A Virtual Assistant is exactly that... an assistant who works remotely. or 'virtually'. They can be someone you just give ad-hoc work to when you need some extra help, or you could see them as an extension of your own team, depending on what your needs are.
There are many reasons you might hire a Virtual Assistant:
You could be starting a small business and need some help setting up, getting a basic website built, doing admin, market research, setting up your social media or doing a marketing plan.
You might be a freelancer or sole trader who needs extra help but can't justify taking on a permanent member of staff.
Perhaps you are an established small business or charity and your small team is up to capacity with work but you need someone to do your website and social media updates. Nobody has time but it really needs to be done. You can't employ a full-time member of staff when the work might just be a couple of hours a week, but equally nobody else has time to do it.
You may be any of the above and just need someone to help sporadically when you're extra busy, or maybe you want help with a particular one-off project.
You may also want more specialist help and they are skills you or your current team don't have, like updating websites, marketing, social media, or copywriting.
Whatever your reason, a Virtual Assistant could just alleviate some pressure for you, whether that be short-term or as an ongoing arrangement. If you think you want regular work then it's a good idea to get your VA on a monthly retainer agreement so you are guaranteed their time for a certain number of hours each month. Equally they don't tend to require a long-term commitment like you would make taking on a permanent employee.
What are the benefits of a Virtual Assistant instead of a permanent member of staff?
No long-term commitment.
Flexible hours - you might need them for five hours one week and only two the next.
You only pay for what you use!
Many VAs are skilled in particular areas such as marketing, admin or social media. Some have a wide skillset so can help you in lots of departments.
They could bring another creative mind and new ideas.
Pay an hourly, weekly or monthly rate but no additional costs such as office space, equipment, holiday pay, sick pay or other benefits you would have to provide to a permanent employee.
A skilled VA will be focused on the work they are doing for you with no other distractions so can probably get the task done quicker than if you were to try and do it amongst other work.
Sounds great, but how much does a Virtual Assistant cost?
Costs can vary according to experience, qualifications and the specific skills they provide but research suggests the average starting rate for UK Virtual Assistants is around £25-£27 per hour but can be £50 or even £100 an hour for more specialist help.
When you are thinking about the costs of hiring a VA, you need to also think about how much it would cost you not to hire a VA, so, for example, how much would you lose out by doing those tasks yourself when you could be focusing on other work? Or if you are a business or charity, how much would you have to pay a permanent member of staff when you might only need someone a few hours a week?
Bear in mind that a freelance Virtual Assistant will be covering the costs of their own equipment, utilities, insurance, professional registrations (such as the ICO), national insurance, and any additional time they don't get paid for things like invoicing, training etc. Also look at their professional qualifications and years of experience that would warrant their hourly rate.
But there are companies who provide Virtual Assistance cheaper so why not use them?
Most of these services that provide 'cheap' VAs do so because they have low operating costs due to not being UK based. Consider the impacts of hiring an overseas VA such as:
Time differences and therefore possible delays in communication
Language barriers and working differences
Safety of your data if transferring abroad. Will they adhere to UK-GDPR regulations?
Is the VA reliable and trustworthy?
How experienced are they?
Are they insured should anything unforeseen happen?
Will the work be mass-produced 'churn' rather than looking at you as an individual?
Will they get to know you and your business?
There are lots of things to consider when hiring a Virtual Assistant, so you have to think what is right for you and your organisation. You need to build a good working relationship with whoever you hire and be confident in their skills, experience, ability and work ethic. Think of them as an extension of your own business or team. Would you employ them as a permanent member of staff? If the answer is no, then maybe they are not right for you.
Hopefully this has given you some food for thought as to why you might want to hire a Virtual Assistant, or 'VA'. If you would like to have a chat with me about how I might be able to help you and your organisation, or get a quote for a specific project, please feel free to drop me a no-obligation email at firstname.lastname@example.org.