Virtual Assistants: What They Do and How to Hire

An example of what virtual assistants are as shown by a VA working.

Table of Contents

WHAT IS A VIRTUAL ASSISTANT?

With the rising trend of remote and work from home jobs, employees are now inclined towards taking offers of remote working conditions; to keep them safe from diseases the pandemic has given. As a result, companies have shifted to giving more focus in ensuring the safety of its employees while making job openings’ availability more accessible.

As technology advances, more jobs—and even those that aren’t fit in a remote set-up— are becoming more operable in remote workplaces. Jobs in Legal, Finance, Operations, and Business Development have integrated work-from-home set-ups for flexibility. As such, more people are confident in taking up freelance or part-time jobs, such as virtual assistants. 

HOW DOES A VIRTUAL ASSISTANT WORK?

A virtual assistant is a person who provides support services to a business from a remote location. Commonly, administrative tasks are given to virtual assistants, but they are also capable of completing non-administrative tasks the business requires. 

Ever since the workplace shifted to a remote set-up, virtual assistants are now in demand by entrepreneurs and online businesses, but don’t want to spend on hiring another in-office employee or in relocation. In fact, many small and mid-sized businesses use virtual support, especially for specific tasks, such as social media management, to prioritize key business matters.

Virtual assistants often have their own business set up and have employers sign a contract, short or long term, with the assistant’s business. Working in a remote set-up, Virtual assistants’ often complete employee contracts in quick succession making their services fast & efficient. 

WHY HIRE A VIRTUAL ASSISTANT?

A lot of small- and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) have often contemplated whether or not they should be hiring for additional support; managing and organizing administrative tasks is a challenge, especially if you are a business owner where decisions, ideas, partnerships are your top priorities. By that time, you now realize that you need support in handling such tasks. Realizing that you need help is the start. However, making the decision of hiring a virtual assistant will be a challenge if you are running a tight budget. 

Deciding on hiring a virtual assistant won’t hurt your budget nor waste your time, why? A virtual assistant can have a lot of benefits to your business’ growth and success. 

REDUCED WORKLOAD

Owning a business and running multiple responsibilities is, in itself, a challenging task to do. On special occasions, hiring a virtual assistant will reduce your workload significantly. A virtual assistant can support you through a comprehensive list of tasks such as:

  • Market Research
  • Email Management
  • Scheduling
  • Bookkeeping
  • Social Media Management
  • General HR Tasks
  • And many more

Majority of virtual assistants are experts in managing these tasks. Hiring a virtual assistant will definitely lighten your workload and dramatically boost your productivity in the workplace.

DECREASED EXPENSES


Business owners and companies are always looking for ways to reduce operation costs. As tools & resources get expensive over time, it gets harder to save expenses. Luckily, hiring a virtual assistant won’t be too much for your budget. 

Since virtual assistants are working remotely, you get to avoid expenses in additional taxes, office space, and equipment. You also save costs in purchasing equipment such as office furniture, computers, telephones or stationary.

HIGH-QUALITY SERVICE


With virtual assistants being remote, abundant, and experts on different types of tasks, you gain access to high-quality skills that improve your productivity and help manage your business effectively. Additionally, you are not going to be restricted by geographical locations. This means that you can also access different locations and countries in hiring a virtual assistant—granting you more access to skilled and high quality virtual assistants. 

FLEXIBLE WORKING SCHEDULES

All virtual assistants have flexible working hours. Therefore, they can input their hours in your own working schedule, regardless of geographical access. Having adjustable flexible hours can make your company maximize its profit and growth by organizing your virtual assistant’s tasks and time management. For example, you just woke up in your house in the USA, meanwhile your virtual assistant has already finished their work in the Philippines and is already working on the next set of tasks.

WHY YOU SHOULD NOT HIRE A VIRTUAL ASSISTANT?

Hiring a virtual assistant will definitely be advantageous to your business when it comes to time management, organization, and allocation of tasks. But, there are also disadvantages with a virtual assistant.

Virtual assistants are independent contractors; meaning that they work on their own, without supervision on what they are accomplishing. That could prove to be dangerous to your personal data privacy and business growth. Here are other disadvantages in hiring a virtual assistant.

COMMUNICATION PROBLEMS

Since virtual assistants are fully remote, communication might be a problem. When it comes to communication, you can conduct them via video, call, or chats. There might be problems that may occur such as power outages, connectivity problems, and miscommunication. 

Additionally, communication concerns that might be encountered is a chance of misinterpreting behaviors and cues. Especially, if you’re working with different cultures, your virtual assistant might not be conversing the point or not fully understanding what you are saying on your side, which can lead to arguments, un-productivity, and animosity between you and the virtual assistant.

DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVES


Employees and employers should have good working relationships in executing tasks and projects. A virtual assistant might be a challenge in establishing the needed rapport.

Your virtual assistant and yourself have different perspectives and beliefs. It can vary from religion, politics, work ethics, philosophy, etc. These are major hindrances to your work progression and growth. Even though it’s a huge difference, by respecting and understanding each other’s views will solve the problem, not only swiftly, but also create a clear and peaceful working atmosphere between the two parties.

Another might be the language barrier. Since virtual assistants can be hired in any part of the world, he/she might not understand you completely when it comes to your language proficiency. For example, you are from the USA, being proficient in English, while your virtual assistant is located at Eastern Europe, where he/she doesn’t have the exact native language proficiency as you. This may cause major confusion and stress between the two of you. 

Moreover, since your perspectives are opposites, there’s a probability of work ethics clashing. For example, you’re a hard worker who likes to get the job done while your virtual assistant is relaxed and lazy, delaying every deliverable needed. 

PERSONAL SUPERVISION

Imagine a task you gave to your virtual assistant and they revise parts that are not needed—that can be a major problem. Since your virtual assistant is not by your side, it will be a challenge in checking on their tasks and projects. You can only see the desired output upon submission which may waste valuable time on correcting mistakes during the execution process. There are a lot of project management software and tools that can keep track of progress to remedy this. However, communication may still pose a problem since virtual chats and personal interactions are still different mediums of communication. 

DATA PRIVACY RISKS

The internet does not guarantee a safe space for your data. When it comes to a specific project, you may need to pass bits of confidential information to your virtual assistant. Without close supervision, there is no assurance that your virtual assistant will not use that data unethically. 

To ensure safety of any information being given for your virtual assistant and for yourself,

it’s important to conduct a background check, a data privacy survey, and a thorough assessment of the applicant before hiring to guarantee trust and assurance. 

THINGS TO CONSIDER BEFORE HIRING A VIRTUAL ASSISTANT


Now that you know what to expect from a virtual assistant, time to consider if you want to hire one or not. Even if there are advantages and disadvantages of hiring a virtual assistant, there is still the factor of compatibility and adjustment in your organization to accommodate your virtual assistant.

  1. Have a run through of the tasks & responsibilities that your virtual assistant will support you on. Then proceed to making detailed and carefully laid out job descriptions for the position itself so that the virtual assistant knows what to expect; also avoiding confusion and wasting time for both parties. This will also give you insight on whether or not you would want a part-time or full-time virtual assistant. 
  2. Assess and run through your management style and procedures. Since your virtual assistant is on a remote set-up, face-to-face meetings won’t be possible so it’s important to organize how you will communicate and operate. Video or phone calls for meetings is a good medium of communication to keep track of your virtual assistant’s progress and output. This also makes your virtual assistant feel supported and part of the company, making him/her more productive and efficient in delivering tasks and projects.
  3. When running a business, every penny counts and keeping your expenses tight and allocated to important resources will ensure that you have a good investment in the future. There are an abundance of virtual assistants that would fit your budget in various places and job platforms. In assessing them, it’s all about keeping your eye on their skills, experience, characteristics, personality, attributes of the virtual assistant. 

WHERE TO LOOK FOR VIRTUAL ASSISTANTS

You now have the overview of a virtual assistant, it’s time to hire one. Since virtual assistants are scattered across the globe, there are multiple platforms to support and aid you in your search for one.

The most notable sites for virtual sites can be found in Upwork and Glassdoor, where most freelancers or part-timer virtual assistants post their profile and portfolio. Freelancer.com will also boost your search when it comes to finding virtual assistants.

Another way to look for virtual assistants is by searching for companies who train and coach them to be your preferred assistant. An example of a company that excels in the area is Job Spring. Job Spring is an online job platform that offers high-quality services such as social media management, HR, data entry & coding, by hiring top virtual assistants in the country. Other companies such Magic, Inc., and Handy also provide virtual services. 

When it comes to looking for your preferred virtual assistants, the key is expanding your search and reach; through geographical locations, a specific set of skills, broad personality, and quality attributes.

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