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Summary:

We’ve written about the benefits of outsourcing your chores, and we’ve covered the expanding field of virtual assistants. But though I’ve employed office staff in the past, I’m reaching the point where a VA might make sense. The problem is that I’m having trouble identifying chunks […]

ScreenshotWe’ve written about the benefits of outsourcing your chores, and we’ve covered the expanding field of virtual assistants. But though I’ve employed office staff in the past, I’m reaching the point where a VA might make sense. The problem is that I’m having trouble identifying chunks of work that it would make sense for me to outsource.

I hope that some of you WWD readers have stories of your own in this area to inspire me. So – if you use a VA of your own, how is it working out? How did you find your assistant? What sorts of things do you hand over to be done? And if you’re a virtual assistant, we’d welcome your perspective as well: where do you find you can help your clients the most?

Image credit: stock.xchng user anshustock

  1. I read all these blog posts about virtual assistants, but I can’t say I’ve ever ran into someone who actually contracts/employs one. Hopefully someone will reply with some insight and how they utilize their VA?

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  2. I used one from http://www.getfriday.com and it just did not work out for me.

    Admittedly, I did not make sufficient time to plan his activities but I found that it was an uphill struggle getting him to use some initiative on tasks rather than requiring detailed instruction every time.

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  3. I used an outsourced typing service to keyboard 30 pages of faxed and refaxed documents. I was pretty happy with the results, but I would hardly call this a virtual assistant.

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  4. I have used one during the better part of the summer. It was a new experience for both of us. While it did take a lot more of my time than I thought to plan things out enough to have another person do them, once we got the hang of it, it worked well. You can’t simply throw things over the wall or you won’t get the results you want. Oh, and you have to have an open line of communication – email, IM, phone, in person, doesn’t matter. Getting a quick status check allowed me to stop tangents early, saving time and money.

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  5. I am currently testing out a soon to go public VA company. In my opinion it is absolutely necessary to clearly describe the tasks that you hand over to a VA.

    I am quite happy with the service and see a great benefit in it. It saves me a couple of hours a week. So far I have used it for tasks like:

    – give me a three page overview of this new technology from leading sources on the internet and other sources.
    – I am planning a conference visit. Draw up a complete budget for this trip.
    – Call company X to cancel my membership.

    Fk

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  6. We use virtual assistants for all kinds of things, but the key is to clearly define the work in question.

    My quick rules would be:

    1. Write down everything you do over the course of a typical day (or week) that’s work related.

    2. Circle the things that make you money (directly or indirectly, like selling or writing a proposal).

    3. Of the things remaining, figure out which ones might make sense for someone else to handle. For us, things like bookkeeping, managing a newsletter, updating documentation, and certain marketing tasks were good candidates. Some VAs also do graphic design and other more technical services.

    4. Find a reputable virtual assistant, and expect to pay accordingly (I’m not a big fan of the $5/hour VA, I think you tend to get what you pay for). Some good places to look might be the VA organizations like http://www.IVAA.org

    5. Start with a small task – you want to get to know your VA and how you work together. Be clear about expectations and timeframes

    6. Lead your project – like with any outsourcing, you can’t just dump it on someone and expect them to read your mind. Check in periodically (most good VAs will update you without your asking, anyway), and if things are off-course, adjust.

    It’s worked out quite well for us, and it’s a great way to free up time for revenue generating activities.

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  7. Hi Mike,

    WWD has been a long time daily read for me – love it! So am thrilled at the opportunity to comment in this thread.

    As a virtual assistant with over 18 years’ experience in various industries, I’m somewhat of a generalist and provide a range of administrative, marketing, and personal support services to my clients.

    Each one has a unique set of tasks that I accomplish for them. However, the common threads and probably most valuable things I bring to them are:

    Caring – dedication to them and partnership toward their success.

    Being Proactive – anticipating problems, proposing solutions, and looking for opportunities.

    Consistency – in responsiveness as well as delivery of top quality on-time work so they don’t have to worry.

    Project/Task Management – coordinating, keeping things and people on track and updated, following up, closing open loops.

    Discretion and Tact – being the consummate professional in dealing with them and their own clients, colleagues, friends and families.

    To sum it up, I would say that it’s being an executive level assistant – as opposed to simply an admin or clerk – that is most important to those clients who are looking for a truly collaborative ongoing relationship.

    Here’s a handy resource I ran across for those trying to figure out just what to outsource to a virtual provider or team. Great checklist & worksheet in free chapter of The Power of The Virtual Team (not an affiliate link) http://www.powerofthevirtualteam.com/pg.php?p=999 It is helping a client of mine get back in the delegation groove.

    I hope this helps someone, and thanks for asking!

    ~ Denise

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  8. While I have never used a virtual assistant, the few times in my life I have been assigned a non-virtual assistant I have always had to work hard to keep that person busy and working productively toward the goal (not lost in a mess of poor definition).

    I suspect that this boils down to whether you have ever delegated any of your work. If so, this should work well (assuming a good VA). If not you will have a struggle.

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  9. VA’s have not worked out for me. The learning curve is tough and I need more of a relationship with the people who do work for me. The VA’s, I have worked with are very into running their business with lengthy contracts and policies. This is great if you also bring to the table the ability to “just do what works.”

    However, I have had great luck finding wonderful people who do things well and offering to pay them to do those things for me. The difference for me is that they are not into the “business” of being a virtual assistant. i found my proof reader on the Ask Liz Ryan list–she wrote a post asking if it was rude to contact people about spelling errors on their web sites. I contacted her and while she had never proofed professionally.

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  10. I use I want sandy to manage my to do list while I’m not at home or at work.

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