Written by: Victoria M. Parham, Career Strategist, Trainer, Podcast Host, and retired Army Wife
Finding the right administrative support for a growing business can be a real challenge particularly if you are a home-based company.
Most home-based businesses fit in one of the following categories:
- SOHO (small office home office) with a tight budget and needs administrative support periodically; prefers not to have onsite staff in the home.
- Growing business where the owner wears all the hats; wants to bring on administrative staff but doesn’t want to incur the additional cost of benefits, 401k, unemployment insurance etc….
- Mobile / Telecommuter: travels and works remotely, doesn’t have anyone to support his or her administrative needs while out of the office.
One solution that accommodates all three scenarios is partnering with a Virtual Assistant. What is a Virtual Assistant? Virtual Assistants are entrepreneurs in their own right that are highly skilled in their profession (administrative assistant, corporate secretary, travel, transcription etc..) and have a dynamic impact on the fruitfulness of those they work for.
In a more traditional term, VAs are known as secretaries, office clerks, receptionists, administrative assistants, and bookkeepers. In the virtual world they are known simply as VAs. This concept of Virtual Assistance is still quite new but the popularity of the newly found industry is being largely embraced by the online communities. More traditional firms are slower to take interest.
The field is evolving and attracting new and seasoned administrative professionals alike. Many of which are taking on part-time gigs in an effort to test the waters before giving up their full-time melting pots. The going rates for Virtual Assistants vary depending on their level of expertise. Rates can range from $15 an hour up to $150/$250.
A Virtual Assistant typically works from an office in their home. Services can include:
- Secretarial Support Word Processing
- Database Development / Management Spreadsheet Maintenance
- Event Planning Human Resource Management
- Conference Calling Translations / Transcriptions
- Desktop Publishing Travel Arrangements
- Data Entry Web Design / Hosting
Without ever stepping foot inside the clients office, a Virtual Assistants can manage basic to extensive support using a telephone, email, fax, instant messenger and occasionally, video conferencing. Many VAs offer a toll free 800 line as a convenience to their clients. Determining weather a VA is the right fight for the client entails asking lots questions in order to assess compatibility.
Communication between a client and VA is crucial and requires unwavering trust.
What are the benefits of partnering with a VA as opposed to hiring an employee?
Compare Using a Virtual Assistant With Hiring an Employee:
With a Virtual Assistant–
You pay only for Time on Task or by project You have a sounding board, if you need one You have someone to help you stay on track and on schedule You have someone to handle your seasonal or periodic projects There is no need to buy additional computer equipment or a fax machine No computer training is needed You have extra help when your current staff gets overloaded There is no time wasted on breaks or personal issues You have a helper only when you need services No extra office space or extra rent is required There is no need to buy an extra desk, chair, phone or supplies There is no loss of your privacy
With an Employee –
You must pay employer social security taxes You must pay federal and state unemployment taxes You must pay worker’s compensation insurance You must collect and pay FICA taxes You must comply with OSHA, ERISA, and FSLA requirements (including minimum wage and overtime payment) You may have to pay medical, dental, and/or vision care benefits, You may have to pay vacation, sick, or holiday time You may have to pay for other employee benefits (i.e., as a retirement plan) You have to pay someone to administer all of the above You have legal responsibilities that include employee policies on working hours, sexual harassment, vacation time, sick time, leave of absence, holidays, benefits, performance reviews, grievances, terminations, substance abuse and training If you lay someone off, your unemployment rate may increase for years to come If you have the unpleasant experience of firing someone, you have to make sure there is a legal basis or you may face a lawsuit
Choosing a VA to partner with doesn’t have to be difficult. Do you prefer your VA to be local? If so, check with colleagues, other entrepreneurs, business owners, your local business licensing office and your local chamber of commerce.
If location is not a factor then conduct an online keyword search for “Virtual Assistants”. Remember, online searches allow you to customize a search that will return results with your specific requirements.
Next, determine what qualities are important to you in choosing your VA:
- Do they need to be skilled in a particular software package?
- Does your VA need to be Internet savvy?
- Does your VA need a marketing or technical background?
Many Virtual Assistants post their service lists, professional background, areas of expertise, software compatibility list and contact information on their websites. Print the information and contact the VA(s) that best meet your criteria. Many VAs work on a retainer basis (prepay for a set number of hours monthly); very cost-effective for budget strapped business owners.
Remember, your VA may be around the corner or thousands of miles away, but you will share quite a bit with your Virtual Assistant, so loyalty, trust, integrity and dependability are very important qualities.
Resources on the VA Industry:
International Virtual Assistants Association – www.ivaa.org | Virtual Assistance Chamber of Commerce – http://www.virtualassistantnetworking.com
About the author:
Victoria M. Parham is a (retired) army wife, veteran, talk radio host, and Career Strategist. Propelling people to reach their greatest career potential.
To learn more or for a free no-cost 30 minute consultation, visit my blog: victoriaparham.com