How To Use a Virtual Assistant

Using a virtual assistant (VA) to help with work so you can free yourself to focus on more important tasks, including taking much-needed time off.

VAs have been very effective in helping to get things done, while freeing you to focus on other, more important, areas of life and business. Here are a few things to ask yourself before hiring a VA.

Can I Afford It?

The first thing to consider is whether or not you can afford to hire a virtual assistant. Most business say, you can’t afford not to hire one. As small business owners, there is simply too much to get done each day and are very prone to overworking and not taking enough time for other aspects of your lives, especially taking time for yourselves.

On top of that, if you charge $100 per hour, as an example, and are doing tasks that can be outsourced for $25, you’re not really making the best use of your time. A good rule of thumb suggests using half your hourly rate as a guide, so if you charge $100 per hour, outsource tasks that can be done for $50 or less.

Will It Help Me?

Money doesn’t have to be the only consideration. You can also outsource those tasks you simply do not like to do, and this is a highly personal decision. You must do what works for you. We don’t all have the same needs, income levels and likes/dislikes. There are people who enjoy doing laundry and others who send it all to a dry cleaner. There are those who think it’s wasteful to pay someone to clean their homes and others who prefer to work extra hours just to avoid household chores. The good thing about outsourcing is that you can use it as you need it and as it fits with your resources and demands. Mostly, it’s about finding the mix that’s right for you.

How Will I Use a VA?

This is the best part of outsourcing. If it needs to be done, chances are, there’s a VA who can do it. Virtual assistants can help with lead generation activities, like blogging, publishing newsletters, submitting articles to directories and maintaining social network profiles (Instagram, Facebook, etc.). You can also get a VA to help with administrative tasks, like responding to routine emails (you create the canned responses, and the VA customizes them; this would work especially well if you routed all responses from web forms to your VA), compiling quotes for your services, requesting guest posting opportunities with other bloggers (incoming and outgoing), etc.

It’s important to keep in mind that not all tasks are well-suited for outsourcing. There are certain things that are simply easier to do yourself and would take longer to complete if you attempted to delegate them. Generally, these types of tasks take too long to teach someone else how to do them, are too complex to outsource completely, or require too much oversight on your part to justify the cost in time and money.

The most important consideration when thinking about what to outsource, as mentioned in the Julie Morgenstern book “Never Check E-Mail in the Morning,” is this: “Is this close to the ‘revenue line’?” Your role in your business should be to do those tasks that most directly contribute to your income. At most, try to stay within one or two steps of your revenue line and outsource everything else.

Are My Expectations Realistic?

Don’t expect your outsourced efforts to be perfect right out of the gate. You’ll need to plan for a trial period and gradually inch your way into outsourcing over an extended period, say twelve months. Then you’ll need to communicate clearly and often with your VA and adjust as you go.

When you first sign up for service, let the VA know that you’re just venturing into it, as well as your goals for your business and how you intend to utilize his or her services to best support your needs. Let your VA know if your needs may fluctuate from month to month so that you always stay on the same page.

If you are considering hiring a VA, make sure to give yourself enough time to plan for the effective use of virtual assistant services.

Although it can seem really intimidating at first, start small, and you’ll soon see how liberating it can be to solicit help when it comes to your business. You’ll start looking at your business in a whole new light and imagining the possibilities for growth and improvement (or simply enjoying some much-needed time off)!