What is a virtual assistant and what do they do?
Approx. time to read: 10 minutes
Business process architect Kerry Anne Nelson from Operation Verve explains
- What is a virtual assistant?
- What they do and how they work
- The benefits of hiring a virtual assistant
- What will it cost you and how are they paid
- What kinds of things they can do for you
- How to hire a VA
- How to get the best possible outcomes from working with a VA
So what is a virtual assistant? This is a question that many people may be asking, especially those who have never heard of this term before.
Quite simply, the definition of a virtual assistant (or VA) is a professional who provides administrative, technical or creative assistance to clients from a remote work location. They offer their services to individuals, business owners or organizations and can be hired for short-term or long-term projects.
One of the biggest benefits is that you can get work done quickly and efficiently without having to leave your office or home. Virtual assistants are skilled professionals who can take on many different tasks, so you can rest assured knowing that your project will be handled in a timely and competent manner.
What Is a Virtual Assistant?
A virtual assistant is someone who helps you with your work. They do this by working from a remote location, which can be your home or office. You can hire them for short-term or long-term projects.
How a Virtual Assistant Works
A virtual assistant works by taking on tasks that you don’t have time for. This can be anything from answering emails to making phone calls. They are skilled professionals who can take on many different tasks, so you can rest assured knowing that your project will be handled in a timely and competent manner.
The benefits of hiring a virtual assistant
- Increased productivity
When you hire a VA, you can get more work done in a shorter amount of time. This is because they can take on tasks that you don’t have time for.
- Easier to manage projects
Virtual assistants are skilled professionals who can take on many different tasks. This means that you can easily manage projects without having to worry about the details.
Hiring a virtual assistant is a cost-effective way to get work done. This is because you don’t have to pay for their office space or in many cases, benefits like insurance or vacation pay. Keep this in mind when negotiating a salary so that you can ensure a mutually beneficial relationship!
- Flexible working arrangements
One of the best things about virtual assistants is that they offer flexible working arrangements. This means that you can hire them for a short-term project or on an as-needed basis.
- Access to a global pool of talent
When you hire a VA, you have access to a global pool of talent. This means that you can find the perfect person for the job, no matter where they are in the world.
- Can take on a variety of tasks
Virtual assistants can take on a variety of tasks, from answering emails to making phone calls (read more about the tasks a VA would typically carry out below).
This means that you can get all of your work done without having to worry about the details.
- Reduces stress levels
When you hire virtual assistant services, you can reduce your stress levels. This is because you will have more time to focus on the things that are important to you, while delegating the small tasks that often take up much of your day.
What does a virtual assistant do?
A VA can perform many of the tasks required in an office setting – essentially anything that you can complete remotely can be done by a VA. Being mindful that prior to hiring a VA you will want to ensure you have solid processes and tools in place for them to follow, below are some of the most common tasks a virtual assistant can help with:
There are many different types of administrative work that a VA often completes. This can include tasks such as answering emails, making phone calls, and completing data entry. Virtual assistants are often skilled in a variety of areas, so they can take on a variety of tasks to help you with your work.
A virtual assistant can often complete a variety of personal assistant tasks. This can include tasks such as managing your calendar, making travel arrangements, and handling your finances. They can also help with tasks such as online research, preparing reports, and creating presentations.
When it comes to customer service, virtual assistants can provide a variety of different services. This can include tasks such as answering customer inquiries, providing support, and handling complaints.
Data entry is another common task that virtual assistants often complete. This can include tasks such as entering data into a database, updating records, and creating reports.
Virtual assistants are often skilled in project management. This means that they can help you with tasks such as creating schedules, assigning tasks, and keeping track of deadlines.
Social media production
Virtual assistants can also help you with your social media production. This can include tasks such as creating and scheduling posts, interacting with followers, and monitoring analytics.
A VA can also help you with content management. This can include tasks such as creating and editing content, managing a website, and handling SEO.
What is a virtual assistant salary and how are they paid?
Virtual assistants are often paid hourly, although some may also be paid per project. The average virtual assistant salary is approximately $15 per hour. Salaries can, however, vary depending on the type of work that is being completed and the experience of the virtual assistant. There can be a large variation in costs for a VA depending on the country that they live in, so be sure to find a rate that allows your new VA to cover their cost of living.
When hiring a virtual assistant, be sure to discuss salary expectations upfront so that there are no surprises down the road.
How to hire a virtual assistant
There are a few steps that I would suggest through the hiring process. You want to be sure that you can find a great VA that really suits what you’re looking for, can do the job really well and fits in with the company culture.
Pay particular attention to point 1 below though – I would strongly advise that you complete this step before you start the hiring process, so that you can ensure you hire and onboard effectively, and set your new employee up for success.
- Document your processes
This is the most important step. You need to have a clear understanding of what tasks need to be completed, how you want them completed and what tools and resources are required. This will not only make the onboarding process easier for your new virtual assistant, but it will also help you to identify any areas where you may need to make changes to your processes.
- Post a job description
Be sure to include all the information that a virtual assistant would need to know in order to do the job, such as the duties and responsibilities, pay rate, hours and any other relevant details.
If you have documented your processes clearly, it should be easy to take the next step into creating a strong job description that leaves no surprises for you or your new hire.
- Review applications and conduct interviews
After you have received applications, take some time to review them and identify any candidates that stand out to you. Then, conduct a virtual interview via Skype, Zoom, Teams or another video conferencing tool. This will give you a chance to get to know the candidate better and see how they would interact with you on a day-to-day basis.
- Hire on a trial basis
Once you have found a candidate that you would like to hire, I recommend starting with a trial period. This will give you both a chance to see if the virtual assistant is a good fit for the job and if there is good working chemistry. I suggest trial periods of two weeks to one month.
During this trial period, please be willing, able, and happy to spend some extra time giving additional feedback, training, and answering any questions that may come up. Nurture the relationship.
- Onboard your new virtual assistant
Be sure to give your new virtual assistant a thorough onboarding. This should include an introduction to your company, an overview of the job, and a review of your processes. It is also a good idea to set up regular check-ins during the first few weeks so that you can provide feedback and answer any questions that they may have.
How Do I Track The Time A VA Spent On A Task?
There are a few different ways that you can track the time a virtual assistant spends on a task.
The first is to use a tool like timeBro or Clockify. These tools will allow you to see how much time was spent on a task, as well as what type of activities were completed.
Another option is to ask your virtual assistant to keep a time log. This can be done using a simple spreadsheet or time-tracking tool within a project management tool like Asana.
How Do I Know They Were Actually Working During Those Hours?
If you’re working with a virtual assistant for the first time, it’s natural to have some concerns about whether or not they are actually working during the hours that they say they are.
There are a few different ways that you can ensure your virtual assistant is working during their scheduled hours.
The first is to use a tool like Time Doctor or RescueTime. These tools will track the time spent on specific tasks and activities, as well as provide screenshots and activity logs.
It’s really important to note that if you are expecting your new employee to use this kind of software to keep your mind at ease, you should be paying for the subscription of the software, and not expecting your VA to be forking out for additional software.
Trust is a critical factor in a positive working relationship with your VA.
How do I Maintain Detailed Records of My VAs’ Tasks?
Use project management tools like Asana, Trello or Basecamp to assign tasks to your virtual assistant and track their progress.
Each of these tools allows you to create detailed task descriptions, set due dates and leave comments.
You can also use these tools to keep track of any files or documents that need to be shared with the virtual assistant.
Asana and Trello both have a free plan to get started with, so if you are only using this platform for tasks between yourself and your VA, then you need not worry about the additional costs. If you’re looking to include time tracking and other advanced features, then these will cost you to add, but these can be invaluable.
Hiring a virtual assistant can be a great way to free up your time and focus on the tasks that only you can do.
When hiring a virtual assistant, it’s important to take your time, ask the right questions and onboard them properly.
And finally, don’t forget to trust your gut! If something feels off, it probably is. On the flip side of that though, if you find your new VA hire to be outstanding, really show that you trust them and keep in mind how much power there is in kudos, great positive feedback, and showing that individual the impact that they have had in your team or your business!
This article first appeared in the Operation Verve Blog on 02/08/2022
About the Author
Kerry Anne Nelson is known for her obsession with making workplaces run smoothly and has become Australia’s most passionate advocate for systemising businesses. Her clients accelerate the achievement of their business goals by leveraging the decades Kerry Anne invested into growing her own companies. She accelerates the pathway to lasting expansion by developing customised tools which allow owner operators to scale their business.