Many businesses hire Virtual Assistants to support their work and to free up their time. Because Virtual Assistants can help in a range of areas their services can be suitable for many different types of businesses. Virtual Assistants are hired by freelancers and entrepreneurs as well as larger businesses.
The clients that I am working with currently range from a relatively new business with almost 100 employees to individuals running their service-based businesses by themselves.
All businesses need help as they grow and delegation can be a key part of this. Delegating straightforward tasks such as scheduling meetings or answering emails, can give small business owners the time to focus on the tasks that only they can do - producing their product, coaching their clients, providing their consultancy service, etc. You might also want to look at this as freeing yourself of non-income generation work, so you can focus on the parts of your business that bring in profit.
With the news full of stories about queues at the airports, flight cancellations and chaos at the baggage carousel, taking a holiday might feel more stressful than work right now. However, we all need a break now and again. As a business owner, it can be hard to truly switch off, unwind and get the rest you need.
There is the temptation to take the laptop with you and think to yourself, “I’ll just check my email while the kids are in the pool”, but if you are doing that are you really giving yourself a mental break from work? Taking proper care of yourself and having a break means you are also taking proper care of your business.
Hiring a Virtual Assistant allows you to switch off knowing your business is in a safe pair of hands while you are on holiday. A Virtual Assistant could check and respond to emails, maintain contact with clients and suppliers, keep projects on track and even manage your social media allowing you time to rest and recharge. Many Virtual Assistants, including me, offer an hourly rate, so you only pay for the time I am working on your behalf.
Having a Virtual Assistant providing cover means you can return to work knowing that your emails have been managed and you aren’t coming back to a pile of unread emails that rivals the pile of washing. So if you are lucky enough to have a passport that is in date or if you are staying closer to home, get in touch to see how I can help run your business while you have a well-earned holiday.
And if a holiday and a break from your business sounds unimaginable at the minute, maybe an extra pair of hands is what you need. Regular support from a Virtual Assistant can ensure that tasks are completed efficiently and you have more time to focus on your key activities.
Have you come to that point in your business where you realise you cannot do everything? You might still want to do everything, but you acknowledge that for your sanity, health, relationships, clients, family and friends, you need to outsource some work.
You have probably heard that getting a Virtual Assistant could be a great way of outsourcing specific tasks. They are flexible, reliable and professional, but where do you start looking for one who will help your business grow?
If you run your own business, you will undoubtedly have a network of fellow business owners, so this is a great place to start. Ask your network if they currently, or previously, have worked with a Virtual Assistant. Even if they haven’t worked with a Virtual Assistant themselves, they will probably know a Virtual Assistant through their network, so might be able to tell you a bit about them.
When asking your contacts, you might get recommendations along the lines of, “such-a-body I know is a VA”. However, you will find the quality of the recommendations is better if you can be specific about the type of tasks you want to outsource. Actually, being clear about the type of work you want to outsource before you start to look for a Virtual Assistant will make the whole process much easier.
Clearly, a recommendation is the best way to go. If you wanted some building work or some landscape gardening done at your home, you would ask family, friends or neighbours if they could recommend someone they had used. And hiring a VA should ideally be approached in the same way. However, if your network is not able to provide any recommendations what do you do?
There are virtual assistant agencies you could contact as well as freelance marketplaces where you can post a job and receive proposals, but you might be better off starting with the Society of Virtual Assistant’s ‘Find a VA’ database. The Society of Virtual Assistants is the largest organisation for UK based VAs. Their database lets you search by the skill you are looking for, or by location, in case you prefer working with a Virtual Assistant who is located closer to you (there can be advantages to that).
Most Virtual Assistants will speak to you upfront for free, this might be called a discovery call. As you probably would do when hiring a builder or a gardener, it is usually worth speaking to a couple of VAs. This will let you get to know the Virtual Assistant and if you get on with them. It will also give the Virtual Assistant chance to get to know you and the type of work that will be required.
As you are reading this blog on my website, you have already found a great Virtual Assistant! Please contact me to see how “a safe Claire of hands” can help your business grow.
If you look up the term 'Virtual Assistant' you will likely get definitions such as:
"A highly-skilled independent professional who remotely provides administrative, technical and/or creative business support."
"An independent contractor who provides professional services from a remote location."
"Self-employed person providing professional administrative, technical or creative assistance to clients remotely from a home office."
You might also get definitions that include references to artificial intelligence (AI). In the context of AI, a virtual assistant is an application program that understands voice commands and can complete basic tasks. I have even seen definitions that claim these AI virtual assistants can perform tasks historically done by personal assistants or secretaries. Ok, they can look up a phone number, schedule a meeting and you can dictate an email to them. But they are probably only saving you a few minutes and they certainly don't add value to your business.
So, if you want to know what the weather will be like tomorrow, ask Siri. If you want a professional who will efficiently handle a range of tasks for your business, adding value and freeing up your time, ask a Virtual Assistant.
Now that we’ve turned our calendars to their final page, thoughts start to focus on Christmas and the holiday period.
Are you hoping for a break this festive period, but worried about returning to an inbox that is stuffed fuller than the stockings by the fireplace? A Virtual Assistant can keep things ticking over in your business while you enjoy some family time or just some time for yourself.
A Virtual Assistant could check and respond to emails, maintain contact with clients and suppliers, keep projects on track and even manage your social media allowing you time to rest. Many Virtual Assistants, including me, offer an hourly rate, so you only pay for what you need. If you think that holiday cover from a Virtual Assistant could be the answer to enable you to have a proper break from your business, then now is the time to get in touch.
And if Christmas and a break from your business sounds unimaginable at the minute, maybe an extra pair of hands is what you need. If there are jobs such as updating databases or making sure things are straight for the end of the year, a Virtual Assistant can help with that too.
If you want to enjoy some ‘me’ time to enable you to return refreshed and ready for the New Year, please get in touch to see how I can help.
Is your inbox out of control? Do you feel overwhelmed by your emails? A Virtual Assistant could take away that stress.
As a business owner, you probably recognise the distraction of emails and notice that they hamper your productivity. A 2018 survey by Adobe found that office workers spend an average of 3.1 hours a day checking and sending emails. Across a year this is 20 weeks! Or in the region of 35% of your working time! If you feel you don’t have enough hours in the day to manage your email this is probably why.
I think the former Radio 1 duo, Mark and Lard, got it right when they referred to receiving an email as, “receiving an e-mither”. How much of your time gets sucked up opening and reading an email that turns out to be unimportant?
Once your inbox is sorted, your Virtual Assistant could be the person to check your emails and continue to manage your inbox going forwards. You just need to decide how often you want this, maybe once or twice a day, it is your choice. A Virtual Assistant could even send responses to the majority of your emails. Even if you are not ready to hand over control of your inbox permanently, your VA could help to set up templates which will make it quicker for you to respond to regular emails, such as requests for price lists or examples of your business’ work.
If you feel overwhelmed by your emails, then you probably need a Virtual Assistant to help you no longer be mithered by your e-mithers.
Please contact me to see how I can organise your inbox and help you stop feeling as if you are drowning in emails.
Research is key in business. Whether it is to understand trends in your market, assessing your competitors or developing a new product or service, research is key to being able to make sound decisions for your business.
By its nature, research can be time-consuming, draining and lead you down rabbit holes.
If you can be very clear on the purpose and scope of the research task this is something that can be easily outsourced. In fact, as well as being more efficient to outsource research, it can also be more objective as the researcher won’t have the same bias that you may have.
As a Virtual Assistant research tasks are one of the services that I offer.
I am currently working on a research task for a client. My client wants to promote their business and finds that Facebook is a platform that works well for them. They have been given a list of over 200 Facebook groups that may be suitable to promote their business in. Whilst this is a great opportunity it would be incredibly time-consuming to build relationships in over 200 groups. My task is to research the groups in more detail and rank them, so the client can prioritise which groups to focus on. I have a very clear understanding of the client's business and their ideal client which means that I can assess whether the groups are right for them. In addition to this, I am researching the rules in each group so the client can follow and respect them, as well as analysing the activity and size of the group.
The outcome of my work will be that my client has a list of places to promote their service that is ordered so they can focus on the most relevant and suitable first. They know where to focus their effort without being overwhelmed with where to start. They also haven’t been distracted by something in a group that took them off on a tangent or pulled their focus away from the outcome of the task.
Do you have research tasks in your business that it would be more efficient to outsource? Have you been putting off developing something within your business because you don’t have the time to do the research? How much easier would it be to have the results of research presented to you in a clear and easy to understand way?
If you would like to discuss any research projects you may have, please contact me.
Every business owner knows that it is easier (and cheaper) to retain customers than it is to find new ones, but be honest, do you focus as much time on this as you ideally want to? It is often too easy to let this slip when your time and energy is being pulled in different directions.
It can be quite alarming to think of the consequences of not continually building your relationship with your existing customers. Let’s not dwell on that thought, but let’s look at how a Virtual Assistant could improve your relationship with your existing customers.
Let’s say you have clients who subscribe to the product or service you offer, or are part of a membership scheme, or have purchased an ongoing service. They are probably happy as they are continuing to pay you, but do you actually know that? Is there a chance they have forgotten about the benefits of your service and are perhaps not getting the best value from it?
Could you send them an email each month to 'check in' with them? Even better, could you give them a call to see how they are and if there is anything you can help them with? In today’s digital world, nothing replaces human interaction. As digital devices have taken over our daily interactions, the opportunity to speak to a human being, even over the phone, is becoming a novelty. Can you remember the last time someone took the time to phone you and ask how things were? If you are lucky and can answer yes to that question, how did it make you feel?
Does it have to be you who makes that phone call? If you are clear with what you want to achieve with the phone calls it would be easy to brief a Virtual Assistant who could make the calls on your behalf. If the Virtual Assistant speaks to a customer who is ready to upgrade to a higher value service you offer, the VA could schedule a call for the client with you or send them a link to your appointment booking system. If the Virtual Assistant speaks to a customer who tells them something that is happening in the future, for example, that they are moving, the VA could add a reminder in your diary. If the Virtual Assistant identifies any useful information during the call, they could add this to your CRM system.
This example has focussed on phone calls, but a Virtual Assistant could help with customer relations in lots of ways, such as ensuring regular communication with your mailing list, keeping your CRM up to date or monitoring your social media accounts.
Don’t run out of time or let the relationship with your existing customers slip. Outsourcing to a Virtual Assistant could help strengthen your relationships and even identify new opportunities.
Many businesses hire Virtual Assistants to support their work and to free up their time. Because Virtual Assistants can help in many different ways their services can be suitable for many different businesses. Virtual assistants are increasingly hired by freelancers and entrepreneurs as well as large business owners.
There are other reasons for hiring a Virtual Assistant including freeing up time for strategic thinking and planning, when you have work that doesn’t yet require a full-time employee or just to give yourself a better work/life balance.
In large companies, the impact of hiring a Virtual Assistant is the same. That is cost savings and productivity gains. Google, Nissan and Marriott have all hired Virtual Assistants.
So, it really doesn’t matter whether you are a large company, an established business or a sole trader. Essentially if you have tasks in your business that need doing, but don’t necessarily have to be done by you, your business may need a virtual assistant.
If you are comparing the rates Virtual Assistants charge, you might have noticed that the pricing structure can vary from one VA to another. I want to explain the different pricing structures Virtual Assistants offer and the benefits of each to help you decide which will be best for you and your business.
Hourly rate/pay as you go
All Virtual Assistants will have an hourly rate. This is the simplest pricing structure. The Virtual Assistant will have set their own rate based on their experience, the services they offer and if they do any specialist work. As a guide, the average hourly rate for a Virtual Assistant based in the UK is currently £28 per hour (Society of Virtual Assistant's annual survey).
Some Virtual Assistants will just offer an hourly rate, although there may be a minimum number of hours you need to commit to initially. However, this is usually in the region of one to three hours.
‘Pay as you go’ is exactly as the name suggests, you just pay for the hours the Virtual Assistant works for your business. The VA will track this and you will be invoiced for the hours worked. This option is great for small, ad-hoc tasks, such as audio typing the transcription of a meeting or the creation of a feedback form. If you don’t need regular administration support, but want to pass on tasks now and again knowing they will be done quickly and to a high standard, this would be the best option for you.
Many Virtual Assistants will offer retainer packages where you can purchase a number of hours. These packages are perfect for businesses that require regular administration support, whether that is for social media scheduling, telephone answering or email inbox management. Purchasing a retainer package means that you know your Virtual Assistant will be available to you for the number of hours purchased. Clients on retainer packages will be given priority over pay as you go clients and ad-hoc work.
In my business, I offer three retainer or ‘bundle’ packages. The middle one of these is a 20 hour package in which these hours can be split over four weeks. This means you will get one hour of Virtual Assistant support each day over those four weeks.
You are likely to find that retainer packages offer a discount on the Virtual Assistant’s hourly rate.
If you have a particular project you need support with, such as planning and hosting a conference or event, you might be able to negotiate a bespoke or project rate with your Virtual Assistant. This option is recommended if you need your Virtual Assistant to be available at specific times and days as they will need to have sufficient notice to plan their other work around this.
The key to selecting the right package for your business is having a clear idea about the administration support you need. A Virtual Assistant can obviously help and advise you and you may find your need for support changes over time. But having a clearly defined task or planned outcome will ensure your working relationship with your Virtual Assistant gets off to a great start and you know you are getting the best value for your business.
Please contact me if you want any further information or advice on what package is right for you.