We spend, on average, 12-18% of our work week answering email—that’s an average of 620 emails a week, and about 11 hours of sifting through our inboxes, reading and crafting responses to connect and bring in business. Virtual Assistants (VAs), both human and AI (Artificial Intelligence), are a growing necessity for a business owner looking to keep her or his head above water.
There are all types of VAs for hire : social media or blog management; VAs specific to product launch, administration, transcription, accounting tasks, and everything in between. Hannah Paré of Liferaft Virtual Assistance specializes in email clean-up and maintenance, and customer service support. She supports her clients in anything from grocery shopping for a food truck to helping clients respond to business leads.
“A VA is a great fit for an entrepreneur, business owner or executive who wants the flexibility of a contractor,” explains Paré. “ The ROI makes sense—you don’t have the expenses of a full-time employee and, depending on your hourly rate, you reduce the number of hours on tasks that are not revenue generating.”
Other reasons to invest in a VA:
1. Stay on top of new technologies and trends. Hire someone who understands the world of social media, changing algorithms and social influencers. “What if your customers are more inclined to shop based on social media influencers?” suggests Paré. “That’s good information to know before you spend money on traditional marketing avenues.”
2. Support to automate weekly and monthly tasks. “Some of my clients are working a full-time job as well as trying to manage all the details of a side business and a family at home,” explains Paré, “That gets overwhelming pretty quickly if there aren’t certain processes in place. This is where things like automated invoicing processes, accounts receivable follow-up, or GST preparation is made easy if someone can take them off your plate.”
3. Services and Apps audit. Business owners and entrepreneurs do it all the time—pay a “bells-and-whistles” price for a software they only use for its basic functions. “There are hundreds of choices out there for programs and software, such as a file-sharing or storage, but to research them all takes time. A VA can look for the money-saving alternatives that are better suited to their clients’ needs.”
4. Costs audit. Online storage, file sharing services, memberships, SEO and website maintenance, floor mat cleaning, insurance—and the list goes on—how often do we really assess what is coming out of the business bank account every month? We sign up for memberships and services, and months (sometimes years) later are still paying for them, but not using them. “Like checking for quality control, check for holes in your bottom line that can be rectified by pressing the ‘unsubscribe’ button. A VA can help in finding and getting rid of those extraneous costs.”
5. Digital clean-up. It’s all those educational articles, those docs from professional association’s membership, it’s the list of blogs you want to read, that will benefit you, but you can’t get to right away. Your VA can file them, put them where you can easily access them when you have the time.
Also, business owners meet the expectations of their clients when they have all documentation at their fingertips. Get help organizing all your client’s emails and attached docs into a filing system that is easily accessible. “Digital organization and efficiency can be so time consuming, but also saves you so much time in the end, and results in better service delivery,” explains Paré.
Some tips for getting the most out of your Virtual Assistant?
1. Set the communication expectations from the beginning,” says Paré. “Do you expect your VA to be available in the evenings? Within 24 hours or less?”
2. Avoid micromanaging your VA. “Before you hire, know what tasks you want your VA to be responsible for and make sure you are comfortable delegating those tasks.”
3. When hiring your VA, interview your candidates face to face if possible, not only over the phone. “You need to know if you are going to click with the person who is managing your inbox.”
4. Decide what contracts you need your VA to sign, whether it is non-disclosure, or other.
5. Have your access codes, passwords and logins available so that your VA can accomplish what they need to without the roadblocks.