9 Benefits of a Virtual Assistant vs. An In-House Assistant

One of the struggles many business owners face when trying to decide on hiring a Virtual Assistant vs. an in-house assistant may be a misunderstanding on how the virtual relationship works. Many people feel a sense of security in having an assistant they can see every day and in some ways be able to monitor their activity.

Some areas to consider when hiring an in-house assistant are:

  • Finding a place to advertise.
  • Conducting interviews.
  • What will the employees work schedule be (will you need to be present when they are?).
  • What equipment/furniture will you need to provide?

When you’re looking for downright efficiency in the hiring & learning process of an assistant, a VA is the right choice.

  • A VA will already have the skills & experience in areas you’re looking for, or be knowledgeable enough to learn quickly.
  • A VA will already have a home office in place which will save you and your company money from having to purchase any additional equipment.
  • You won’t have to worry about conflicting work schedules. You can assign your tasks or projects with a deadline and your work will be ready. Sometimes having someone in a different time zone allows a VA to either be working before you’re out of bed, or past the time you’ve already left.
  • A VA only charges for the time they’ve spent working for you, not for the time spent with in-office distractions.
  • VA’s are proficient with the latest technology and can typically jump into a project with little direction needed.
  • A VA is typically an independent contractor whether they’re working through an agency or freelancing. They take pride in their work because it’s their reputation on the line as well as yours.
  • There are no commuting issues with a VA. Your work will always be done regardless of snow storms or traffic delays.
  • With a VA there is no paid leave, sick time or vacation time. Virtual Assistants are only paid for the time they work.
  • VA’s have a very low turnover rate. One of the main reasons people are leaving the 9-5 workday is due to obligations at home. A VA can still work efficiently from their home office and be available when necessary for other obligations.

Working with a Virtual Assistant has other advantages too. You can  read more on How A Remote WorkPlace Can Increase Productivity and see how much more productive a remote worker like a VA can be. There are some interesting facts from that post highlighting how disruptive it can be to work in an office:

  • The average worker experiences an interruption every 3 minutes.
  • It typically takes 23 minutes to return to the original task.
  • In a recent study, the average worker only works 3 days a week due to interruptions and/or office meetings.

If you’ve decided on working with a VA, the next big question is usually where to find one. There are many different freelance sites for independent VA’s to post their experience, and there are just as many agencies that can match you with a VA that has the skill set you’re looking for and eliminate the search all together. You can check out the differences by reading Freelance vs. Agency: 6 Benefits A Virtual Assistant Agency Provides. Hiring a Virtual Assistant is a time and money saving advantage for any business when compared to hiring an in-house assistant.

Laura is the founder of Elite Virtual Assistants. If you’re looking for information on working with a Virtual Assistant, or you are a Virtual Assistant looking to join a growing company, give her a call today at (440) 973-7005.

Your Roadmap To Success: Start With A 1-Page Business Plan

Does the thought of sitting down to do a business plan seem like a daunting task that will take you days or weeks to put together? Do you think your passion is your plan and will pave your road to success? Most business experts agree that you need to have some type of business plan in place for a business to succeed.

When people are self-funding or bootstrapping they don’t feel the need to put a plan together since it’s not required as it would be if you were looking for investors. But having a business plan can increase your chances of staying in business 2.5 times compared to those that don’t. Unfortunately poor planning or no planning is the demise of many businesses.

I ran across an article on LinkedIn by Kim Kaselionis titled “Who Uses A One Page Business Plan”. I’m a “less is more” person by nature, so this really grabbed my attention. I read through the post and then googled 1-page business plans. I sifted through a few and found one that seemed like a great place to start.

I’ll admit when we started our business we didn’t have an actual plan in place: we weren’t 100% sure where our clients would come from or what avenue was going to work best for marketing. Once we decided to put a plan in place it helped sort out questions we had such as:

  • What problem do we solve?
  • What type of Sales & Marketing can we add to what we’re currently using?
  • What will our team members do? What are their strengths or weaknesses?
  • What are our long term goals?

If a project seems too big it’s easy to get overwhelmed thinking of how you’ll tackle it. Even starting with the idea of a business plan seemed like a task I did not want to take on, but it’s not something anyone else can do for you. Armed with my 1-page plan template, I approached writing the plan like I do my workouts: If I tell myself I need to work out for 45 minutes I won’t even start; but if I say I’m only going to do 20 minutes, by the end of the 20 I’m ready to go for 20 more. I started with my simple plan and added and edited  as I went along.

It was simple but effective. It outlined what I was doing, why I was doing it, and helped me outline how to increase our sales & marketing efforts. We had these areas loosely in place already, but seeing them in print helped me reorganize some priorities and put my hundreds of sticky notes in an outlined format that I can actually follow. I used the following outline as my guide:

  1. The problem we solve.
  2. The solution.
  3. How do we make money.
  4. Why are we different.
  5. Sales & Marketing.
  6. Competition.
  7. Our Team.
  8. Projects & Milestones.
  9. Status/Time line.

Creating a business plan doesn’t have to be complicated. What it will do is lay out the foundation for your business, and allow for changes along the way. It will not only guide you through the beginning stages of starting and growing your business, but will lay out your goals and objectives with a roadmap on how to get there.

In this day and age we tend to make things more difficult and complicated than they need to be. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by things that seem larger than they really are. If you break it down; whether it’s your business plan, your workload or your workout; into smaller more manageable pieces, it will be easier to get started. Put it in ink…organize your thoughts, set your goals and get ready for success.

Laura is the founder of Elite Virtual Assistants. If you’re looking for information on working with a Virtual Assistant, or you are a Virtual Assistant looking to join a growing company, give her a call today at (440) 973-7005.

10 Steps To Help You Become A Successful Virtual Assistant

Being a Virtual Assistant has many advantages, but still requires you to maintain a certain amount of professionalism. Although others aren’t able to see what’s going on at your home office doesn’t mean they can’t hear what’s going on in your home office. Aside from the obvious background noise that may occasionally occur, being unorganized and unsure of yourself will also come through to the person on the other end.

There are initiatives you can take as a Virtual Assistant to ensure a successful virtual relationship with your clients.

  1. Communication is Key. I think I mention this in every blog I write because IT’S SO IMPORTANT! Transparency is essential with a virtual relationship. Be sure to ask on day 1 what your clients expectations will be for you and how they want to communicate. The first day you start working with a client you need to have the preferred form of communication in place to help the beginning stages of the relationship run smoothly. Determine the best form of communication whether it be email, text or an instant messaging system like Whatsapp, Facebook Messenger, Twitter; whatever will work best for both of you.
  2. Plan Your Updates in advance. Find out whether the client would like an update on a daily or weekly basis and be sure to adhere to that schedule.
  3. Progress Tracking. This is important in the beginning to build a healthy virtual relationship. It helps both sides understand how much time is being spent on a task or project. This not only allows you to see where the most time is spent, but can help your client plan for the coming months. You can use a time tracking program like myhours.com where you can create a free account and track your progress. You will be able to create separate client accounts and within those accounts you can create different projects or tasks that you’re working on. This also allows you to pull a report that you can then email to your client showing them the tasks that were handled, where time was spent and the progress that was made.
  4. Ask Questions. If you don’t understand a task or project, don’t hesitate to ask. Keep all lines of communication open. Always take the initiative to communicate with your client.
  5. Keep Distractions To A Minimum. Avoid background noise. Although it can’t always be helped, finding a quiet place to talk when you’re on the phone with your client is always preferred. Having a crying baby, kids fighting or dog barking in the background while you’re trying to ask a question or provide an update is not only distracting to you, but more than likely annoying to your client on the other end. This could also give the impression that is what a typical day is like working for them. If the call comes at a bad time for you, at the very least give a brief explanation & apology if necessary.
  6. Be Confident In Yourself. Most VA’s are experienced across many channels from executive assistants to digital marketing specialists. If you’re given a task that you haven’t done before but know you are capable, don’t be afraid to tackle it. Google is a wonderful learning tool and there is always information out there that can help you learn something new. Think of it as an investment in your future by adding another skill set to your resume.
  7. Be Honest. Being confident doesn’t mean lying about your capabilities. If you haven’t done something and know you can or are willing to learn, that’s half the battle. Be honest about not having the experience. Consider learning the task on your own time so the client knows upfront they aren’t paying for your training. It’s a learning experience that will look good on your resume.
  8. Keep yourself organized. If you don’t have a complete home office available to you, set aside an area of the house that can be designated as your office. Have a system in place whether it’s on your computer or via hard copy where you can keep your work safely stored out of reach and view of kids, animals and house guests.
  9. Have A Designated Computer. You don’t want to share your laptop with your 13 year old that is forever downloading the latest app or games. With these come viruses and with viruses comes loss of information.
  10. Back Up Your Files. No file is forever safe in the “Cloud” no matter what anyone tells you. Always back your files up on a hard drive in addition to a cloud application for double coverage. I’ve lost years’ worth of pictures and files due to viruses that I didn’t back up; hard lesson learned.

Open communication, being transparent in the time it takes you to complete your tasks and having confidence in yourself and your work are the best ways to start off what is sure to be a successful relationship with your clients!

Laura is the founder of Elite Virtual Assistants. If you’re looking for information on working with a Virtual Assistant, or you are a Virtual Assistant looking to join a growing company, give her a call today at (440) 973-7005.

Are You Ready To End The Year Strong?

The older I get the faster time goes by and this summer is no exception. The realization that we’re in the 2nd week of August with 144 days left this year really opened my eyes. For kids it’s the start of a new school year, for business owners it’s time to get a plan in place to finish 2016 strong.

It doesn’t have to be a complicated, but well thought out and making sure there’s an action plan in place to get you where you want to be. It can be as simple as a pad and paper to get started…writing everything down will not only get the ideas out of your head, but also put them in front of you where it’s easier to organize your lists and priorities.

Get caught up. This might seem like an impossible task at times and a strange place to start, but it’s not as difficult as you’d think. It’s hard to move forward when you’re buried in things that needed to be done three months ago; that weighs on your mind and distracts you from your real focus. Climbing out from underneath can be overwhelming, but you can help alleviate some of the pressure by breaking up your to-do list into smaller pieces. Set aside time to make a list of what needs to be done. Organize your list into the things you can do, and those you can delegate. This will help you see not only what you can manage yourself, but what you can hand off to someone to get back to your break-even point.

Revisit your goals. Once you have your plan in place to get caught up, revisit your goals you set earlier in the year. Are you reaching them? Are you close? If not, why? Look at what you’ve done to get where you are now, and what you can do to either stay on track or pick things up if you’re not where you want to be.

Delegate. This is the hard part for most people. Take the list you made of the things you can outsource for a starting point. The rule of delegating is to outsource what you can teach. There are some things that you don’t want others doing, but there are many things that you can teach someone to do. 

Make a plan. Now that you’ve got yourself caught up, you’ve revisited your goals and found what you can delegate, it’s time to sit down and make a plan to take you through the rest of the year. Don’t try to “wing-it”, that just doesn’t work. Plans can be changed and altered, but having something initially in place will give you guidance on where you’re going, help you see things you may not have noticed before, and keep you and those working with you accountable. From here you can scale as needed, but you have a starting point and something to follow.

Don’t overthink it…less is more. Starting with a basic plan in place to keep you organized and on track will produce greater results than going blindly into the end of the year, and help you finish 2016 strong!

Laura is the founder of Elite Virtual Assistants. If you’re interested in learning more about Elite’s VA Services and how they can help you finish the year strong, you can visit their website at www.elitevirtualassist.com or call at (440) 973-7005.