To make you understand better: How to use a VA (Virtual Assistant, Human!)

You: (Thinking thoughtfully to yourself) I am overwhelmed with mundane day-to-day tasks and I really really need someone to take them off my hands! I want to focus more on tasks which only I can do. Should I hire an assistant? Hmm, how should I go about it?

Inevitably, when you conduct an online research on Google to find yourself an assistant in an endeavour to offload some of your daily tasks, you’ll come across some terms like “virtual assistant”, “virtual secretary”, “outsourcing”, etc. To the completely uninitiated, these terms may seem a bit daunting at first. But, that’s why I am here exactly – to explain the ins and outs of virtual assistance to you 🙂

When I say “Virtual Assistants” or “VAs” in short, I mean human assistants, not Alexa or Artificial Intelligence (AI) applications on your smartphone or computer.

Virtual assistants are folks just like you and me who have 9-to-5 jobs and friends they like to chill with on weekends over beer and pizza. People who like to binge-watch TV series on Netflix and sometimes hate Mondays just like you and me.

I have noticed a prevalent misconception about VAs that they’re freelancers (office-job-free folks) or single moms or digital nomads. But that’s not completely true.

The adjective “virtual” is added to their profession because they work virtually or remotely. They cannot meet you physically over a cup of coffee (you could share a cuppa over Skype though). Btw, I forgot to mention — I am one of them and conversing with you from my office, sitting in my nice and cosy chair!

Throughout my career as a professional VA, I have come across so many people who have been rather confused or skeptical about the concept of virtual assistance and what it entails.

Sometimes, people hire a VA with a lot of positivity and enthusiasm; however, after a while they start feeling it’s not for them and lose steam! Almost one-fourth of them stop using virtual assistance in the first few months of hiring one.

Why? Is it because virtual assistance is not a viable option for most businesses? Or is it worth a lot of time and effort?

None actually!

The biggest bottleneck that causes most people to stop using virtual assistance is “task delegation”.

Business owners want things to be extremely simple; they want to hire a virtual assistant and then simply forget about their very existence. They don’t want to take the headache of training or delegating. Unrealistically, they expect a VA to be like a fairy godmother who twirls their wand and get things done.

Sometimes, users feel they’re spending a tremendous amount of time. They consider the time they spend training their VA as an expenditure and not as an investment.

But think of it this way, if you were to physically have an assistant present at your organization, wouldn’t you go about introducing her to your other staff, educating her about your business and what it is you’d like her to do? Perhaps you’d even take her out for coffee to celebrate her first day at work!

However, when it comes to virtually connecting with somebody, we at times tend to forget that there is actually a living, breathing person at some corner of the world, equally excited about this opportunity.

Therefore, at times, you end up making the first mistake. You subscribe but don’t interact efficiently. That’s a sad story…but 100% true!

Nowadays, the best part about most VA companies is that when you hire, you don’t hire “an assistant” but you instead hire “a team of assistants”. Great, right?

Imagine getting several assistants with several advanced skills at the same price for one assistant! There are various professionals such as SEO specialists, Web Developers and Designers, Content Writers, Digital Marketers, Accountants who work wearing the badge of Virtual Assistant.

So, if you’re a newbie when it comes to hiring a VA, it is always a good practice to have the sales representative you’ve spoken to over the phone to paraphrase your requirements, preferably in writing, so that there’s no room for any miscommunication.

If you must, most companies have an “Exclusive Trial” period which works as a tester phase. During this phase, you can check if indeed the company is a good fit for what you’re looking for.

Just as is in a long distance relationship, you need to commit and build a level of trust, understanding and clarity in order to work in unison.

Now, the next important thing – what must you delegate and what you mustn’t.

THE THINGS YOU CARE FOR THE MOST NEED YOU THE MOST

Read the above line once. Slowly. Now read it again once more.

Yes! The things you care for the most need you the most. What I mean by this is very very simple. You must at all times remember the objective behind hiring a virtual assistant.

Why did you hire them in the first place? Maybe you wanted to free up some time to get things done that actually and genuinely needed your attention? Maybe as a first-time dad, you wanted to free up as much time so that you could go back home and spend quality time with your lil bubba? Maybe as an entrepreneur you wanted to focus more on getting more funding from investors for your startup while leaving other tasks and daily duties to your VA?

DO NOT FORGET WHY YOU HIRED THEM. That is the golden rule.

If you’re an author, your books need you the most. Your job is to spill all your wonderful thoughts and ideas onto paper. Your book is going to be your treasure. Years later, when you’re old and grey, you’d like your grandchildren to read your words, not that of some ghostwriter’s, isn’t it?

However, a VA can be of huge help to you! Ask your VA to design an exquisite cover page for your book, create attractive landing pages, format newsletters, design your ebook, prepare a strategy to market the book, scout and get in touch with various bloggers and ask for their reviews, compile a list of relevant podcasts where you can promote the book, help you with translating the book into different foreign languages. If you need help on how to get published online on platforms like KDP, your assistant can walk you through it.

Not just that, if you’re looking for a fresh pair of eyes to go over your writing before sending it to the publishers, ask your VAs to go through your writing; create a proofreading task for them. Some of them are proficient content writers and avid readers.

If you’re a fiction writer, ask them to review your work critically to check for any plot holes, inconsistencies or contradictory narratives, create a social media campaign for the marketing of your book, transcribe your interviews and prepare keynotes, help you attend and host webinars.

Your VA can also create an intriguing “call-to-action” page to get your audience registered, send “Thank you” emails, create presentation graphics, send reminders before the webinars and manage questions.

Or have a hearty debate with you about why you killed a good character!

If you’re an accountant or a financial advisor, reviewing the final reports, interacting with your clients, preparing proposals are your job; no one can do it better than you!

However, tasks like regular data entries, creating and managing invoices and receipts, making entries in QuickBooks or FreshBooks, preparing trial balance, managing account payables and receivables, prepare aging reports, MIS reports, and handling petty cash books, sending emails to your clients, data reconciliation, promoting your business digitally and so on, can easily be done by a virtual assistant.

If you are a full-time employee at an organization but wish to start an ecommerce business of your own on the side, then getting to your job is your job! Taking care of the inventories (product listings), marketing your products on Social Media, handling order processing (order listings, shipping and invoicing) interacting with logistic companies and manufacturers, managing clients’ feedback, running paid ad campaigns, handling returns & exchanges, website maintenance, publishing the latest news of your business and writing and submitting press releases are for your VAs.

However, remember to be the ultimate deal maker. At the end, you must make the last call, be it choosing the right manufacturer or a speedy logistics company. At the end of the day, it is your business.

If you’re a yoga instructor, performing various asanas, teaching correct postures and balancing techniques are your work; however, tasks like finding people interested in “Yoga classes”, promoting your Yoga studio or center online, creating social media content, writing heart-touching and health-awakening blog posts, finding Yoga meetups in your city, listing your business on Google, can be assigned to your VAs.

If you’re a musician, playing the instrument and creating new compositions are your forte. Don’t expect your VA to compose music on your behalf 🙂

But if you need help finding various musical shows and events in and around your locality, attracting your target audience to attend your shows, finding record labels, your VA is the right person to go about doing this for you.

If you’re a lawyer or running of a law firm, you would like to spend more time on your cases and practice. For other miscellaneous tasks, you always have your VAs to rely on.

Your VAs can set up meetings and appointments, send appointment reminders to your clients, manage your calendar, perform bookkeeping, format legal contracts, transcribe your hand-written notes, perform legal research, answer phones, perform email management, improve the online presence of your business.

If you’re a teacher, teaching your students, analyzing new teaching pedagogies are your duties. Use your VAs to assist you with new digital teaching methods.

Your VA can help you create various course syllabi, manage class calendars, design and prepare study guides and materials and student handouts, bookkeeping (calculating taught hours and preparing invoices), send newsletters to parents before the beginning of new terms and so on.

If you’re a motivational speaker or host a podcast show, your task is to focus on the podcast or interview content, asking relevant questions and making it interesting and informative.
Your VAs can be of immense help by assisting to edit and enhance the audio or video quality, creating impactful keynotes, uploading the shows or webinars on your site or some other platform (e.g., YouTube), promoting your channel on Youtube and Facebook. Some VAs are exceptional digital marketers and can help enhance your channel by making use of SEO-friendly keywords, accurate descriptions and tags, etc.

If you’re running a digital marketing company, your business needs you the most to prepare and pitch your service proposals, set and negotiate price quotations, guide your clients to set budgets for their paid Ad campaigns and any sort of client interaction. However, you would be surprised to know that some VAs are awesome digital marketers and have some successful campaigns under their belt!

If you acquire more digital marketing projects, your digital marketing VAs can assist with aspects, such as keyword research, doing a manual and technical audit of your client’s website, assisting with On-page SEO to increase the score.

Not just that – you can delegate tasks, such as checking broken links, creating graphic images (be it designing thumbnails or content images), writing copywriting, website, article and social media content, social media postings, keyword analysis, social media or competitor analysis, guest posting, directory submission to your VAs.

If you’re a real estate broker, selling the properties by effective interaction with your clients, assisting them with walkthroughs, finalizing deals and negotiating with them should solely be done by you. No one has better knowledge about these aspects of your business than you!

But, you can make use of your VAs by asking them to advertise/market your properties on social media. They could connect with potential buyers and sellers, join and engage on various relevant online groups, create promotional content like pamphlets, business cards, prepare property-related survey reports, newsletters, help the buyer craft their initial offer and purchase agreement, maintain your website, list properties on various sites such as Zillow, Trulia and so on

If you’re a pastor, preparing sermons, preaching to your church members, conducting church services are your duties. However, there are some other day-to-day tasks that you can quite easily delegate to a virtual assistant.

Your remote assistant can transcribe your sermons, engage with the members online through your church’s website or via email, take their questions or share important updates, chalk out strategies to get more involved with the local communities, help to show your church’s name in local listings or search results, send newsletters and perform social media marketing for you (create social media pages for the church and do regular postings).

If you’re a doctor, your sole aim should be the well-being of your patients. However, all the other paraphernalia attached to your job could easily be delegated to an assistant.

For instance, scheduling appointments, transcribing audio files of various counselling sessions, sending invoices to your clients, updating your booking slots online, helping you write and find various research papers by searching on Google Scholar, writing emails when you refer your patients to other doctors, formatting various reports, providing you with important medical and healthcare updates, contacting pathologists and so on could easily be done by a VA.

If you’re thinking of changing your job or don’t have one, allow yourself to prepare for the desired job role or position. And let your VA find the best job openings on LinkedIn or various job portals, create an amazing resume and send it to multiple recruiters and HR Heads for you.

You can go beyond any limitation if you persevere hope and determination. On top of it, if you’ve a companion along side, you feel the warmth of camaraderie. The journey becomes amazing and easier!

There’s a famous saying ~ “A wise man is a good Sherpa; he takes you to the highest places”.

Likely, consider your VAs as your Sherpa and along with them reach any tall-standing summit of your life.