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What is a Virtual PA?

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What is a virtual PA and could you use one? Today’s hectic lifestyles, which see many people struggling to balance the demands of both family and work, mean that it could pay to get some extra help – especially if you run your own business.

Take your pick

Fortunately there is a growing army of virtual personal assistants out there, ready to take on any tasks that are taking up too much of your valuable time.

What are the benefits of having a Virtual PA?

The beauty of a virtual assistant is that they can often be paid by the hour as and when you require extra help, so you don’t have to worry about taking on an employee if the extra support is only needed on an ad-hoc basis.

And because VAs are self-employed, there are no employment contracts; you will just be invoiced for the work done, with no responsibility for things like employee-related taxes, insurance or benefits.

You can work with individual assistants or a larger firm offering a team of VAs.

As the job role would suggest the assistants work virtually and will complete whatever tasks you set them from their home or from a company office, so you don’t need to worry about providing a workspace or phone.

The rapid growth of communications technologies means there’s no end of ways in which the virtual PA can get the job done. Common modes of communication include the internet, Skype, email, phone conferencing and fax machines.

Virtual PA taking calls

In fact the advent of systems such as Skype have made it possible to hire virtual assistants who can answer phones remotely, without the client realising that services have been contracted out.

This gives you the personal touch of having a receptionist without needing to actually employ someone on a permanent basis.

Use your Virtual PA wisely

Whether a VA represents a good investment or not, depends largely on how you utilise them. Paying someone to deal with time-consuming paperwork, phone calls or other admin, frees you up to concentrate on growing the business and bring the money in.

The online personal assistants can complete a huge variety of tasks for you. These include book keeping and expenses, telephone answering, data entry, production of Power Point presentations, event planning, travel arrangements, customer service support, telesales, copy typing and proofreading.

As well as these back office support services, it could be that there are tasks you keep meaning to get round to in order to promote your business, or boost its profile, but just can’t find the time in amongst the busy day-to-day running of things.

These could include jobs such as the development of website content, marketing material and advertising copy, or even keeping abreast of new marketing channels such as social media.

A VA can be contracted to help get systems in place, eliminating the need to employ someone in such a role full time. It could be that you are able to take over the task at a later date, or you may prefer the personal assistant to manage it on a more permanent basis as and when you need it.

Estimates suggest that there are now as many as 25,000 VAs worldwide, although the profession is growing all the time.

Workers tend to come from a variety of backgrounds in the business world, but five years of administration experience is usually expected from someone trading as a virtual assistant. This is typically in roles such as executive assistant, office manager, secretary, legal assistant, paralegal, legal secretary and so on.

How much will I need to pay a Virtual PA?

Rates will vary depending on the individual or company and you might be able to negotiate discounts for block bookings. The amount of help businesses require varies greatly from one hour a month to hundreds of hours.

Typical hourly rates range from £10 to £16, depending on how many hours are booked – usually the more hours you book the less you will pay per hour. It’s worth checking though whether the fees already include expenses such as postage, disks or memory sticks, or whether these will be billed separately.

And you will of course need to trust whoever you take on as they will likely be representing your company to your clients, so it will pay to spend a bit of time making sure the VA understands your business and requirements.

Obviously a Virtual PA will build a good working knowledge of what you do the longer you employ their services for.

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About Linda Ram

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