What is a virtual assistant?

Running a business on your own isn’t easy. Mountains of time-consuming, hidden tasks soon overshadow your business dream, and this is when hiring a virtual assistant comes in handy. But, you might ask yourself: what exactly is a virtual assistant? what do they do? and what types of tasks can one do?

Virtual assistants are remote workers who help with a selection of business tasks and services. They may do administrative work, bookkeeping, or even marketing tasks. Regardless of what you need help with, virtual assistants are a cost-effective way to alleviate the pressures you face as an entrepreneur and keep your focus on growing your business. Knowing that you need help and deciding to hire a virtual assistant is the first step to business growth.

In this guide, you will learn everything you need to know about virtual assistants from the job description, the tasks they can do for your business to the key steps for hiring the right one. 

1. What is a virtual assistant?

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virtual assistant is a self-employed worker, either a freelancer or an independent contractor who based on the skill set offers administrative, marketing or business tasks that take up valuable time you could be spending focusing on your business growth.

Sometimes also known as virtual professionals or online personal assistants, they can help you with just a few tasks per month or be highly involved in your business’s day-to-day activities. Virtual assistants may be experts in specific fields or certain types of tasks, such as accounting or marketing, or may offer broader, more generalized services. They work with you remotely, so that you can hire a virtual assistant from anywhere in the world, provided their schedule and availability aligns with your needs. All you’ll need to communicate with them is a computer and an internet connection. 

Don’t try to do everything by yourself, but try to connect with people and resources. Having that discipline and perseverance is really important.

2. Benefits of a virtual assistant

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Hiring a virtual assistant has the direct advantage of helping you take care of tasks you don’t have time for, or aren’t proficient in. As we mentioned above, they help you keep your business running in the day-to-day and free up more of your time to generate more income and keep the business growing. Here are some other benefits of hiring a virtual assistant:

  • They work remotelyOnline assistants don’t need to come and work next to you at home or in your office. They are fully remote and can be anywhere in the world, at any time, saving you money and logistical considerations. 
  • They’re more cost-effective than a full-time employee. Hiring on a freelance basis has a lower cost than bringing someone on your payroll. While rates may vary depending on where your assistant is working from, their hourly wages can be quite affordable.
  • If needed, they can work in your off-hours. Perhaps you want someone who can answer customer service emails during your off-hours or someone to complete tasks while you’re asleep, so they’re ready for you the next day. You can hire an assistant with the exact availability you require, even if it’s during non-standard hours.  
  • You can hire multiple assistants, so someone is always available. With more than one virtual assistant on your roster, you can always get help exactly when you need it—even more so than a regular employee.

3. 101 Tasks you can outsource to a virtual assistant

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Research services

  1. Travel planning and cost-saving
  2. Hashtag research
  3. Competitors research and analysis
  4. Market research
  5. Internet research
  6. Business research
  7. Data research and analysis
  8. Searching business statistics
  9. Business opportunity research
  10. Searching for guest blog opportunities
  11. Compiling research data
  12. Information research on websites
  13. Vendor selection research
  14. Operations research

Writing services

  1. Writing articles and blog posts
  2. Writing for translation
  3. Editing & proofreading blog posts, guides, scientific and technical papers, website content, business content, etc …
  4. Writing cover letters, emails, sales copy, ad copy, social media copy
  5. Writing a transcript of audio or video
  6. Creating product descriptions for your e-commerce store
  7. Book and ebook writing
  8. UX writing
  9. Speechwriting
  10. Scriptwriting for TV, video, film, webinars, etc …
  11. Grant writing
  12. Letter writing
  13. Podcast scripting

Bookkeeping services

  1. Bookkeeping
  2. Tax preparation and filing
  3. Accounts payable (bills and payments)
  4. Accounts receivables (invoices and collection)
  5. Orders and refunds processing
  6. Payroll processing
  7. Expense classification
  8. Sales commissions
  9. Balance sheet generation and review
  10. Inventory management
  11. Coordinating with your CPA or tax adviser

Admin and management services

  1. Live chat customer service
  2. Inbox management
  3. Answering phone calls
  4. Appointment scheduling
  5. Answering blog, forums, or social media comments
  6. Live webinar assistance
  7. Conference organization
  8. Project management services
  9. Online conference & event services
  10. Exhibition and sponsorship planning services
  11. Meeting & event planning
  12. Data management services
  13. Training new team members
  14. Managing online communities
  15. Calendar management

Graphic design services

  1. Taking screenshots for blog posts
  2. Create storyboards for films, commercials, videos, etc …
  3. Photoshop editing
  4. Powerpoint presentation design
  5. Designing logos, flyers, brochures, invitations, etc …
  6. Sourcing photos for your content
  7. Design social media posts, banners, headers, and covers
  8. Creating brand style guides
  9. Web and mobile design
  10. Package design
  11. Book design

Tech services

  1. Full website creation
  2. Blog creation
  3. Fix website bugs
  4. Customize WordPress themes
  5. Perform SEO (search engine optimization)
  6. Create landing pages
  7. Website backup, clone, and migration
  8. Game development and customization
  9. Web programming
  10. E-commerce development
  11. Mobile apps development
  12. Desktop applications
  13. Cybersecurity and data protection
  14. Convert files

Social media services

  1. Social media accounts/profiles creation, customization, and branding
  2. Develop Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest business pages
  3. Create Instagram posts
  4. Research trendy hashtags
  5. Uploading videos on YouTube
  6. Write social media copy
  7. Manage your social media accounts
  8. SEO YouTube videos
  9. Promote YouTube videos
  10. Create social media strategies
  11. Conduct a social media audit
  12. Set up Facebook conversion API pixel tracking
  13. Social media marketing
  14. Social media advertising

Marketing services

  1. Create marketing strategies
  2. Manage and promote social media channels
  3. Set up and manage social media ads
  4. Write and distribute press releases
  5. YouTube video promotion
  6. Creating surveys
  7. Web analytics
  8. Public relations
  9. Lead generation 

Hiring a VA allowed me to focus on the core operations of my business. I start each week with a mental list of time-consuming tasks that I shouldn’t be doing on your own. These tasks, as appropriate, I assign to my VA

4. How to hire a virtual assistant

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Now that you’ve decided to hire a virtual assistant, you are ready to go through the full process and the first step it’s to understand what you need or want to outsource. Part of delegating tasks is knowing what tasks are most urgent and what you need the most help with. 

Follow the four steps below to find and hire the right virtual assistant for your business:

Step 1. Decide what tasks to outsource

#1. Create a master to-do list. Start by writing down everything you need to do for your business on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. You can do this in a document or spreadsheet to start. Then, organize your tasks into groups. You can do this by type of task (e.g., administrative, marketing, customer service) or simply by whether you can and want to do it yourself or prefer to outsource it. If you like, you can add these tasks to a project management tool like ClickUp or Asana and assign them to your assistant. If you don’t have a project management tool, consider asking your virtual assistant to set it up for you as one of their first tasks. 

#2. Use a time tracker. If you aren’t sure which of your tasks are good candidates to outsource, try using a time tracker. These apps track how much time you spend on specific sites, programs, or software, or follow and track specific tasks when you start and stop a timer. Spend a day or week tracking your time for each (or most) task on your master to-do list. Tracking will help you figure out where you are spending the most time and energy. Often, but not always, extremely time-consuming tasks are good candidates for assigning to a virtual assistant. If you are struggling to think of tasks that could be outsourced, look back at the list of possible tasks in the “Understand What a Virtual Assistant Does” section above to spark ideas.

Step 2. Determine who to hire

Now it’s time to hire your virtual assistant. Here’s what you need to do to find the right candidate: 

#1. Define the must-have qualities of your virtual assistant. The first step is to write down the must-have qualities you need your virtual assistant to have. Determining those characteristics will help you narrow down your choices. They should be based on logistical, professional, and technical qualities. Below you’ll find some of the most important skills to consider. Logistical considerations include:

  • The languages they can speak
  • A time zone that fits with your schedule
  • An accessible price range that fits your budget

On a professional level, you’ll want to ensure they are:

  • Reliable
  • Resourceful
  • Flexible
  • Proactive
  • Organized
  • Collaborative
  • Communicative

In addition, you’ll want to think through any unique needs or considerations you may have, such as experience in your industry or knowledge of specific software or tools your business uses. Candidates should also be able to provide excellent references or reviews that speak to their abilities. 

#2. Assess their skills and abilities. As you’re talking to your potential online assistant, you’ll want to ask them a few questions to assess their skills and abilities and determine if they’re a good match for your personality and communication style. Here are some sample questions you can ask a candidate:

What are your main skillsets?

It’s good to know just how many types of work they are comfortable with. You can expand on this and ask how many programs they know how to use and which ones they are an expert in. 

What do you consider to be your strengths and weaknesses as a virtual assistant?

This is a great question to find out if they will match your personality and communication style. Listen to the level of honesty and candor in their answers.

What are your working hours? 

You need to know when they are working and if it matches your own hours. Some people want to work alongside them in terms of time availability. Others prefer to send them tasks at the end of the day to be finished as you sleep.

Have you ever had a client whose instructions were complicated or difficult to understand? How did you handle it?

Listen to their answer and decide if you think they did the right thing or not. Don’t be judgmental either way, simply listen. If you don’t agree with their resolution, then they might not be the candidate for you.

Do you know how to work with my productivity tool? 

If you work with a productivity or collaboration tool, you need to know if they know their way around it. If they don’t know, determine if you want to take the time to teach them. Most virtual assistants will be happy to learn to better help you. 

Step 3. Come up with small sample tasks

Once you’ve selected your favorite rite candidates, you can ask them to do a few small test tasks. Make sure that the test tasks match what you want them to do. For example:

  • If you need calendar scheduling, ask them to create an event and invite you to it.
  • If you need data entry, ask them to input 30 rows.
  • If you need an email organization, ask them to organize one page of your inbox.

Giving them small sample tasks is a way for you to see if they genuinely know what they are doing. Even if the task is new to them, they should be able to investigate and figure it out.

Step 4. Build a collaborative, successful work relationship

It’s crucial to start off on the right foot to have an impactful working relationship with your assistants. They’ll need all the instructions and resources necessary to complete any assigned tasks and access to any relevant documents or tools. Preparing ahead of time will help the entire process go more smoothly, so your new virtual assistant can jump in immediately. As you prepare and continue to work with your assistant, be sure to do these things: 

#1. Give clear instructions. Giving easy-to-understand instructions is key to getting the work done right the first time. The more particular you are about a task or a process, the more specific your instructions should be. In general, you should be assigning your assistant tasks that require minimal or basic instructions. (After all, their job is to make your life easier, not add more work to your plate.)If you are open to new ways of completing a task, feel free to let your online assistant do it however they see fit. They may have a different process that is more efficient or resourceful than what you have been doing—just another example of how they can help your business grow. 

#2. Set goals and deadlines. Regardless of how detailed your instructions are, you should always provide your virtual assistant with two things: the overall goal of the task you have assigned them and a deadline for completing that task. The overall goal helps them stay on track, even if they are using their own process. Deadlines ensure things are completed in a timely manner. When setting deadlines, try to build in a day or two of buffer time for yourself in case your assistant runs into any delays. 

Setting goals and deadlines is important because it gives your online assistant the opportunity to ask questions and clarify expectations ahead of time, meaning work gets done correctly and quickly every time. 

#3. Set them up in your collaboration tool. If you use tools like Asana, Trello, or ClickUp, give your virtual assistants access. You can set their permissions only to see the tasks you need them to do. You can make a board or project specifically for them, so they only see what’s relevant to them. Use all the functionalities of the tool to organize tasks, add deadlines, and even track time so you can pay your assistant properly. 

#4. Ask for regular updates. If a task is ongoing or takes a long time to complete, be sure your virtual assistant provides regular updates so you can monitor progress and provide feedback along the way. To reduce your mental load, set an expectation at the beginning of a project that they will provide updates on a daily or weekly basis, or whenever a problem arises. 

#5. Be clear with your feedback and expectations. When it’s time to give feedback on your assistant’s work, be honest and direct. Give constructive criticism, not judgmental criticism. You must always be clear about what you expect from them. Provide actionable steps that let your assistant know what went wrong and what to do differently in the future. When giving constructive criticism, pay attention to the way they react. Are they gracious and helpful? Or do they answer with annoyed commentaries? Those who accept feedback gracefully are the ones you want to work with long term.  

#6. Give more work to the ones that you feel comfortable with. When you find a virtual assistant that understands you easily and works quickly, that’s one to hang on to. Send them more work as soon as you have it. Alternatively, hire them out for a set number of hours per week so you can have a dedicated assistant who will regularly handle certain tasks. This will make your business run more smoothly and grow more quickly, all with a happy working relationship. 

Conclusion

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If you’ve been feeling overwhelmed with business tasks and unable to get to the projects that will grow your business, it may be time to hire a virtual assistant. These online workers can take on routine tasks or to-do list items that you don’t have the bandwidth or skill to complete. They free up more time for you to do things that will grow your business more quickly. 

As you work with your online assistant regularly, you’ll develop clear processes for giving instructions, setting deadlines, and offering feedback. Once you establish a smooth relationship with them, you’ll be amazed at how much more you can accomplish—and how fast your business will grow. 

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Daniel

Daniel

Contributor @samcx.com. Passionate about everything Sales, Marketing and Account Management.

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