Spend a day in my life as an efficient Virtual Assistant
When I became a VA, the thought of working from home seemed idyllic. I mean, who wouldn’t enjoy being able to get up, go for a run and have coffee before firing up the computer? Not to mention being able to catch up with friends or wear comfy clothes all while tending to your family and work.
It didn’t take me long to realise that I needed to set myself boundaries and a routine if I were to be a top notch VA. I know that I crave structure and social interaction in order to be productive. As race walking has always been my go to “happy place”, I start my day with a 8km walk, breathing in fresh air and starting my day off on a positive note.
After a long walk I fire up the computer, whilst I have a well-deserved cup of coffee. For me the need to dress for success is vital, one cannot be productive if you do not dress for success, I don’t have to don a jacket and high heels, but being clean and presentable does wonders for one’s self esteem and allows me to feel motivated throughout the day.
As I sit down at my desk strategically placed in front of the window, first thing I do is check my emails, as this will determine the type of day I will have. Normally, whilst the emails are loading, I look out of my window at my goose splashing in his pond and that is when I feel truly blessed to be able to work from home. I have found that setting specific work hours has helped me to establish my own unique work style.
I have learnt that I cannot be in front of the computer all day and I need to take regular breaks. Going out during the day, goes a long way to keeping me connected with the world, a trip to the grocery store or a chat to friends at lunch time always lifts my spirits and allows me to come back to my desk after lunch refreshed and ready for what the afternoon might bring.
Every day I have a “to-do” list that I strive to get complete, this ensures that I don’t procrastinate and I maintain a steady pace throughout the day instead of a mad rush at the end of the day. There is nothing as satisfying as crossing off a task on your list (“tick”). Working from home allows me be able to have dinners cooked and the house cleaned as this is all part of my daily routine. There is no greater pleasure than having the kettle boiled for when my daughter comes home in the evening.
It takes dedication to stick to a routine when there is no one there to hold you accountable, however, if you are committed and have support, a day in the life of a VA can be a wonderful experience.
For more information on Annie please visit our team page.
4 Signs that Show You Need to Get Rid of Your Office Assistant
Entrepreneurs generally hire Office Assistants as one of their first employees. This is because as their business grows, they realise that they need someone to help with the workload. Office Assistants are a perfect choice because these employees can do it all. From running your errands to filing your documents, there is not much that’s off the charts for these dynamic workers.
Nonetheless, there are certain instances when Office Assistants are no longer relevant and one may need to end the relationship. Here are times when an Office Assistant may not be the best choice for your business:
1. You have a ‘shoestring’ budget
If you’re really struggling to get your business off the ground or you’re a startup that needs to save on costs, don’t hire an Office Assistant. Hire a Virtual Assistant instead. In so doing, you get the same or even better quality of work without having to worry about paying for office space, hardware and software to get her going. You also don’t have to worry about employee benefits such as pension funds, travel allowances and medical funds.
In addition, you only pay for the hours worked. This way, you avoid unproductive employees.
The exception to this rule would be if you really need someone at your premises to pack goods or ship certain items. In that case, an Assistant is necessary, but if you can do everything virtually, that will save your business on employee costs.
2. You need a flexible employee
Entrepreneurs are super busy, and I’m sure you are too. As expected, there may be times when you need some urgent work done and can’t call on your Office Assistant because she only works set hours.
Virtual assistants offer that flexibility. You can hire one when you need and as you need her.
3. You like your space
Introverts are known to appreciate their space, but there are also other personality types that enjoy working on their own. If you prefer your own space and the thought of sharing an office frustrates you, it is a sign that you must get rid of your Office Assistant and opt for a Virtual Assistant instead.
4. You’re making losses
Granted, an Assistant is not meant to generate sales, but their presence should lighten up your workload and give you more time to close more leads. If your Assistant has become more of a liability than an asset, it may be time to let her go.
5 Questions You Need to Ask Before You Delegate work
We’ve all heard the quote that if you want anything done, you’ve got to do it yourself. While it’s true that you are more than capable of getting things done by yourself, it may not be in your best interests. Studies show that business owners spend way too much time on tasks that don’t contribute to their income. To succeed in business, you’ve got to learn to delegate these tasks so that you can focus on more important things.
When delegating tasks, it’s easy to assume that everybody is as smart as we are and so we delegate according to how we would want work to be delegated to us. What I’ve learned in my years working with other people is that delegation is not as simple as just handing over tasks. Here are five questions that you need to ask yourself.
1. When does a task need delegating?
There are certain tasks that you must absolutely delegate, and others that you shouldn’t. Apart from helping you get free time to focus on more important tasks, here are other reasons for delegating a project/task:
- You need to meet a tight deadline
- You require extra resources and skills that you don’t have
- To build skills in team members and foster continuous professional development
You should not delegate a task when:
- To avoid accountability. You should never delegate a task simply because you want nothing to do with it. Accountability remains with you because as much as you won’t be intensely involved in the fieldwork, you will still be responsible for overseeing the work. People who delegate tasks to avoid responsibility often fail at overseeing the work too. Don’t fall into this trap.
- If a client requests your work specifically. We all have those demanding clients that request a little something extra, and they’re willing to pay for it. If a client requests that you do something yourself and you agree to it, don’t delegate the task to someone else.
Make sure that you delegate tasks that are not critical to success if you’re not sure of the person doing the job. I know executives who hand over everything to their VA’s because they’ve worked with them for multiple years, but if you’re not sure of the work quality, rather do critical tasks yourself.
Delegate almost all your admin work. Answering emails or filling in forms is something someone else can do without causing too much havoc in your business.
2. Who should I delegate to?
Think about the skills you need for the job. Start by writing down a list of skills, traits and characteristics needed to complete the job successfully, then look for the suitable assistant.
If your project is running smoothly, you can look at delegating to someone with less experience, but if your project is not going well, make sure that you get an expert for the job.
3. What do I want to achieve by delegating this task?
This question is important and it ties back to question 1. Besides time-saving, you must identify the goals of delegation. The pros of delegating versus the cons of not delegating.
4. Will my assistant need any tools to complete this work?
It doesn’t help to delegate a task and not empower your virtual assistant with the right tools to complete it. First research on what tools, apps or programmes your assistant will need before you even choose the right candidate. If you don’t, you may find that the person you delegate to costs you more money because you have to purchase extra programmes.
5. How would you like the work to be delivered to you?
Of course, you must know in which format the work must be sent to you. Don’t expect your assistant to assume that you would like an update every day if you haven’t asked for it. If you don’t set the right expectations from the beginning, you run the risk of a failed project.
Virtual Assistants – the new best thing for Executive Assistants!
I am writing this blog to you, the Executive Assistant, to let you know you are not alone. I was also an Executive Assistant and I know exactly how your day goes.
Every day you face stress, a heavy workload, not much leave, working late hours, no lunch breaks, angry bosses, too many meetings, work that doesn’t get finished. And you just wish you could “clone” yourself and have a 2nd hand to help you. But you can, and with no magic potion.
She is called a Virtual Assistant! Help is at hand! So now you may ask, what is a Virtual Assistant?
“A Virtual Assistant or VA is generally self-employed and provides professional administrative, technical, or creative (social) assistance to clients remotely. Because Virtual Assistants are independent contractors rather than employees, clients are not responsible for any employee-related taxes, insurance or benefits, except in the context that those indirect expenses are included in the VA’s fees. Clients also avoid the logistical problem of providing extra office space, equipment or supplies.” Wikipedia extract.
Virtual Assistants do not replace a Personal or Executive Assistant, they are only there to assist the Assistant with her daily tasks. Virtual Assistants come from a variety of business backgrounds, but most have several years experience earned in the “real” (non-virtual) business world.
A dedicated Virtual Assistant is someone working in the office under the management of a company. The facility and internet connection as well as training are provided by the company.
How can this Virtual Assistant be of help for me, you may wonder?
- When you have a lot of meetings and still need to type the minutes and also need other documentation typed, email your VA and she will help you type away
- When you know you need to update your contact list, but can’t get to it, contact your VA and she will help you out
- When you need someone to proof read your letters, memo’s or minutes, your VA can help you with all that
- When you quickly need to slip out to fetch something, just give your VA a call and she will stand in for you for those few minutes
- If you desperately need a few days off, just to recharge, contact your VA, and she will help out those few days, while you can relax and not stress about the work
- When you sick, and you know you can’t take sick leave, because you have too much work, phone your VA, and she will stand in for you, while you rest at home and get better, and so much more……..
Technology grows by the minute, and we need to stay ahead at all times. Virtual Assistants are the new technology, it’s the new best thing.
Do you have a Virtual Assistant who can help you with all your daily tasks? If not, I would advise you to consider one. She will be the best thing you will ever had.
3 Mistakes to Avoid When Working With a Virtual Assistant
Like many entrepreneurs, I was introduced to the concept of working with a virtual assistant, or VA, by Tim Ferriss’ The 4-Hour Workweek. He extolled the benefits of outsourcing repetitive work (or tasks you aren’t good at or don’t enjoy) so you can focus on your most valuable tasks. Lured by the idea of following the 80/20 rule (i.e., spending my time on the 20 percent of activities that generate 80 percent of my returns), for the past six years, I’ve worked off and on with VAs locally and around the world. They’ve handled a variety of tasks for me, including transcription, sharing articles on social media, uploading and formatting blog posts, audio and video editing, writing interview questions, and more and believe me, when used correctly, they are awesome.
If you’re considering hiring a VA — or would like to improve your working relationship with the VA’s you’re currently contracting with — here are three mistakes to avoid.
- Failing to scope out your tasks accurately. Well before you hire a Virtual Assistant, it’s useful to make a list of tasks that you’d like them to perform for you. In my case, it includes things like booking travel arrangements, uploading blog posts and sharing articles on social media. Creating an accurate task list can help you select a VA with the right experience and aptitude. Once you hire your you’ll also want to put the same level of detail thought into describing each individual task you’d like accomplished. This is especially critical if you’re dealing with an overseas VA whose cultural reference points may be different than yours; they may not understand that booking a Cape Town to Johannesburg flight with a Durban stop over is a very, very bad idea. You can save yourself a great deal of trouble later by being very accurate in your instructions and trying to anticipate questions your VA might have or ways things might go wrong, once you’ve found a good VA, the relationship get easy, they learn your habits and preferences and thus anticipating quite a bit, long term is better – look carefully.
- Not making time to review their work. It’s tempting to think that once you hire a Virtual Assistant, you can delegate the task and then forget it. But, at least at first, that’s definitely not how it works. You need to build time into your calendar to review everything they do, so you can catch problems early and offer suggestions and feedback. Some VAs may be hesitant to alert you if they’ve hit a roadblock or don’t understand your instructions. So checking in frequently and monitoring their progress in the early days can ensure they’re not going down blind alleyways trying to follow instructions they’ve misconstrued. It’s easy to get busy and ignore your VA temporarily; they’re not demanding your time the way a client would. But if you want them to be effective, plan at least 30 minutes per day to review their work early on. That gives them timely and actionable feedback, and will save you money because they’re less likely to have to go back and redo tons of work. Take your time and mould them to work the way you like them to, then it becomes really convenient.
- Not creating a system. One of the best things I did with my most recent VA was developing an “assistant’s manual” prior to her starting the job. I wrote down step-by-step procedures for the most common tasks I’d be asking her to do and put all the relevant information, such as website passwords or frequent flier numbers, into one easy-to-search document. (Depending on the task, you could also consider making online videos to demonstrate procedures to your Virtual Assistant.) That ensured she wasn’t constantly barraging me with basic questions and she could quickly become self-reliant. When she took on a new task, I also instructed her to write up the procedure and include it in the manual, so that it could become an ongoing reference tool for the future. The goal is to enable an easy transition and avoid having to reinvent the wheel when there’s been a long gap in between performing a particular task (such as uploading a blog post to a particular website with its own layout and navigations).
Working with a Virtual Assistant can exponentially increase your productivity – but that’s only if you fully leverage their time and talents. You’ll never harness the real benefit if you’re constantly having to clean up mistakes and do things over again. The only way to avoid that is by planning in advance and setting up the systems that will enable them to succeed.