What is a PA?

personal assistant

(noun ~ a secretary or administrative assistant working exclusively for one particular person.)

What does that mean in the modern age?

The statistics for the modern version of a PA are quite interesting, it is said that by 2018 online (or virtual) work will be a £3 billion global market, (statistic by Staffing Industry Analysts). Already there are 1.7 million self-employed freelancers which account for around 4 % of the total workforce populace.

The term virtual assistant (VA or Virtual PA) is just one example of these freelances. In general they are self-employed and provide administrative, technical, or creative (social media) assistance to clients remotely from their own home although in actual fact the list can be endless although this depends on the persons’ qualifications and experience!

Because VAs are sub-contractors rather than employees, there is no responsibility for any employee-related administration e.g. taxes, insurance or benefits. Although it should be noted that in most cases those indirect expenses are included in the fee structure. You also avoid the added problem of providing office space, equipment or supplies for another person. VAs usually work for a portfolio of clients but can work exclusively for busy executives, it really is dependent on the individual relationships set up.

From a personal perspective this means increased levels of flexibility and a better work-life balance as well as not having the daily commute. Danielle decided to set up Spinning Plates for that very reason “I was stuck between a 50-hour a week career role that I loved and a family I didn’t see enough. I wanted to make a change that allowed me to see my family more, keep our lives ticking over but also fulfilled my career ambitions. Starting my own business seemed to tick all of those boxes and as a virtual assistant it has the added benefit of allowing me to help people every day and make their lives better,”

Generally communication is carried out via the Internet, e-mail and phone conferences (such as Skype). Working as a VA is generally on a contractual basis and a long-lasting arrangement helps to build trust without which it is hard to work together effectively. The background of virtual assistants is varied but generally most have several years’ experience in the actual business world.

Recently VAs have become a lot more mainstream and more ‘normal’, it is now possible to have a Virtual Assistant who can answer your phone remotely without the end user’s knowledge that the call has been ‘bounced’. Systems like this are key to businesses maintaining the personal touch without the additional cost of hiring someone. As the industry develops and changes the type of people attracted to the VA profession has changed as well. Because of that there is always bound to be someone out there who you would feel comfortable working with.

 Why do I need a VA?

Small business owners, entrepreneurs or busy executives can use virtual assistants for anything- from returning calls to sending out thank you card; from database creation to event organisation. Because every VA is different it’s important you find someone you tryst and are comfortable working with, as you would with an average employee. “They become a team member who just happens to work remotely,” Jaleh Bisharat, vice president of marketing at oDesk.com says.

Here’s 10 example ways you can use a virtual assistant to improve your business:

Bookkeeping: Helping you keep track of the numbers is a key and basic task that a VA can do- often this is a job that most people dislike and therefore put off. Handing over your receipts on a weekly basis to your VA can take a lot of this pain away!

Online research: Research can be one of the most time consuming parts of business- you know you need to find the information, the cheapest option, the best venue but the searching and information sourcing can take valuable time away and lead you to make fast decisions that you may later regret. Letting someone else do this for you can mean that you have the space and time to make informed decisions.

Database entries: Databases are key for many areas of business- keeping up to date with your customers, having a communication database for client updates, understanding your customer profile. However, often, transferring this information from client cards or disperate sources is overlooked. A VA can pull this data together and help make sense of it as well as helping you use the resulting information effectively.

Data presentations: There are many reasons you might need to give a presentation- either formally or informally and although you have the content in your head you might not have the skills or time to put that on paper. Let a VA help structure and form these reports- however you want.

Managing email: Responding to emails and getting back to your customers in a timely fashion is key to great customer service. However, if you’re busy actually working all day long being responsive is not as each as it sounds. Giving a VA access to your emails and calendar can mean maintaining that personal touch and the all important service levels for the customer.

Social tasks: Social Media is intimidating for a lot of businesses, they know how key it is but they simply don’t have time to keep it up to date in a way that is meaningful and effective. The beauty of a virtual assistant is that they can flexibly source and schedule your social media updates so that your customers see the best side of your across all platforms

Travel research/booking: Sorting out travel arrangements is one of the most basic and traditional PA tasks and that doesn’t have to change in the virtual world. Let a VA take the hassle out of finding flights, hotels and arranging currency.

Scheduling: Sharing your calendar with a VA means that someone else can arrange appointments, liase with customers and even remind you of important events- all whilst you are still working at full capacity. This is great for people who are naturally disorganised or have a full diary.

Business advice: Sometimes tasks such benchmarking prices or formulating marketing plans are put aside in favour of the day to day business. These tasks are key to creating a healthy brand and business so a VA can help do some of these tasks and build towards your overall business goals.

Marketing: As well as social media the more traditional forms of marketing should not be neglected. From creating and managing email marketing campaigns, to proof reading and printing fliers it is key that a VA ensures that all angels are covered and can easily take on responsibility for tasks such as this.

So why do I do this?

help

(verb ~ to make it easier or possible for (someone) to do something by offering them one’s services or resources.)

I feel really passionately about helping small to medium businesses make the most of their time, therefore allowing them to concentrate on growth and profit. There are so many businesses out there which started as a result of someone’s passion of hobby moving into the mainstream and growing without any real thought or guidance. In situations like this there is key role for the VA in doing a lot of the administrative tasks that accompany a business but that the business owner many not be able to do.

As well as this there’s a real need in this modern world for people to help the time poor, full time workers make the most of their time. In the most traditional sense of the personal assistant word helping others’ to complete domestic tasks such as errand running or selling items on eBay can really take a weight off your shoulders.

Have a look at my website to find out what I do and how I can help you.