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How to find and use a Virtual Assistant to get ahead

2 February 2011 27 CommentsBy Sarah Shaw

So last weeks post inspired me.  I loved hearing what people disliked doing in their business and how they handled it.  The #1 way to handle their "icky tasks" was to outsource them…….which lead me to this post.  It seemed to me that almost everyone was using a Virtual Assistant (VA) to help with the things they disliked as well as things that are best left to an assistant.  VA's are a great choice for more than just the "having an assistant part" – you pay them on a 1099 as contract labor, instead of a W2, so you avoid payroll taxes making your dollars go further and their employment time longer!  Win win for both parties.

Beside the tax benefits, (of course) are the benefits of having more time to concentrate on the things that only you can do in your business that bring in the money!  I reached out to my experts to find out how they use their VA's and where they found them so you can bring one on board to help you out this year. 

If you are not sure what an assistant can do for you…….make a list of all the things you do each day for a week and then put the things that ONLY you can do in one column and try to outsource the rest!

1. Communicate, Communicate!!

My VA rocks because: VA's can be a life saver, but it is important to remember that no one knows your business like you do. For example, when I explained how to book podcast guests, they had no idea how to do it, though I thought I had been specific. They needed step by step instructions and BACK UP PLANS if they ran into issues. I found VA's through social networking online, but be sure that they can provide references and also, if they aren't responsive to your inquiries, they won't be to your needs, either!
Thanks to: Angela McKeller of Kick Back and Kook!.

2. VA's never call in sick

My VA rocks because: Thanx to my VA - my 1-888# - I never miss an important call and never take one that I don't want to take. When anyone calls my 888# they must first announce their name, then press 1 for the system to find me (anywhere in North America) or press 2 to leave me a message. If I'm on the phone or in a meeting I simply hit 2 and the call is automatically sent to VM. I also get notified of calls and messages via email. I use "Vlink" from a company named UCN. Live With Intention, Dr Bill Toth
Thanks to: Dr Bill Toth of CreateYourFate.

3. Outsourced Secretary

My VA rocks because: I spend a great deal of time with my VAs scheduling work appointments for my business. When a lead comes in, they handle the scheduling using a Google Voice number. This then populates on my calendar and I have my whole day set up without interfering with my workday, especially while driving. My VA came highly recommended from a friend and I don't know how I worked without her. It also adds professionalism to a local business. Highly recommend a VA for scheduling appointments.
Thanks to: Tony Adams of Dallas Chimney Sweep.

4. VAs - Better than AMEX Black

My VA rocks because: I will use my VAs to do anything, at times they are more like a concierge service than executive assistants. I have them do anything from booking my meetings and screening my calls to making dinner reservations or booking flights & hotel rooms.

They handle pretty much anything I throw at them (I'm lucky) and it really frees me up to concentrate on my clients.

I found all my VA's using Elance.com, it's easier to see their reviews and is great for interviewing and vetting prospective VAs.
Thanks to: Obi Orgnot of OrgNot Ltd..

5. My VA does it all!

My VA rocks because: In addition to uploading my Word doc to HTML for each newsletter, Val--my VA--takes registrations for all my offerings, sets up blasts via Infusionsoft.com (like Constant Contact, only more powerful), called up to find out my CT tax registration number today, sent out my 1099's, suggests cool ideas for subject lines in my marketing pieces and pretty much keeps me sane from a thousand miles away.
Thanks to: Jane Pollak of Jane Pollak, LLC.

6. Trust but Verify!

My VA rocks because: I use 3 steps when working with my assistants 1. I create a written document that explains the who, what, when, where, why, and the deadline. 2. Next, I'll schedule some one-on-one training to help her understand how I like things done and to give her the opportunity to ask questions. 3. After training, I trust that she's doing the work as I asked, but I verify by checking her work, asking for a draft, and limiting her time. Once I see that she gets it, she's free to run with the project!
Thanks to: Angela Mattson of Mattson Business Services, Inc..

7. V.A.=Not being S.O.L.

My VA rocks because: I found my VA thru inside919.com (part of insideareacodes.com) She specializes in social media/SEO so that I don't worry about Facebook etc. becoming a timesuck, learning the latest thing, or being #1 in search - she does that for me so I can focus on my work. She gets things done faster than you expect her to. My ethics are just as important to her as hers, and she's a 'cheerleader,' so I know she's really got my back beyond just thanking me for my business. My success is personal for her.
Thanks to: Michelle Gower of GOWER POWER!.

8. Check the Mail

My VA rocks because: As simple as this is, it's genius because most people waste a ton of time on email and one very useful thing VAs can do is screen for worthwhile emails to answer, otherwise the VA can answer for you without anyone knowing. It saves a lot of time with menial back and forth, but very much increases your efficiency.
Thanks to: Danny Wong of Custom Dress Shirt | TT.

9. She Works Hard For The Money

My VA rocks because: A virtual assistant is a valuable resource you MUST tap into. Knowledgeable, multi-tasking, efficient, and affordable! My VA does research, transcribing, compiling information, and pretty much ANYTHING that supports my organization. I found her at O'Desk and I am glad! Here are 3 tips:
-Phone or Skype interview
-Ask for a sample of the work you need done
-Set up a schedule for constant communication
Delegating odd tasks to my VA accelerates my success and frees up time for what matters most!
Thanks to: Elayna Fernandez of The Positive Mom Foundation.

10. My Company in The Cloud

My VA rocks because: When I started my business, I did it all. But today I have 3 virtual assistants managing key areas of my day-to-day tasks such as administration, customer service, and social media. Even though they're virtual, I found them the traditional way---through real-time relationships with people I trust. Our office is what I like to call "My Company in The Cloud," where we leverage online tools such email for daily communication, Dropbox for sharing files and virtual conferencing to stay connected.
Thanks to: Theresa Valade of Success Trek.

11. Gives Me A 48 Hour Day

My VA rocks because: I've been using a VA for about 3 years. In fact my current operations and business development manager started out as a VA! Now I work with more than one "VA". My VA, who I don't call a VA but have clear titles and roles, really gives me 48 hours in a 24 hour day. Without my VA I could not grow my business as much as it has grown. From a national tour, to more events and more content...they enable me to do more!
Thanks to: Ramon Ray of Smallbiztechnology.

12. Focus on what really matters!

My VA rocks because: Focus only on what really matters; outsource the rest! To achieve this goal, spend the time and effort in the beginning to create systems for all the work that you need to hand over to your virtual assistant. Think of the time you spend to properly delegate the work as an investment because any free time you gain means more time for you to focus on why you love your business and the income producing activities that keeps you in business.
Thanks to: Owen McGab Enaohwo of H.Y.V.A.™.

13. Your VA can help you focus on.

My VA rocks because: My tip is to utilize your VA to handle the logistics and administrative side of your business. This will allow you to focus on growing your business. It takes "face time" so to speak, to grow your business. That means new clients will want to talk and meet with you. It's therefore a good idea to hire a VA you can trust to handle a lot of the day to day. It has truly worked for me and I found several of my team members on freelance sites like Guru.com. I advise everyone to hire a great VA today!
Thanks to: Shilonda Downing of Virtual Work Team LLC.

14. Lots of High-Fives

My VA rocks because: I've never met my VA's, but they feel like a part of my family. I have gotten to know them and all about their little girl. Getting to know your VAs on more than just a "what can you do for me" basis is wonderful, but my tip is to give public high-fives and thanks when your team does something great. I've friended my VAs on Facebook, and when they do something wonderful for me, I post about it thanking them and acknowledging their wonderful support. It boils down to this: celebrate success.
Thanks to: Katherine C.H.E. of iaLOAp (Law of Attraction Assn).

15. Fulfilling virtual needs

My VA rocks because: The best way to find a VA is to visit one of several networks (Canadian Virtual Assistants Connection (CVAC), International Virtual Assistants Association (IVAA), and VA Networking to name just a few). Customers submit an RFP, which is posted to a secure section of the VA network websites, we receive an email blast alerting us to the opportunity, and depending on how the customer set up the RFP, we can either respond through the networking channel or directly to the customer.
Thanks to: Phyllis Harber-Murphy of More Than 9 2 5 Virtual Assistance.

16. Hire well & communicate often

My VA rocks because: I have many VAs, all skillfully doing things that are not the best use of my time or not my area of expertise - from customer service and bookkeeping to online marketing and editing.

I have 100s of VAs in my database that I found online and thru referrals. I figure out what type of person will be most successful in the roles and I screen/hire well. I communicate my desired outcomes as clear as I can, and give feedback often so they know what I like and so over time I'm not needed as much.
Thanks to: Katie Gutierrez Miller of Assistant Match.

17. Know What You Need & Network

My VA rocks because: It's easier to find the perfect VA if you have a clear vision of WHAT and WHY you want one. Feeling overwhelmed with some tasks because I either disliked or lacked the knowledge to do them, I identified I needed someone who knew WordPress, AWeber, 1Shopping Cart, had writing skills and would help be a task-master for me. It seemed like a big order to fill, but I found my VA on my 2nd phone call after networking with friends because they knew exactly what I wanted and who could fill that need.
Thanks to: Jennifer Leake of Consultants Gold, Inc..

18. Lost in cyberspace?

My VA rocks because: I am a professional organizer. My VA built my website and has a blog site for professional organizers' articles. She e-mails me HARO requests that suit my expertise. She provides me with many opportunities to advertise my business. Hire a VA to help with all your on-line and social networking writing. What takes me an hour to figure out they have posted and beautifully written in minutes. I found Janet Barclay on the Golden Horseshoe Virtual Assistants Group blog ghva.ca/blog
Thanks to: Julie Stobbe of Mind over Clutter.

19. Nitty Gritty Bottleneck Solver

My VA rocks because: My VA handles all the nitty gritty hands on work that I hate to do, updating the mailing list, posting blog entries, updating Wordpress and my site, handling the shopping cart, putting out social media posts, helping with my newsletter, ebooks and teleseminars. I found her through references. Here's a tip: When you do face-to-face networking, scan all the business cards on your flatbed scanner and send the scan to your VA. Let her enter them into your maillist. Solved my biggest bottleneck.
Thanks to: Jeri Quinn of Driving IR.

20. Facebook, Twitter and Blogging

My VA rocks because: Hi,

I stumbled upon my VA service (Rent A Smile) through a promotion that Tim Ferriss did for his new book. They had some sort of a deal I guess. Since then I've used Rent A Smile for a number of different business tasks. My one constant ask of them is to manage my social media for me - responding to tweets and facebook fan posts as well as blogging about my business. My dedicated assistant at Rent A Smile does this quite well.
Thanks to: Mike Holland.

21. Show EXACTLY how to do tasks.

My VA rocks because: I found my VA via Facebook. He helps me with marketing, specifically social bookmarking, submitting articles & press releases, and much more. For each new task, which will be repeated from time to time, I either record my screen and go through the process myself, then send them a link to the recording, or go through and create a step-by-step checklist document with screen shots at each step. This way there is no confusion and he sees exactly what I want. I use Camtasia for the videos.
Thanks to: David Wright of W 3 Group.



  • Kenny said:

    Great uses of virtual assistants.

    I have had a couple over the last couple of years. I have found them through online outsourcing marketplaces. For example, the top 3 I use are on this list: http://www.essistme.com/?outsourcing

    The key is to be as specific as possible, set time limits for tasks when they give updates if they haven’t completed a project and give feedback on each completed task to better align expectations between you two.

    I love VA’s so much I now teach people how to find them and walk through one task assignment with coaching clients to get them going. Now that is a win-win-win scenario!

    Big Click Syndicate LLC

  • Goosie Girl Boutique · Looking for a virtual assistant said:

    [...] about virtual assistants. I’m intrigued by this idea. I just finished reading a great blog by Sarah Shaw, of Entreprenette She always has the greatest, and timely blogs! I’ve looked into a few services online that [...]

  • Dr. Barnsley Brown said:

    This is a jamming post! Thanks for all the ideas! I have taken careful notes–I am still looking for the right V.A. (Have let go of several…)
    Dr. Barnsley Brown
    President, Spirited-Solutions Professional Speaking & Coaching

  • BeverlyD said:

    Amen to all of you. I love the preciseness of tasks performed and the billing of my Virtual assistant. http://www.TeamDoubleClick.com is the company I use and if you should use them tell them I referred you as I think I get something for the referral. CIAO! Go Pack GO!

  • Kathy Stinson said:

    I’ve enjoyed the services of a great VA for several years now (Janet Barclay of Organized Assistant, the same VA that Julie in #18 has working for her). Janet is as indispensible to the upkeep of the business side of my writing career as my cleaning lady is to the upkeep of my home. It’s hard to imagine now how I ever got along without my “Organized Assistant”s.

  • Shelley Graves said:

    This is a really great post! I’m excited to see so many business owners taking advantage of all that we have to offer. I recently wrote a post on the benefits of partnering with a virtual assistant. Check it out: http://www.capitolbizsupport.com/5Reasons

  • Darrell Williams said:

    As a Virtual Assistant myself, it is great to hear how our industry is helping and growing other businesses. If you don’t have a VA yet, get one! There are thousands of us out there, both in North America and abroad.

  • Ms. Virtual Assistant said:

    Nice post! This is really informative. Hiring virtual assistant is indeed a good decision. Needless to say that they are now becoming a necessity for business industry.

  • Jody said:

    What a great article! It’s nice to see the many examples of what a VA can do for entrepreneurs and small businesses. I love being a VA and can’t see myself doing anything else!

  • Using a Virtual Assistant in Your Business | Support 4 Gurus Blog said:

    [...] How to find and use a Virtual Assistant to get ahead – The … [...]

  • Karen at PaperFancy.com said:

    I have a really dumb question: what is a virtual assistant anyway??

  • V.Prasad said:

    Hey, That was a good post, I like it. I also found some intresting posts about virtual assistant services at http://adaywithvirtualassistan-flex-m.blogspot.com

  • virtual assistant said:

    Hey, that was a good and interesting post

  • Marnie said:

    Hey, Karen — A VA is like a personal assistant except online vs. in your own office. Because of the lack of face-to-face involvement, it becomes far more vital to specify tasks and establish good accountability systems. Having said all this, I have VAs, from around the world, and love them all! Marnie

  • Free Referrals said:

    Good information here =)

  • Shermaine said:

    I love this idea. Especially since I have a business and still work a 9-5. sometimes juggling both makes things slip through the cracks.

    I will definitely check into this!


  • Vanessa said:

    I just wanted to piggy back on what some of the others have said. I am a strong advocate for Virtual Assistants. I was a little hesitant at first but now I can’t imagine not having one. I used http://www.thevirtualassistantschool.com and http://www.georgiavirtualassistants.com to build my Virtual Assistant team. If you haven’t tried a VA and you’re a small business owner, I strongly encourage it. But just like with anything else, be careful because not every VA is created equally.

  • grainne foley said:

    Great post Sarah. I run a Virtual Placement Agency so I’m obviously a huge believer in clients outsourcing their business support needs to a VA. However it is important to find the right VA for your business and delegate effectively in order for the relationship to work from the start.

    I find that sometimes I have to spend a little extra time convincing clients that are not yet sold on the idea of using a VA, this article should help with that.

    Thanks so much.

  • Stephanie said:

    Awesome post Sarah – As a Administrative Specialist/VA myself it is always my pleasure to help ideal busy entrepreneurs.

  • Mack said:

    Wonderful Article Indeed, It’s helped me a lot to understand the concept, I do know the company who offer a lots of services and i am using it.

  • Administrative Assistant Services said:

    Very Helpful Post.Good description on how to use a virtual assistant

  • Free Referrals said:

    Amazing article. I will be coming back for more.

  • Romel Spielberg said:

    When is the right time to outsource a virtual assistant? 

  • Sarah Shaw (author) said:

    As soon as you have the money……the more times you can spend on sales and marketing and designing…….the better.

  • How to Find a VA That Rocks | Golden Horseshoe Virtual Assistants Group ~ Our Blog said:

    […] Shaw of The Entreprenette Gazette recently asked a number of business owners what their virtual assistants do for them and how they […]

  • Ennovation - Virtual Assistant said:

    Thanks Shaw for your valuable suggestion.

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