It is no surprise that the average entrepreneur or small business owner spends a fair amount of time performing mundane, but necessary business administrative tasks. Although the amount of time spent on these administrative tasks will vary from industry to industry and company to company, they could easily consume up to 40% of the business owners precious time. Any self respecting business owner will understand that much of this time is not adding directly to the bottom line but is necessary to the running of a successful business.
Whereas the owners of larger, more established companies would not hesitate to pay someone else to perform these tasks, this is often not viable for the smaller business owner. In many cases these smaller business owners do not have sufficient administration tasks to keep a full time assistant busy or may be a home-based business and do not have the space and infrastructure for a full time employee. It is under these circumstances that a virtual assistant can add a lot of value without the commitment and resource constraints associated with hiring one’s own personnel. These virtual assistants are often skilled and experienced woman who have left the formal work sector to raise their families and are looking for work that will allow them to maintain a healthy work / home balance.
A virtual assistant is an individual or company who provide other individuals or companies with administrative support on a part time bases. The term “virtual” means that that these administrative duties are provided remotely from the virtual assistant’s own premises. The virtual assistant services market has grown exponentially over the last couple of years driven by a raised awareness of this type of administrative support model as well as easier and cheaper access to supporting technologies. Uncapped ADSL, cloud computing, cloud data storage and instant chat have all helped virtual assistants and their customers stay in touch and share files in safe and secure ways.
Virtual assistants provide a vast array of services depending on their own background and experience. Most commonly these include:
- Diary / calendar management
- Email management
- Contact list management
- Reminder services
- Document creation (Word, Excel, Power Point…)
- Document scanning and indexing
- Bulk mailing
- Book keeping
- Order taking
- Preparation of quotes
- Debtors management
- Events management
- Travel arrangements
- Database management
- Data capturing / processing
More specialised virtual assistants may also offer services such as accounting, web design, translation, transcribing, ecommerce or a host of other industry specific support.
Virtual assistants may offer numerous pricing models including fixed price contracts, per hour billing or share of profit schemes. Most virtual assistants will be flexible in their pricing strategies and work with the customer to find a pricing model that works for both parties.
Whilst the virtual assistant services model can be of great benefit to entrepreneurs and smaller business owners, it is important to remember that the virtual assistant will often become a brand ambassador for your company. It is therefore extremely important to look for a virtual assistant that has excellent customer management skills and not just the technical know-how to perform the required tasks. A good virtual assistant will provide both you and your customers with a timely response to queries and will communicate with your customers in a professional and polite way. Ideally a customer should not be aware that they are dealing with a virtual assistant but believe they are communicating with a trusted employee of the company.
Sandra Thompson is the owner of Bizserv Virtual Assistant Services based in Cape Town, South Africa