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What is Virtual Assistance?

Virtual Assistance is a new way of working performed by taking advantage today’s technology, specifically the Internet. It allows for communication and information exchange at our fingertips with no continental boundaries or time restrictions. Developing an intense relationship with the clients enables virtual assistance works to be realized from any distance. The more the client works with Virtual Assistants, the greater the success that can be achieved from this partnership that is based on trust and mutual respect. The growth of computer technology combined with corporate downsizing and an increased awareness in values kick started the Virtual Assistant profession back around 1995. The current trend towards "contracted employees" supports the continued growth of the profession. Businesses of any size can enjoy the support benefits of Virtual Assistance services.

Who is a Virtual Assistant?

A Virtual Assistant is a person who is willing to provide services that can be rendered electronically. He/she works from his/her office or his/her home office, instead of working in the client’s office. A Virtual Assistant may be a part-time or full-time worker in his/her "Virtual Business" which is also called as "e-business" or "e-job". Virtual Assistants are professionals in what they do!! Virtual Assistants are highly-skilled independent contractors who perform a wide range of administrative and business services. However VA's do not simply offer various services for different sectors or office support services, they also develop collaborative relationships with their clients. VA's are more than just Assistants; they are your success partners!! By partnering with their clients, VA's develop a powerful, unique relationship with their clients built on mutual respect, trust and having a common goal... the success of your business.

Who is a Virtual Employer - (VE)?

A Virtual Employer (VE) is an individual or a company who needs certain tasks to be completed with help of VA's. Most of the time, a VE undertakes a project as a whole and subcontracts portions of it as tasks to third parties. In some cases, VEs look for an SVA for their personal needs such as resume writing, report typing, preparation of drawings for a new house, etc. The Virtual Employer may be a small entrepreneur; home based entrepreneur, home office or small business owner as well as a large corporation. Sometimes a person in e-business acts as both "Virtual Employer" and "Virtual Assistant" especially in case of large tasks requiring services under more than a single category or subcategory.

What does a Virtual Assistant do?

As we mentioned before, using the advancement in technology, specifically the internet allows for communication and information exchange, Virtual Assistants give supporting services to their clients in various subjects from creating, implementing and maintaining business administration processes, to brainstorming, to task performing for various projects, to marketing, to research, to business strategizing, to team building. They act as a partner in the growth and development of clients business. Virtual Assistants are qualified to offer their clients a variety of services, and can advice and/or use resources and tools to better support your business goals. Most entrepreneurs wear too many hats. The Virtual Assistants role is to remove the hats from the client and either wear them themselves or find the correct resource that will allow the client the required space to work "on" instead of "in" their business. The roles and duties of the VA expand and change as the business does, however they are not limited to the business and may include support of the client on a personal level."

Benefits of working with a Virtual Assistant:

A virtual assistant (VA) is a self-employed entrepreneur, specializing in virtual Business support services. A virtual assistant works offsite, remotely, or somewhere other than your office. Your virtual assistant can be anywhere in the world! Many things that can be done in a traditional office, can be done by virtual assistants in their office or home-office. Communication can be done by e-mail, phone, fax, regular mail, or online instant messaging. Files are exchanged via e-mail as attachments, file sharing/transfer, or regular/overnight mail using diskettes. Unlike "temps", most VA's work as a partner with their clients. Working this way, they get to know the client’s business and are able to make a positive impact on the success of that business over the long term.

* A VA can assist you with marketing support, increasing you clientele and freeing up valuable time to service your customers. They also can handle all your marketing and publicity helping you to spread the word about your product or services.
* Many virtual assistants specialize in web design and search engine optimization. Once you work with a VA, since they know the details, they can maintain the content of your website to be up to date, attractive and effective.
* A virtual assistant can make your presentations shine by giving it that polished professional presentation which is sure to capture your audience and promote all your products and services.
* A virtual assistant can be instrumental in proofing, editing, and typing all your correspondence, pleadings, manuscripts, etc., thus allowing a more professional edge to all your business communications.
* A virtual assistant can take over all your bookkeeping, bills and accounts payable. Let them worry about payroll so you can worry about the important tasks of running your business.
* A virtual assistant can plan your next company event or outing providing an enjoyable and memorable time for all. Think how much more enjoyable it can be when the burden of planning is removed from you.
* Specialist Virtual Assistants (SVA's) can give you technical support in different aspects in various stages of your projects. (e.g. technical drawing, design, picture editing)
* Because VA's work on an "as needed basis" and only when you have work, hiring a VA can save you money. Clients only pay based on the work done, and don't have to pay for equipment, supplies and monthly salaries. Can you imagine what a cost saving that can be?
* A VA can save you space because s/he works from his/her office as an independent contractor.
* Hiring a VA can save you time because you will not have to spend time hiring an employee or temporary help, neither will you need to train the new staff.
* A virtual assistant can schedule your appointments, manage your calendar, organize your desk, and make running a business much smoother.

Choosing the Right Virtual Assistant:

Choosing the right VA to work can be harder than hiring an employee. Due to the nature of virtual working, generally you may not meet this person face to face. Therefore, under these circumstances, how do you know that you hire a VA who is trustable and will not cheat you and if he/she is the right VA for you? First of all ask yourself these questions:

* What is the nature of my project?
* Do I need to hire a local VA versus anywhere ? What are the advantages and disadvantages of this?
* Do I need to have regular meetings with my VA?

Because of the nature of virtual working, location is not an important issue. VA can carry out all the duties a regular in-office employee can do. (manage your diary, handle your e-mails, deal with your correspondence, type up reports, make your travel arrangements, give technical drawing support in your projects, edit your pictures, etc.). If you decide to work with a local VA you should focus on local VA's and be aware that by doing this you may be limiting your options when choosing the right VA.

Secondly, once you have decided on the above issues then navigate on the web pages of the VA's and make an initial contact with several VA's and send a Request for Proposal with the aim of making some initial impression. The Request for Proposal should include an outline of the project details, asking about their fees/fee structure, how they would go about doing the work for you, how would you receive/send work etc.

Thirdly, after you’ve narrowed it down to two or three VA's, have a phone conversation with them (rather than exchange emails), as this will give you a good idea as to whether the VA is right for you. This is very important as you will be trusting your business to your VA and, as you are in a virtual working relationship, it is not same as hiring a employer who is working in the office with you. So you really do have to feel that this person has the right experience, you can trust them to deal with your work and his/her skills & experience match your project requirements. Also in terms of the VA's point of view, they need to feel that you are the right client for them. Another very important consideration is does your VA's skills match your needs? Check out their websites, view client’s testimonials, and examine their profile. If necessary ask whether you can contact either a current or previous client for a reference. The fourth step is that you should sign an agreement before any work starts so that you both know exactly what is expected of each other. The agreement should set out project requirements, fees (or an estimation of fees), project start and finish dates, method for sending/receiving work, private terms & conditions, etc. Following these, after the Virtual Assistant starts to work on your project, check his/her processing periodically and ask if there is a problem or not and keep in contact.

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