According to a 2004 study, the Center for Women’s Business Research reports there are an estimated 10.6 million privately-held, 50% or more women-owned firms in the U.S., accounting for nearly half (47.7%) of all privately-held firms in the country. Astonishing, isn’t it? No longer are we sitting behind the desk taking orders. We are aspiring to be leaders. We are teaching our children that no dream is beyond their reach. We embraced the future and welcomed all the challenges of the new technology. The advent of the Internet was but a beginning to a world of hope and opportunity. We seized the challenge and we never plan on letting it go. The more we learn the more eager we are for more.
As Lesley Spencer, founder of Home-Based Working Moms, states, “Working at home has become a popular choice for moms in the millennium. Not only does a home business give moms the opportunity to be at home with their children and earn additional income; it also gives stay-at-home parents a new sense of accomplishment and self-worth. Working from home enables parents to gain more self-respect while taking charge of their future.”
What is a virtual assistant?
According to Diana Ennen and Kelly Poelker, authors of Virtual Assistant – The Series, a virtual assistant, or VA, is a highly skilled professional who provides administrative support and other specialized services to businesses, entrepreneurs, executives, sales professionals, and others who have more work to do than time to do it .
VAs work as independent contractors, most from their own home, some from outside the home. VAs use leading edge technology to communicate work assignments via the Internet, e-mail, disk transfer or such traditional methods as regular mail, overnight shipping, and even pick-up and delivery in local areas. A VA’s services typically include Internet research, word processing, medical or legal transcription, database management, e-mail handling, reminder service, bulk mailings, information processing, and any other tasks typically given to the office secretary. Many VAs also provide web development, design and maintenance; meeting and event planning; desktop publishing; bookkeeping; and business start-up consultations. The services are endless, depending upon the VA’s knowledge, skills and creativity.
When comparing the role of a secretary to that of a virtual assistant, you will see similarities. However, the two can differ greatly. A secretary is thought to always be at the beck and call of their boss to administer such tasks as handling correspondence, maintaining files, fetching coffee, etc. It took many years for secretaries to begin getting the recognition they deserved as assistants to executives and other levels of management. As time goes on, more and more assistants are developing their skills, allowing them to become vital and trusted members of the business team. A virtual assistant working remotely doesn’t allow the boss the luxury of having someone at his beck and call or to get his coffee, but they can become a vital part of the business team if the VA manages their business and the client relationship properly.
Benefits to clients
The benefits to your clients are numerous, as a good VA can actually make or break a business. You will be instrumental in your clients’ marketing and promotional work and also in keeping their office running smoothly and effectively. Many clients realize that they are spending too much time taking care of busy work that they can’t bill clients for, but that still needs to be done, such as scheduling trips, planning meetings, researching the Internet for information, tracking expenses, paying bills and taxes, balancing the books, maintaining files, screening calls, and answering e-mails. A VA can save the clients’ time because they will be spending less time doing that work and more time growing their business, having quality time with their family, or just plain relaxing. It’s important for you to realize these benefits so that when asked, you can outline these benefits to your clients.
Scott Stratten is a speaker, trainer, and coach who encourages the use of VAs to his clients, in addition to utilizing his own VA. Scott had this to share with us. “It amazes me when I talk to some clients about hiring a VA to help ease their stress and time management issues. They usually throw up the wall of ‘can’t afford it’ or ‘I don’t have time to find one’. In reality, those are the reasons WHY YOU NEED ONE! I teach people to value their time and delegate tasks that aren’t crucial to be a part of. If they have too much on their plate, they need a VA to sit at the table with them and help clear it or they’ll never finish.” Scott is the President of Un-Marketing and Work Your Life.
Additionally, your clients can escape the hidden costs of having an employee, such as payroll taxes, sick time, chatting around the water cooler time, down time, and breaks. Since all VAs have their own office, clients don’t have to pay for additional office equipment, computers or software. Also, clients no longer have to pay vacation time, holiday pay, and expensive benefit packages.