Work Smarter, Not Harder, with a Virtual Assistant

Taking the first steps towards finding a Virtual Assistant and using them effectively to support your business.

Most small and home-based businesses reach a point where they have more paperwork than they want to handle themselves, but not enough to justify taking on full-time employees. Traditionally, business owners will take on a part-time helper in their office. But there is another option: outsourcing that work to a remote administrative assistant.

The traditional model of a part-time employee is appealing for its apparently low cost. But is the hourly wage the only cost? Hidden in that cost are federal and state employment taxes and Social Security taxes. Additionally, you have the overhead of office space, furniture, supplies, computer equipment, and even software licenses. Sharing a workspace also puts demands on your patience and your need for privacy.

The new model says to go remote. The concept of a ‘virtual’ assistant is catching on as the new generation of home-based business owners discovers the ease of outsourcing much of their work. They find that the overhead costs are eliminated, and paying a contractor (1099) eliminates the taxes paid to W-2 employees. The virtual assistant has their own supplies, space, and equipment. Plus, you can pay a contractor only when they work for you – not to just be in your office for ‘x’ number of hours each day.

It can be difficult at first to see how your business can use remote services. We who own businesses know what it is like to be a ‘one-person show.’ It’s easy to get into a ‘maniac mode’ where you have so much to do right now that you can’t even think about getting someone else to do it! We get stuck handling tasks ourselves all the time, instead of finding the time to delegate those tasks to an assistant.

Start by making a list – a list of all the things you would rather not be doing, and all the things you just don’t have time for anymore. Big or small – just put it on the list. Then, look for an assistant who can handle those specific tasks. It might be that digital family photo album you can’t get to, or those financial reports you dread compiling every month. It might be the presentation that needs some extra flair, or the team newsletter that has to go out. It could even be small tasks like holiday cards to mail, or getting driving directions to a meeting.

Once you have your wish list, begin to consider the right candidate for your assistant. Here are three important steps to getting the most out of your virtual assistant: Investigate, Delegate, and Communicate.

Investigate: Have they handled similar tasks before? Do they have a background in self-directed work and solving problems? What problems have they solved? And, most importantly, can they actively contribute ideas for remote solutions to your work load?

Delegate: Not sure if it can be done? Ask! Work towards solutions. Give your assistant small tasks at first to judge their responsiveness and reliability. Work your way up to giving them more significant and complex tasks.

Communicate: Be specific about your needs. Clearly identify time frames for completion of your tasks. Simple tasks can be delegated by e-mail; but, if it takes more than 3 emails to get clarity, get on the phone for a few minutes and clear it up. Most importantly, provide feedback about how satisfied you are with the work performed. Your assistant wants you to be satisfied, so let them know how they are doing. If you begin with clear and specific communication, your assistant will quickly develop a clear idea of your expectations – and how to best fulfill them.

Outsourcing work to a virtual assistant can save you time and money. You retain the freedom that makes working from home or in a private office so attractive. And that stack of paperwork on your desk? It gets smaller every day!

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