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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.

Five Qualities a Top Virtual Administrative Assistant Must Have

With the rise of Virtual Assistance and increasing workforce trends that allow workers flexibility of time and being with one’s family when needed, the growth of remote/online workers have increased steadily throughout the years. People who used to think that a good job necessitates reporting to an office and staying in your cubicle the whole day, meeting set goals at the end of the day and being paid well for it are now realizing that this simply is not the only option. One CAN get a good job without being stuck in an office the whole day, get the job done and move on to other jobs and get good compensation – AND you can even spend time with your loved ones or take a break as often as you like without being called a slacker by your employers.

Virtual Assistants (VAs) appreciate this and are reaping the benefits of having regular work and having time to enjoy its rewards in the present.

What exactly are the top qualities a VA must have in order to be well-recommended to clients?

First-off, having great administrative, communication and cyber skills are really important. Most of the tasks taken on by VAs are administrative in nature (whether it be on the professional or personal level of the clientele). Therefore, it helps when the VA has the organizational skills to manage the various administrative tasks in order to give the desired output to the client.

Being able to communicate well one’s ideas and in the language of the clientele is of course conducive to better partnerships. There is less room for misunderstandings which may lead to dissatisfaction in the working relationship. VAs should also be quick in getting whatever the client is driving at. They must be intuitive and have the ability to read / hear what is both said and unsaid.

Cyber skills, of course, is a given considering that you are doing virtual work and the assumption goes that you have a fast and reliable internet connection. One must know how to utilize various internet offerings (such as emailing – knowing how to attach finished work and in what format, chatting for regular updates, etc.) in order to accomplish the task. Being computer-literate in terms of software usage (knowing which software to use) is important but even more so is the ability to command verifiable data from the internet. A VA who flounders around in researching and data-mining wastes valuable time.

Secondly, the VA must be a person who genuinely loves being of service to his clientele. Especially if the administrative work one does involves the personal life of the client, this quality is a premium. What the VA does is not just work but is a service to his client so that the client can concentrate on other things that are more important. The VA allows the client to balance his life priorities and rely on others so that he can relax and pursue more urgent things. If the VA considers his work as a service, he gets to appreciate his value and contributes better in the partnership. Thus, the VA must be pro-active and address whatever needs to be addressed as soon as possible. The client will appreciate the extra touch. It communicates concern.

Thirdly, the VA should be good in collaborative work. VAs may not possess all the skills needed in a particular task and they must be ready to accommodate others who may help them complete the task. Or their help may be requested by other VAs, therefore, they must be ready to build on what has previously been done before. VAs who work as teams are better able to handle bigger or more tasks and may counter-check one another to provide a more thorough output for the client. They can also get the job done faster and even jump in during busy periods.

The ability to collaborate is not just between VAs but also between the VA and his client. The relationship between the VA and his client is defined by collaborative support for the busy life of the client. This support transforms the VA to a resource that the client can often utilize to put order into the various aspects of his life.

Fourthly, the VA is also a continuing learner. In order to expand one’s functions, the VA is continually looking for better ways, better software, and more skills to accomplish an increasing variation of tasks. This necessitates flexibility, openness to new things, and thoroughness in order to acquire expertise.

Increasing one’s abilities cultivates a more lasting relationship that adjusts to the needs of clients. After all, this is a dynamic partnership. Ultimately, the goal of the VA is to help the client meet his goal.

Lastly, a VA is someone who is driven by a vision – of being able to do work that one loves, being compensated well for it, being respected for the service given and having time for a personal life as well. VAs should be proud of the work that they do, it is not just for stay-at-home people who choose to work when they need money or not when they don’t need it. VAs are highly-skilled, focused, efficient professionals who have opted out of the rat race in order to enjoy a productive and balanced life.

Why Outsource

Outsourcing or availing yourself of the services of a virtual assistant or a person or a team that is not part of your business organization is a relatively new concept. If you are still wondering about the wisdom of outsourcing, this article will try to put to light the various considerations why some people outsource.

Outsourcing is economical in the long run, if not the in short run. By outsourcing, you free yourself from the financial obligation of paying for the overhead and manpower costs. You just pay the fees based on certain agreed upon measures, e.g., every hour expended in the project, number of pages of finished product, or an agreed upon amount for the whole project or a percentage of the cost of the project. If you rented an additional office space, bought the required office equipment and hired the needed employees to complete a project, you would still have to pay the cost even after the project had been completed. By outsourcing the project, your expenses end with the payment of the outsourcing fee.

But what if there is an excess office space, office equipment that is readily available for the project and employees with spare time? Will outsourcing remain a viable option? Maybe not as much but this is where the other considerations will have to enter the analysis. Do the employees have the necessary skills or expertise to efficiently perform the tasks? If not then outsourcing may be evaluated vis-à-vis training the employees expending both time and money. What would be the repercussions of a less than acceptable finished product due to lack of expertise by the employee who performed the task? Will it result in losing a significant account or will it just require rework and additional expenses?

Outsourcing frees you from paying the costs of fringe benefits that a full-time employee is entitled to like life and health insurance, retirement plans, vacations, etc. While the expenses may be affordable on a year-to-year basis, in the long haul, after the completion of the project, they continue to remain in the books and the amount can be significant. If you are operating in a country where labor laws make it difficult, if not impossible, to terminate an employee whose services are no longer needed, then the cost of settlement should be factored in. Outsourcing, then, becomes a highly preferred option.

Outsourcing enables you to instantly tap the expertise of people you do not have in your business organization. Such expertise may require a considerable amount of time and money to develop in-house, a luxury you may not have during the project period. The cost of developing an employee is not confined to the training expenses alone. After the employee has completed the training and has acquired the needed skills, his compensation has to be commensurately adjusted to correspond to his enhanced marketability. Otherwise, he might be tempted to leave you for other companies that are willing to pay the perceived just price. Even if there is a stiff penalty for transferring within a specified period from the completion of training, if the other company is willing to pay the penalty, you may still lose your newly developed employee. Outsourcing saves you from this seemingly no-win situation.

Outsourcing enables you to accept tasks or projects even if you still do not have the corporate infrastructures to perform them. Virtual assistants multiply your capability and put you in a position to accept bigger responsibilities even if your organization is still very young. This enables you to effectively compete with more mature business organizations even before you have developed your in-house resources. In effect outsourcing accelerates your corporate growth.

Finally, outsourcing allows you to focus more on the utilization of your core competencies. By hiring a virtual assistant to do the extraneous activities, you and your team can focus on the activities that you do best–taking care of your clients. In effect outsourcing makes you more effective.

The present global economic crisis has created a tremendous pressure on any management to develop and implement strategies that call for a no-nonsense financial discipline and lean and efficient corporate organization. If a task can be done in a more efficient way, then there is no justification in doing it in any other way. Modern technology in communications has opened possibilities of doing things in a manner never imagined before. Twenty years ago, it would be inconceivable for a call from a client in the US to be handled in the Philippines.

Moreover, unwanted organizational fats should have no place is such strategies. Hiring full-time employees to perform tasks in a short-duration project should not even be considered. Outsourcing should be a part of such strategies. The battle cry might as well be“Outsource or Die”.