Here is a copy of the article I wrote for my local Chamber of Commerce’s quarterly publication. What is a Virtual Assistant?
This week I’ve been posting about what a virtual assistant is and the cost of a virtual assistant. Your next question may be, “How do I go about finding a virtual assistant for my business?”
There are several resources for finding a VA to partner with to help you grow your business. Since virtual assistants are, well, virtual, odds are you will not find a VA in your local yellow pages. Also, because they are virtual, that means you are not limited to a VA in your local area. Other than doing a web search and wading through the thousands of VA web sites, you can turn to virtual assistant associations. All VA associations have a section of their web site dedicated for potential clients to submit a request for proposal (RFP). Once the RFP has been posted to the private, members’ only portion of their web site, individual VAs then respond directly to the business owner who has requested VA services. It is then up to the individual business owner to screen the proposals and begin a conversation with who they believe would be the best fit for them and their business needs.
So, what VA associations are there? There are hundreds of VA associations (local, regional, national, and international). Two good places to start are VAnetworking and the International Virtual Assistants Association (IVAA). Both are international organizations, but the majority of their members are in North America.
Earlier this week I wrote about what a virtual assistant is. Some people are initially surprised to see the hourly charge for a virtual assistant. VA fees for generalists can range from $25 to $50 per hour and specialized VAs can charge $75 per hour or more. That can seem a lot at first glance, but compared to the actual cost of an hourly employee, VAs are right in line with, and sometimes less than, the cost of an on-site employee. But remember, a virtual assistant is not an employee – VAs are business owners like you, who are responsible for all their own expenses related to running a business such as taxes, software, computers, electricity, Internet connection, health insurance, retirement, etc. The median wage for an entry level administrative assistant in my local area (South Carolina) is $16 per hour, not counting bonuses and benefits. Factoring in bonuses and benefits, the actual cost to the employer is over $24 per hour. Add in the cost of employment taxes, an extra computer, telephone, electricity, work space, unproductive time such as breaks, etc. and the actual cost of an administrative assistant can easily top $30 per hour – that’s just for an entry level assistant. The cost goes up significantly with experience, increased responsibilities and location.
Here is another VA vs. Employee cost comparison at VAnetworking.com.
“A Virtual Assistant (VA) is a highly-trained independent entrepreneur who provides a myriad of business support services virtually via phone, fax and internet based technology to support and meet the growing needs of businesses worldwide.” – VAnetworking.com
Although the virtual assistant industry has been around for many years and has been utilized by speakers, business/life coaches and real estate professionals, it has only recently been brought into mainstream business world. Entrepreneurs often find they need assistance with business related tasks but often do not have the space, resources or budget for an employee. Enter the VA.
A VA can help with virtually any aspect of your business. Although many virtual assistants are generalists, many VAs offer specialized or niche services. Services range from general administrative services such as data entry, calendar management, email management, transcription and proofreading to specialized services like bookkeeping, email marketing campaign management, desktop publishing and website design and maintenance. Partnering with a VA can significantly free up your time to focus on the money making aspect of your business.
“Why wouldn’t I just hire an employee?”
- If you run your business from home you may not want someone else inside your home.
- You don’t have the budget or space for an extra work station (desk, computer, printer telephone, etc.).
- You don’t want to deal with employment taxes.
“Why wouldn’t I just hire a temp from an agency?”
- Temp employees do not have a vested interest in seeing your business succeed.
- Temp employees are just that – temporary!
- Employment taxes are included in the fee you pay to the temp agency, but you still need the extra work station, have the issue of having someone inside your home (if you’re home based), and many times temps have only basic office skills and are limited in the scope of the work they can perform.
To quote one of my favorite artists, Chris Daughtry … Be careful what you wish for, ’cause you just might get it all. You just might get it all, and then some you don’t want.
So, what am I talking about? Success. Or, at least what I thought was success. We all want to have a full slate of clients. Unfortunately, I didn’t anticipate getting so many clients in such a short amount of time. While my bank account and my husband appreciate the influx of clients, my organizational abilities are stretched to the limits. I have the best intentions at being organized, but alas, it is something I definitely struggle with on a daily basis.
I am being forced to re-examine my daily routine now that my client base has expanded so rapidly and the demand on my time has increased exponentially from not only my clients, but my family as well (my husband is currently in training at the state Criminal Justice Academy and is only home from Friday evening until Sunday evening…leaving me do deal with a 2nd grader, a 23 month old and our 110 pound Lab by myself until January 2nd).
Could this stress have been avoided? Probably. In hind sight I should have implemented a more stringent routine months ago, setting aside a specific period of time each day for certain clients. But, to be honest, I did try that once a few weeks ago. Unfortunately the day I tried to “map out my day” was a day that terribly wrong and a single client project ended up monopolizing my entire day even though I had alloted time for 4 different clients that day. I shouldn’t have abandoned the idea of scheduling … I should have gotten right back on that horse the next day.
So, what this all boils down to is it doesn’t matter if you’re a virtual assistant or some other type of entrepreneur, find a schedule that works for you. If it doesn’t work the first time, tweek it until it works. Don’t wait until your client load is completely full to try to get yourself organized. Trust me, the stress will take it’s toll. And, as any good entrepreneur knows, if you work hard enough and long enough, the success will come – just try to be prepared for it.
October is Women’s Small Business Month and October 5 – 11 is National Work from Home Week. One Kershaw County virtual assistant is celebrating both.
Sherra Scott, owner of Quality Practice Management Solutions, is celebrating Women’s Small Business Month and National Work from Home Week by attending various on-line networking events and seminars.
“Running my business out of my home affords me the opportunity to service my clients while still being available to my family,” says Scott. “I get the best of both worlds.”
In 2007, Ms. Scott made the transition from the corporate world to home based small business owner. Roughly half of all U.S. businesses that are home based and more than 10 million are woman owned.
Quality Practice Management Solutions offers Internet marketing assistance, administrative support, bookkeeping and desktop publishing services to small businesses, entrepreneurs and real estate professionals. Ms. Scott is a member of the Kershaw County Chamber of Commerce, Virtual Assistant Networking Association, International Virtual Assistants Association, and Southeastern Virtual Assistant Group.