The benefits of virtual assistants are well-established. They can reduce your operating costs by 78%, while also cutting your attrition rate in half. But of course, those benefits are only theoretical. In addition to the choice of hiring a virtual assistant, you also have to be able to find the right professional for your business.
Because these are not full-time, in-person employees, that can seem like a daunting task. It doesn’t have to be. In this guide, we’ll help you take the steps you need to find the best virtual assistants to meet your goals and drive your business forward.
7 QUALITIES AND SKILLS OF THE BEST VIRTUAL ASSISTANTS
Let’s start with some generalities. Regardless of your industry and business types, a few skills are absolute must-haves for any virtual assistants. Don’t hire any professional that hasn’t demonstrated these skills; in fact, you can use them as a baseline before getting more specific.
Reliability. Simply put, you have to be able to trust your assistant to do the job the right way. You should be able to give them a task, and trust that they’ll get it done on time and on spec.
Confidentiality. No matter your industry, chances are your VA works at least on some confidential client or company information. Can you trust them to keep that information under wraps?
Accuracy. Everyone makes mistakes every now and again. But generally speaking, you should be able to trust that your assistant avoids typos or inaccurate transcriptions.
Multitasking Ability. Depending on the VA you hire, they might work on your business in addition to other responsibilities. Can they juggle that responsibility? And, just as importantly, can they work on multiple types of project for you within the same time frame?
Follow Through. Consider it an extension of reliability. Can you trust the assistant to follow up with you and anyone they work with in order to get work done? Do they take ownership over their tasks to see them through to the end?
Organization. You won’t be able to stop by their desk to check on individual projects. That means your virtual assistant should be able to keep their work organized, being able to reference materials and documents quickly as needed.
Communication Skills. Both written and verbal (phone) communication skills are crucial for any assistant looking to represent your business, especially when the communication is only virtual.
WHY VIRTUAL ASSISTANTS AREN’T ONE-SIZE-FITS-ALL
All the above skills apply to any virtual assistant you hire, regardless of their exact expertise or background. But the qualification process doesn’t end there. In fact, the VA you hire should not just be generally qualified for their position, but specifically qualified to help your business and industry.
Imagine, for instance, hiring a new helping hand for your medical supplies company. An assistant who has existing background and knowledge in the language used within this industry will perform significantly better than one with a long adjustment period.
Business type also matters. Working as an assistant for a large corporation will come with very different requirements than working for an entrepreneur just trying to get their startup off the ground. The same professional can succeed in both settings, but the skill set required is very different.
HOW TO KNOW WHAT YOU NEED IN A VA
The important question, therefore, is not just whether your virtual assistant has the general skill set required for the profession. Instead, it’s about understanding exactly what you need in the virtual assistant you hire in order to get maximum productivity and success.
A few variables help you get to that point:
- Understand what industry you’re operating in, and what skills an assistant would need to succeed in that industry (see below).
- Understand your business goals, and know how to translate those goals into specific requirements for your virtual assistant (we cover that in more depth below, as well).
- Understand your business audiences, particularly those with which your assistant would interact.
- Understand the workload required by the virtual assistant, as well as the types of tasks you will ask them to accomplish on a daily basis.
If you have an answer for these four variables, you’re in good shape. Add the general skills mentioned above into the equation, and you’ll maximize your chances of finding a professional who will bring your business forward.
TOP VA SKILLS BY INDUSTRY AND BUSINESS TYPE
Let’s be honest: virtual assistants can be beneficial throughout a variety of industries. Still, they have been traditionally used by a few industries above others. Here, we take a closer look at 5 unique industries to showcase of the skill sets of professionals hired within these fields may differ.
- Real estate: Individual brokers spend a lot of time outside the office, and virtual assistants can perform the legwork needed to promote their services. They may set and manage appointments with potential clients, handle email correspondence, or get the mortgage process going. They might also manage your social media profile.
- Legal firms: The amount of paperwork on this office frequently requires the help of assistants. These VAs will typically help in legal transcription (knowledge of jargon is a must!) managing calendars, and communication with clients.
- IT consulting: Within this field, virtual assistants often take on important customer service work and communication with clients. At least a basic understanding of the type of IT work the company performs is crucial to accurately represent the company and get work done.
- Accounting and finance: Ever wonder how accounting firms get all those spreadsheets in order? More often than not, virtual assistants do the work. That means supreme organizational skills, along with math and financial knowledge, has to be part of the skill set.
- Marketing: The VA work required here may range anywhere from social media management to performing market research and pulling analytics reports. Some VAs even write company blog posts or update websites. Communication, as you might expect, takes center stage in this industry.
Of course, these are just some examples. The nuances are similar across other industries as well, with each providing new challenges and requirements for the professionals looking to succeed in it.
Business type is the other important variable to consider here. Once again, your assistant’s skill set may need to be different depending on the type of business into which they’re hired.
In large enterprises with an established C-suite, the virtual assistant will likely need to help in inbox clearing, calendar management and scheduling, and more. They’ll take on the administrative tasks that an executive may simply not have time for.
By contrast, established small businesses may need help in a more varied range of tasks that they simply don’t have the budget for hire for. That still includes administrative skills, but could also include some basic marketing efforts and customer service.
An entrepreneur, finally, will leverage a virtual assistant as a jack of all trades. They may still schedule calendars, but could also interact with clients, plan events, or maintain the website.
HOW TO TRANSLATE YOUR BUSINESS GOALS INTO VA REQUIREMENTS
The final variable in finding a virtual assistant that fits your needs consists of understanding exactly how those needs can translate into specific requirements that you consider as you select a qualified professional. In other words, you need to know how to translate your larger business goals into skills and requirements that you might find on a resume.
That’s not an easy process, but you can make it a little easier by following these steps:
- Define your business goals, condensing each to a sentence or two that sums them up at the highest level.
- Prioritize each of your goals to make sure you know which should take preference before others, should a conflict arise.
- Outline your existing tactics to accomplish each goal, especially as they relate to your individual target audiences.
- Match your resources, both budget and personnel, to each goal and tactic.
- Identify any potential hole in your resources, where you are not supporting a goal (or related tactic) to the level you should to accomplish it.
With these five steps, you’ll have a framework in place that allows you to see exactly where a virtual assistant might be able to step in and help. You might have identified a weakness on the digital communication side, in which case social media and web maintenance become crucial requirements. Or, you might have found a lack of time for high-level strategic planning, which means an assistant able to take on y our calendar management, inbox clearing, and scheduling might just be perfect.
WHERE TO FIND THE BEST VIRTUAL ASSISTANTS
If you’ve followed all of the above processes, you should have built a good picture of what, exactly, you need your virtual assistant to accomplish, as well as the type of professional you need to help your business succeed. Now, it’s time to actually start looking for one.
That process in itself is complex. You could choose to hire one yourself, using a standard job board. Or, you could work with a partner company that employs virtual assistants you can contract within a more streamlined fashion.
The last option tends to work better and more reliably leads to success. Check out our guide on the top options for VA companies to get a better idea of what that process looks like, along with some companies to partner with. Your goal, ultimately, is to make sure you find that perfect virtual assistant to help you accomplish your business goals.
We’d be remiss not to mention that we’re one of those options and would love to partner with you. When working with us, you get a college-educated, tech-savvy virtual assistant that’s located in the United States. Our assistants have experience in a number of industries and can apply that experience to your business goals and requirements. Browse our website to learn more today.