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Productivity / Outsourcing

Choosing and using a virtual assistant

A virtual assistant (VA) can be a godsend to your business. But how do you choose one, and what should you ask them to do? Here are some tips on using a virtual assistant.

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Learning to outsource work and embrace the business benefits of outsourcing can be a real turning point for your business.

I regularly outsource tasks to VAs and am often asked about the types of tasks I get them to do, so I thought you might find it useful if I explain how they’ve enabled me to be more productive.

International or local?

Given the pricing differences between international and local VAs, it’s no surprise that many people start out by wondering where a VA should be based.

I’ve worked with several international VAs who I’ve sourced via Upwork. I choose them for particular skills that are relevant to the project I’m working on, and I never let them deal directly with my customers.

"I cheerfully pay my Aussie VAs about 12 times as much as those who are offshore."

Tasks that my global VAs have done for me include assisting with the development of my WordPress site, collecting and collating conference tweets, transcribing videos and the spoken word, developing training guides from videos, and customising MYOB forms.

I also have Australian based VAs, (some of whom I found through excellent references on Flying Solo). I cheerfully pay my Aussie VAs about 12 times as much as those who are offshore.

Want more articles like this? Check out the outsourcing section.

Tasks my Australian VAs do for me include:

  • Making phone calls to clients, confirming appointments, and chasing outstanding payments
  • Making personal calls to my children’s schools, chasing warranties and tradespeople, setting up appointments with hairdressers and doctors
  • Sourcing and presenting technical research information
  • Downloading tax statements from online billers for my records
  • Paying bills and arranging subscriptions (yes, my Australia VA has my credit card details; I trust her implicitly)

For ongoing administrative work, I prefer using a virtual assistant that I have an ongoing relationship with. I brief them by sending an email detailing the task, and am automatically billed at the end of the week via oDesk, or receive a monthly invoice from my Australian-based VAs.

Tips for new players

The very first time I used a VA I outsourced an identical task to four different people. The results helped me determine those who I wanted to have an ongoing business relationship with. I suggest you find a task, develop a relationship with one or two VAs, outsource the task, refine the process, and streamline your life.

Are you using a virtual assistant? What kind of tasks does your VA do for you? And how did you decide who to work with?

Heather Smith

is a Chartered Certified Accountant & Xero Accounting Advisor specialising in moving businesses to the cloud, improving productivity and profits. She's written six books including Xero for Dummies & Learn Small Business Start-Up in 7 Days.

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