Remote work, outsourcing, and virtual assistants are terms we hear more and more these days. In recent years, many businesses and events were forced to go online (we all know why — let’s not get into that now!). However, the trend of outsourcing and hiring virtual assistants has been growing for at least a decade.
The recent situation has only accelerated these practices. There are many advantages to hiring a virtual assistant or VA. The specific ways that you can benefit from a VA depend on your business. Everyone from a solo entrepreneur to a small business to a large company can find ways to leverage them.
Benefits of Hiring a Virtual Assistant
There are many reasons why virtual assistants are increasing in popularity, just do a simple search to see the growth in the last few years.
Here are some reasons that outsourcing to VAs has become so popular.
- Improves productivity. Many business owners spend many hours on mundane tasks that could be more productively outsourced. When you hire a virtual assistant, you can focus on projects more in line with your talents. A Stanford study found that remote workers are 13% more productive than in-office employees.
- Helps you scale your business. Outsourcing is one of the best ways to grow your business. As you get comfortable working with a VA, you can hire more. You can reach more customers, generate more leads, create more content, or get other things done that help your business grow faster.
- You can pay them by the hour or per job rather than having them on staff all the time. Furthermore, you don’t have to worry about issues such as worker’s compensation, and other benefits.
- Flexibility. Employees work set hours. You can hire virtual assistants who will work whenever you need them.
9 Ways Virtual Assistants Can Save You Time and Money
You can hire a VA to perform almost any business-related (and even personal) task. Here are a few possibilities.
1. Lead Generation
Generating qualified leads is a crucial aspect of many businesses, especially those in areas such as SaaS and other B2B sectors. Traditionally, lead generation has been considered a specialized activity done by highly-trained in-house sales associates.
Depending on your lead generation tactics, however, a VA can help generate new leads in a number of ways. You may even consider trying some new strategies that you don’t think you have time for.
- Research leads on social media sites, Google, and other sites.
- Compile spreadsheets of potential leads.
- Sending and managing emails and social media messages.
- Responding to inquiries via email, social media, or phone.
You may be concerned that language barriers might be a challenge when working with VAs for whom English isn’t their native language. For tasks such as speaking on the phone or communicating directly via chat or email for your own staff.
However, a VA with good English skills can still deal with common questions posed by prospects by using a script. For complicated queries can be handled later. At the very least, a VA can screen prospects so your sales associates only talk to the more qualified ones.
Many people assume that virtual assistants are only appropriate for simple, non-technical tasks. While it’s definitely helpful to use VAs for repetitive, time-consuming jobs, this isn’t all they can be used for. Many VAs from around the world have expertise in areas such as coding. You may be able to save time and money by hiring a VA to help you with software, a plugin, app, or another project that requires coding.
One limitation of using even well-educated VAs for high-level tasks is that there can be a language barrier. With coding, however, this isn’t as much of an issue as everyone uses the same coding languages.
You do, of course, have to make sure there’s clear communication about what you need. However, the coding itself can be done by anyone with the necessary knowledge of the programming language.
3. Customer Service
Virtual assistants can help you offer faster and more comprehensive customer support. While a VA can’t handle every issue, they can be trained to answer any questions asked by customers and prospects.
- Live chat. Offering live chat on your website can help to engage visitors. A VA can answer FAQ and direct people to the appropriate place on the site where they can find what they’re looking for.
- Answering or returning phone calls.
- Provide support on social media. They can respond to comments on your Facebook page or Twitter, for example.
- Respond to emails.
As customer service is so essential to your reputation, it’s important to train your VA on what they can handle and which issues they need to forward to you or an employee. Another option is to provide customers with another email or number to reach out to you directly. This approach will significantly reduce the time you and your employees have to devote to customer support.
VAs can handle the majority of simple questions while you can focus on matters needing individual attention.
Visual tasks such as finding, creating, and editing images, are another task that can be handled by virtual assistants. This is another area where language isn’t an issue. Many VAs are skilled at using programs such as PhotoShop, Canva, and Lightroom. They’re able to create, edit, and repurpose images.
Here are just a few examples of tasks they can help with:
- Logo design.
- Graphics for your website or social media posts. A VA can create graphics or find them on sites such as Pixabay, Unsplash, etc.
- Create infographics.
- Repurpose visuals. For example, taking graphics from a website and using them in social media posts.
Visuals make a big difference in social media engagement. Yet finding or creating graphics is quite time-consuming. Outsourcing as many of these tasks as possible can help you reach a wider audience.
5. Content Creation and Distribution
Content is central to marketing, brand recognition, optimizing your website, and building credibility. As such, you need to carefully consider what type of content you outsource and what you should create yourself (more on this below under What Not to Outsource).
However, there are many ways that a virtual assistant can lighten your load when it comes to creating and managing content.
- Creating and sending out press releases.
- Social media management. Scheduling posts, answering comments, posting photos and memes, etc.
- Posting to your blog and guest posting.
- Creating videos.
- Repurposing content. For example, compile blog posts into an e-book, slide show video, or create an infographic out of existing content.
E-commerce is growing rapidly right now, spurred on even more by the pandemic. To those starting out, and more experienced sellers dealing with growth, the number of tasks and details that need attention can be daunting. Virtual assistants can help you lighten your load and grow your operation.
- Web design and management. The right VA can help you create a professional design and keep product listings updated.
- Finding products and sources.
- Managing inventory.
- Managing orders and shipments.
- Creating photos and videos to display your products.
In addition to the above, a VA can help you maintain your e-commerce site in areas mentioned in other sections such as customer service, social media, content creation, and SEO. For some of these tasks, you’ll have to either find a VA well-versed in e-commerce or take the time to train them.
7. Virtual Office Management
More and more businesses are conducting office-related tasks online. Practices such as online banking and accounting make it easy to outsource jobs that were previously done by in-house employees. There is a wide range of virtual office tasks that can be handled by a VA.
- Administrative tasks. This includes payroll, bookkeeping, paying bills, data entry, and creating reports.
- Communication. Answering emails, sending out newsletters, invitations, and holiday or birthday greetings to customers, prospects, and employees.
- Managing your calendar. Scheduling appointments for phone calls, video conferences, and live meetings.
Once you understand the mindset that almost anything done in a traditional office can now be done virtually, you can open yourself up to all kinds of possibilities. As with any type of task, it will take a new VA some time and training to get up to speed with how you do things.
Over time, they’ll need less supervision and can become the digital equivalent of a trusted secretary or admin.
8. Search Engine Optimization
SEO is a multi-faceted process that can be broken down into many small tasks. Unfortunately, many of these tasks take a great deal of time. One of the keys to SEO is consistency, something that’s hard when you already have a full schedule. A virtual assistant can handle many SEO tasks that can help your website rank.
- Researching keywords.
- Tracking metrics such as traffic and SERP.
- Link-building campaigns.
- Creating content with the appropriate keywords and hashtags.
- Competitor analysis.
There are a couple of ways to assign SEO-related tasks to a VA. You can hand out individual assignments such as the above. You can also train them on a platform such as SEMrush, where they can learn to use various functions and carry out tasks in a more self-sufficient manner.
9. Local and Personal Errands
Because VAs are usually working in distant locations, you may not think of ways they can help you with close-to-home errands and chores. In the digital age, however, they can actually do quite a bit. Consider how often you probably use an app when ordering food delivery, for example. A VA can do this type of thing just as easily.
Here are a few other examples:
- Arrange gifts to be sent.
- Send invitations to a party or meeting.
- Research the best professional or tradesperson in your area, such as a dentist, attorney, auto mechanic, home decorator, etc. They can also call and make inquiries or get estimates.
- Make travel plans.
Strategies to Get the Most Out of Your Virtual Assistants
Being creative with your VA strategy isn’t just about what tasks you assign to virtual assistants but also about how you think about the whole process. If you want to save time and money while growing your business, there are a few outsourcing tips that can help you do this more effectively.
Learn to Select the Right VAs
Your success with virtual assistants begins with your selecting the right people. As outsourcing gets more common, there are more VAs offering their services. Choosing the right ones can be challenging, especially when you’re just getting started with outsourcing.
- Check reviews. If you’re using a platform, you can see reviews for VAs. At the same time, remember that reviews, while important, aren’t always sufficient to tell you whether someone is truly a good match for you. A positive review simply indicates that one client was satisfied with a particular job.
- Consider their experience. It’s essential to find someone with a proven track record in the area where you need help. You can’t always go by what people say they can do. Look at their qualifications and experience.
- Conduct an interview. An interview over Skype, Zoom, or a similar platform can tell you a great deal. You can get an idea of their communication skills and personality. This is a chance to get an idea of how flexible they are, willing to learn new skills, and other points that may be important to you.
- Test them with smaller tasks. One of the advantages of outsourcing is that you can hire someone for as much or little time as you want. This gives you a chance to test the waters and start off with a small project to get an idea of what kind of working relationship you have with a VA.
Know What Not to Outsource
When you choose the right virtual assistant, train them, and develop a relationship with them, they can help you accomplish many things. At the same time, there will always be some projects that are best handled by someone who’s intimately familiar with the business.
- Complex or sensitive customer support issues. A VA can handle many transactions and conversations. However, if there’s a serious issue, the customer should be able to talk to someone who can directly address the problem.
- All of your content. Virtual assistants most certainly can help you create and distribute content such as blog posts, social media posts, and videos. As noted, they can be especially helpful with visuals. However, it’s also good to create your own content. Especially when it comes to expressing your core values, you want to let customers hear your authentic voice. Deciding which content should and shouldn’t be outsourced is a personal decision but something to consider when assigning tasks to your VA.
- Core business competencies. It’s a time-tested rule that you shouldn’t outsource tasks that are fundamental to your business model. For example, we mentioned above that you can outsource coding tasks such as creating plugins and apps. However, if creating apps is one of your core activities, you’ll probably want to do this yourself.
The above, of course, are only guidelines. Even when it comes to core business competencies, there are exceptions. Some companies, including AppSumo and Slack, were literally built using outsourced developers. Deciding what to outsource is ultimately a personal decision.
How Virtual Assistants Can Help You Scale Your Business
One of the often-repeated benefits of outsourcing is that it can help you grow or scale your business.
There are a few ways to do this.
- Aim to develop ongoing relationships with VAs. While it’s often beneficial to hire a VA for a one-off task, it’s even better when you can work with someone long-term. This allows them to learn all about your business and reduces the amount of explaining you have to do for each project.
- Use virtual assistants who are trainable. Many VAs will already have the skills to do the jobs for which you hire them. However, it’s even better if they can be trained to learn additional programs and processes. This way, they can function more like employees as they learn the ins and outs of your business.
- Hire more VAs as appropriate. As you get comfortable working with them, you may find that you can continue to hire virtual assistants to get even more accomplished. You may be able to significantly scale up your efforts by getting additional help.
- Use VAs to supervise other VAs. If you can find virtual assistants who are responsible enough to oversee other VAs, you can start to develop nearly self-sufficient systems that require only minimal oversight on your part.
Get Creative to Grow Your Business With Virtual Assistants
Work is rapidly changing these days. More people are working remotely around the world. Outsourcing is becoming mainstream. Many jobs, activities, and events that were once done face-to-face are now being done online.
We know what you’re thinking, but it’s important to note that these trends were underway before 2020 and will continue well into the future, so get ready to ride the virtual assistant wave. This will open up even more possibilities for leveraging online help in new ways.
With everyday tasks taking up so much time, a virtual assistant in the “office space” might be the best decision you’ve ever made. Don’t spend hours of your valuable time searching through freelance marketplaces, utilize companies like Zirtual that have done the heavy lifting of vetting applicants for you. Their VAs handle tasks on an as-needed basis, or continuously — whatever your business needs.