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What is a Virtual Assistant

A Virtual Assistant or VA is an entrepreneur who, for a fee, provides professional administrative, technical, or creative assistance to clients from his own office. His clients are usuallysmall businessesbrokers and consultancy groups although sometimes big companies also avail themselves of the services of a VA to perform certain tasks. The process of engaging the services of a virtual assistant is called outsourcing.

The virtual assistant may also engage the services of other people to perform certain tasks especially if such tasks are beyond his own personal expertise. This process is called sub-contracting and the people the virtual assistant hires for this purpose are sub-contractors. The sub-contractors deal only with the virtual assistant who in turns deals directly with the client. They usually are professionals and even retirees who are experts in their own field and have spare time to perform the outsourced tasks. They normally work at home and require only a serviceable personal computer and a good internet connection.

Virtual assistants are proving to be a very important business arrangement for small businesses, brokers and consultants who cannot afford to rent additional office spaces, hire additional personnel and buy additional office fixtures and equipment as a result of a short-term project. The advent of modern communications technology has made it easier for these business organizations to outsource certain tasks to virtual assistants halfway around the globe. Common modes of communication and data delivery include the Internet, e-mail, telephone conferences, online work spaces, and fax machine.

Outsourcing work to virtual assistants is fast becoming a popular and sound decision even for routine tasks such as email or appointment management. The outsourcing client realizes certain benefits from the transaction such as:

  1. Lower cost. Virtual Assistants usually operate from their homes or from smaller offices hence their overhead costs are lower. If the virtual assistant operates from a third country such as the Philippines, the labor cost per unit of time is likewise lower. Moreover, if the task can be completed in a short time such as article writing, the client pays only for such time as opposed to paying the cost of a full time employee. These factors translate into lower cost in the performance of the task for the outsourcing client;
  2. Freedom from setting up legally mandated employee benefits. The outsourcing company does not have to pay compulsory employee benefits that tend to build up overtime such as retirement plans, health and insurance benefits, etc.;
  3. Freedom from legal complications associated with terminating an employee. In some countries, there are labor laws that make it difficult for the employer to terminate an employee whose services are no longer needed. With outsourcing, the obligation of the client terminates with the payment of the outsourcing fee;
  4. Instant access to expert services. By outsourcing, a client is able to tap the expert services he needs. He does not have to spend for the training of an employee over a period of time;
  5. Focus on the core business. With the less important matters being taken care of by virtual assistant, the client is able to focus on its core business and be more effective at it.

Outsourcing is a rapidly growing trend, made possible by three key factors:

  1. the desire of employees to maintain more control over their work styles,
  2. the desire of businesses to lower costs and improve efficiencies, and
  3. the availability of technology that enables both sides to connect.

Following are some of the tasks that are usually outsourced from virtual assistants:

  • Admin/Secretarial Support (Calling, Faxing, etc)

If the administrative details are bogging your business down, a virtual assistant is just a contact away. It can do email management, appointments management, take and make calls, receive and send out communications, anything that will distract you from your core business.

  • Article and Web Content Writing

If writing is not your strong suit, don’t waste time and money trying to develop the talent. And don’t give up on this very valuable tool either. A virtual assistant can write articles that will introduce you to your market and sell your business.

  • Bulk Ad Posting

If your business calls for bulk ad posting and you find the repetitive task of crafting the ads tedious, call a virtual assistant. Then watch as the responses start flooding your contact lines.

  • CRM/ Site Maintenance

If Customer Relationship Management is crucial to your business, a virtual assistant can design one for you and even maintain it so that you continue to be in constant contact with your most important public, your customers.

  • Data Conversion (from one format to another)

If you are constantly receiving information in various formats and you find it tedious and time consuming to organize and manage it, call a virtual assistant can solve this problem for you.

  • Data Gathering/Mining

If you want to organize a set of data, like prospective clients and their demography, from a voluminous source so that you can use them in your business, don’t get snowed under. A virtual assistant can simplify things for you.

  • Data Grabbing (from a website to an office document)

If you want to cull information from the internet and organize it into a usable document, don’t waste your time wading through millions of unnecessary details. Let a virtual assistant do this so you can focus on what you do best – selling your business.

  • Encoding/Typing, Formatting

Organizing information that comes in various formats and encoding it in a way so that your clients can access or read them can be a daunting task, especially if you do not have the time. Whether it is word, excel or powerpoint presentation, a virtual assistant can simplify life for you.

  • Resume and Cover Letter Writing

Resume and Cover Letters are crucial documents. They provide the prospective employers the initial information about the person even before they see him. It is vital, therefore, that these documents are read, instead of being thrown into the trash can, and coax the recruiter to invite you for an interview. A virtual assistant can craft resumes and cover letters that get read by the recruiters

  • Research

Research can also be done by virtual assistants. If you are going into a business in another part of the world, you can fly into that place and start asking around. Or you can call a virtual assistant and let him do the spadework.

  • Transcription (Audio to Text)

If your business calls for the handling of information in audio and you need to transcribe it to text, a virtual assistant can do this for you. We have transcribers who can do even medical and legal transcribing.

  • Web design/IT

If you have always wanted to have a website for your business but do not know how to go about making one, a virtual assistant can design one for you and even write the contents that you want your clients to read in your website.

Finally, with the current economic downturn, the need to be financially efficient has become crucial. Optimizing and outsourcing are two of your very viable options.

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