerate their social impact through reducing the pain points of wasted time, effort and resources. I do this through the combined offering of my VA services and not-for—profit/social enterprise expertise.
To gain a bird’s eye view of my portfolio, I’d like to walk you through the journey that I’ve been on as it showcases the versatility of what myself and other VAs can achieve, so that you have the 360 degree view of the potential for this role.
Founding and launching my business – from business concept and market research through to launch, services offered (e.g. social impact consultants, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) professionals) and signing up clients.
Blog – Creating content for my blog which appeals to my target audience. This illustrates an in-depth sector knowledge - 25 yrs+ experience in the not-for-profit/social enterprise sector (youth work, partnership development, volunteer management, 3rd sector organisation infrastructure development, community development).
Brand development including tech skills to build the website (using Wix template), consistent branding across all social media platforms and website.
Managing social media – Setting up social media channels (YouTube, LinkedIn, Facebook page (@BetheDifferenceVA) and Twitter (@TheDifferenceVA)) and creating/scheduling content, producing visuals and graphics.
Networking/Business development – 99% of my networking is conducted virtually. All my success to date has been through my skill and determination to reach out and connect with people in cyberspace whose approach and professional focus resonates with me. VAs need to have amazing communication skills as you may never meet face-to-face in real time and there's no 'dropping by his or her desk for a chat'.
Developing webinars – I have teamed up with a colleague to develop a series of webinars exploring the social enterprise and business collaboration space (event co-ordination and promotion, innovation and thought leader, presentation skills).
25/01/2018 FREE webinar: Social Enterprise + Business Connect
Managing business operations: from creating branded template documents (T&Cs, invoices etc) through to managing the client on- and –off boarding process (and everything in between).
I’m sure that you’ll have lots of questions about VAs; please feel free to ask!
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