A Virtual Assistant (VA for short) provides you with the assistance you need wherever and whenever you need it. Think of a Virtual Assistant as your executive personal assistant .To determine if you would benefit from working with a Virtual Assistant, having a little background on the industry and the range of skills found by practitioners is helpful, and giving thought to just how to work with a virtual assistant is important from the outset.
Where did the industry title come from?
The term Virtual Assistant was coined in the early nineties by Thomas Leonard during a conversation with one of the industry’s pioneers, Stacey Brice, founder of AssistU (see an industry timeline here). Originally the term described people who provided offsite administrative business support services, many of whom formerly ran secretarial services.
About that same time so many people began telecommuting and working virtually, that the term began to encompass a variety of professional service providers, from graphic designers, bookkeepers, programmers, web developers and many others, growing well beyond the original definition of offsite administrative assistant.
Today, the term Virtual Assistant might be interchangeable with “Remote Professional (RP),” or in some cases, “Creative Professional.” In all cases, we’re talking about independent contractors who perform services on your behalf in their own office using their own equipment.
How do VAs work with their clients?
VAs (or Remote Professionals, if you prefer that term) , use their own equipment and work in their own office (here is mine right here in Prescott, Arizona). Some do project work only, others handle such ongoing tasks as live phone answering, correspondence, etc.
Before contacting a VA or RP for the first time, it helps if you think through the types of tasks you would like to delegate. Then, after your initial conversation, your VA/RP will work out a mutually agreeable billing format (whether you want to be invoiced monthly or begin a retainer agreement). Prior to beginning the first project for you, you will be asked to sign a work agreement or contract, and you’ll likely be asked for a deposit.
You can expect most of your communication to take place via email, fax, or ftp, unless you prefer to use the phone. After you get your working relationship in sync, you may never have another meeting. That’s the beauty of working with a Remote Professional: meeting time can be kept to a minimum, which increases your productivity.
When your VA/RP is working on a task for you, there is no water cooler talk, or long lunch on your time. You will only be billed for the time the VA spends working for you.
You can see how being an organized client can save you $$! When you have an assignment for your VA, it’s advisable to have it clearly thought out, so that you can avoid being charged for misdirectives.
Wondering how a Virtual Assistant is different than a Temp?
VAs are independent contractors and, as such, are NOT your employee. n some cases, you may be better served by hiring an onsite employee, or you may prefer to bring in a Temp. But, if you’re looking for a long-haul partner who is invested in YOUR success, you might want a Virtual Assistant.
When you work with VA, you don’t have to hassle with employee issues. Just think: No workmen’s comp, no FICA, no other employee benefits PLUS you get assistance from someone with experience, and specialty skills who carries *industry certification.
Now, all VAs are not created equal. To work most efficiently on your projects, most are specialists. Since we can’t be all things to all people, many of us refer freely among our virtual community, or utilize subcontractors, in order to match clients with the right practitioner. That makes it important to discuss your needs in detail with any VA you’re considering engaging.