There’s content to be edited and updates to be made to your website. You’ve missed two meetings and can’t remember who the contacts are to reschedule them. And your inbox count looks like the GDP of a small country.
There’s a lot to be said about optimizing your own daily routine to get the most out of your days, but that can only take you so far. While you may have aspirations of a tremendously profitable quarter, it’s probably time to compose yourself and admit that you’re not going to be able to do it all alone. You can’t continue growing a business if you’re tethered to your desk.
Traditional hiring processes take far too long when you need someone immediately who can take the load off your shoulders. Ideally, you want someone who can materialize, quickly get up to speed on what’s happening, handle the workload, and disappear until needed again.
This is where a lot of entrepreneurs will cringe. Sure, it’s hard to give up control, and you may find it a challenge to find someone who is reliable and whom you can trust with private company intel. But those someones are out there: You just have to know where to look.
Here are seven surprising places to start your search.
I am absolutely advocating that you search social media to find a stranger to trust with your business. Start talking about the need for a virtual assistant on Twitter, and you’ll be surprised just how fast VA businesses will respond and start following you. Some of the best VA companies have listening posts set up with alerts to find people just like you.
The best part is that if you’ve got a social-savvy VA, Twitter is just one more task he or she can help you with.
2. Your network
If your contact list includes other business owners, mentors, influencers, professionals or any combination thereof, then it’s time to make calls and let them know you need help. Chances are, they know someone, or can recommend a service they may have used in the past. Don’t ever forget about the power of referrals and word of mouth.
Inspired by Tim Ferriss’ The 4-Hour Workweek,New York Times bestselling author Michael Hyatt decided it was time to pick up a virtual assistant when he began to focus on his writing and saw his blog traffic (and workload) spike. He has had the same virtual assistant for years now and swears by her.
“I found that I was so much more productive that it was well worth the additional investment,” Hyatt says of his assistant. “She’s just one of my teammates — and a very valuable one at that.”
If you’ve never worked with a virtual assistant and you came up short on referrals, VANetworking is a good place to start. VAs often network and come together here as a means of finding work, as well as solutions. Not only do they provide information for clients who want to work with a virtual assistant, they also have a hiring section where you can post in search of a VA.
This one might be as surprising as Twitter. While the go-to classifieds site has its share of scammers, it’s very possible to find a top-notch virtual assistant on Craigslist. You can also look on Craigslist sites elsewhere in the world and choose your desired location, though the local aspect can be a huge benefit. Even though your assistant will be working remotely, you’ll have the advantage of setting up a face-to-face interview as if you were hiring an in-house employee.
Just make sure you do your legwork, like verifying work history and checking references.
Zirtual is a great choice for startups and entrepreneurs as the site specializes in providing dedicated virtual assistants to entrepreneurs, professionals and small teams. One of the biggest perks is that it works only with college-educated VAs who are based in the United States, so you don’t need to worry about the vetting process. Zirtual boasts that fewer than 2 percent of applicants get hired on to their service.
Pat Flynn, founder of Smart Passive Income, often shares the benefits of working with virtual assistants on his podcast. In his tutorial on delegation, he writes, “I know just how valuable my time is and where my time should be invested to give me the most return.”
6. Workshops and events
Hopefully, you’re consciously aware that you’ll need help down the road and that you have time to be on the lookout. If that’s the case, then always keep the VA search in the back of your mind as you travel to industry events, workshops, and lectures. Those are great places for industry professionals to gather. If you find a VA at an event like this, you know he or she already has at least one foot inside the door of your industry.
A local college, or any college for that matter, can be a great place to locate a VA. Talk with career counselors or professors, or post hiring ads on campus job boards to try to locate a student studying in your industry. You may find a student chomping at the bit for a paid internship, willing to act as a virtual assistant as a means of learning the industry and gaining experience in his or her chosen career track.
Once an entrepreneur has successfully navigated the first few months of his or her startup phase, the focus typically shifts to a larger but more exciting challenge: “How do I grow my business?”
In various ways, business development represents another kind of startup phase, but this time with different goals, objectives and risks. An entrepreneur will not have the financial capacity to take on big risks at this stage and must therefore be more strategic and purposeful in his or her approach. The best option? Integrate virtual assistants into the plan to provide several advantages.
1. Realign your budget.
The number one reason people hire virtual assistants is to reduce their cost of business. Compared to a regular or full-time employee, a virtual assistant costs less because the business owner does not pay benefits.
Also, a virtual assistant, as a sole proprietor of his or own business, covers those expenses. Thus, you don’t have to allocate funds for additional Internet bandwidth, power and rent. It’s estimated that hiring virtual assistants can save you as much as 40 percent in business expenses.
These savings can then be re-aligned or re-channeled to other aspects of your business, such as a digital marketing campaign, or an upgrade to your operating systems.
2. Scale your business.
If your financials show that your volume of business has been steadily and constantly increasing, but turnaround time for deliverables has markedly slowed down, it may be time to scale up your business.
Scaling requires additional man- and woman-power to accommodate the increasing volume of work. At this point, the last thing you’ll want to do is to impede your momentum due to poor service or inventory shortfalls. So, you’ll be adding more people, but, due to wide cost differentials, full-time employees will likely be out of the question.
Virtual assistants, however, will not only keep your incremental costs lower but keep your business flexible. How?
Virtual assistants do not have set work schedules; you can assign them to shifts that require greater attention.
You spend less time training because virtual assistants already have the experience and competency level to get the job done.
Since virtual assistants are on a contractual basis, they can be easily terminated and replaced.
When scaling up your business, working with a virtual assistance agency is your best option because its personnel have been selected for their experience and reviews from past and current clients. They can easily replace your current virtual assistant if that engagement does not yield productive results.
A glaring weakness of most entrepreneurs is their lack of organizational skill. That’s not necessarily a shortcoming; it’s just that with so much work to do, the need to organize often takes a backseat to more essential tasks. Yet, organization encourages greater productivity.
Fortunately, what may be your weakness in organization is a virtual assistant’s strength, especially if he or she has the experience to help you find the best frameworks for a system that will organize your business. If you are not tech-savvy, a virtual assistant can set up a virtual workplace where everything from project management and file-sharing, to time-keeping and communication can be accomplished.
A virtual workplace in short makes it easier to delegate work, track performance and collaborate frequently with your virtual team. You can get more work done and minimize the risks of mistakes and oversights.
4. Delegate non-essential tasks.
The next good reason for hiring virtual assistants is to free you, the entrepreneur, from nonessential tasks. These include:
Phone call coverage
Social media management
While you probably have the skills to do all or most of these tasks, you will definitely not have the time. And even if you do, your available time is better spent on functions that require your core competency or are directly related to generating revenues for your business.
5. Capitalize on specialization.
Virtual assistants are no longer limited to personal assistant “secretarial” services. Over the years, as the need to streamline costs has grown, and the Internet has increased its significance in the global business environment, the virtual assistance industry has likewise undergone a transformation. Specifically, the industry opened its doors to more specialized and technical skills to accommodate demand across a wide spectrum of services. You can now find virtual assistants for the following specialized skills:
Website design and development
Content management services
Medical, legal and audio Transcription
Data protection and security
This is just a short-list featuring 11 currently in-demand services. But it shows the many possibilities for building a team of virtual assistants to cover different areas of your business.
6. Build a strategic partnership.
A common misconception of people not familiar with virtual assistants is that these are merely “hired guns”: Once they have completed the assignment, they will leave you for the next one. But that is far from the truth. Keep in mind, for instance, that virtual assistants own their own businesses. Like you, they too want to grow their enterprise Therefore it’s in their best interest to consistently perform above and beyond expectations in order to maintain your account.
Shared interest equals a strategic partnership. When working with your virtual assistant, bring him or her inside your process. Indoctrinate your assistant in your culture, open up the virtual floor and allow him or her the opportunity to share ideas. Collaboration is a powerful tool that will take your business to the next level. When both parties are motivated to attain a common goal, spectacular results may occur.
A virtual assistant, then, is not just a person contracted to complete a project from a remote location using the Internet. Properly utilized, a virtual assistant can become your “secret weapon” in building your business, by being one side of your double-edged sword. A virtual assistant is an asset guaranteed to lower your business costs significantly without compromising your productivity. In fact, your assistant will increase productivity exponentially.