Have you come to a 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 heard that a Virtual Assistant could be a good 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 lots of 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. In fact, being clear about the type of work you want to outsource before you start to look for a Virtual Assistant will make the process much easier.
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 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 would with 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.
So, you have realised that you need an extra pair of hands in your business. There are tasks you want to delegate and you think a Virtual Assistant might be the answer. You ask your network for recommendations and start to look at the websites and rates of a few Virtual Assistants. Then you find yourself thinking:
“How much an hour?! That seems expensive.”
You are still relatively new to business, that rate seems high and you don’t think you can justify spending that on your business.
You start to think it might be cheaper to actually employ someone. After all, the UK National Living Wage (for those aged 23 and over) is £8.91 and the average rate for a Virtual Assistant in the UK is around £27 an hour. Yes, that is right, three times as much!!
Before you start to write the job advert just think about the other costs that come with employing someone. On top of their salary, there is holiday pay, sick pay and pension contributions. You are going to need to purchase employers’ liability insurance and set up some sort of payroll system. The employee is going to need an office space to work from and a computer, phone, etc. You’ll need to pay for utilities in the office - lighting, power, heating, phone line, broadband. You want to treat your employee well, so you will provide them with regular training and CPD. And have I mentioned the cost of placing an advert for the role, the time you will be away from your business to focus on recruiting the right person, writing a contract and reference checking?
This also assumes you find the perfect employee the first time. What if further down the line you realise that this person has a great CV and interviews well, but they aren’t quite as hard-working as they made out to be?
Is that Virtual Assistant rate looking a bit more appealing now? A Virtual Assistant will only charge for the time they are actually working for your business. That is right, no comfort breaks, cups of tea, personal calls, etc. on your time. And no overheads.
There might be reasons that the time is right for you to take on staff which is exciting for you and the business. If you think you need someone for 40 hours a week then an employee is probably the right option. However, if 40 hours seems a lot or you are worried about keeping your new employee gainfully employed then maybe there is a better option for now.
This article has intentionally focussed on the cost difference of taking on an employee compared to a Virtual Assistant. However, there are many other factors to consider too. I haven’t touched on the flexibility, experience, contacts or self-motivation differences that you might notice between an employee and a Virtual Assistant.
You have realised that a Virtual Assistant will be a great asset to your business, but you are now starting to worry about how things will work from a practical point of view. Lots of “how..?”, “when..?” and “what if..?” questions. But the one that makes you sweat the most is, “what about my passwords?”.
Maybe you have the same password for everything or maybe you have a super-secure system. Either way, you don't want to risk the security of any of your accounts by sharing your passwords. Well, I have some good news for you. Your Virtual Assistant doesn’t want to know your passwords! In fact, saying, “shall I give you my password?” to a Virtual Assistant is likely to send them into a state of panic. Think of it from the Virtual Assistant’s point of view. It is great that you trust your VA and the last thing they want to do is anything that compromises your business (it would compromise their business too). But, what if something does happen? What if your account gets hacked, now or in the future? Understandably you will question anyone that has access to your accounts and your Virtual Assistant does not want to be in that position.
You may already be using a password manager service for your personal accounts and they are great for personal use too. Hopefully, you can now see they are also a simple, safe and effective way to work with a Virtual Assistant.
Every Virtual Assistant will have a different background and story. A different career path where they gained different skills and experience. While the skillset might be slightly different, there are lots of things that Virtual Assistants have in common. We are all super organised. We have to be, we are running our own business alongside helping other business owners run their business. We are self-disciplined and resourceful. We make sure stuff gets done.
Many businesses are seeing the benefits of working with a Virtual Assistant. Maybe you feel scheduling and managing your social media is too time-consuming. Maybe you want to spend time actually with your clients and want someone to manage the booking of appointments. Maybe you need an extra pair of hands to help organise your next in-person or online event.
Having a Virtual Assistant supporting you and your business can be a flexible and cost-effective way of increasing your productivity.
Please click here to see the range of services I could support your business with. And yes, this is me in the picture aged about 3 years old, trying out other careers first!
All social media platforms have great insight tools included to help you measure the performance of your social media profile. They offer a huge range of metrics and data. Actually, they probably offer too much data for most businesses!
For my virtual assistant business, I have picked a handful of metrics on the three social media platforms I use. At the end of each calendar month, I look at the insights within each platform and record data for the metrics I am interested in. I use a simple spreadsheet with a tab for each platform. I find this a simple, but effective way to see what is working and what is not. It helps me to spot things I wouldn't otherwise notice. For example, when I looked at data for my Twitter profile in August, I noticed that my tweets which included hashtags had more 'impressions' than those that did not.
Guess what I will be including in more of my tweets this month? Yep, hashtags! Not only do I know that this is likely to get more impressions for my tweets, it means that I can also look at those tweets that performed well last month and know that the hashtags I used are probably the ones to keep using.
You can make measuring your social media performance very easy and quick. It will then allow you to focus more time on what is working and less time (or better still, no time) on what is not. And if you don’t feel confident or even know where to start with this, let a virtual assistant help. Depending on the platforms you want to use it should take about two hours to set up a process for you to follow. And if you want to outsource this completely, you’d be looking at just one hour a month, each month.
A couple of weeks ago I spotted a graphic on social media from a fellow Virtual Assistant who had to put together a list from A to Z of things that a Virtual Assistant can help businesses with. Everything from Analytics to Zip files. I thought the list was clever as it showed, in a very neat way, the huge range of tasks that can be outsourced by business owners to free up their time.
The majority of Virtual Assistants have previously worked in roles such as PA's, office managers or executive assistants and, speaking from personal experience, those really are roles where you learn to turn your hand to anything. As a result, most Virtual Assistants will have experience in solving lots of different challenges that businesses face. As versatile as Virtual Assistants are, we do know our strengths and the things we prefer to do. Some get on board with onboarding, whilst others excel at Excel. If you're looking for a Virtual Assistant to support a specific task or project, do speak to a couple of Virtual Assistants to ensure you find one who specialises in the service you need or who has a particular passion for that.
Once you get to know your Virtual Assistant you will find they become your go-to person for lots of challenges that crop up in your business. "Why won't this document format like I want it to"? "Where can I find a supplier of…"? "How can I make this process more efficient"? Your Virtual Assistant will probably be able to help.
How many times do you feel you are on your own in your business? How wonderful would it be to have someone who knows your business, treats it like their own and can quickly help with those little challenges that pop up along the way?
It can sound silly to say that you are paying someone to do something that you could do yourself, but we all do it without really thinking about it. Now and again I don't mind paying the place on the main road £10 to wash my car. I am very capable of washing my car. I own a bucket, a sponge and even some car shampoo, but it is the convenience that is the benefit to me. That might be the convenience of time (although writing this has made me want to time just how long it takes when I next go). Or it might be the convenience of not having to kick myself up the bum to go outside and do it.
Either way, I can see a benefit to me and I can decide what value I place on that. Hiring a virtual assistant can be similar to this.
As a business owner, you will have undoubtedly found yourself in times when there is a task that needs doing and you can do it, but isn't a priority. However, if you put it off it creeps up the priority ranking. In seemingly no time it is at the top of your priority list and you have to stop, or delay, doing something else to make time for it. In the same way you might choose to get someone else to wash the car, there are tasks that you can outsource to a virtual assistant which means you do not have to delay, or even sacrifice something else, to do.
To get an idea of the type of tasks you could outsource have a look at the details on my services page. Is there something you could outsource that could free up your time, be done more efficiently, or just stops you from having to kick yourself up the bum to do?
Maybe only this once there would be a benefit to someone else doing it and that is ok too. The car wash knows I will be back when I need them!
I think the definitions of Virtual Assistant in this image start to explain what a (human) Virtual Assistant is. Essentially a Virtual Assistant will work on a defined task, project or area of your business, giving you the time to focus on what you need to. The word 'professional' appears in each definition above and this is really important. A Virtual Assistant will most likely be running their own business and will have a wealth of knowledge, experience and contacts. Their livelihood is dependant on providing a great service, so you will find a Virtual Assistant will get to know your business and will become a big champion for the product or service you offer.
So, if you want to know what the weather will be like tomorrow, get an Alexa (disclaimer: other smart speakers are available). If you want a professional who will efficiently handle a range of tasks adding value and time to your business, get a Virtual Assistant.
In my previous blog I said that I would answer the question, what is a favicon?
The word favicon is a portmanteau, or blended word, from 'favourite' and 'icon'. Essentially it is branding for your website. If you look at the tabs in your web browser you will notice that you use favicons everyday without realising. Just open sites such as Google, YouTube or Gmail and you will spot their favicon. It is the small image that helps you recognise their brand.
Although small, favicons are part of your branding. They are useful as they appear next to anything that identifies your website, such as, bookmarks, browser tabs, toolbar apps, etc.
They are an easy and immediate visual marker for your brand which will increase recognition and trust.
So, can you start a business with a favicon? Clearly no, you need more than that.
Just because you have a favicon do you have a business? Again, no.
However, can a favicon be the inspiration you need to get your business up and running? As odd as this may sound, it was for me.
If you don't know what a favicon is, stick with me, I will most likely make this the topic of my next blog. I didn't know what the word 'favicon' meant until about 4 days ago!
My sister mentioned my favicon in the feedback she'd kindly given me about my website. She mentioned many other, and probably more important things, which I am yet to act on. I'll get to those, but the favicon stood out and bugged me.
I've been learning so much about running a business over the past few weeks, again, content for future blogs, but after a day learning about search engine optimisation something just clicked. I'd been learning how to drive traffic to a website and funnily enough having a favicon is not listed in the top tips for that! However, feeling really inspired I wondered if I could tick anything off my to-do list.
I'd made a logo last week that I liked and I've been cropping it and using it in different ways. I've paid for a domain name, but not yet for the website, so I assumed adding a favicon would not be possible on the free version. I just typed "Add favicon to a free Weebly website" into Google and some pages came up that suggested it was possible. I won't bore you with the details and it was a bit of a faff, but after 45 minutes I had achieved what I had hoped to and I was really chuffing pleased with myself.
I may have done a victory lap of the garden to celebrate – the weather was nice, so I was working outside.
However, the little 'CS' logo on the tab of my website is not the story here. The story is that this confidence boost that I gave myself is what stopped me thinking about, planning and waiting until everything was in place with my business and made me just put it out there. My website had been live for a couple of weeks, but I'd only shared it with my immediate family a few days before. The favicon made me focus less on what my website said and if it looked 'right', but launched me into sharing it on LinkedIn and talking about what I was doing. So thank you to my favicon, the story of 'Claire Stock | Virtual Assistant' starts here!