What is a Virtual Assistant?
Virtual Assistants are an external extension of your business. Their aim is to provide support for particular aspects of your business to ensure your business runs as smoothly as possible overall.
There are thousands of Virtual Assistants out there, meaning whatever you require support with, there will be an option available for you to utilise. Here at The Edwards Company, however, we specialise in four core services: credit control, content creation, admin and data entry.
We work with SMEs locally in the West Midlands and across the country to provide them with expert Virtual Assistant support as often as they need it. We have a range of flexible, affordable packages available, designed to make the lives of our clients a little easier.
If this is your first introduction to the world of Virtual Assistants, have a browse of the information below. We’ll guide you through every step of the process, from deciding whether a Virtual Assistant is the right choice for you, all the way through to knowing what to delegate.
Hopefully, this article will provide you with all the information you need to make the right choice for your business.
Virtual Assistant or full-time employee?
The Virtual Assistant vs employee debate can feel overwhelming when trying to decide whether investing in a full-time employee or a Virtual Assistant is the right choice for you.
You’re likely used to having full-time staff and feel comforted by the familiarity of it. However, you’ll also be aware that onboarding new staff is a considerable investment. You may have considered a Virtual Assistant before, but you may be concerned that they won’t be able to provide you with the same amount of support that a full-time employee would.
In fact, you could probably go round in circles all day long and still not come to a decision!
To make things slightly easier, we’ve broken down the three main areas you should consider when it comes to figuring out the Virtual Assistant vs employee dilemma.
The cost of enlisting an extra pair of hands to manage your workload is likely the most important factor when deciding on the best option for your business. Often, Virtual Assistants charge more per hour than what you would pay a regular employee. On the other hand, employees come with a range of extra expenses that will be up to you to cover.
But if both are going to cost you, which Virtual Assistant vs employee option will give you more for your money?
As well as paying a full-time salary for your employee, you’ll also have to cover a range of other costs that very quickly add up. These include:
- Holiday pay
- Sick pay
- Maternity/paternity pay
- Payroll taxes
- Social security payments
You’ll also have to fork out for the recruitment process, office equipment and any other training they need to undertake.
Hourly rates for Virtual Assistants may seem high at first glance. However, if you eliminate the extra costs associated with full-time employees, Virtual Assistants appear to be more cost-effective. Virtual Assistants will also already have their own equipment and will pay for any training they want to undertake themselves.
Increasing their cost-effectiveness further means that with a Virtual Assistant, you only need to pay for the time you need or the exact time they spend working on your projects. You won’t be paying for their lunch break or ten minutes of office chat.
Businesses are ever-changing. One month, you may be inundated with work, and the following month may be significantly quieter. When your workload fluctuates consistently, it’s essential to decide which of the Virtual Assistant vs employee options can best accommodate these changes.
An employee will be available to you all day, every day. If workload suddenly increases, they’ll be there to provide your business with the support it needs.
However, if you have months where workload is significantly lighter, you’ll still have to pay your employee for their time. This is regardless of whether they’ve got any work to do or not. So, while having them there consistently may feel like a bit of a comfort blanket, the decision rests on whether you can afford to pay someone for simply being on the premises.
Virtual Assistants are much the same as employees when it comes to being able to provide you with extra support when workload is heavy. The main aim of a Virtual Assistant is to step in to help reduce workload when things become a bit hectic. They’ll be available whenever you need them.
In contrast to employees, however, you won’t have to pay a Virtual Assistant for anything other than the work you need them to complete. If your workload is lighter one month, you can let your Virtual Assistant know that you’d like to reduce their hours. Virtual Assistants are used to being flexible. They’ll work around your business so that you don’t end up paying for something you’re not using.
Now you’ve established whether a Virtual Assistant or full-time employee would be a good fit for your business, it’s time to take the next step and decide if your business actually needs a Virtual Assistant in the first place.
Does your business need a Virtual Assistant?
It’s inevitable that you’ll come to a stage in your business journey where you’ll feel like you need some additional support. Workload will become heavier as your business grows, and you’ll find yourself wishing there was two of you (or three!) to help you keep on top of things.
But how do you know when it’s the right time to enlist the support you’ve been considering? And what kind of support do you need?
For business owners in your situation, Virtual Assistants are a great option. Here are some signs that you might need a Virtual Assistant to support your business.
Admin is taking over your life
Admin is unavoidable. Everyone has to do it from time to time, but when you’re running a business, it can start to feel like admin is taking over. There are emails to respond to, leads to generate, paperwork to fill in, team admin to manage. It never ends.
Here’s a little reminder for you, though. You OWN this business. Should you be spending all your time ploughing through admin? Or do you deserve to focus on the parts of your business that will push it to the next level? We think you probably already know the answer.
If admin is becoming a real timewaster in your day-to-day business life, it definitely could be one of the signs that you need a Virtual Assistant. When it comes to admin, VAs cover just about every task you could possibly think of and would be only too happy to take them off your hands. You’ll be left with expertly completed admin and a lot more time on your hands.
High-impact tasks are always put on the backburner
Another of the signs that you need a Virtual Assistant is that you keep running out of time for high-impact tasks. Sometimes, you’re aware that a high-impact task needs doing, and you’re aware of the positive impact it will have once completed. But it’s going to take you a while – you need a big chunk of time in which you can devote your full focus to it and, let’s face it, when was the last time you had that luxury? Being able to block off large portions of your day to dedicate to high-impact tasks when you’re a business owner is near impossible – there’s always something else that needs doing.
While this comes with the territory, it does mean that occasionally, high-impact tasks are put on the backburner, delaying opportunities for your business to grow.
If this is the case for you, some additional support to take smaller, low-impact tasks off your hands could afford you the time you need to focus on the bigger aspects of your business and those high-impact tasks you’ve been putting off.
Your work-life balance is not balanced at all
How often do you leave work on time? Our guess is, not very often at all.
When you’re a business owner, and the work is piled high, you can feel pressured to stay behind and finish it, no matter how much it eats into your evening. If you don’t, you’ll spend the evening dreading all the extra work you’ll have to do tomorrow.
While dedication to your business is a highly desirable quality for any business owner to possess, it can mean that your work-life balance quickly becomes an unhealthy one. Overworking can cause feelings of stress, demotivation and can even have a negative impact on productivity during the working day – the last thing you want when you’re already struggling to complete your to-do list.
Instead, investing in some additional support in the form of a Virtual Assistant means you can delegate any tasks you don’t have time for. Instead of working two extra hours in the evening or arriving in the office while the rest of the world is still asleep, you’ll be able to start and leave on time without adding extra weight to your workload.
You don’t have all the skills for all the things
Let’s face it, not many people do. While your skills will be varied and well-practised, it’s impossible to be an expert in every area of your business. For example, you may know how to run a company but may be less well-versed in how to run your company’s social media channels. Why should you have to spend time stretching your skillset to cover multiple aspects of your business when you could be focusing on the area in which you excel the most?
While learning new skills is never a bad thing, it can take time away from other important aspects of your business, especially if there’s someone else who could be using those skills for you.
Virtual Assistants cover a multitude of areas within businesses – there will be one out there who has the exact skills you need to get the job done.
If these signs are resonating with you, it may be time to source yourself a Virtual Assistant! If you’re ready to take that step, the next thing you’ll need to consider is how to work with your chosen Virtual Assistant in order to get the best out of the services they offer.
How to work with a Virtual Assistant
If you’ve never worked with a Virtual Assistant before, the idea of doing so can be daunting. You’re either used to taking on every aspect of your business yourself and may be reluctant to hand over control, or you’ve previously utilised the skills of your in-house staff and have delegated to them, meaning you’ve still been able to oversee their work physically.
Working with a Virtual Assistant is different. They don’t know you and your business. They don’t know your rules and procedures. How can you possibly work effectively with one?
We’re glad you asked! In our Ultimate Guide to Working with a Virtual Assistant, we’re sharing all our top tips and tricks for making working with a Virtual Assistant work for you.
Communication is key
Just because your assistant is now a virtual one, it doesn’t mean communication with them ceases altogether. They may not be in the same room as you, but they’re still a part of your team! Establishing effective forms of communication from the get-go and checking in regularly will ensure everything runs as smoothly as it should do.
When you first begin working with your Virtual Assistant, it might be an idea to give them a call or set up a virtual meeting in order to get to know each other a little better. Within this allotted time, it’s a great idea to share any of your company procedures and expectations. Your Virtual Assistant will do the same. By doing this, you’re ensuring all parties involved are singing from the same hymn sheet, and miscommunications will be avoided later on down the line.
Here at The Edwards Company, we spend plenty of time with our clients before we begin working with them to really get a feel for their business, and we also keep in touch to provide regular updates. This may be daily, weekly, or monthly – we always ask our clients which they’d prefer and adhere to this preference.
Remember to also let your Virtual Assistant know what your preferred method of communication is – it’s no good receiving email updates if you struggle to find the time to check your inbox!
Build a Rapport
We’ve established that communication is key. Add to these communication benefits by working to build up a rapport with your Virtual Assistant. If your VA is anything like the team at The Edwards Company, they’ll want to provide as much support to your business as possible which means it’s essential for you to keep them in the loop about the goings-on of your business – you never know what else they might be able to help with!
Take this, for example – during one of our weekly chats with a content creation client recently, they mentioned that some elements of their website weren’t working as well as they should be. Now, we’re no website designers – but we do have plenty of connections who are! We gave the client the name of our go-to website building company, and their new website is now under construction. Sometimes it’s not about what you know, but who you know!
If we or the client hadn’t made an effort to build up that rapport right from the beginning of our working relationship, they still might not have the new website they so desperately need!
Here at The Edwards Company, building a rapport with our clients is incredibly important to us. That’s why we developed our discovery calls – before working with a client, we give them a ring just to chat for an hour and start to build that working relationship that will benefit their business in the long run.
Ensure You’re Delegating the Correct Tasks
Deciding what to delegate can be a challenge, especially if you’re feeling the pressure of all the back-office tasks that come with running a business.
Occasionally, you can end up delegating the wrong tasks, meaning that having it removed from your to-do list by your Virtual Assistant really won’t make much difference to your workload at all. If you only complete one data entry task per month, for example, and usually have enough time to do it, you don’t need to outsource it. Credit control, however, may take up a good chunk of your working week and cause issues if not completed. This is the perfect task for you to delegate – not only will it free up some of your time, but it’ll also ensure that issues like aged debt are avoided later on down the line.
Assess your delegation tasks carefully – only outsource tasks that you know will make a difference to the efficiency of your business if a Virtual Assistant handles them.
Trust your Virtual Assistant!
Virtual Assistants like The Edwards Company have the best interests of your business at heart. It’s our job to support you in any way we can. Trusting us to do so is the best thing you can do to ensure you’re able to work effectively with your Virtual Assistant.
At The Edwards Company, we have decades of experience between us in a number of business areas: credit control, content creation, general admin and data entry and have improved the efficiency of countless businesses across the UK and beyond. Handing over control may seem daunting, but by knowing you’ve selected the right Virtual Assistant for you, communicating with them and building an excellent working relationship, you’ll soon find that trusting a Virtual Assistant is one of the best investments you can make for your business.
Working with a Virtual Assistant should come naturally once you’ve established a working relationship that works for all parties involved. In case you have a few more questions you’d like answering before you make your final decision, however, we’ve included some frequently asked questions below.
Virtual Assistant Frequently Asked Questions
If you’ve never worked with a Virtual Assistant before, it can be challenging to pin down exactly how they can support your business.
Especially as there are so many Virtual Assistants out there, all with different skills, niches, and specialist areas, knowing where to start when it comes to choosing the right Virtual Assistant for you can feel like a bit of a minefield.
With this in mind, we’ve popped together a list of our most frequently asked questions as Virtual Assistants. We hope it will provide you with all the information you need to get your Virtual Assistant journey off to the best possible start.
How can you effectively communicate with clients if you’re not in their office?
We offer a range of virtual communication methods so our clients can pick and choose how they’d like to communicate with us. Some prefer email, others prefer phone calls, whereas some consistently communicate through instant messaging apps like WhatsApp.
We also utilise shared documents when working on things like data entry or credit control so our clients can see our progress in real-time.
The choice is yours – whatever works for you, works for us.
How many hours are you available for?
While this is one of the most frequently asked questions for Virtual Assistants, the answer will change depending on the virtual assistant you’re asking.
However, one of the most valuable benefits of Virtual Assistants in general is our flexibility. Here at The Edwards Company, our packages range from ad-hoc hourly rates all the way up to 40 hours of monthly support and beyond. We tailor the hours we work for you to the number of hours you need us for.
Can I use a Virtual Assistant to combat staffing issues?
Definitely! Onboarding new in-house staff isn’t always possible due to covering extra costs like sick pay and holiday pay. However, you may find yourself in a situation where you still need an extra pair of hands.
With Virtual Assistants, you only pay for the work we do. We’ll pick up any extra tasks that can’t be covered by your staff as and when you need us to.
Virtual Assistance at The Edwards Company
If the answers to our most frequently asked questions have left you wanting to give Virtual Assistance a go, please do not hesitate to get in touch. We specialise in the following areas:
Perfect for keeping your accounts looking healthy. We’ll put steps in place to ensure payments are obtained on time, aged debt is avoided, and any built-up aged debt is reduced as much as possible.
Creating content for your business is vital when it comes to gaining exposure, but it can also be time-consuming. Our content creation team are available to provide you with content that cultivates engagement and conversions, all while highlighting the unique selling points of your business.
Data entry requires high levels of accuracy, something that can’t be achieved if you’re pushed for time. Our data entry experts are able to step in and complete your data entry tasks to the highest standard, with 100% accuracy each and every time.
We all know how much admin tasks can clog up your to-do list. Whether it’s managing your inbox, scheduling your social media posts, drafting letters, filing, or any other admin-based task you constantly find yourself struggling to fit into your busy schedule, our Virtual Assistant team can take care of it for you.