“Key to day-to-day success is to hire a virtual PA to keep the trains running on time while you focus on the big picture”. This is the description given by one entrepreneur when he was asked how and why hiring a virtual PA had changed his business and his life.
We have put together a comprehensive guide as to what, how and why virtual PAs have become so incredibly popular. This includes a comprehensive list of what outsourcing a personal assistant could do for you. It also includes how to become one, where to source one and the qualities to look for in your PA.
What is a virtual personal assistant?
Besides the fact that they work remotely, a virtual personal assistant is no different from a typical in-office PA. Given technological advancements, a virtual PA, sometimes known as an online concierge, can perform all tasks that an in-house one can (administrative or otherwise). The only exception is they can’t make your morning coffee or take out your dry cleaning.
What does a virtual PA do?
Anything that can be done from a laptop or computer (in today’s world – everything) can be delegated to your outsourced personal assistant. People hire remote PAs for reasons that range from business administration, to financial, to digital marketing assistance.
List of ways a remote PA can help
Business admin of any kind
- Diary management
- Email management
- Research and outreach
- Event planning
- Event management
- Personal tasks
- Family tasks
- Holiday planning and booking
Social Media Management
- Content curation
- Content strategists
- General management
- Keyword research
- SEO friendly content creation
- SEO strategists
- Virtual marketing assistant
- Website design and development
- Software development
- Medical, legal and audio transcription
- Translation services
- Inventory management
- Data protection and security
- Market research
Why hire a virtual personal assistant?
1. Save money
Virtual personal assistants are far more affordable than in-office PAs. Firstly, they are less expensive per hour. Secondly, except for their time, all expenses incurred (coffee, wifi, floor sPAce) are self-PAid. Software (Harvest is popular for this) tracks your outsourced PAs productivity by the minute. This means the only thing you PAy for is time used productively. You don’t PAy for employee catch-ups, coffee breaks or time wasted on social media.
2. Save time
Ability to delegate time-consuming, repetitive tasks means more free time for entrepreneurs and business owners. This can be used to focus on other important areas of the business. It also means more downtime (possibly a lower risk of that early heart attack).
3. Scale-up your business
The return on investment from outsourcing an online concierge who consistently completes a certain set of tasks is higher than the cost of hiring these individuals. Specifically, return on investment comes back as the ability to massively scale up a business. It allows a shift in focus.
It is the delegation of these tasks, from admin, to phone calls, to SEO targetted content creation, that allows small businesses to scale up. Clear and effective strategy is arguably the most important component of business growth. An online concierge who completes time and energy-intensive tasks means more free time and resources. These can then go into creating and following a growth strategy. It allows a shift in focus onto scaling up.
4. Prevent burnout and improve health
Burnout is defined as a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. A study at Harvard University found illnesses such as heart disease and stroke are strongly correlated with jobs associated with chronic stress.
They also found that CEOs who maintained a work-life balance actually performed better. Having downtime to follow outside interests and allow rest is crucial to living a healthy personal and successful professional life.
5. Delegate and maximise efficiency
Any enterprise is more efficient when employees can focus on completing specific tasks to a high standard. Ability to delegate work in a precise manner allows any business to start to scale up and become more lean.
Where to find an affordable virtual assistant
The best way to find a remote PA who is reliable and efficient is to go through a virtual assistant recruiter. Virtual assistant recruiter agencies have highly selective selection processes. This is due to the large number of individuals wanting to work flexibly and remotely (who wouldn’t).
It is in the best interests of the agent to recruit virtual personal assistants with experience and excellent references. The PAs are assessed on an ongoing basis, based on client reviews, to ensure top-tier work.
Freelancer sites such as Fiverr or Upwork can be excellent. However, the vetting and feedback process is less rigorous – which makes hiring more risky.
What price am I looking at
The good news for anyone looking for an outsourced, affordable virtual personal assistant is the market is highly competitive. This means when going through an agency, an outsourced personal assistant comes at as little as R219 an hour.
Additionally, most agencies have pricing plans wherein the more hours you require, the less you PAy per hour. Some even have trails of up to 5 hours, where you can try a PA for free. You don’t spend a cent before being 100% certain that your remote personal assistant is well suited and competent to your needs.
How the virtual PA industry has progressed
Streamlining, scaling up and maximum efficiency is perhaps the goal for all modern businesses. The remote PA industry is no exception. This has meant an increase in ‘specialised’ virtual PAs within the remote workforce. This means that it’s possible to recruit a PA who focuses on a very specific niche that is relevant to your business. For example, many focus on SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) or virtual digital marketing assistance. This is helpful as it means talented and technically skilled individuals are easy to find and available at short notice.
How to become a virtual personal assistant
There are many ways to become a virtual PA. These range from personal networking, to social media, to freelancer sites to applying to a virtual assistant recruiter agency. Although all are feasible options, we suggest going through an agency. This is because it is the best guarantee of consistent work.
1. Join a freelancer site.
The top sites are:
- People per hour
2. Use your own network of contacts.
Many freelancers start by using their own personal networks. Over a lifetime, it surprises people how large their network and extended network actually is. Starting by doing small tasks for friends and acquaintances, and doing them well is great. This also effectively utilises word of mouth and means that individuals in your network will provide you with work. It is also a great way to kickstart a strong reputation within the industry
3. Use social media
Social media is an indispensable tool and a massive opportunity. Not only is it free, but it allows the creation and curation of a platform which is exclusively you. Social media essentially allows you to create your own brand. It also allows you to promote this brand. You can approach clients and they can approach you. It is a crucial tool for gaining visibility, attracting and retaining clients.
4. Create your own website
Similar to social media, creation of your own website allows you to present to your clients in a straightforward and upfront manner your services. Your website displays and promotes your brand, your values, and your services. Unlike social media creation, it is not free; but it is worth it. A well designed, clear and easy to use website shows your clients that you are professional and will deliver an excellent service.
5. Apply to an agency
One of the best ways to ensure you are provided with consistent work is to apply to a virtual personal assistant agency. Besides consistent work, there is merit in the security of a monthly salary. Furthermore, agencies tend to have a very specific code of conduct for interactions between remote PAs and clients. This means that if a client is unprofessional or underpays, there are people who will help you.
It also goes the other way round. Working for an agency means that you are expected to adhere to a specific code of conduct. It also means that there is an expectation for a high standard of work. Reviews of your work from clients to the agency happen regularly. This is an advantage if you get great reviews. It means that you will be put in contact with and receive more clients.
Going through an agency also means that the work might be more interesting and varied. Those individuals or businesses who approach an agency are likely to have a higher budget, a more developed business plan, and more engaging work.
Top qualities to look for when hiring a remote PA
The most important factor when outsourcing a remote personal assistant is that you are able to get along with them. This doesn’t mean on an over-friendly level – you don’t have to be their best friend. It just means that you can get along well enough to communicate effectively and professionally.
- Excellent communication skills
- Excellent time management skills
- Ability to prioritise
- Computer literacy
- Familiarity with top project management tools
- Basic accounting skills
How to know when to hire a virtual PA
Keeping to a schedule, focus on the bigger picture, achieving an actual work-life balance and ability to delegate smaller tasks. If this sounds like something that would make your life easier, you know that hiring a remote PA might revolutionise your life.
If any of the following apply to you, you should seriously think about researching and investing in a virtual personal assistant.
- Excessive time in the office
- Constantly checking phone
- Lack of anything resembling a work-life balance
- Need to focus on the bigger picture
- Time to scale up
- Save time
- Save money
The return on investment from hiring virtual PA is huge. The ability to delegate certain tasks means entrepreneurs or those running businesses can be more productive. It means saving time, money and maintaining a work-life balance. This means this energy can be dedicated to more important business areas. This enables businesses to thrive, grow and scale-up.
A virtual PA is someone who keeps the business running smoothly. Ultimately they allow focus on the bigger picture, freedom from the frustration of micromanagement and scaling up of any enterprise.
Going through a reputable agency is the best way to recruit a reliable and efficient virtual PA. Furthermore, agencies offer the most affordable virtual assistant services.