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When Is A Virtual Assistant Not A Virtual Assistant…!!?

Note from Chris: This is a guest post by Michelle Dale. Michelle is an extremely successful virtual entrepreneur in her own right. Here are a few insights from her on the world of outsourcing and working with VA’s.

Most entrepreneurs, especially those pursuing an online business venture, will at some point consider investigating how hiring a Virtual Assistant – or even many Virtual Assistants, could benefit them and their business.

For those of you who are new to this concept and still trying to learn what a “virtual assistant” actually is, you will undoubtedly find a lot of different options available for you to choose from, and not every virtual assistant option maybe right for you, so here is a quick “VA 101” which I have put together for you which is based on the wide variety of Virtual Assistants I have come across in my own career.

If you find a VA online, they could be one or many of the types of VA listed below, for example, you may find a solo-VA working offshore, or an online business manager who is also a consultant and has a multi-VA team. The absolute best combination I have found is to work with a variety of different VA’s and use a combination of the possibilities out there for different areas of your business, especially if you are looking to utilise outsourcing for all of your staffing requirements. Once you have worked out what you need, you can then choose your Virtual Assistant or combination of Virtual Assistants wisely, based on how you would like them to fit into your business. Once you have the combination right, that’s when your business can really reap the benefits of this awesome industry.

In a nutshell, independent virtual assistants are generally business owners just like you, and they assist all kinds of individuals online with their businesses. I have listed the most common ‘types’ of virtual assistant below, but each one is essentially a virtual assistant in some way, shape or form.

Solo VA’s

This I believe is where the industry began many years ago, traditional PA’s and administrative assistants found a way of working from home and servicing a client base over the Internet, thus allowing them to step out of their role in the workplace and into a virtual role. Solo VA’s have since come a long way, and they have branched out from the more general services such as diary management, call answering, customer support, transcription etc… into offering online marketing services, and in some cases creative and technical support. They generally work alone, servicing a small client base, which allows for a more intimate one-on-one service with their client. Solo VA’s can be excellent multi-taskers. The downside of a solo VA is that if they truly are solo, then the times when they are away from their work, you may need to seek an alternative until they return. In some cases the VA may have a plan in place for handling work while they are away and you will need to ask them about this directly.

Multi-VA Teams

These are usually teams of VA’s who collaborate online for a single VA company. They will either be groups of VA’s with similar skills, or different skills depending on the company hiring them. Almost always the multi-VA team is made of up freelance independent business owners and they can either work full-time, part-time or on an adhoc basis for the main VA who developed the team. Most multi-VA teams will have a primary VA, the one who developed the team, and more often than not, they will be the primary point of contact for clients at all times, and may still also provide services themselves. The good thing about multi-VA companies is that they often have resources available to “step in” during holidays, so there is no disruption to any ongoing services.

Offshore VA’s

Offshore VA’s have come to be known as the VA’s who work in countries with a lower cost of living, generally “offshore” from the western world. Two very popular countries where offshore VA’s can be found are the Philippines and India. Whilst of course many of them do not speak native English, you can find offshore VA’s who speak excellent English, and they are able to communicate with you very well. Particularly, VA’s who have come from call centre environments are often able to speak conversational English surprisingly well.

The benefits of offshore VA’s mean that entrepreneurs and start-ups can cost-effectively get the support they need within their businesses, and for anyone on a shoestring budget, this is an ideal solution, because rates tend to be lower to match the economic climate where the VA lives.

Online Business Managers

Online business managers have likely taken on the role solely as a manager, and generally won’t be the ones performing the VA services anymore. In many cases, they have a multi-VA team themselves who they will utilise in order to provide a wide range of services for a larger number of clients. Online business managers often started out as virtual assistants and they moved into hiring a multi VA team – they should be very experienced in working online, and have excellent project management skills for those looking to carry out larger scale projects and business expansion, which they need more of a right hand kind of support for. This solution is ideal if you have a variety of tasks you need doing and don’t want to spend time on training and quality control. A skilled online business manager can do this for you, perfectly.

Virtual Consultants

Virtual consultants will likely have had a great deal of experience as a virtual assistant, and over time, they developed more of an “expert” status after handling a multitude of tasks and clients. Some online consultants will remain solo, while others may have multi-VA teams with them. The consultant will want to work with you more as a partner and advisor, and they will often charge clients based on their experience and ability, rather than on a skill or service set. You will need to talk with the individual, sometimes in great depth, to find out how they are able to assist you with your business.

Virtual Intermediaries

Virtual intermediaries are companies which are set up to introduce you, the client, to a suitable virtual assistant. They will generally have a significant database of independent professionals, for which they will take down information from you on exactly what you’re looking for, and then they will carefully consider your requirements and find a suitable match. The great thing about these introducers is that it cuts out all the leg work for you; they’ll generally screen the VA’s beforehand to meet a minimum standard, and keep profile and rates information on file. If they don’t have someone suitable within their database, they will set to work in finding a match for you using their resources.

Example: Chris is the founder of the brilliant service “Virtual Staff Finder,” which can help you find pre-qualified offshore solo-VA’s, for almost any requirements.

Whatever it is you’re searching for, there is a virtual assistant out there for you. Questions? Comments…? You know the deal – go for it, below..!

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