virtual assistants - Virtual Staffing for Your Small Business
by Chris Malta
Virtual assistants are independent contractors or entrepreneurs who provide administrative assistance to multiple clients. Unlike regular assistants, they work out of their homes rather than at your business' physical location. Virtual staffing companies match virtual assistants with small and home-based businesses who need help running things. Many of these businesses are finding that there are numerous advantages to using a virtual assistant over hiring traditional help:
- • Location. If your office is small, you don't have to find a place to put another employee. This is an especially important concern for entrepreneurs with home offices.
• No Overhead. Virtual assistants provide their own office supplies, desk, computer, software, and phone lines.
• No Benefits. They're not your employee, so you aren't responsible for paying social security or income taxes, holidays, insurance, vacation or sick pay.
• Lots of Flexibility. It's significantly easier to find a virtual assistant who can work evening hours or weekends - after all, they're working from home. And you can give them more or less hours as your needs change.
Gayle Buske is the president and CEO of TeamDoubleClick.com, a highly reputed virtual staffing agency. Her clients are often concerned about hiring someone without ever seeing their face.
She reassures them that, because the agencies don't get to meet the people they send to their clients - often they're in different states - their hiring processes are a great deal more stringent. In fact, Buske admits, "We turn away about seventy percent of the people that we interview." Those who make the grade go through a nine-part interview process before they're trained and certified.
Virtual agencies try to match each client with an assistant who fits for their specific needs. They look at qualifications, personality and work style, and hours of availability - both number and times. Whatever your unique requirements, they'll work to find someone who's a good fit.
Common Client Concerns
• How Do I Know That My Assistant is Actually Working the Hours I'm Paying Them For?
To allow you to track their progress, many agencies have their staff send daily reports of their activities. They may say how many inbound calls they received, how many outbound calls they made, how many appointments they set, what documents they worked on, as well as how many hours they put in for the day and their cumulative hours for the week. These daily reports can help you stay on budget - if you see they've already worked the total hours you planned to pay them for, you can push back other projects until next week.
• How Hard is It to Work With Someone From a Remote Location?
Buske points out, "There's so much technology now that really facilitates working virtually." She contends it's as simple as hitting the speed dial instead of the intercom, or attaching files to an email rather than walking them to the next room. Most of your communication will be via phone, fax, and email. There are also online meeting programs, like GoToMeeting.com, that let you do demonstrations and presentations, such as for training purposes.
And their skills run the gamut - everything from accounting to marketing to graphic design. Whether you need someone to answer incoming calls and do mailers, or someone who can manage your entire business when you're away, you can find virtual staff with all levels of skills.