By: Melissa Darcey
Thanks to technology and advanced communication tools, virtual work and telecommuting have significantly increased in popularity, with freelance workers accounting for roughly 34% of the total US workforce. One such telecommuting position that can help small-business owners get more done is the virtual assistant.
A virtual assistant is an administrative professional who works remotely on an independent basis. Virtual assistants can complete the same tasks as in-office personnel, from answering phone calls and scheduling meetings to assisting you with projects and managing bills—essentially everything except handing you your morning cup of coffee.
If you’re finding yourself running low on time or in need of a helper, consider hiring a virtual assistant for these five benefits.
Hiring a virtual assistant saves you office space, resources, and money. Virtual assistants generally aren’t hired as salaried employees, but rather as freelancers or independent contractors. In this setup, the virtual assistant gets the flexibility of working remotely, while you pay for only the hours they work.
You also won’t have to furnish an office space, provide a computer, or purchase other expensive materials for your virtual assistant—which means you can get the help you need without breaking the bank.
A lot of small-business owners have a very common Achilles’ heel: trying to juggle everything solo. Seemingly small tasks, such as client follow-up, database maintenance, and social media scheduling, can quickly eat away at time you could be using to complete more important tasks.
To maximize your productivity, focus on your strengths and hire to fill your weaknesses. Instead of spreading yourself thin and taking on every task, rely on a virtual assistant to handle the little things that keep you from focusing. While your in-house employees can handle last-minute needs or urgent projects, a virtual assistant can manage the ongoing, everyday operations of your business.
Beyond increasing your productivity, you can also save valuable hours at the office. For one, you won’t have to coordinate schedules, as a virtual assistant can work anytime based on your needs. You can either allow them to complete the required work based on their schedule or have them work set hours.
Additionally, you likely won’t have to invest as many hours into on-site training for a virtual assistant as you would for an in-house employee, depending on their level of expertise. On average, employees receive 53.8 hours of training each year—more than a full work week lost. Experienced virtual assistants, on the other hand, keep themselves familiar with the latest tools and technologies, saving you both time and money.
There are no geographic limits when hiring a virtual assistant, so you have more access to talented professionals. And as you don’t have to cover office supplies or extensive training, your budget will allow for greater talent that fits your requirements.
Access to a more diverse candidate pool is particularly helpful if you seek an assistant with a particular skillset or familiarity with your industry. Many online job boards and agencies make it easy to search for virtual assistants that meet your requirements, including experience level, software proficiency, and industry expertise.
Need more work completed during a busy season, help over the weekend, or assistance in the evenings? While an in-office assistant would generally have set hours, you can find a virtual assistant with more flexible hours to match your scheduling needs. For example, if it’s slow in winter, you may only need an assistant for a few hours each day, whereas in summer you may need all hands on deck during the weekends.
Another benefit is that a virtual assistant can step in temporarily to fulfill tasks of another employee who is out sick or on vacation. Just increase the assistant’s number of working hours or hire another virtual assistant on a temporary basis for specific projects.
Get Started with a Virtual Assistant
A virtual assistant can help you accomplish more in less time and for less money. While it may seem strange hiring someone you’ve never met in person, there are many reputable agencies through which you can find a trustworthy virtual assistant. Use a site like Freelancer.com or Zirtual.com to start your search for a qualified professional. Some companies may provide references and allow you to run a background check before hiring, so you can feel even more confident.
Have you ever used a virtual assistant, or do you plan on hiring one? Tweet us at @FrontierBiz to tell us your experience with virtual assistants, and share this article on social media with your fellow business owners.