No part of launching or developing small businesses is easy, whether you’re an individual freelancer or you have a small operation of employees. Without a doubt, though, scaling the business to accommodate and foster growth is one massive challenge. How do you hire the number and type of employees that will help the business grow without hiring more than you can afford?
That’s why hiring a virtual assistant is among the first ways successful small businesses grow. With freelance virtual assistants, in particular, you can hire them for as many hours as needed without adding office space or other costs. Plus, you can get many essential, cost-saving services for a bargain.
As with any service, though, virtual assistants come at a cost. Why hire a virtual assistant and how do you know if this is the right next step for your business? Let’s start by digging into what virtual assistants do and how you can tell if hiring a VA should be on your to-do list.
What Do Virtual Assistants Do?
Virtual assistants are exactly who their title suggests: assistants who help small business owners, freelancers, and anyone else for that matter with their general needs. Think of them as an administrative assistant or perhaps a receptionist who works remotely. There are many services a typical VA can provide.
Scheduling meetings, confirming meetings, blocking off productive time…all that calendar management can be a serious black hole for your time. That’s especially true because it’s a task that often interrupts you in the middle of other tasks, tanking your productivity. Virtual assistants can manage anyone’s schedule day-to-day.
Your business development plan is a top tool for any growing business, but sometimes executing it is a struggle. They often involve time-consuming tasks like researching new opportunities, researching competitors, and so on. It’s hard to find time for those chores on top of running a business.
Virtual assistants can take those time-consuming tasks off your hands. They can even reach out to new prospects using well-crafted templates or protocols, helping you grow your business without adding time to your schedule.
No business wants a revolving door in which for every new customer gained, an existing customer walks away. Keeping customers happy, though, takes ongoing communication and attentiveness. Virtual assistants can field all calls, emails, social media messages, or other messages that come in from customers, providing effective service and keeping those customers happy.
Many businesses give virtual assistants proactive tasks for customer service too. For instance, have them conduct customer experience surveys and prepare beneficial reports you can act on.
For any business but especially an online business, inboxes get flooded in a hurry. Between customers, vendors, internal employees, prospects, and more, there are always new messages that need attention. It’s enough to take over your entire day.
Virtual assistants can manage emails for multiple inboxes on a daily basis. However, be sure to educate them on your brand voice as well as any guidance for responding to frequent questions so they can work effectively while properly representing your company.
Basic Marketing Projects
Digital marketing is an ongoing technique that can skyrocket any business’s growth if it’s managed well. The problem is that this can involve time-consuming tasks that don’t fit into business owners’ schedules, so those tasks fall to the side.
A virtual assistant can pick up those tasks and run with them. Instead of hiring full-time marketing staffers, hire virtual assistants to monitor ad performance, research ad opportunities, and prepare reports about marketing results.
Social Media Management
Social media is a tremendous way to get new clients, but it takes continuous upkeep. On top of frequent posts, brands must be attentive to their audience. That includes monitoring and responding to comments and direct messages while also interacting with other brands and followers’ posts.
Each virtual assistant has its own set of skills. While most can manage basic communications on social media, if you want your assistant to provide social media content as well, look for someone with a social media marketing background.
It’s often the little things that cost companies the most money, like an executive or business owner spending hours on time-consuming projects rather than doing what they do best: drumming up a new business. That’s largely why virtual assistants can reduce operating costs by up to 78%.
Among those time-consuming projects often include data entry. The business might be transferring CRM data, transcribing hand-written notes to digital notes, updating databases, or other tedious tasks. Virtual assistants will take over those jobs, making room in your schedule for more profit-driving work.
Invoice and Payment Management
Managing invoices and payments may be crucial for any business, but it can feel like a chore too. On top of other administrative tasks, virtual assistants can manage your invoicing needs. They can prepare invoices, process payments, record payments, and audit these records for errors.
Any business needs supplies but shopping around for deals and options takes time. Why not pass off that time to a virtual assistant? From office supplies and software subscriptions to materials for developing your products, virtual assistants can tackle it all. Of course, be sure to discuss budgets and have a purchase approval process in place to avoid mistakes or unexpected expenses.
Why Hire a Virtual Assistant? Pros and Cons of Hiring a Virtual Assistant
Virtual assistants are incredibly versatile resources for small businesses, but making that choice will ultimately affect the way your business grows (or doesn’t), so it’s important to weigh the decision carefully. There’s no universal answer to whether you should hire a VA - it varies from one person to another.
To find out if hiring a VA is the right step for your business, consider these pros and cons.
Pros of Hiring a Virtual Assistant
Yes, VAs cost money, but that can be money well-spent and in some cases, they could even pay for themselves. Keep these advantages in mind.
Save Time And Money
A full-time employee is expensive: between their salary, benefits, and sick time, as well as office space, utilities, and other equipment, they can easily be too pricey for a small business owner to afford. In contrast, virtual assistants can be hired and paid on an as-needed basis, and they can work remotely from their own homes.
Additionally, if you hire a VA who is already trained in the exact skill set you need, you don't need to spend extra time or money training them — they should be ready to get started right away, allowing them (and you!) to hit the ground running.
Another great benefit of virtual assistants is that they can be hired on whatever timescale. If your business would be best served by paying a VA for a set amount of hours each week for an indefinite amount of time, that's great — but you can also hire VAs for individual projects if that would work better for you.
This kind of flexibility can let you hire specific VAs for specific projects, allowing you to truly maximize your efficiency. By searching for the exact VA you want and bringing them onboard only when you need them, it’s easier to keep your operating costs low and your long-term productivity high.
More Time to Grow Your Business
Quite frankly, time spent on administrative tasks is time wasted for a freelancer. You could be spending time on tasks that bring in revenue, like connecting with potential clients or taking on more client work.
A VA can take on all those time-consuming tasks that take you away from business development. That includes invoicing, schedule management, email management, customer service, and more. With all that time open in your schedule, you could invest it into business growth or even *gasp* improving your work-life balance.
Variety of Skill Sets Available
Each VA has their own set of skills, and many of them extend their skills beyond administrative duties. Some can manage your social media accounts, while others can provide bookkeeping, copywriting, or graphic design services. Shop around and see who has the skills that fit your needs best.
Being a full-time freelancer or small business owner is exhausting. It can be difficult to maintain a healthy work-life balance when you feel like it's always time to focus on the next task. Virtual assistants can help take some of the pressure off of you by helping with tasks that are time-consuming but not tremendously important, such as checking your email, scheduling meetings, and sending out invoices to clients. By doing so, they are often able to identify ways to streamline certain workflows, which can help you save additional time in the future.
To further avoid frustration and burnout, VAs can be hired with specific skill sets that can help avoid tasks you dislike doing.
For example, if you're not very tech-savvy, you can hire a VA with marketing experience to manage your social media; similarly, if you don't have much of a head for numbers, you might bring on a VA with an accounting background to help keep track of your expenses.
By hiring a virtual assistant to work on the tasks you don't have the time or energy to complete, you can spend less time with your nose to the grindstone and more time doing the work you love to do.
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Provide Customer Service
As your small business expands, so must your customer service capabilities. Virtual assistant services can be a godsend in this area, as VAs can provide help with a wide variety of customer service functions.
From checking your voicemail and returning customers' calls to providing real-time customer support online, VAs can help ease your workload while also ensuring that your customers are satisfied enough to keep coming back for more.
Furthermore, because VAs operate all over the world, it’s possible to hire one or more in the time zone of your choice. Is your business is still small enough that you don't have a global customer base yet? Give your VA tasks that will help expand it.
For example, you could allow your VA to generate reports on customer satisfaction or send out customer experience surveys to collect valuable data. Regardless of how large your small business is, you can start to expand your freelance operation into a global sales force simply by hiring a VA.
Handle Sudden Needs
A virtual assistant works whenever you need them to, so they can handle any sudden, high-priority issues that may pop up. For example, if you suddenly realize that you need to squeeze in a ton of research before an upcoming meeting, or you need to launch a time-sensitive digital marketing campaign as quickly as possible, a VA can be ready and willing to help out. In this way, virtual assistants' flexible working hours make them an extremely beneficial addition to many small businesses.
To maximize your VA's efficacy, consider boosting their productivity with the use of a freelance platform, such as Indy. These platforms make it easy to generate contracts, invoices, and other forms. By allowing your VA to rapidly send out and track paperwork using a freelance platform, they'll be able to spend less time taking care of forms and more time able to help you with time-sensitive issues.
Cons of Hiring a VA
We don’t live in a fantasy world so of course, there are downsides to hiring a VA too. Consider these disadvantages and whether they’re enough to counteract the positives.
Added Business Expense
Clearly, when you hire a VA, you have to pay them. In the US, an average virtual assistant earns $19 per hour. If they’re working 40 hours per week, it totals $760 per week – that’s a pretty penny. Of course, reducing those hours will cut back on your bill so the cost is more manageable.
Onboarding a new VA isn’t easy. You need to familiarize them with all your systems, protocols, needs, and expectations. During the first few weeks, it could feel like you’re spending more time than you’re saving.
Be patient. Give them at least a few months to get into the groove. Then you’ll really be able to see if this VA is the right fit for the long term.
Expanding Your Business with Virtual Assistants
Why hire a virtual assistant? VA services can be a tremendous way to grow your business or simply reduce your stress level and workload. Still, every freelancer or business’s circumstances are unique, and you need to do your own pros and cons list to decide if this is the right path for you.