The term Virtual Assistant (VA) was coined sometime in the 1990’s. I first heard the term used by Thomas Leonard, founder of Coach U. The first VA I knew, Staci Brice, like me, she worked for ‘t’ as he was affectionately called. Staci founded the first VA school, Assist U, now one of the many VA schools in existence today.
If I had to describe a VA, I would say it was like having your own executive assistant in the outer office, except you don’t have an outer office! It may be best described as a consultant who could perform administrative, accounting, and marketing tasks away from the clients’ offices.
It’s not surprising that the VA industry has grown to be so encompassing. Home business owners of all sizes, from solo to micro-businesses to small businesses making millions of dollars out of their second bedrooms, can use help, daily.
Hire a VA to do the work you don’t enjoy doing, don’t have time to do right, and whatever work that’s holding you back from doing what you love to do the most.
In most cases (check your state and federal government guidelines on employees) a VA is not your employee. Instead, they are a consultant you hire to work “x” number of hours a month or per project.
They become part of your virtual team. Remember: consultants can be fired without the HR headaches of an employee if the relationship doesn’t work out
If you live in a town or city where the residential codes won’t allow you to have employees, you CAN hire a VA! On the other hand, you can also choose to hire a VA who lives in your community so that she/he can do tasks at your office when needed, like filing, or getting you ready for a speaking engagement or updating your database with business card information.
Each VA has a different skill-set to offer and like every hiring, it’s imperative to create a job description. Also consider creating a wish list of tasks you want your VA to do, now or in the future. Planning is extremely important in creating your Virtual Team.
You purchase a VA’s time on a retainer basis, hiring them for a certain amount of hours a month. Most VAs will allow you to test drive them for a short time of 1-3 hours.
There are some VAs that profess to do it all. And like other business owners, if they are doing it all, without their own staff, well, you know the saying, no-one can do it all really well. For VAs working on their own, there are just so many clients they can handle. I’ve seen VAs that took on too many clients and couldn’t keep up with their work load. On the other end of the scale, I’ve worked with a few VAs that lost their one and only client and were left out in the cold.
Some VA’s work individually and others may be part of a VA company. VA companies work differently. Sometimes the company owner “manages the project” by dishing out the work, then checking it before it’s sent to you. Other times, the owner will have you work with different VAs in their pool. You need to determine your boundaries and do what you feel is best for your company.
VAs are people too, and you may not get along with every VA. Try to find a VA who understands you and how you like to work. It’s not only OK to shop around, you should shop around.
Hiring a VA
Below is a list of things to consider when hiring a VA:
1. It is quite likely a VA will not live near their clients; although some do live in the same city or state.
2. A VA will work with you when you need extra help, even though you might not know how long you need that help. But expect to pay more for “per-hour” hires, than you would pay them on a retainer basis. Rush fees may also apply.
3. A VA might be the missing link in your business, and can be your eyes or ears on the Internet, even doing that time-consuming social networking for your company.
4. A VA can act as a sounding board for your ideas or plans.
5. They can coordinate your workflow, and your schedule.
6. A VA is an independent contractor, consultant, and a business owner, too. Most likely you’ll need a W-9 form from them, and will be sending them a 1099 at year end.
7. You’ll be charged extra for things that will cost them money, such as long distance phone calls they make for you, mailings, software, supplies, stamps etc. Just what you’d expect from a regular employee.
8. Expect to sign a written agreement with your VA on the tasks they’ll perform and time they’ll spend on your work.
9. VAs may specialize in certain areas or they may generalize. They could be former CPA’s, web designers, coaches, executive assistants, personal assistants or they may specialize in the type of client, preferring to work for real estate agents only or specifically for attorneys, etc.
10. A VA’s hourly rates range from $25 to $175 per hour, depending on the services they are hired to perform. That may sound a bit expensive, but remember, you are only paying for the time worked on a specific job. You are not paying for vacation time, sick leave, or employee taxes.
Hire a VA to be on your Virtual Team today and start focusing on the rest of your business.