The use of a virtual assistant (or VA) can be a cost-effective and efficient alternative to hiring on-site employees. But, just like most things in life, one needs to know how and when to use them in order to maximize the benefits.
But before we can discuss the ways to maximize the use of a Virtual Assistant, business owners should be clear about what a VA really is. A virtual assistant is a broad term that describes anyone who contributes to a business from a remote location. Usually, VA’s are hired to perform administrative tasks, such as fielding phone calls, answering emails, writing memos or reports, etc or research-oriented tasks, such as conducting market research.
Outsourcing is a vital tool in nearly every business these days. After all, what is the logic of hiring employees and having to pay salaries and benefits, not to mention renting office space to accommodate them, if you can simply hire sub-contractors to do the job? This question is particularly relevant to a small business which cannot afford extra expenses.
So how can small business owners maximize the use of a Virtual Assistant? Here are a few tips:
- Use the Virtual Assistant to take care of repetitive tasks that take up a lot of your own time so that you will be free to do the larger, more important things. The Virtual Assistant can deal with responses to routine emails, market research, compiling business quotes, updating contact lists and other mundane tasks.
- Virtual assistants can also help with more creative activities such as lead generation via blogging and social networks, and submitting articles to directories. You can also use them for event planning and preparing Power Point presentations about your business.
- Take the time to establish work flow processes. Decide on how you will share information (verbally? By email?) Establish how you will issue instructions – (verbally or in writing?) Set clear procedures to prevent double handling.
In order to ensure maximum efficiency, make a list of the tasks you want your Virtual Assistant to accomplish and establish a reasonable timeline. Prepare an outline of the specific task step-by-step so that the Virtual Assistant will be able to tackle the job efficiently.
Establish a method of evaluating the VA’s performance and return on investment. At the beginning there may be some tweaking involved in working with a remote employee until the right balance is achieved. Sometimes appropiate tasks are being assigned, but the person filling the VA position may not be a good fit. Other times it may be the exact opposite.
The good thing about outsourcing is that you can use it if and when you need it and customize it to fit your resources and demands. It’s up to you to find the right balance. Once you have, a Virtual Assistant can be virtually invaluable.