Surprisingly, or not, few people know the answer to that. Although it is a fast growing industry, in the UK it remains largely unheard of.
So what is a Virtual Assistant (VA)? Well, a VA takes on administration work that a business decides to outsource. Reasons for outsourcing could be:
It takes too much time to do (eating into family/personal time)
Don't like to do
Don't know how to do
Need holiday cover
Need to spend more time generating revenue
I describe it as being similar to a freelance PA although it is so much more than that and such a basic description does not really do a VA business any justice.
First and foremost, VA's are business owners. They do the research, formulate a strategy, create marketing and business plans, and all the other work that needs to be done before launching a business. Someone who launches a VA business will already have acquired a significant amount of experience, often gained over many years in various admin roles.
A VA is responsible for buying and maintaining their own office equipment, their own office space and tools of the trade. They are responsible for their business finances, salaries and paying relevant taxes.
For business owners who wonder 'how can a Personal Assistant be virtual and still provide the services I need?' - let me tell you, with modern technology it's more realistic that you may think! Okay, we can't bring you a cup of tea or do your paper filing but who needs paper these days? Plus with the time a VA can save you, you have plenty of time to make yourself tea!
In a previous post I have already talked about the functions of a virtual office and some of the enabling tools used. There are many variations of systems for project management, social media management, image creation, email management, CRMs and so on. VA's will have their preferences or may adapt according to a client's needs.
In essence, the VA concept is that once a Virtual Assistant has the right technology in place he/she has the capability of handling multiple clients. Also, the whole point of being virtual means that those clients don't have to be local. Many VA's will work with clients from all over the world. There are 'nomad' VA's who maintain successful businesses while moving from one country (or continent) to another on a regular basis. Time differences are not inhibitive, in fact a time difference can be advantageous to client and VA.
Needless to say, managing different projects for a number of clients, possibly in different locations, a VA must be highly organised with a good level of
technical ability. A VA will take personal development seriously and there are numerous options for enhancing knowledge or learning new skills. Keeping pace with technology is vital to the VA business as software is updated and new tools are brought to market. They make it their business to learn about and understand their own industry. In a nutshell, you are dealing with an expert.
The scope of VA work is enormous. Some are generalist and have a broad knowledge of business admin. Other VA's specialise in specific work areas for example:
Social Media Management
Website design and maintenance
While some VA's focus on specific industries such as:
Diet, Health & Wellbeing
There are VA's who work independently and those who manage teams of VA's. Some choose to work on an hourly rate while others offer packages that deliver a set number of tasks at a set price. VA's also mix and match their work - taking on one-off projects, short term or long term contracts. Although the title of Virtual Assistant is generally accepted, some may prefer to be recognised as Online Business Managers (OBM's).
So you see, VA's have the knowledge and are set up to deal with just about anything related to the day to day management of a business, if they can't do it themselves they are almost always likely to know a VA who can. If you have been considering outsourcing or even if you hadn't yet thought of it, this article hopefully, has given you some idea of the options available to you.
I hope that you have found this insight to the VA world helpful and informative. If you would like to know more about working with a Virtual Assistant, then please get in touch.
Copyright Online Office Services Ltd. June 2015. All rights reserved.
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