Business tasks you should outsource to a virtual assistant

Do you want to run a successful business? Then you have to outsource the right tasks to the right people. An external company can save you time and money that you can put back into the firm, which is why they are so popular. But, you don’t need to stick with the conventional method of outsourcing. If you prefer, you can go down the virtual route. It is possible to delegate tasks to a virtual assistant to save time and money. Here is a glimpse of the tasks that a virtual assistant can handle.

Bookkeeping

In the old days, you would have to keep physical records of your books. And, you would need to pass them over to an accountant for them to organize. Nowadays, you can do it all online. The great thing about online bookkeeping is that you can hire a virtual assistant for the job. All you have to do is set up accounts and provide the assistant with the relevant details. Then, they will keep your books in order by looking at your finances and chasing up unpaid invoices. An accountant is a good idea, but a virtual accountant is an even better one.

Phone Services

It is possible to delegate your entire customer service needs to a virtual assistant. However, it isn’t a good idea if you don’t want your customers to explode from frustration! Still, you can outsource certain answering service processes that aren’t as important. For example, instead of hiring a secretary, you can use an automated software device on your phone. That way, the assistant will instruct the caller to leave a message for you to check later. To some people, it is lazy. On the contrary, it is a good way to save time and cut labor costs.

Emails

Anyone in a position of power will use emails to correspond with clients or customers. As a result, you can receive hundreds in one day. Sifting through the vast majority of them is time-consuming and a waste. Not to mention, it is mind-numbingly boring! Thankfully, there is another way. Your virtual assistant will mine through the emails instead, and respond to any and all of them at once. In case you are worried, the assistant puts the important correspondence to one side. That way, you can deal with the important cases personally. In this case, everyone’s a winner.

Calendar Schedules

There is a variety of scheduling tools online. As a result, your virtual assistant can take care of all your scheduling needs at the click of a button. All you have to do is provide them with the information in advance. Then, they will pencil the event in for an available time and date and notify you immediately. They can schedule anything from business meetings to planning corporate events. Letting go of your calendar is hard work because it is so important. Once you do, you will start to feel the weight lift from your shoulders.

The above are just four examples. There are plenty more should you need a virtual assistant for another task.

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Why being a virtual assistant is great for mums

baby-businessIt’s no surprise that the thought of working from home can be a daunting prospect for expectant or new mothers.  Perhaps a substantial amount of time has passed since you were in the workforce or maybe starting to work again seems impractical given your daily responsibilities around children – it’s all completely understandable.

One increasingly popular option is to set up as a virtual assistant (VA), basing yourself at home. Here are some key reasons which might help explain the recent VA boom…

  • About to go on maternity leave? Did you know that it’s sometimes possible to earn money whilst taking maternity leave as a self-employed person? This is separate to maternity pay from your employer and keeping in touch days. This initial work provides a great platform to launch your VA business from.  Do check your employment contract first though – some companies don’t allow work outside of its employment.
  • Being a VA allows full control of your own work schedule which for example means you can fit working around the school runs and potentially cut back on nursery sessions. Workload can be managed and controlled to fit around the family.  Of course, you will still need to do some work within business hours so it isn’t advisable to remove childcare altogether once running your own VA business, but at least you can minimise what is required. For example, I have a young boy and often work when he is asleep in the evenings and I am always on call via email. This freedom means my son is only at nursery in the afternoons rather than for a full day.
  • Being a full time mum can be an almighty change if you are used to being in full time employment – your life suddenly becomes centred around the child and new mums often miss that independence. Having your own business is something just for you and provides the opportunity to do something completely separate from your family alongside caring for them.
  • Being a VA allows amazing freedom. We run annual surveys through the Society of Virtual Assistant and the word ‘freedom’ comes up time and time again when we ask what people love most about being a VA.
  • Perhaps you’re sick of office politics? Not keen on your boss? Full of ambition but feel held back or under rewarded?  Working for yourself is one of the very best ways to take control of your career – free from other people’s limitations.  There is no upper pay grade limit or delays for overdue promotions!
  • No suits – wear what you like! I wear jeans to the office every day (ok, ok – I’ll admit it, sometimes I wear my pyjamas!)
  • Being based at home means there is no commute. I used to sit in traffic for over an hour each way in my last full time job before having children. It used to make me grumpy, irritable – and I was spending a small fortune in fuel!  Running your own business means you can use that precious time to do something you love.
  • Variety is the spice of life – how true! You never get bored working for a wide variety of clients and as a VA you are constantly learning new skills.

So what are you waiting for? The VA industry is quite unique in the sense that we are all so approachable and friendly to newbies! If you need advice on getting set up just ask. This is not a closed door industry. Our latest survey is now available to download. The information in this insightful document is key to anyone starting out as a VA.

Caroline Wylie is the founder of the Society of Virtual Assistants (SVA), the largest membership organisation for virtual assistants (VA) in the UK. The SVA connects VAs of a certain standard with businesses of all sizes.

Is being a virtual assistant a good choice for a work at home mum? The answer might surprise you…

Mother_And_Baby_With_LaptopThis is a guest post from Caroline Wylie of the Society of Virtual Assistants.

In Emma Jones’ book “Working 5-9” being a VA is the very first job she recommends for people wanting to earn money at home in the evenings. As a mum myself, it is a great job to run alongside your family commitments such as the school run or bunging on a load of washing. But with almost half of married women doing 13 hours + of household chores each week, it’s no surprise that our businesses sometimes suffer from working from home… (Source: Institute for Public Policy Research 2012).

I wanted to know just how much an impact being a mum had on home businesses – the results are a pretty interesting read. The Virtual Assistant industry tends to be typically female dominated with a stereotypical VA being a mum with young children juggling childcare alongside running her business – that’s the picture that gets painted time and again when people talk about VAs.

But when you look at the numbers, is The Mummy VA a reality or is it a Mummy Myth?

Each year we take a snapshot of the VA industry in the UK Virtual Assistant Survey – a survey of real VAs which looks at everything from how much they earn to what marketing methods work best.

One of the issues we researched was to do with working mums. Firstly, are VAs typically mums? Secondly, are they working without childcare in place juggling their commitments? And lastly, does it affect your income?

We’ve now asked these questions three years in a row – and the results are fairly consistent:

  • Just 35% of VAs are mums with young children.
  • The percentage of WAHMs who have no childcare in place is 1.5% of the industry – which has fallen in the last 2 years from 4%.

So “The Mummy Myth” (as I call it) is just pure fantasy – it’s actually comparable to the amount of men working in this female dominated industry at just 1%. The drop in VAs without childcare in place would also suggest that it’s not sustainable to run a VA business without childcare – these VAs have clearly either left the industry or put some childcare in place.

What we also wanted to know is: Are these mums earning less?

We looked at the rates mums charge compared to the non-mums – the mums without childcare were earning over 24% less than the average VA rate.

You could argue that the hours available to work are hampering their earning potential – that is, until you look at what other VAs working the same amount of hours earn, and the mums without childcare are still earning 20% less than those working similar part-time hours.

Fact: If you want to earn a living from being a VA – you need childcare in place.

But it’s hard when you’ve perhaps voluntarily opted out of the traditional workforce in order to look after children. You have to be able to justify the increased cost of childcare vs your (hopefully!) increased income. This research would suggest you can charge more if you have more consistent working hours in place.

The full UK Virtual Assistant Survey can be purchased at £25 from: societyofvirtualassistants.co.uk/va-products/

Review: The Virtual Assistant Handbook – Nadine Hill

Ever considered being a virtual assistant?

If you’re not sure what a virtual assistant (or VA) is, here’s a quick introduction. A VA works remotely on tasks like administration, bookkeeping, event organisation, telephone answering and personal assistance. Small businesses who need admin support but don’t want an employee can hire a VA by the hour. VAs usually work from their own home and many never meet their clients face-to-face. (You can read more in Business Ideas For Mums: Virtual Assistant.)

The Virtual Assistant Handbook is the only guide for UK-based VAs. I’m not just saying that as a compliment, it really is the only one! Fortunately, it’s an excellent book.

Being a VA appeals to lots of mums because many have administration experience, but self employment is far more flexible than being employed. Sounds great so far? Not surprisingly, there are a few snags along the way, but this book deals with all of them in turn.

First of all, Nadine explains that being a VA is not for you if you want to be handed work and to then quietly get on with it. A client will be looking for a self-starter, someone with their own ideas who isn’t afraid to ‘manage’ them. You will also need to get out there and look for work (not always easy if you’re used to getting things done behind-the-scenes). The VA handbook gives you plenty of useful advice on how to do this, even if you know nothing about marketing.

Nadine talks about her own experience of starting a VA business throughout and shares the challenges she encountered and the lessons she has learned. Finding clients (online, networking, PR and more), getting started, setting a price, selling extra services and future development are all covered in a clear, honest and practical way.

If you’re thinking of starting out as a virtual assistant in the UK, this is essential reading.

You can buy The Virtual Assistant Handbook from Amazon.

Photo: RLHyde

Business Ideas for Mums – Virtual Assistant

Tell me more…

A virtual assistant works remotely on tasks like administration, bookkeeping, event organisation, telephone answering and personal assistance. Small businesses who need admin support but don't want an employee can hire a VA for as many hours as they want. VAs usually work from their own home and many never meet their clients face-to-face.

What are the benefits?

  • You can work flexible hours.
  • You can choose the type of work you'd like to do.
  • With technology such as call diverting, the internet and email, you can work from almost anywhere.

Things to consider…

  • Although this is a much more flexible way of working compared to being  employed, you will still need to meet deadlines (usually for several different clients at the same time) and be available when your clients need you. This takes a high level of organisation and being realistic about the hours you can work.
  • Many people with administration and PA experience are great at their job, but are used to being 'behind the scenes people'. This means that getting out there and selling themselves doesn't come naturally to them. You can overcome this, but you will need to think about how you will do it.
  • The concept of virtual assistance is still new to many people so you may have to explain what you do and how you can be of benefit to them.
  • Having a niche is the key to building a business – don't try to do all types of administration for all types of business.
  • As a remote worker, potential clients will need to trust that you can get the work done to a high standard and on time. This means projecting a professional image at all times. If your home makes this difficult (if you have screaming children in the background when you answer the phone!), then you'll need to create some systems to get around this. E.g. using a telephone answering service when the children are at home.

Further information

The Virtual Assistant Handbook by  Nadine Hill

The Society of Virtual Assistants

International Association of Virtual Assistants

Not convinced that being a virtual assistant is for you? Take a look at other business ideas for mums.