Any business owner will tell you that running a business is a lot of work and comes with wearing many hats. In the early days of starting a business, a founder might feel like the CEO, accountant, marketing manager, administrative assistant, software engineer, sales representative, product manager, and more.
As your business grows, you’ll inevitably have to shed some of your job titles and delegate tasks. One solution? Hire a virtual assistant so you can make time for what matters and get back to working on your business instead of being knee-deep in minutiae.
This post will tell you the must-have information about virtual assistants, including signs you might need one, key benefits, and what to look for when interviewing candidates. First up, let’s dig into what virtual assistants do and where they do it.
What is a virtual assistant (VA)?
A virtual assistant (VA) is an independent contractor or freelancer who completes administrative, business development, social media, marketing, and other business-related tasks remotely. They provide supporting functions to other businesses from a location of choice and complete various tasks to free up time for business owners and leaders. Virtual assistants often help small to midsize companies and fill in gaps on small teams where a full-time employee may not be necessary.
Some examples of specific tasks VAs can do include calendar management and scheduling, bookkeeping, customer support, creating and posting content on social media, developing marketing materials, and preparing documents and presentations. Some VAs specialize in specific skills, while others may specialize across industries.
Signs you need a virtual assistant
If you aren’t sure you need a VA for your business, you aren’t alone. Some business owners are reluctant to hire a VA because of financial reasons, fear of poor-quality work, and fear of losing control over their business. Despite these valid hesitations, there are some signs that it might be time to hire help for your business (and your sanity).
Below are four red flags to watch for that could indicate you need some help:
1. You live in a constant state of burnout.
If you’re spending too much time on your business and feel like it’s consuming every waking hour, you should consider hiring a virtual assistant. This might look like not taking time off to rest and recharge, losing hours of sleep due to late nights spent working, and a general sense of daily overwhelm. One of the perks of founding your own business is setting your own hours and taking time for yourself as needed. So if you are struggling to step away from your work, it’s time to consider your options, including bringing on a VA.
2. Administrative tasks are consuming a majority of your time.
Are you auditing your schedule? Do you know where your time goes? If you’re finding that administrative tasks are consuming a majority of your time (say, more than 40-50% of your workload), a virtual assistant can help with that. When you don’t have enough time to do the work that makes you money, it’s challenging to feel like your business is thriving (and pay the bills, nonetheless). Spending your days responding to emails, scheduling, invoicing, and posting on social media are all necessary activities. But someone else can carry out these tasks so you can better prioritize your time.
3. You’re turning down work that could help your business grow.
Picture this: Your dream client reaches out to inquire about your availability and service offerings. You’ve been waiting for this moment since you launched your business, and it’s finally here — only to quickly disappear because you don’t have the bandwidth in your schedule to accommodate them. Not only are you turning away your dream client, but you’re also turning down the work that could help your business (and your bank account) grow. At the same time, you’re missing out on new opportunities that fit your strengths because you’re spending your time on administrative work. You can avoid turning down the job you want by setting yourself and your business up for success with the support it needs.
4. You don’t possess the skills needed for specific tasks.
There are specific components of managing a business that need to occur that you may know nothing about. For example, bookkeeping is a must for the financial side of a business, but you may not know much about it. You don’t have to be (and can’t be) an expert in every aspect of your business. Instead, consider leaning on experts in the specific areas you need. You could hire a virtual assistant with formalized project management training for all of your project organization’s needs. Or you could hire a virtual assistant with a background in social media and digital marketing to help run your social media channels if you’re unfamiliar with that territory.
Benefits of hiring a virtual assistant for your business
When it comes to adding new teammates, most business owners want to understand the added value and return on investment. Thankfully, virtual assistants bring a tremendous amount of value to their teams.
Below are three significant benefits worth noting:
1. You’ll gain valuable time back.
First, when you hire a VA, you’ll gain time back so you can focus on what matters. Sure, there might be a time investment upfront since you’ll need to train your assistant. But in the long run, they’ll save you time (and, more importantly, energy) that you can invest back into the parts of the business you’ve been neglecting. CEO of Express Homebuyers, Brad Chandler, hires VAs to help him save time. He uses multiple VAs to complete admin tasks and follow up with leads for potential sellers. Entrepreneur Sharon Garofalow sings the praises of her VA for helping her cut back on time-consuming tasks that she can’t fit into the day.
2. You can fill skill gaps.
While it might be tempting to want and know how to operate every aspect of your business, that’s not always a realistic expectation. And while learning new skills can be exciting and challenging, there will likely be seasons in your business when you don’t have time to commit to skill growth. Instead, hiring a virtual assistant allows you to fill skill gaps and complement your weaknesses with their strengths. When you find the right fit for your needs, their expertise will allow you to build a better, more substantial business overall.
3. You’ll save money.
Yes, you read that right — hiring a virtual assistant will help you save money. Research suggests that hiring a VA instead of a full-time employee can save entrepreneurs up to 78% of operating costs per year. It’s a huge win to hire a VA since you won’t have to find a physical office space for them to work or provide them with company equipment (unless you choose to). And since they aren’t full-time employees, you’ll save on total compensation by not having to provide employer-sponsored benefits packages. Not to mention that hiring and onboarding costs can add up (both of which you can cut back on when you hire a VA).
Virtual assistants for startups
Startups can benefit from virtual assistants too. With only 24 hours in the day, it’s inevitable for things to slip through the cracks when building a startup. FitStars CEO and co-founder Mike Maser said it well when he spoke to startups.com, “When you’re building a vision, a team and a product all at once, time is your ultimate currency. Every day presents both the opportunity to break ground and the risk of losing ground. At the end of the day, I’d trade anything for an extra hour to ensure we’ve taken a step forward.”
VAs can be transformative for early-stage startups. Some specific tasks they can take over right away include inbox management and email correspondence, scheduling meetings, meeting minutes, implementing administrative processes, and documenting and updating workflows. As a founder searching for a VA, it’s important to avoid underestimating the complexity of tasks and make time for strategic hiring decisions to see the best results for your business.
What to look for
Speaking of strategically hiring a VA, here are some tips for interviewing and hiring the best virtual assistant for your business:
- Discuss their previous experience. If you’re looking for a specific skill, such as expert-level calendar management, it’s essential to understand candidates’ previous experience. In this instance, a virtual assistant with previous experience as an executive assistant might be a good match. No matter what type of business assistance you’re looking for, ask questions to ensure the virtual assistant you choose has experience to avoid friction down the road. Similarly, if industry knowledge is essential to you, get a feel for what industries candidates have experience in.
- Be sure to discuss availability. Since VAs aren’t full-time employees, it’s critical to understand when they will and won’t be available. Make sure your schedules align and that you will be able to work together accordingly, even if that means working in different time zones across the world.
- Evaluate their communication skills. The key ingredient to a successful relationship with a virtual assistant is communication. Evaluate candidates’ communication skills at every touchpoint (on calls, via email, etc.) to determine if you’ll be able to have a solid working relationship. Pay attention to their timeliness, responsiveness (or lack thereof), and overall tone. Remember that your VA will represent your business to a certain extent in any capacity.
Virtual assistants support businesses remotely and specialize in various tasks from bookkeeping to calendar management to social media. For a quick solution, you can outsource your calendar management to Clockwise. If you’re a burnt-out business owner who doesn’t have enough time in the day and is missing out on opportunities, it might be time to hire a VA. Significant benefits of hiring a VA include claiming back your time, up-leveling your business, and saving money. Before bringing them onto your team, you must understand your candidates’ previous experience, availability, and communication skills.