Working with Virtual Assistants - Alive or Digital
Get virtual business help with real and digital virtual assistants.
by Aliza Sherman
Hi there, The Digital Marketer here, ready to help you put the power of the Internet and technology to work for your business.
Because we all need help sometime or another with our businesses. Sometimes we don't get the help we need. Maybe we feel guilty about not being able to handle everything that's on our plate. Maybe we worry that getting help will cost too much. I'm here to say that hiring a virtual assistant could help you save money in the long run.
Real Life Virtual Assistants
I recently hired a virtual assistant, and when I told some of my colleagues about it, they asked if I had hired a robot. I assure you she is human! According to Wikipedia, "Virtual Assistants (typically abbreviated as VAs), are entrepreneurs who provide professional administrative, technical, or creative and social assistance to clients from a home office. They usually work for other small businesses and consultancy groups."
Hiring a virtual assistant was an emergency measure for my company. In one week, I forgot four important business meetings because I was overloaded. I put out a call for VAs through my Twitter account and received half a dozen responses almost immediately. I hired Scratchpad Secretaries in British Columbia to handle my day-to-day scheduling and also to help me sort through some of my email to flag time-sensitive messages.
Virtual assistant companies that can help match you with a virtual assistant include GetFriday, Internet Girl Friday and AssistU at A-S-S-I-S-T-U dot com.
You can also contact the International Virtual Assistants Association to find a member firm that is compatible with your needs by searching their membership directory.
Virtual assistant fees are usually based either per hour or by project. Hourly rates can range from $12 an hour to over $50 an hour.
Picking a Real-Life Virtual Assistant
Here are some criteria for picking a virtual assistant:
1. What time zone are they in? Because I'm located in Alaska which has its own time zone, I wanted to find someone in my state or someone working in Pacific Time. I've found that much of my scheduling confusion comes from time zone differences.
2. What are their specialties? Some virtual assistants specialize in working with companies that are exclusively on Macs. Others offer services such as helping you maintain your Facebook and MySpace pages. Chances are you can find someone offering exactly the type of service you need.
3. Don't be afraid to ask. If you need help, don't be shy, especially if you're paying someone to help you. Just ask for the help you need. The worst someone can say is no.
4. Start small. Before you dive in with both feet using a virtual assistant, start on a single task or a few smaller tasks to get a feel for their working style and to let them get to know yours.
Online Virtual Assistant Applications
If hiring a human isn't within your budget at the moment, there are some Web applications that claim to be like having a virtual assistant. Most of these are for automated reminders of tasks that need to be done such as I Want Sandy and Remember the Milk, two popular reminder services that I've mentioned in a previous show. Or use a service like Jott at J-O-T-T dot com to record voice reminders that are then converted to text and sent to you via SMS, email, or both.
If you need a virtual phone system to help you manage and route your calls, for example, you could try a service like OneBox or eVoice Receptionist.
In order to get the most services out of Web applications, chances are you'll have to use at least several to round out a suite of tools that otherwise would be handled by a human being. Because of this fact, I really do see the value of real virtual assistants. I haven't missed a single appointment since hiring mine!
The Digital Marketer's Quick and Dirty Tips for Building Your Business With Web Tools is part of the Quick and Dirty Tips network at quickanddirtytips.com.
Tune in for another business boost from The Digital Marketer, the host who's not afraid to go under the Internet's hood & get a little dirty!
Scratchpad Secretaries - http://www.scratchpadsecretaries.com/
Internet Girl Friday - http://www.internetgirlfriday.com/
Virtual Assistants, Inc. - http://www.virtualassistant.org/
Get Friday - http://getfriday.com
AssistU - http://www.assistu.com/
UK Association of Virtual Assistants - http://www.ukava.co.uk/
International Association of Virtual Assistants - http://www.ivaa.org/
I Want Sandy - http://www.iwantsandy.com/
Remember the Milk - http://www.rememberthemilk.com/
Jott - http://www.jott.com/
OneBox - http://www.onebox.com/
eVoice Receptionist - http://home.evoicereceptionist.com/
Working Remotely Cartoon image courtesy of Shutterstock