For small and mid-size businesses, hiring a virtual assistant (VA) is a cost-effective way to get administrative help without the expense of hiring a full-time, in-house employee. Cloud collaboration tools have made efficient, professional remote work easier than ever, expanding the range and scope of services a VA can provide.
"The reasons for utilizing a VA firm have become more needs-driven, customized and service-oriented," said Michelle Anastasio, CEO and founder of CT Virtual Assistance. "It's gone beyond reducing expenses or needing more time, [and businesses are now] focusing on the bigger picture of how hiring a VA can help them achieve their business goals faster, or promote their brand or service."
Many entrepreneurs have realized the growing demand for virtual assistance services, and are taking advantage of this lucrative business opportunity. If you're interested in becoming a VA, here's some expert advice for how to make it work. [Why It Might Be Time for a Virtual Assistant]
Get out of the 'employee' mindset
As a VA, you are not an employee of the company you're assisting; you're an independent business that provides a valuable B2B service. Shannon Davis, executive administrative consultant at Atlas Administrative Support, said that one of the biggest challenges a VA faces is learning to shed the "employee" mentality.
"Terminology and mentality is extremely important when thinking about becoming a VA," Davis told Business News Daily. "We are business owners, which allows us to be able to dictate our own working hours, policies and procedures for working with clients. Any time we allow clients to tell us when or how to work returns us to an employee status. [Your VA business] delivers specific professional expertise, in the same way as accountants or attorneys. Using proper terminology helps ensure that our clients understand the correct nature of the relationship: one of business and client."
Expand your skill set
There's a lot more to being a VA than helping out with the tasks your client needs you to do. Having office experience will help you in your day-to-day duties, but as an independent business, you need to learn the ropes of how to run it.
"Working virtually means you must exercise great discipline," said Tim Petree, senior vice president of BST Concierge. "You're your own boss, [but] those corporate rules that once seemed to be a drag can save you from financial ruin when you're the CEO or sole proprietor. If anything, you must now be conversant in all areas of business administration — sales, marketing, IT, customer service, project management, receivables, payables and compliance."
As with any type of virtual work, not being in the office for face-to-face interactions with your clients can present some difficulties if your or their communications are unclear. VAs perform many of the important day-to-day tasks that keep a business running, so knowing what's required of you as a service provider is key to customer satisfaction.
"The most important thing about being a VA, or having one, is the clarity in communication," said Tamara Mrak, public relations manager and virtual assistant for LioraFarkovitz.com. "There should be no room for assumptions and unclear information. I would advise the individuals who would like to pursue [a career as a VA] is to, primarily, have a clear understanding of the job's duties and responsibilities."
Adapt to your clients' needs
As a VA and as a business owner, you'll need to be able to deliver exactly what each client needs. It's a good idea to determine the best structure for your service packages and pricing based on what your clients are looking for.
"A VA provides businesses owners with the opportunity to get exactly what they need, when they need it, like ordering from a menu," Anastasio said. "Because most VAs offer a wide range of services to various industries, it becomes confusing as to who needs what most. [Our firm] is moving away from hourly retainers and more towards customizing individual monthly packages that are tailored to each client's needs."
Originally published on Business News Daily.