As your business expands, your duties also increase along with your workforce. It’s natural to build another team that handles these duties better than you because let’s face it: you’re not Superman. Also, studies show that multitasking affects our productivity.
Doing small tasks that someone else can do better, like social media management and setting up appointments. This lets you focus on high-value activities such as meeting with potential clients. It can be a burden if you still set your appointments and process documents by yourself.
An in-house secretary can help you with tasks like these. They can remind you of your appointments for the week, set your future schedules, and handle paperwork you need. Since they work at the office, you can also ask them to do physical errands. However, this can be a disadvantage if you’re a small business owner because hiring in-house means additional expenses.
Another option is to hire a virtual assistant. They’re like a secretary, but you don’t get to see them every day since they work in a different location. You don’t physically interact with them but they have a different way of doing personal tasks.
The latter idea might have caught your attention, but there are a few things you need to consider if you want to hire one. What is a virtual assistant? What can they do for me and where can I hire them? Do I really need one?
What is a Virtual Assistant?
A virtual assistant (VA) is a remote employee that does repetitive, specialized, or one-off tasks for you. They work from home either part-time or full-time, with their communication lines open and documents ready for your convenience.
Compared to a secretary, they can handle tasks beyond administrative support and have different specializations depending on their skill set. Many of them cater to specific industries, such as accounting firms, law firms, or real estate. They can’t bring you coffee when you need it, but they can order and have someone deliver it for you.
Virtual assistants do:
- Assist in clerical and administrative work. When you need to present your business to your clients, they can make slick presentations and handouts for you. They can also prepare and proofread your letters, memos, and other documents.
- Screen and locate clients. They can look for information about your potential clients and help build up this list for you.
- Handle marketing and publicity campaigns for your business. Most of them have expertise in marketing and public relations, so they can assist in generating leads and establishing your brand.
- Assist in web design and search engine optimization (SEO) for your content. You can assign them to write real estate content to increase traffic on your website.
- Manage social media accounts. Social media moderators can manage listings and share content from your website to popular social media platforms.
- Handle bookkeeping. Accounting VAs can also perform bookkeeping functions such as managing your bills, accounts receivable, and payroll.
Do You Need a VA?
Should you get a secretary or a VA? And why?
When weighing in on your options, you should ask yourself these questions that can help you decide whether you need a physical secretary or a remote one.
- In-person support vs Online support. Do you also need a hand in going to the bank, preparing your coffee, and other tasks that need physical interaction? Do you want to directly monitor them? Or are you just more comfortable with having an assistant by your side? These questions can help you decide whether you need an in-house secretary or a VA.
- Means of communication. How do you want to communicate with them? Do you want someone who can be approached easily face-to-face or virtual interactions would do? Remember that you can arrange a video or conference call with your VA to see and talk to them. You can also arrange a physical meeting with a local VA if ever you need it.
- Employee monitoring. Are you more comfortable with directly monitoring them? Do you want to personally monitor their productivity at work or just be reachable if they have questions regarding a task? You can still track a VA’s productivity and performance using screen monitoring. Depending on your agreement, you can limit monitoring through time tracking and capturing various screenshots of their desktops. However, you can hire a secretary if you want to directly monitor their productivity.
- Attendance tracking. Want to know how many days a week they report to work? How many lates and absences they had? How they spend their time and when do they log out? Attendance tracking for both in-house and remote workers can now be done online through time tracking software. But if you want to personally track their lates and absences, a secretary is fit for you.
- Delivery of tasks. Do you someone to get the job done right away after you hand it to them? You can ask a secretary to do just that. Can your assigned tasks be done within a day or within the week? VAs can handle more recurring tasks for you.
- Job specifics. Do you want them to handle administrative tasks only or do they have to deal with other aspects as well? Hiring VAs can give you more flexibility in assigning different tasks than hiring someone locally.
Benefits of Hiring a Virtual Assistant
Hiring a virtual assistant can have a great impact on your business, financial and productivity-wise.
Focus and Productivity
With VA’s handling smaller tasks, you can increase your productivity and focus more on expanding your business. You don’t need to check emails, make marketing plans, and set your own schedules while hurriedly creating a presentation for your client meeting the next day.
These VAs are usually trained in accounting, sales, marketing, and administrative support so they can cater to your business needs. No need to hire an accountant, marketing strategist, and secretary separately.
You can rely on both your local and overseas VAs to work with their tasks so they can assist you in managing your business 24/7. It can also help you gain more clients who are interested in your properties and close more deals.
Hiring real estate VAs can generate savings for your company and increase your sales and earnings, but there’s still a difference when considering the geographic location of your hire.
Onshore or local VAs are assistants that can be found within your country or jurisdiction. They might be in a different city, county, or state, but you can arrange to see them personally at least once in a while. However, this can be costly to your business since the rates will not vary that much compared to an in-house secretary.
Overseas VAs, meanwhile, are located outside your country. They can be nearshore, or from a nearby country, or offshore, which can be thousands of miles away from you. They can have a different language, culture, and time zone, but they offer lower costs. This is because of cheaper labor and maintenance costs from their countries.
For a more cost-efficient operation, you may also consider business process outsourcing. In this way, a third-party company sets up a team of VAs for your real estate business. This can help you save a lot on labor and equipment costs since they shoulder all of your needs including training, equipment, and payroll. Though a third party is included, you can still communicate and connect to your VAs whenever you need it.
Where to Look For VAs
If you’re hiring your VA for the first time or consider getting one, you should plan first what should be your objectives of hiring, what qualifications do you look for, the duties you want to assign to them, and how you can handle and monitor them easily to make sure they’re getting the job done. There are different VA websites to choose from if you want to hire a freelance employee, while you can search for outsourcing companies if you want to outsource them.
Freelance platforms for hiring virtual assistant
With different freelance platforms, you can access a wide range of talent with various expertise, all independent contractors that you can hire directly through these platforms:
- Upwork. A merger of Elance and oDesk, Upwork is a freelance platform that aims to help connect businesses with freelancers to work without limits. It offers a wide range of talents with different specializations, including virtual assistants. Businesses and freelancers can interact through the platform from posting a job to communicating and monitoring your VA to payment.
- FreeeUp. Unlike Upwork, FreeeUp doesn’t let you browse for available virtual assistants on your own. Instead, you have to submit a request for a VA at the platform, then they will match you to a qualified applicant. This is to protect businesses against employee turnovers. In some cases, Freeeup will replace your VA without additional charge once VA has to stop working for your company.
- Fiverr. It is one of the unique platforms in the market that lets you (buyer) browse different gig offers from freelancers (sellers). Gigs may vary in different amounts, starting from five dollars. Sellers in Fiverr offer a wide range of VA jobs, however, these may be for a short period of time with minimal guarantee of a long-term agreement.
- Freelancer. One of the oldest platforms, Freelancer offers a wide range of roles to choose from, including virtual assistants. It functions like UpWork where you can post jobs, hire, and interact with your VA through the platform to track their progress, monitor their working hours, and share documents. Monitoring can be integrated through their mobile app for added convenience.
- PeoplePerHour. It is regarded as a freelancing marketplace that connects small businesses (buyers) to freelancers. There are three ways of hiring a VA in this platform: through buying their gigs, like in Fiverr, through job postings, and through browsing over freelancer profiles and messaging them directly. Paying the employees, however, is strictly done through an Escrow account which holds out the deposit for the freelancer’s pay.
- Guru. It offers a range of talent for different specializations, including VAs. the catch is, you can narrow your range to region-specific search and finds you a freelancer that fits your requirements. Its platform can also be used as a powerful project management tool that streamlines tasks so you can handle projects more efficiently.
Author:Derek Gallimore, outsourceaccelerator.com