Every person running their own business knows this: you start working on it by yourself, all pumped up with enthusiasm and drive, willing to work as hard as needed to take your venture off the ground. That feeling, however, fades away sooner rather than later when you realize that most of your day is spent in rather mundane tasks: are the invoices ready? Did you finally upload that new picture of your front door on Facebook? Did you reschedule that delivery you were expecting from one of your providers but can’t actually sign for because you forgot your kid has soccer practice and you need to pick him up?
Most entrepreneurs get very frustrated with these tasks but may not be ready to hire an assistant. It is, at the end of the day, a financial decision, an important one. Benefits, resources, insurance, all are things to consider when you weigh in whether you actually can hire someone to take over those tasks. More often than not, you decide against it.
Since you need help anyhow, virtual assistants are usually the go to in these situations. There are plenty of outsourcing companies you can choose from depending on your needs. Having an online personal assistant can bring a significant change in your everyday routine, freeing up time you can use to actually work on business-related tasks rather than the most time-consuming mundane ones. But what kind of things can you delegate? Which ones should you delegate? We’ve compared our experiences with other virtual assistance services in order to compile a list of the ultimate top 10 tasks to delegate to your virtual assistant. We hope you’ll find it useful:
- Social Media Handles
Many virtual assistant companies will recommend that you actually delegate your social media content creation to online personal assistants. Why is that? Not only do these outsourcing companies usually hire professionals in marketing or copywriting who are experts in writing in the specs that work best for each social media channel.
Not only can the best virtual assistants take care of copywriting, but they can also take charge of professionally crafting or editing images for social media as well. Some platforms, such as Instagram or Facebook, are image-driven and the quality and effectiveness of your social media strategy heavily depends not only on how often do you update them, but what kind of content you’re publishing. This is especially critical for small businesses. While some virtual assistance services will craft their packages to fit most potential clients, some outsourcing services will offer virtual assistance services dedicated solely to social media maintenance or marketing.
Say, for example, you have a coffee shop and your everyday routine requires dealing with providers, working on invoices and keeping the place up and running while actually working behind the counter. Your business is new and you’re relying on your neighbors to spread the word about your coffee shop. While you’ve set up a Facebook page and an Instagram profile, you barely have enough time to take care of them. Sounds familiar?
The best virtual assistants will work on getting to know your business and the tone you like to use when addressing your audience in order to craft social media content for you. They can even set up small raffles that will drive people to your coffee shop and engage them in order to keep them coming. They know how to do it. They’re professionals. And they can save you a ton of time while doing their best to put your business on the (social media) map.
- Research or Data Mining
This is a broad term and we know it. Also, not one people would usually think can or should be delegated to an outsourcing company. But we can make a case in its favor. Every business requires researching at some point: whether it’s looking for the best napkin vendor in the area to building up a database of potential clients; from trying to figure out the best distribution route for your products to looking into how effective flyers and coupons really are, these are all tasks that require a fair amount of extensive research.
Virtual assistants can take care of this kind of tasks. A brief chat over the phone or an email with detailed instructions will suffice and they’ll take the lead. The best virtual assistants will get back to you with updates in order to keep you posted and also to make sure you get a chance of supervising their work on the go to make sure it’s all heading in the right direction. This is something both the clients and the virtual assistance companies can benefit from.
One of our clients, for example, had a company that handled maintenance and equipment for luxury yachts. Since he dealt with elite clients, most of his day was dedicated to keeping them happy and making sure their needs were met. He didn’t have time to actually compare different equipment or making sure it worked on different voltages, since Europe and the US have different specifications for power outlets. One of our virtual assistants took care of that: she gathered all available products and put them on an Excel sheet, listing availability, pricing, delivery times and tech specs, that way our client could take a quick look, ask questions and make an informed purchase, all within minutes.
Another one of our clients required something simpler: a liquor store in her area that carried a particular brand of Japanese beer. She didn’t have the time to call every store in the area, or browse for their catalog online. Our virtual assistant was able to find a well-rated vendor who not only had it available, but also made deliveries, in a matter of minutes. Talk about going the extra mile!
- Customer Service
We have a fair amount of clients who run online shops or membership sites. They receive orders for products or subscriptions and have to answer inquiries regarding billing, shipping, lost packages, tracking options, exchanges or returns in addition to regular questions from potential customers. As you can imagine, keeping up with these tasks actually requires that a person is dedicated to this full time. This is impossible for entrepreneurs or any business owner.
Online personal assistants can take over your customer service front desk. Since every business is different, some clients prepare the transition of handling inquiries on their own to delegating them to an outsourcing company by creating drafted templates to be used in different scenarios. They take a little time to train their virtual assistants on how customers must be addressed (since business practices vary from client to client) and their online personal assistants pretty much takes over their customer service front.
This, of course, can seem to some clients as a leap of faith. A lot of trust needs to be built in order to leave the customer service handle of your business in the hands of somebody else. Virtual assistance companies base their work on the professionalism and responsibility of their online personal assistants, which are carefully screened before hiring and are then rescreened to make sure their skills match each prospective client and their needs. You can rest assured that virtual assistance services are provided with a commitment to excellence and professionalism.
One of our clients sold dog clothes online. While standard measurements were used and published, normally dog owners wanted to make sure if they had different sets of sizes for different breeds, an important but repetitive question. Our virtual assistant had had a training period with our client and was therefore able to answer most, if not all, customer inquiries by herself, saving the client hundreds of billable hours.
- Administrative Tasks
Clients in more traditional, office-bound businesses can also benefit from working with virtual assistance services. Hiring an online personal assistant versus a physical one brings a number of quite significant savings for your company: insurance and benefits are covered by a third party (the outsourcing company) and don’t have an impact on your financial reports; also, you’re saving a good sum of money in parking space, physical space and everyday resources which will be covered by the virtual assistance company you’ve decided to go to for your online personal assistant.
They can take care of a number of more traditional tasks: project management or report creation, depending on your needs; some of our bests personal assistants are also trained in bookkeeping (whether it’s Quickbooks, MYOB, XERO, you name it.) or creating invoices; some of ours have been in charge of Accounts Receivable for some of our clients for years.
If you’re running a law firm, our virtual assistance services can also take care of those tedious transcripts that take so much of your time. Report creation, follow-ups on projects or clients; even training an additional virtual assistant or creating training material for your new hires can be delegated to your online personal assistant.
However, if you’re not ready for that kind of commitment yet, a virtual assistant can take over some lighter but equally time-consuming tasks, like working as a phone receptionists and checking on correspondence and voicemail, if needed. If you’re always on the go, you can redirect your incoming phone calls to your online personal assistant and they can filter out the important, must-get-to calls to you directly and handle the rest by themselves. This is actually one of the most frequent tasks they get assigned.
- Web Design/Web Maintenance
Not all of us are tech-savvy, that’s a given. Some of us are, but don’t have the time it takes to play around with how things look on a website. When your business runs on a website, you usually have paid someone to get it set up and go back to them a couple of times per year to have some updates included in the event you’re not able to get that done by yourself. You wish you could do it more often, but freelancing web design can get pricey and it’s not worth it if the only thing you need to get done is updating a photo gallery or uploading a new menu, isn’t it?
Since virtual assistance services are to cover most, if not all of your needs, most will have a good share of web experts on board. Some of them do web design, some others do web maintenance, most are savvy on both fields. Keeping Wordpress updated or making sure your online inventory is up-to-date (this is especially critical when you do sales or after Cyber Monday), uploading pictures of your new products or new content you’ve written for your site is something virtual assistants can take care of with no problem at all.
Some other more complex design task can be assigned to your online personal assistant as well, like creating submenus or a members only section on an already up and running website. Usually, outsourcing companies will provide you with a description of all services provided beforehand so you know what your virtual assistance is able to do. If what you need is not listed, don’t hesitate to ask! Those descriptions are written in the broader way possible. Surely they’ll be able to get that task done for you as well.
- Proofreading, Editing and Ghostwriting
Now, this is an interesting one. A fair share of people who often feel overwhelmed by day-to-day tasks but believe a virtual assistant is not for them may feel that way because their field is not one you will normally think when you hear the word assistant. Who are they, you might ask? Say, we’ve had writers, public speakers, activists and religious leaders on board. Yes, they get overwhelmed as well. Their job is pretty time-consuming and emotionally draining as it is; by the time they get to the day-to-day stuff they are ready to throw everything away, but they don’t. They keep going. And having an outsourcing company take care of some of those tasks can be a huge help for them.
One of our clients ran a successful website. Her work was a milestone to her community and she travelled all over the country to give public speeches. How did she manage to always have a column or a speech ready, you’d think. Well, her virtual assistant was in charge of discussing ideas with her every week; the client would draft them and her online personal assistant would polish the idea and get it all ready for the press.
She also helped to keep creating new, fresh content on her website as a ghostwriter. They seemed to click almost immediately; their affinities and abilities were in synch and they were passionate about the same issues, that’s why the client found it so easy to work with her and felt so confident delegating some of the writing to her virtual assistant. That’s why pre-screenings work so well for outsourcing companies: they are the best way to guarantee each client builds a productive and long-lasting relationship with their online personal assistant. When in place, they can make sure that your VA is the best there is for your needs.
Power players need help too. Frequent travelers, celebrities, high profile entrepreneurs have all worked with us. They may have two or three assistants working in their headquarters, but they were on a different coast or already swamped with work, so they felt the need to bring someone on board exclusively to keep things in order, the calendars updated and the flights booked.
Picking up hotels, arranging car reservations and making sure you remember your loved ones’ special dates are all tasks you can delegate to your online personal assistant. Fighting with airlines and getting easy upgrades, too. Sometimes you might be a consultant working for several companies at the time and balancing all meetings with your home life and your voluntary work might be an ordeal, but once you’ve explained your busy busy schedule to a virtual assistant they can make sure your meetings are booked in a way you can stop for lunch or grab a cup of coffee instead of running on an empty stomach all day long (friendly reminder: this is never a good choice.)
Not a power player but still overwhelmed by online calendars? We can help too! A freelancer working for different clients, each with their own project and you wanna keep everything tidy? We can run your project management platform as well! Just chat with your online personal assistant, explain to them what you need and when, and let them work their magic.
Some might be running a bicoastal business or work on freaky schedules. Good thing we’re a flexible company! We’ve had clients from all over the world and can work on all time zones. We’ve worked on Singapore time, Hawaiian time, had clients from New Zealand, Canada and Alaska, to name a few. One of our current clients is a nomad traveling back and forth from South America to the US! No one can accommodate to that, right? Guess again: we can.
- Translation/Multilingual Services
Let’s face it: this is a global era. You might be running an online store and someone’s interested in buying but they only speak French! Google Translate will only get you so far, what can you do then?
We bring up French because this is one of the main concerns our Canadian clients have discussed with us prior to acquiring our services: they work either in or for Montreal and require a virtual assistant that’s fluent in both languages. We’ve also had Brazilian clients who require an online personal assistant that speaks both Portuguese and English proficiently so they can handle commercial transactions in both markets. Entrepreneurs are usually bilingual or multilingual themselves and more and more frequently they require that the person handling their administrative support can speak more than one language as well.
Having a bilingual or multilingual virtual assistant can also help businesses who receive documents or conduct their own research in a different language. NGOs or law firms taking statements from Spanish speakers, for example, are quite concerned with making sure those documents are translated as accurately as possible. Having a bilingual staff that includes native Spanish speakers has been helpful to many clients who provide services for multicultural environments.
This is also helpful when you’re thinking of hiring someone to keep up with social media. There’s a fair chance that your audience includes a large number of Spanish speakers if you’re conducting business in the US. While you might not speak Spanish or be fluent enough to have a business-related conversation in that language, some virtual assistant services will have online personal assistants dedicated to create content in Spanish or they can assign you to someone who is fluent in both languages and can work as a liaison between you and your Spanish-speaking audience.
- Inbox Management
Most businesses have a firstname.lastname@example.org account where all kinds of requests are received. From general comments on your business to direct inquiries about a product, shipping questions or payment options, they all come to that one account that eventually will get far too scary to check, right?
While you can come up with filters that will adequately file each email based on a previously set criteria, that only guarantees they will be kept in the correct category, but you’ll soon realize that providing each inquiry with a proper response takes longer than you thought. Sometimes, the matters discussed in those emails are time-sensitive (say, they require a change of shipping address or need you to send them an invoice so they can dispute a charge on their credit card) and someone need to get back at them as soon as possible. Can you do that?
Virtual assistants excel at crafting responses that will match each inquiry. That will take some training, as all assistants do, but delegating your correspondence to an outsourcing company will free up a lot of your time and help unclot your inbox. Having someone dedicated to redirect email rather than using a filter will make sure your Finance department can get to that double-billing complaint in time for a refund, or your Dispatching department will be able to stop that package with a typo on the address before it leaves the warehouse, saving you a ton of time and your customer a lot of running around to get that present on time.
Online businesses know that an effective inbox handling technique is vital to keep things from getting crazy. Hiring an online personal assistant to take care of it is a clever choice.
- And Everything Else You Can Think Of!
Some potential clients feel discouraged when they read the list of services offered by virtual assistance companies and don’t see what they need reflected. However, as comprehensive as those lists usually are, they can’t possibly list every service currently provided by our online personal assistants. Such a list would be extremely long and can make potential clients feel lost or overwhelmed.
This top 10 aims to include broad categories of what a virtual assistant’s work can entail. Of course, each of our clients does it differently and our online personal assistants accommodate to different work styles, rhythms and timeframes.
Maybe you’re a photographer working freelance with a journalist and you’re trying to come down to a location at the same time to work on a story. Both of you have hectic schedules and find it impossible to get in touch. Hiring a virtual assistant to operate as a liaison between you is not only a smart monetary decision, but since they’ll be working to make your work partnership as easy as possible that virtual assistant will adapt to tasks needed by either of you. As peculiar as that may sound, it has happened; however, it will sound crazy to include “liaison for travelling freelancers” on our list of services. No one would believe us, except our satisfied clients.
Some others might want to hire a person to hunt electronic parts from Japan or China, which might be difficult due to language barriers and time zones. That’s a task an online personal assistant can take care of as well. All it takes is you making the decision to hire a virtual assistant to make your life easier and your business a most efficient one, giving us a call and discussing your needs with our representatives. Interested? Don’t hesitate to get in touch with us!