10 Things to Outsource to a Virtual Assistant

10 Things to Outsource to a Virtual Assistant

Alina Dizik

Using a virtual assistant can shave hours from your workweek, but knowing which tasks to delegate can be tricky, whether you’re starting or growing a business. Most virtual assistants are contract or freelance workers who do their jobs from home and focus on administrative tasks that are similar to those of an executive assistant or secretary. Websites that specialize in contract workers, such as odesk.com and elance.com, have thousands of listings for virtual assistants.

With the number of virtual assistants are growing, their expertise now runs the gamut, making it easier to find someone who fits your organization, says Jaleh Bisharat, vice president of marketing at oDesk.com, which is based in Redwood City, Calif. In 2012, oDesk had 25,000 postings for virtual assistant jobs, compared to about 2,500 in 2008.

Entrepreneurs can use virtual assistants for everything from making vendor or customer service calls to sending out thank you cards to prospective clients. It’s important to build trust, just as you would with a permanent employee. “They become a team member who just happens to work remotely,” Bisharat says. Not sure where to start? Here are 10 ways you can use a virtual assistant to improve your business.

  1. Bookkeeping: Keeping tabs on bills and other bookkeeping matters can be one of the easiest things to assign to a virtual assistant, says Kathy Colaiacovo, marketing director for the International Virtual Assistants Association, a Henderson, Nev.-based trade group. Many small businesses choose to share their bookkeeping systems with their virtual assistants who can then follow up on tasks such as outstanding invoices or unpaid bills. “You will need to hand over some control [including] passwords and access to accounts,” Colaiacovo says.
  2. Online Research: You can easily farm out Internet research to virtual assistants. Common requests include finding information on corporate websites, exploring new products and vetting potential employees or business contacts, says Sue Kramer Harrawood, president of Peace of Mind Virtual Assistance, an Orland Park, Ill., firm that provides companies with virtual assistants. Be sure to send clear instructions, along with user names and passwords so assistants can get access to specialty search tools or paid websites. Tristen O’Brien, an eBay marketing expert in Westfield, Indiana, asks his assistant to help him find blog topics, as well as occasionally proofread his blog [link: www.theebayentrepreneur.com] on eBay selling. “She researches what is trending and reports back to me,” O’Brien says.
  3. Database entries: Whether it’s a slew of new business cards picked up at a conference or updated information for existing contacts, keeping databases current is a suitable task for virtual assistants. Be specific about your needs and expectations, and make sure the virtual assistant has done this type of work before so there’s less room for errors, Kramer Harrawood says. “Follow up is a huge thing for business owners. Sometimes clients will fax or scan business cards to us, and [virtual assistants] will plug them into the database.”
  4. Data presentations: Turning raw data into a clear PowerPoint presentation or summarizing research findings in a Word document can be a huge timesaver when prepping for meetings, says Rich Pearson, chief marketing officer at eLance.com, a jobs website for freelancers in Mountain View, Calif., who uses a virtual assistant himself. The data “comes back in a format I can share,” he says.
  5. Managing email: To keep you from wasting time in your email inbox, some virtual assistants will filter your most important emails and respond to the rest on your behalf, Colaiacovo says. Such email management is easy to do remotely, but you need to provide guidance on how to pick out key emails and ask the assistant to copy you before sending out any responses to reduce the risk of errors.
  6. Social tasks: Virtual assistants can be a good bet to handle tasks such as writing holiday cards or sending thank you notes, says Bisharat, who notes that social chores have become a very common assignment. Such tasks can become “all consuming” for business executives, she says, “but a good virtual assistant can take care of all of it.”
  7. Travel Research: Virtual assistants are a great resource for finding hotels, booking airfares and mapping out trip itineraries both for business and pleasure, Pearson says. The assistants can take advantage of the growing number of travel research tools and review sites on the Web. They can also deal with the hassle of navigating time zones when booking or researching international travel options by phone.
  8. Scheduling: Because many scheduling tools are available online, virtual assistants are managing the calendars of many clients, says Kramer Harrawood. Tasks include dealing with meeting invitations from others, scheduling appointments with clients and helping to plan events. “It’s about being comfortable and letting go of that calendar” to a non-staff person working remotely, Kramer Harrawood says.
  9. Chasing business: Prioritizing potential business opportunities can be challenging, but virtual assistants can help with the process. When deciding what to sell on eBay, for example, O’Brien asks his virtual assistant to look around for products that can be profitable to resell. “I give them quite a few websites to visit, and they take it from there,” he says. “They look for clearance items and other types of products.”
  10. Industry knowledge prep: With limited time to keep up with industry news, some small businesses have turned to virtual assistants to keep tabs on the most important happenings. Many executives then use the industry information to update their Twitter feed or bring up interesting developments in conversation with customers and prospects. This helps “executives appear to have timely news,” Pearson says.

Alina Dizik is a freelance journalist and writer based in New York City. Her work has been published in The Wall Street Journal, iVillage, More magazine, The Knot, BusinessWeek and the Financial Times.

Andrea Cronje

Andrea Cronje

Andrea exhibits a phenomenal aptitude towards creative design.  She currently specialises in photography, website graphic design, including the design of logo’s, business cards, stationery and visual content for websites.  She is hardworking and has an incredible eye for detail.

Martie Cronje

Martie Cronje

Martie is a highly motivated, extremely diligent, organised and driven individual. She has a very strong administration background and a keen creative interest.  She enjoys bringing her administration skills and experience of over 27 years to Complete VA, coupled with building relationships with staff and clients. She has been exposed to various industries and is comfortable with all levels of communication, including staff, management, clients and vendors. In her role as Your Virtual Assistant she will be part of your team where she can make a difference, and use her previously gained skills and experience to provide the level of service which reflects the very high standards she sets for herself.

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When do You Need a Virtual Assistant?

When you do not have enough time to run your business effectively and you are so busy fighting the fires that you barely have time to grow and expand your business.

When your business is running you instead of you running it and you are bugged down by too many routine tasks that need to be done on a daily basis.

When you don’t have a work-life balance anymore and you are so busy on a daily basis and even after hours, that you just don’t have time for anything else.

When you want to focus more on your core competencies yet more than half of your time is spend on non core activities.

When you need assistance but do not have the space and/or additional equipment to consider hiring a person to assist you.

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Pricing Structure

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Services can be purchased in 10-hour packages, payable in advance, at which time a discount can be applied.

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After a first initial consultation to assess your requirements, contractual documentation and a Non-Disclosure Agreement will have to be signed before any work is commenced.

Your admin is our business

Your admin is our business

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