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Questions to Ask a Prospective Virtual Assistant #3: Why are you interested in working with me/my company?

Why are you interested in working with me/my company?

Why are you interested in working with me/my company?

Another important question to ask a virtual assistant you’re considering contracting is:

Question #3. Why are you interested in working with me/my company?

Similar to Question #1 (What will you do to help me grow my business?), this question will also help you separate the virtual assistants who are replying to your RFP simply because you’re willing to pay for services, from those who are sincerely interested in partnering with you and working within your industry.

Virtual assistants go into business for many reasons, not the least of which is to focus their skills and talents on industries and projects that interest and appeal to them. Unless you’re planning to delegate nothing more than data entry your virtual assistant, prospective VAs should have a notably enthusiastic response to this question.

In fairness to those virtual assistants who are responding to your RFP, they can only adequately answer this question if you’ve given enough information, so be generous with the details about you, your company, your industry, potential projects you have in mind that the virtual assistant will ideally be responsible for, and anything else you feel will help the very best potential VAs respond appropriately to your RFP and your subsequent questions.

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Questions to Ask a Prospective Virtual Assistant #2: What are your fees?

Questions to Ask a Prospective Virtual Assistant

Questions to Ask a Prospective Virtual Assistant

Continuing with the Questions to Ask a Prospective Virtual Assistant series:

Question # 2. What are your fees?

It can be hard to avoid price-shopping when you’re a business on a budget (and who isn’t, really?). While it can make sense to do so when it comes to some business expenses, in this case, the answer to the question should not be the deciding factor in which virtual assistant you choose to work with. The fact is, you’re going to need to know how much it will cost you each month to work with your virtual assistant but ultimately, the point of utilizing a virtual assistant is to make more money by freeing you up to spend more of your time on billable hours, and less time on the administrative, development and marketing aspects of your business. In the right circumstances, with the right VA, that’s exactly what will happen.

As you gather pricing data from the various virtual assistants you speak with, bear in mind this famous quote: “If you think it’s expensive to hire a professional to do the job, wait until you hire an amateur.

Price points can vary wildly in the virtual assistant industry, especially if you include the offshore ‘virtual assistant call centers’. But it’s important to realize that a truly professional virtual assistant, with the skills and experience you need to actually take your business to that next level, charge between $25-$40 hourly. While a $4 an hour “VA” may seem appealing, it could actually end up costing you a lot more than you realize.

Weigh your budget against the virtual assistant’s experience, abilities, and professionalism. What could take an inexperienced VA an hour might take an experienced VA less than 10 minutes, depending on the situation of course. Oftentimes, when a choice is made based solely on price, you’ll wind up back at square one, hiring the more expensive virtual assistant to redo the work or worse, to fix issues caused by going with the ‘cheaper’ option.

All of this is not to say that a virtual assistant has to be expensive to be good. Ask the question with all of this in mind, and use due diligence when making your final decision.

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Questions to Ask a Prospective Virtual Assistant #1: What will you do to help me grow my business?

Questions to Ask a Prospective Virtual Assistant

Questions to Ask a Prospective Virtual Assistant

If you’re in a position to seek out and hire a virtual assistant, you’re going to want to handle the process from an organized approach. Doing so will save you time and money as well as potential frustration and will help ensure your working relationship with the virtual assistant of your choice gets off in the right direction.

Surely, you’ll have your own questions relative to the project you have in mind, or your own immediate and long-term business goals – but the ten questions we’ll present in this series Questions to Ask a Prospective Virtual Assistant will provide you with a solid start.

Question # 1. What will you do to help me grow my business?

This may seem like a fairly vague question to ask someone at an initial consultation, but the virtual assistant’s answer will provide ample insight into his or her approach to winning potential contracts. A virtual assistant who has prepared for their meeting with you will have immediate answers that relate directly to your business, your industry, and the products or services you offer.

Don’t expect the virtual assistant to be able to wrap your business needs into a nutshell at this first meeting though – while they should provide an answer that shows serious insight, a virtual assistant who has had time to work with you in and on your business will obviously develop new perspectives and approaches as they learn how your business operates and what your goals are. At this stage, you’re looking for a response that shows the virtual assistant has done some research prior to the call and takes a genuine interest in you and your company.

Stay tuned as we add to the list of Questions to Ask a Prospective Virtual Assistant.

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Your Virtual Assistant Works Even When You are Out of the Office

Go Virtual for Success

Your Virtual Assistant Works Even When You're Not in the Office

With all of the incredible online and mobile technology available it’s no surprise that more and more businesses are going virtual in many ways. From iPhone apps that help you manage client information, to Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) phone numbers, to virtual assistants working on your business growth from perhaps hundreds or even thousands of miles away from your business base – smart business owners are harnessing the power of what it means to go virtual, for success.

It’s cheaper (no in-house staff, less hardware to invest in and maintain, smaller office spaces needed, etc.), faster (your virtual assistant can work when you’re out of the office, and even when you’re on vacation – keeping things up-to-speed), and most modern-day entrepreneurs will agree: virtual is better.

A recent article explains just how effective going virtual can be for a business, and how successful the businesses providing those virtual services, are as well:

Not long ago, the idea of running a small business with colleagues and clients dispersed around the country – indeed, around the world – seemed impossible. But thanks to the evolution of Internet-based “virtual businesses,” some of the nation’s fastest growing enterprises exist entirely in cyberspace. (Read the entire article here.)

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A Virtual Assistant is More Than a Virtual Secretary

A Virtual Assistant is More than a Virtual Secretary

A Virtual Assistant is More than a Virtual Secretary

Ask any established virtual assistant, or an entrepreneur or business owner who has experience working with a virtual assistant, what a virtual assistant is and does and they’ll likely rattle off a litany of positive attributes, stellar services, and anecdotes of VAs saving the day.

While business administration is the cornerstone of any virtual assistant practice and most VAs will provide the requisite services such as data entry, contacts management, editing, documents management, and more a qualified virtual assistant brings much more to the table than secretarial skills. Rita Cartwright, a virtual assistant since 2002, does a wonderful job explaining the concept of a truly invested virtual assistant in an article called “Your Business Success is our Success”

When you contract with a Virtual Assistant, you get more than just an employee. We have a vested interest in your business success. Since we are entrepreneurs and small business owners, we know what it takes to operate a business, how to market our services, as well as develop our businesses. In addition to completing your tasks, we provide you with information, suggestions, or ideas that perhaps will help you in your business, because we want you to succeed. Your success is our success.

The assistance you receive from us is quite different than the support you would obtain from a secretary or administrative assistant. We have the mindset of a business owner rather than that of an employee. As I mentioned earlier, we will have a vested interest in your business. We understand what you are dealing with, because we are faced with the same concerns and situations. (Read the full article here.)

A Virtual Assistant is an Investment in Your Business

A Virtual Assistant is an Investment

A Virtual Assistant is an Investment

It’s true in many different ways that working with a virtual assistant will prove to be a worthwhile investment in your business. The cost of a professional virtual assistant’s services will ultimately be recouped via saved time as you delegate more and more tasks to your virtual assistant and decreased levels of stress as your virtual assistant is able to handle tasks that would otherwise bog down your own daily productivity.

It’s not enough to simply hire a virtual assistant – as with any business decision you make, it’s important to follow up and follow through – you have to treat the working relationship itself as an investment, at least initially, as you and your virtual assistant get to know each other and more importantly, as your virtual assistant gets to know your business. Here are just a few tips to help you make the most of working with your virtual assistant:

1. Help your virtual assistant do what they do best by providing clear expectations and goals from the start as well as for new directions or projects going forward. A virtual assistant may have great business acumen and insight but can’t read your mind. The more your virtual assistant understands about you and your business, the more he or she can make a positive impact.

2. A virtual assistant can only make a difference in your business growth if they’re allowed to do so. If you have a hard time delegating, or letting go of control in certain areas of your business, get clear with yourself about how you see a virtual assistant fitting into your business.

3. Understand that a virtual assistant is not an employee but a professional, self-employed service provider, and treat them as such. Your virtual assistant comes into the relationship with the utmost respect for you and your business, they deserve the same in return.

4. Be reasonable. A virtual assistant works from home, but they’re still running a business and you are likely one of a group of clients the VA works with. Unreasonable requests for immediate or weekend assistance will quickly burn out a client’s relationship with a virtual assistant. Take the time to understand your virtual assistant’s business policies – it’ll help everything run more smoothly.

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Tasks Your Virtual Assistant Can Accomplish in One Hour

Virtual Assistant Services

Virtual Assistant Services

Imagine how many more clients you could connect with, how many more billable hours you could clock, or how great it would feel to have more time for your family, friends and for yourself!

With a virtual assistant handling the day-to-day administrative tasks associated with running and growing your business, you’ll find that you have more hours in the day, and more time to do the things you really want to be doing. The following list details just some of the things a professional virtual assistant could handle for you, in just one hour:

1. Call 25-30 prospective clients.
2. Mail merge 50-100 letters including stuffing and mailing.
3. Create and schedule an email marketing campaign.
4. Data Entry of a minimum of 75 contacts in an Excel spreadsheet.
5. Manage customer service correspondence.
6. Proof and edit a five to six page white paper.
7. Create a PowerPoint presentation.
8. Create a signup process on your website for an ezine or newsletter subscription.
9. Balance your business bank statement for the month.
10. Research travel, hotel and meeting facilities for an upcoming holiday or convention.
11. Provide personal or group training via webinar for a specific software or service.
12. Update web site content to be more search engine friendly.
13. Manage article and press release submissions.
14. Transcribe thirty minutes of audio from a conference, meeting, speech or similar.
15. Gather and organize research for a specific project.
16. Type handwritten notes from a seminar or meeting.
17. Utilize client’s content to create a basic sales page with PayPal.
18. Create a header graphic for website/blog.
19. Set up a Facebook page for the client’s business.
20. Manage a client’s Facebook business page (sending invites, interacting with users/comments, adding recent images, etc.)
21. Do follow-up research on a client, prospect, applicant, or competitor.
22. Manage incoming emails: delete spam; sort, answer, or redirect important emails.
23. Create a custom spreadsheet.
24. Organize files, label them appropriately, and mail them back.
25. Make confirmation calls regarding your appointments, engagements, or reservations.
26. Open and sort mail one week’s worth of mail.
27. Stuff, seal, label, and stamp a bulk mailing.
28. Write, format and post a detailed, relevant blog entry with image.
29. Collate and label personalized packets for your seminar or presentation.
30. Build at least 30 SEO-friendly links back to your website or blog.
31. Monitor and forward info from multiple sources of client industry news headlines, blog posts, and forum discussions.
31. Create and/or analyze and update Google Adwords campaigns.
32. Setup and/or analyze Google Analytics and relative conversion reports.
33. Add a press page to the company website.
34. Select and schedule 15 individual handwritten greeting or thank you cards for delivery to clients, colleagues, etc.
35. Edit and prep for download a 30-60 minute audio file using Audacity or similar.
36. Update shopping cart with new product images and information.
37. Create a customized, detailed Google business listing with images.
38. Manage the company Twitter account (providing Tweets, responding to @s, following/unfollowing per the company policy)
39. Create a draft of a company white paper out of last year’s relevant blog posts.
40. Scheduling a week’s worth of Tweets.
41. Planning two week’s worth of blog topics.

This is just a sampling of what a virtual assistant can do for you and your small business. The list is truly endless…

A professional virtual assistant can handle any of these tasks in one hour – freeing you up to focus on more important business tasks and enjoy more personal time.