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What To Look For In A Virtual Assistant Before Hiring One

There are many virtual assistants online that promise professional, expert services in very well-designed websites. Some will quote lower rates, some will promise faster deliveries and some will promise even the moon and the stars. So how do you go about choosing the right one? To start with, you have to know what to look for when it comes to hiring a virtual assistant.

The basic consideration in hiring a virtual assistant is satisfaction of the client’s needs at a reasonable price. So there has to be a common ground between what you need and what he can provide.

Following are some qualities that you have to look for in a virtual assistant before hiring one:

  • Ability to work on flexible hours. A virtual assistant should be able to work the hours that your project requires without too many restrictions. That he is working halfway around the globe and should therefore be asleep when you are working is not an excuse. It comes with the territory, so to speak. If he imposes a lot of conditions or restrictions, you will be better off shopping around for other virtual assistants.
  • Willingness to accept various payment systems. A virtual assistant should not force you into a straightjacket arrangement when it comes to payment system. There are various arrangements that can be made depending on the nature of the task or project being outsourced, such as subscription, hourly or per project packages. A virtual assistant should be able to live with free-lance rates to be able to compete with company employees. Inflexibility in this area should already tip you off that the virtual assistant may not be the best choice for your company.
  • Ability to provide his own equipment and space. One of the main benefits that a virtual assistant can offer you is the fact that he provides his own working space and equipment. If his fees seem like he is charging you the cost of his equipment or the rent for his office space then maybe he is not the professional virtual assistant for you.
  • Ability to communicate in various modes. Since a virtual assistant does not share an office with you various modes of communication are vital. In order for your working relationship to operate in the virtual world you need to be able to reach him when you need to so you should not be tied down to only one or two communication options. A lack of communication is the number one reason why business relationships and projects fail, so make sure that your virtual assistant provides you with multiple contact options.
  • Possession of desired skills and expertise. It is not being unfair to ask for proofs of what he can do like a sample of his works. Look for telltale signs of lack of quality like misspellings, grammatical errors, misplaced punctuations, etc. A virtual assistant is supposed to be a professional and an expert, so these things have no place in his works. If he is unable or unwilling to offer you any proof of his work, look for another virtual assistant.
  • Computer and Internet literate. Computer and internet literacy should be a must. If he admits shortcomings in this area and requires Internet training or technical training before you can begin working together then you are not talking to the right party. Maybe you are even better off providing the training to your full-time employees.
  • Realistic claims. Virtual assistance is not for everyone. There are companies that are overstaffed and the employer is just looking for tasks that can be assigned to their staff. These are usually the Fortune 500 companies. So when a virtual assistant claims that such a company is his client, check it out. The slightest indication that he/she has been less truthful should push you to move on in your search.
  • Honesty and integrity. Even after you have already hired a virtual assistant, always be on the lookout for copied works. You do not want to have problems with patents and copyrights. The first sign of plagiarism or directly downloaded materials, start looking for a new virtual assistant.
  • Punctuality. Agree on realistic deadlines and stick to them. If your virtual assistant starts asking for extensions afterwards, he is not very professional and start looking for a new virtual assistant.

Finally, you will be well advised to remember the old adage. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is not true.



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The Professional Virtual Assistant Versus the Wannabes

The ease of setting up a virtual assistant business has given rise to the proliferation of virtual assistants offering various services and trumpeting all sorts of claims to fame. So much so that it has become difficult to spot the professional, reliable and well-meaning virtual assistants from the cheap wannabes or copycats. This is because virtual assistants do not come with nametags on their breast pockets that declare their true identity. But the reality remains – there are those who are an asset to their clients and there are those who give the industry a bad name.

What distinguishes a professional virtual assistant?

Continuous Development Program
As in other industries, the professional virtual assistant continuously strives to improve his craft. He knows that his value to his clients depends on how good he is in what he does. So he keeps himself abreast of the various developments that take place in his industry. Since he is highly dependent on information technology and internet, he makes sure he is constantly updated in this fast-paced field. He also strives to learn more of the businesses of his clients so that he can be of more value to them. Moreover, he knows that with more and more virtual assistants coming in the horizon, competition becomes keener by the day. And only those who continue to grow in order to cope with the ever-increasing demand of the clients will survive.

Commitment to Excellence
To the professional virtual assistant, commitment to excellence is an obsession. He makes it a point to give his best in whatever he does even if “good enough” is acceptable to the client. He drives himself hard, does not cut corners and the word compromise does not exist in his vocabulary. When he affixes his name to his work, it is a stamp of quality. To him quality work is, by itself, a gratification.

Fair Play as a Way of Life
Fair play is the professional virtual assistant’s modus vivende. He makes sure he earns every cent his client pays and even looks for ways to give his clients that proverbial extra mile. He does not exploit the weakness of his client or takes advantage of his client’s missed opportunities. He is happy with his client’s success and is saddened with his client’s setbacks. He takes pride in being able to help his clients. In other words, he empathizes with his client. To him, the golden rule is very much a valid principle to conduct his business by.

His relationship with his virtual workers is also founded on fair play. He provides them opportunities for professional growth and he pays them commensurately. He appreciates a good job and he does not hesitate to give a constructive feedback, when needed. He treats his virtual workers as extensions of himself.

Trust is a Treasure
The professional virtual assistant treasures his client’s trust. He ensures confidentiality of matters that are given in confidence even if it means saying no to other clients. His word is an oath and when he gives it, he stands and falls with it. When commitments are made, he makes sure they are delivered on time.

Loyalty is Premium
To the professional virtual assistant, business deals that build lasting relationship are more important than short-term profit maximization. He chooses his clients and strives to keep them. He does not mind giving concessions for repeat deals to cultivate client loyalty. He maintains regular communication with his clients being extra careful not to waste their time. A happy client is his business’ reason for being.

Clients as Partners
To a professional virtual assistant, every client is a business partner. An outsourced task is just a step towards a series of mutually beneficial deals. An outsourced task is an opening to know more about the client’s business and what role he can play to help it grow. Every outsourced task is an opportunity for a professional virtual assistant to serve a business partner, an opportunity to cultivate a business relationship into a virtual partnership.

In conclusion, being a professional in any field is never easy. It requires self-discipline of the highest order and an unwavering commitment to the achievement of a goal. It requires a clear definition of what is important and an equally clear understanding of what has to be done. This is very much the same with the virtual assistant business. There is always the temptation to follow the path of least resistance or to do what is convenient but the hallmark of a true professional virtual assistant is in being able to stay the course simply because it is the right thing to do.

Creative & Innovative Collaboration – Virtual Assistance

Modern-day businesses have evolved from the traditional models into a more dynamic one that spans global borders and transcends traditional practices. As businesses expand their territory and their market, various challenges are met and traditional solutions just won’t do. The more creative and innovative businesses are, the more dynamic their growth becomes and their potential for expansion extrapolates exponentially!

There is one rising industry that capitalizes on creative and innovative collaboration in terms of providing solutions to the needs of the modern-day businesses – Virtual Assistance. Virtual Assistance necessitates the practice of creativity and innovation on both sides of the working relationship.

Innovative businesses naturally gravitate towards the engagement of the services of virtual assistants (VAs) as a creative way of managing its limited resources yet at the same time addressing its needs. Some businesses do not see the need to retain on a long-term basis a professional whose skills are needed on a seasonal basis. They therefore opt to outsource this resource only as the need arises. This business savings may then be redirected to other areas that may be more important for either the maintenance or the expansion of the business.

In other cases, a business needs several people with a variety of skills who may not necessarily live in the same area. If the business will insist on hiring employees who have these various skills, it may take a while to assemble a local team, and much longer for them to establish a good collaborative unit. There will always be that loner who just wants to do it all “his” style, or the one who has such a domineering and ambitious presence, it stifles creative collaboration. It’s much easier to contract people who are used to collaborating with others.

Big projects may sometimes necessitate the collaborative work of various personnel from different areas. The time zone differences alone already call for a creative collaboration so that the tasks can be completed with minimum time-wastage.

Internet and advances in technology have broadened the opportunities for businesses to have access to skilled professionals from all over the world at lesser cost and faster returns. Some cultures are more at home with certain functions and provide better service than local resources. A wise business move would be to consider this reality.

The relationship between the client and the VA is also characterized by collaboration. For this partnership to prosper, the VA must be a creative and innovative professional. He is trying to support a business across great distances yet he must make sure that he produces the desired output. There is already a risk of miscommunication and dissatisfaction in face-to-face dealings between co-workers so the VA must be more alert and thorough to avoid such a problem in this remote partnership. Creativity and innovation comes into play in ensuring that the client does not suffer because of the lack of the VAs personal presence in his office.

VAs have the responsibility of updating themselves on technological advances in the internet especially if it will help them speed up their service to their clientele. This means keeping abreast of innovations in research and file-sharing, online communication and collaboration, and new software that will help in the client’s business.

Of course, with the millions of data available in the internet, creativity is also a key factor in a VA’s delivery of service. There is that push to be as creative as possible in order to distinguish oneself from the rest. Sometimes, the client is also technologically-savvy but would like something totally different – thereby, the VA must be inventive and able to capitalize on the current market trends yet does not rely on just copying what others are doing. Otherwise, the client himself can just do that.

In some instances when a VA is even asked to deal with the client’s personal matters, it often helps to be creative and innovative. If the VA has a good knowledge of what the client is looking for and it so happens that it’s not readily accessible, the VA must be able to look for alternative solutions that will meet the criteria of the client. Take the case of Tim Ferriss who wrote the much acclaimed book, “The 4-Hour Workweek.”

Tim had begun using VAs in order to administer much of his business tasks whenever possible so that he would be freer to travel and enjoy living the life that he wanted. He decided to check out if he could also use virtual assistance for some personal matters. At one point, he asked his VA to look for a “Tickle-Me-Elmo” doll which was not available in stores near him. It was going to be a gift for his child. When the VA couldn’t find the exact doll, the VA made a judgment call and recommended instead the “Chicken-Dance-Elmo” which Tim approved.

Clients don’t want to hear that it can’t be done. VAs would be of better service if they can provide alternative solutions when the desired output cannot be met. Thus, it’s a must that VAs cultivate creativity and innovation.

http://createownwebsite.vatrainingonline.com – Website for VAs

Okay, here’s a website that is really dedicated to Providing Sources of Relevant & Quality Online Information for Virtual Assistants.  Check out out http://createownwebsite.vatrainingonline.com. Here, Virtual Assistants will learn how to create their own website and learn other stuff that we, VAs ought to know.

If you operate a business online, you need a website. Not to have one is Business Suicide! Here we provide Virtual Assistants and Online Freelancers the tools & knowledge required to create a remarkable website. If you are still struggling to get and maintain Clients, then http://createownwebsite.vatrainingonline.com is the right place. Everything the site teaches is geared towards attracting Clients. No  HTML. No geek speak.

More at http://createownwebsite.vatrainingonline.com/

Virtual Assisting – Work Trend of Going Home Based

A new work trend has surfaced a few years back which is rapidly catching on with the advances made by technology specifically in the areas of communications and in the internet. In fact, maybe you are already one of those millions who at one point in time have probably considered the possibility of this new work trend.

What’s being referred to is this trend of going home-based. There are many other terms associated with this idea and you may have come across some of them: telecommute, cyberwork, remote work, online work, virtual jobs, etc.

Thanks to modern-day technology, we can now seriously consider something we probably dreamed of amidst the frustration of our work – the dream of working in the comfort of your own home (no overbearing boss, no office politics, no phone interruptions, no long meetings that don’t concern you, etc.). Our parents dreamed of being part of a prestigious company, reporting for work everyday, then enjoying retirement. We were brought up and educated to aspire for the same things. Only recently have universities and colleges begun to offer courses on entrepreneurship and most of them still operate on the idea of running your own office outside the confines of your own home.

First let’s discuss those who do work at home but still report to someone else who may be in an office or also working at home. They do not have their own businesses. They are employees who telecommute. The advantages in their scenario are:

  1. They do not waste time traveling to work.
  2. They save on power-dressing or being fashionable at the workplace.
  3. They can take care of their children if they need attention.
  4. They have flexibility of time.

The other set of home-based workers are those who run their own businesses at home. It used to be purely related to sales, telemarketing and manufacturing but now, home businesses have access to global markets equal to that of some large firms. These entrepreneurs have discovered that you can magnify your profit through the internet without the expense of investing in office facilities and the like.

Many successful entrepreneurs have written about their experiences in order to share with others what they enjoy for themselves. Real successful people are not afraid to empower others to be successful, too. One such person is Timothy Ferriss who wrote the book, “The 4-Hour Workweek.”

In his book, he shared about four important phases/stages in achieving success outside an office environment and at the same time living the life that one wants. Key to this is that paradigm shift that you don’t have to be at a desk IN a cubicle IN an office in order to be productive, successful and earning well. You could be OUT THERE living it up and still be running your own business!

How did he do it? He outsourced/delegated or had someone else who lived in another time zone do his work for him. He looked at the things he’d rather not be doing and hired a virtual assistant (VA) who could do them for him. Then he focused on doing what he really wanted to do – like learning another language, dancing the tango in competitions, traveling, being with his family, etc.

What is probably material to this particular approach is the reality that practically anybody nowadays can offer their services online and may receive payment wherever they may be. Most employers or service contractors can monitor the work or communicate with these remote workers via email, fax or Skype and the likes without having to meet face-to-face.

Of course, not all jobs will be wiped out by this current trend of going home-based. We’d still need doctors in the hospitals, scientists in the laboratories, farmers in the fields, etc. Many other types of office jobs may reasonably be farmed out to non-regular employees and with great benefit not only to the employer but even to employees.

Those who enter into working partnerships with virtual workers reap the benefits of having workers / partners who are happy with their work, self-motivated and driven, focused and disciplined. They are happy because they love what they’re doing and they’re valuable to their partners. They’re self-motivated and driven because if they don’t work for themselves, who will? They’re focused and disciplined because they too are professionals.

It is important to note that working at home is only truly attractive if you can achieve a healthy work-life balance. Without this necessary balance, you might find that either your work at home is encroaching on your family time or vise versa. When that happens, working at home has lost its purpose.

The Best Webhost for Virtual Assistants

Successful Virtual Assistants know the value of having your own website. But choosing the best webhost, one that addresses a Virtual Assistant’s specific needs, can still be an overwhelming task. With our years of testing, using & researching different webhosts, we’ve come to the same conclusion that most other online entrepreneurs have.

What Virtual Assistants Need from a Webhost

As a Virtual Assistant you understand the critical role you own website plays on the success of your virtual assistance business…

Read more at http://createownwebsite.vatrainingonline.com/the-best-webhost-for-virtual-assistants

What to Outsource

If you are already convinced about the wisdom of outsourcing, perhaps the next question you might want to ask is what tasks should you outsource? With a long list of virtual assistants offering a plethora of services to you, you would welcome some kind of a guide on what tasks can be outsourced.

One rule of thumb is you should not outsource your core activities or tasks that are central to your business operation. As an example, if you are an accounting firm you would not outsource the preparation of financial statements or even your bookkeeping tasks. Why? Because this is what you do best so it is inconceivable that others will be able to do this better than you. But components of your core activity may be outsourced. As an example, legal transcribing may be outsourced by a law firm but the writing of legal opinions should never be outsourced.

Another factor to consider is the importance or impact of the task to the overall result of your business operation. Handling customer complaints is an example of a task with crucial importance. Mishandled, a customer complaint can grow into a problem with complicated repercussions, including a lawsuit. So you will want this particular task to be handled on site by people you or your managers can directly supervise.

The principle to observe here is if the cost of an error is greater than the savings you can realize from outsourcing, you are better off not outsourcing the task. Your business organization’s inventory of skills is another factor that can determine whether you should outsource or not.

If you do not have the expertise to properly perform the task, such that the likelihood of errors committed and reworks done is high, then you will be better advised to outsource it. Even if the cost of an error is low if the incidence of error is high, it can come out very expensive. Tapping off-site expertise by outsourcing is a viable option in this instance.

Your company’s existing resources and level of utilization is also a determinant in outsourcing. If a task or a project can only be performed by increasing your office space or hiring additional personnel, you might want to consider outsourcing as an option.

Outsourcing becomes a viable option especially if the project has a finite duration and is not likely to be repeated. If you still have a slack in the utilization of your company resources and you have the needed expertise or skills to do the task, then outsourcing may not prove to be a sound option even if the outsourcing rate per hour is less than what you are paying your people. This is because whether you outsource the task or not, you will still pay your employees.  Salaries are sunk costs and you pay them whether your employees are doing something or not. So the outsourcing cost is an addition to your personnel or overhead cost.

The nature of the task to be performed is also a factor in deciding whether to outsource or not. If on the one hand, a task is so simple that it can be performed by anybody else, why use your expensive human resources to do it? Let virtual assistants that charge less than what you are paying your people do the job. An example of this is data grabbing, or bulk ad posting. These tasks are so simple that they can be done by virtually anybody, especially by a self-respecting virtual assistant. But because of the volume, they can be very time-consuming. By insisting that they should be done by your people who are being paid at twice the rates of the virtual assistants may not be a sound strategy.

If, on the other hand, the task is highly technical such that it requires special skills or expertise which your business organization does not have, then you are better off outsourcing it. An example of this is designing a website for your company. If you do not have a resident IT who can do it, then outsourcing is definitely the way to go. Website design is a highly portable technology so there is no need to insist on developing it yourself. In other words, why re-invent the wheel when you can easily buy one?

Outsourcing is not really a new development in business. There are tasks that have always been outsourced or performed by independent third parties simply because the law requires it. Examples of such tasks are independent audits. They are either done inside or outside the company premises. Sub-contracting in the construction industry is another example although the underlying reason is not the legal requirement but the unavailability of expertise.

In the end, the overall consideration in deciding whether to outsource or not a task is economy and productivity. A healthy balance of these two factors is definitely a sound strategy.

Categories: Uncategorized