Article by: Patty Benton
When someone asks me what I do, and I tell them I am a Virtual Assistant, I am bombarded with questions. What is a Virtual Assistant? Who uses a Virtual Assistant? How much do they charge? How can they complete my work without being in my office? How is a Virtual Assistant more beneficial than someone in my office? How do I know that I can trust the hours they charge and that they won’t share my personal information? How do I go about finding a Virtual Assistant that is a “match” for me? These are all legitimate questions that someone considering hiring a Virtual Assistant needs to ask and have the answers to.
What is a Virtual Assistant?
A Virtual Assistant is a person or company that completes a variety of administrative, web, and computer work virtually. This means that they complete the work from their office and send it to their client via email, web link, postal mail, or fax. Communication is mainly done via email and phone, with many Virtual Assistants never meeting their client face to face.
Who uses a Virtual Assistant?
Anyone can. Real estate agents, coaches, non-profit, churches, small business owners, and big corporations are a few that can benefit from the services of a Virtual Assistant. The benefit of a Virtual Assistant is that they can be used on an “as-needed” basis, or a client can contract them to work so many hours a month.
How can they complete my work without being in my office?
The power of technology allows work to be done from anywhere. Some Virtual Assistants will connect their computer to a client’s and work directly on the client’s computer. Other options are to send work via email, postal mail, and even put it on the web and have clients download it. Depending on the project, a Virtual Assistant can find a way to complete the work and make sure the client gets it.
How is a Virtual Assistant more beneficial than someone in my office?
The main benefits of a Virtual Assistant to someone in an office are financial and space. An average office employee makes $43.54/hour (United States Bureau of Labor Statistics March, 2003) with their benefits package and wage. By the time an in-office employee takes breaks, lunch, restroom breaks, and chatting with others in the office, think of how much money is wasted! A Virtual Assistant will charge their client ONLY for the time spent working on the project and they pay their own benefits.
The other benefit is space. Having another person in an office means somewhere to put another desk, computer, and other office equipment needed by that employee (plus the cost of all this equipment and maintenance). Virtual Assistants provide their own work space, computer, equipment, maintenance, etc. In addition, most Virtual Assistants will cover the cost of supplies, which for an employee, the employer must also provide. When adding up these costs, the Virtual Assistant comes out as a far cheaper option.
How do I know that I can trust the hours they charge and that they won’t share my personal information?
Most Virtual Assistants use some sort of software to track their time in and out. There are several software programs that allow the user to punch in and out, just like a punch clock. It tracks the time, and at anytime the user can create a “report” that vouches for time spent and can be sent to a client when needed. As a Virtual Assistant, I use TraxTime. This allows me to record my time working, and easily punch out if I need to take care of something personal. It also allows me to make memos as to what I am working on, so a client has an idea of how long something takes to be completed. All Virtual Assistants have their own preference of software they like to use, but all work under the same ethics that they charge only for time spent working on a project. They won’t charge you for their lunch break, or the call that came in from another client. Obviously, Virtual Assistants work on the honor system of punching out for personal time. Clients always have the right to find another Virtual Assistant to work with if they feel their Virtual Assistant is charging them for time not spent on their project.
As for sharing a client’s company information, clients need to be sure to have a contract in place that ensures their company secrets and information will not be shared. Many Virtual Assistants have “niched” an industry, and this results in them having competing clients. With a contract in place, they cannot share a client’s information or use it to help another client. And to speak logically on this, if a Virtual Assistant did this, they would lose the faith and trust of clients, which would result in the failure of their business. So, it is not to their benefit to share a client’s information. But, to protect themselves, clients should be sure to sign a privacy clause in a contract.
How much do they charge?
The general price ranges from $20 to $50+ per hour depending on the services requested and the Virtual Assistants experience and degree. Many Virtual Assistants offer a “retainer plan” for those clients that are willing to commit to a certain number of hours per month. With a retainer plan, a client can get a discount on hourly rates.
How do I go about finding a Virtual Assistant that is a “match” for me?
As I mentioned previously, many Virtual Assistants find a “niche” which is an area they excel in. A client needs to find a Virtual Assistant that niches in their area of expertise and that offers the services they need. Some clients find it beneficial to have 2 or 3 Virtual Assistants that have different areas of expertise. The most important thing in finding a Virtual Assistant is not cost, or even area of expertise, but do you match well? Do you have the same work ethics? Do you have personalities that will work well together? Finding someone you feel comfortable with is the most important because a Virtual Assistant will become your partner in business and will help your business become even more successful.