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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.

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.