Using a Virtual Assistant to Build Your Business
By Barbara Weltman
There are only 24 hours in a day and only seven days in a week. You can't increase the number of hours in a day or days in a week, so you can't increase the time you have for work. You can, however, accomplish more if you rely on others for certain business tasks. One great way I've found to use my time more productively and to get more work done is to use a virtual assistant (VA).
What Is a Virtual Assistant?
A virtual assistant isn't a computer-generated graphic, or avatar. A virtual assistant is a real person who can work remotely to handle the tasks you need to get done. Picture having an executive assistant sitting next to you or in the adjacent room and you are can better understand the relationship with a VA.
A virtual assistant can handle a variety of work, such as:
- Creating multimedia presentations.
- Doing bookkeeping entry of your income and expenses in your accounting software.
- Handling concierge-type chores, like booking your travel and scheduling your calendar.
- Managing social media, including posting on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter.
- Providing special project management or assistance, such as helping you do research for a book or other project you're working on.
A virtual assistant usually is someone with his or her own business. The VA may be an independent contractor or have a corporation or limited liability company. This means you pay for the hours arranged for (usually a set rate per hour, often with a minimum number of hours per month). Because the VA is not your employee, you do not have to deal with any payroll taxes or benefits for the VA. If the VA is an independent contractor, you'll have to issue a Form 1099-MISC each year to report payments of $600 or more to the IRS and to the VA.
How Do You Find One?
Like finding a family doctor, the best way to find a VA is to obtain a referral from another business owner who uses one. However, this may not be possible for you. Don't worry; you can still find someone who is qualified for the work you have.
Here's how it works. Using one or more of the sites that follow, post your needs for a VA. The more detailed you can be about what you want the VA to do for you, how many hours needed each month, what experience you're looking for, etc., the more likely it is to receive a response that will help you find the right VA.
Add any limitations or special requirements you may have. For example, if you only want a VA within the same time zone as you, be clear about this. If you need someone who is bilingual, say so.
Resources for Finding Virtual Assistants:
AssistU allows you to post your needs if you're looking to create a long-term relationship. You can then arrange to interview (typically by phone) those who indicated an interest in your position. You can also negotiate a rate of pay. (I found my VA through this site.)
Craigslist for a local VA (enter craigslist.org and your local site will pop up).
Elance connects you with a VA when you have freelance projects you need help with. Candidates bid on the work you post.
International Virtual Assistants Association lets you post a request for a proposal from a VA.
Twitter taps your network of followers for VA leads.
How Do You Manage the Work Arrangement?
The arrangement can work seamlessly, if you set parameters and expectations up front. Points to cover:
- What work needs to be done?
- By what time?
- Will there be regular phone chats to review upcoming work or discuss problems?
- What will the pay be?
Communication today can be done on many levels - by phone (with or without Skype), text, and email. Find a qualified VA who meets your needs, keep the lines of communication open, and watch your business grow!
About the author:
Barbara Weltman is an attorney, prolific author with such titles as "J.K. Lasser's Small Business Taxes and The Complete Idiot's Guide to Starting a Home-Based Business," and trusted professional advocate for small businesses and entrepreneurs. She is also the publisher of "Idea of the Day(R)" and monthly e-newsletter "Big Ideas for Small Business(R)" at http://www.barbaraweltman.com and host of "Build Your Business" radio. Follow her on Twitter: @BarbaraWeltman.
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