I recently came across a post on Digg entitled ’25 Projects You Can Outsource to a Virtual Assistant‘ which is originally from on an online agency that allows freelancers in a variety of fields to bid on projects. This prompted me to do a little research about virtual assistants and agency/employment sites. This type of service is basically acting as a financial middleman between you and your Virtual Assistant (VA). Fair enough, they’re providing you with a list of virtual assistants to choose from. However, it’s not quite clear if or how they vet their registered VAs, so there is no guarantee of quality — some of these online agencies do have a feedback/rating system, such as Elance.com.
If you’re looking for a virtual secretary, virtual PA, or an all-round virtual assistant to support your business, help organise a special event — such as corporate hospitality at the upcoming Henley Regatta — or proofread your newly written book, then why not just do a search for ‘Virtual Assistant’. If you want a VA in your area, type in ‘Virtual Assistant’ +Staffordshire, for example. Another route is to visit the Alliance of UK Virtual Assistants, a directory of established Virtual Assistant businesses in England and throughout the United Kingdom.
Choosing your new virtual assistant may seem daunting: you want someone professional, efficient, reliable; someone with initiative who is flexible in their working methods and will thus be able to integrate your business procedures into their working day. You want your virtual assistant to be confidential, interested in your business goals, and up-to-date with new technology and web-based developments. So give them a call and talk them one-to-one!
Most virtual assistants will have their contact details on their website. Pick five from the results of your search which match your criteria of skills (wordprocessing, audio transcription, proofreading, DTP, call handling, etc) and experience — and location if absolutely necessary, and give each one a call. The best way to approach this is to let the VA know:
• what services you require
• how many hours of work you think you’ll be sending them per day/week
• what your business is about — it’s a bonus if your VA has worked within that industry.
The questions you need to ask are:
• how long have you been in business?
• are you able to provide the services requested?
• do you have the time in your schedule to accommodate the workload proposed?
• what are the costs involved?
‘It’s not rocket science!’ as the saying goes, and you’ll benefit from having chosen the perfect virtual assistant to support you and your business long into the future.
One tip I would like to add: if you can find a VA who’s done a fair amount of temping out in the ‘real’ world, you’ll find one who’s flexible, quick to adapt, and with initiative in bucket loads.
As an industry, virtual assistance is not new but the take-up of virtual assistant services is increasing as businesses — entrepreneurs, start-ups, sole traders and big businesses alike — realise the benefits of outsourcing certain tasks and projects, leaving them free to do what they do best.
So back to my initial point: why incur the additional cost of using an agency or online bidding service to find the person you’ll be working with on a regular basis (hopefully, well into the future), who will most likely have quite a lot of confidential information about you, when you could just have a quick phone conversation and exchange a couple of emails to find your perfect virtual assistant?