Did you go into business for yourself in order to be the chief cook and bottle washer? Do you really enjoy doing things like creating forms, sending emails, or following up with clients to schedule appointments? Of course you don’t. You might like some of those things but doing everything in your business gets tedious and distracts you from the money making activities.
Once your business hits a point where you are choosing between admin duties and money making activities, it’s time to get help.
The phrase “virtual assistant” gets thrown around a lot these days, but what does it mean? Siri and Alexa can’t really help with business tasks, can they? Well, yes, actually. Siri and Alexa could help you to automate certain aspects of your business but that’s not the kind of Virtual Assistant we are talking about here.
A virtual assistant, or VA, is an individual that works with service-based solopreneurs and other business owners to make our business run smoothly! VA's are useful team additions who can handle a range of tasks. The term virtual comes from the fact that they work remotely instead of at your place of business.
You may be familiar with the concept of a virtual assistant. Yet, maybe there’s so much information you aren’t sure what to believe? Seriously, there’s a LOT of information out there. Fortunately, there’s no need to fret. We are going to clear up some common misconceptions about working with virtual assistants.
Specialty: Who Uses Virtual Assistants?
Myth: VA’s Aren’t for Solopreneurs
“Who are virtual assistants for” might be one of those questions you don’t really think about. It seems obvious that VA’s are for big companies with a lot to delegate and not for solopreneurs looking to balance their duties better. This is one of those myths about working with a VA that may not immediately pop to mind.
VA’s are great at handling all sorts of tasks and can be a vital tool for businesses of all sizes! But, what can we outsource to a VA as a solopreneur? That’s easy— a repetitive task that takes away from doing what we do best, running our businesses! VA's can do jobs such as bookkeeping and research to more intricate things like blog management and content creation!
VA’s are as versatile as the roles that they can fill within our company. They are a valuable tool that may not suit every solopreneur, but certainly able to help us delegate the way we should be, so we can focus on the things that we love.
Myth: VA’s Can Only Do Administrative Work
People commonly think that VA’s are just “secretaries.” This couldn’t be further from the truth! A VA can fill any and every role, from administrative assistant to a content editor. In the spirit of the film Meet the Robinsons: “See a need, fill a need.”
At the heart of this misconception is that VA’s are generalist. The truth is: not really! VA’s are a varied group of professionals who have decided to work remotely. How great is that? They give us the opportunity to create meaningful partnerships from across the globe!
VA’s are pretty amazing people. They are the key to helping us grow our business. Chris Ducker, the author of Virtual Freedom, suggest outsourcing many things to a VA. These tasks vary from replying to emails to recruitment! It just speaks to the variety of things we can delegate to VA’s. This frees up time for us to do what we do best—be a solopreneur!
Time: How Long Do They Stay?
Myth: VA’s are a Temporary Staffing Solution
While not entirely a myth about working with VA’s, there is a common misconception that VA’s are a short-term solution. In fact, there are many instances where that can be the case! However, we cannot let this common notion color our opinion about VA’s.
When and how we decide to work with a VA is...well, up to us! VA’s can work to fill roles that long-standing (such as bookkeeping) or work on a much shorter term! It’s all about what and who you need at the time.
VA’s aren’t like traditional employees, but they can be a steady source of support to help a business grow. Whether a VA stays with our service-based solopreneurship a long time is something we determine with them.
Availability: How Do They Use Time?
Myth: VA’s are always available.
Unlike employees, who usually work set hours for one person, VA’s often have many clients at once. This doesn’t mean they don’t give us all the attention our project’s need, but it does mean that we cannot expect them to be on-call 24/7. If you want an “on call” VA, this is something you to outline in the job description.
Every VA’s hours of operation are different, and every project requires a different level of attention. Time and time management is something that VA’s are professionals at, and this is generally discussed at the start of the project. We have a great article about working with VA here that you may want to read before deciding to work with a VA.
Myth: VA’s don’t/won’t report their time correctly.
One of our most significant concerns in working with a VA is that they will misreport their time. This is a natural concern! Timekeeping is surrounded by myths and misconceptions. However, this is an easily monitored and remedied solution.
Just like with in-house employees and their timekeeping, there are tools to track time. VA’s often have their own software to track time. There are tools, like Toggl, that you can ask them to use as well. There is also some time tracking apps that take screenshots. This way you can see what they are working on during the time they’re “clocked in.”
There is a downside. Using the screen capture function may engender a sense of mistrust. Trust is the cornerstone of most successful relationships. We don’t want to jeopardize that by implying that a VA will steal or misuse their time.
Before we begin working with VA’s, it’s great to follow up on their references! This will give you a sense of other people’s experiences with this VA. After all, you’re not just paying this person to complete a task. They may have access to sensitive information, and you want to be sure you can trust them!
Myth: Having remote VA’s is difficult.
Sadly, many people think that hiring a VA that lives in another country is hugely problematic! And, if not handled correctly, they can be right in some ways. VA’s, whether in the same state or another, will always be remote and this is something they know how to do!
A good VA is excellent at two things: communication and time management! Those two skills, along with artful delegation and clear instruction make working across the world possible! Most of your communication will occur over the web!
Yes, using VA’s of different cultural backgrounds may have some difficulties. However, the key to success is pretty straightforward—communicate! Not being afraid to speak openly is the best practice.
Training/ On-Boarding: What Do They Know?
Myth: VA’s Don’t Need Training
One of the most pervasive myths about working with VA’s is that they don’t need any training! However, if you step back and look at it, it quickly becomes clear that this isn’t the truth! Virtual assistants possess vast and varied skills. Otherwise, we wouldn’t hire them for our projects, right? Yes!
We wouldn’t hire a new bookkeeper, show her to her office and expect her to know the comings and goings of the entire office, would we? Just like our in-house staff, VA’s need onboarding and training in office procedures. Not all processes are created equal and its vital that you communicate the right way to do things to avoid disappointment.
Myth: All VA’s are created equal.
VA’s come at all levels and qualities! Don’t be sucked into thinking that all VA’s are great (or not so great)! Just like when hunting for the perfect in-house employee, you want a quality candidate. VA’s come in at all levels of expertise and it’s important we know what we want before we start working with a VA.
VA’s are not magicians, although some can do a bit of magic. Before you work with a VA, it’s important to properly screen and make sure they are a fit. Mary Baird-Wilcock of The Simplifiers suggests some great tips on finding your first VA. Be sure you’re ready and that they want to see you succeed as much as they want to succeed.
Industry Experience and Systems: Do They Know the Industry? Do They Know Our Tools?
Myth: VA’s Should Understand My Business
VA’s bring a high level of expertise to a task. Unfortunately, it’s common to think that VA’s should know all about your business if they are going to work on a project with you. This is not necessarily the case because of the nature of their role. We wouldn’t expect a TV repairman to know this entire history of a specific network you like. However, we do expect him to know how to fix a TV.
VA’s are a lot like the TV repairman. We bring them on board to complete a specific task. They don’t need to know about how much we love the movies on the Syfy channel to do it. That’s not to sell VA’s short. We may hire a VA to do content writing for us, and they happen to have experience in our field.
Happy coincidences happen all the time! It is essential to understand that VA’s don’t need to know all the inner workings of the business to be a vital and productive part of our team.
Myth: VA’s will know how to use all the systems I have in my business.
It is not too far-fetched to expect a VA hired for bookkeeping to know how to use Quickbooks. That is a fair assumption. Unfortunately, it is often not the case that a VA hired for bookkeeping will know all the systems that our particular business uses and that’s okay!
As mentioned in earlier, VA’s may need some training, and software and systems are one of those sticky points to keep in mind. It is entirely understandable to expect a VA to know the Microsoft Office Suite, but it’s unfair to think they’ll know and have access to proprietary software your company may have.
Systems aren’t limited to the software we use either! Systems can mean the way in which we decide to do things, and this is something that you’ll need to provide guidance on for the VA.
Data Security/ Confidential Information: Are They Trustworthy?
Myth: VA’s Can Steal My Confidential Information
One of the most common myths about working with virtual assistants is that your confidential information is at risk. This is an entirely reasonable concern! After all, we’re sharing personal details, trade secrets and passwords with a person you may never meet. While we can’t guarantee that your data is entirely safe, there are steps you can take to keep yourself and your data safe.
Data security is super important and should be a priority with or without the use of a VA. Before we begin working with anyone, we should have a good set of security policies in place! The best practices start at home after all, right?
One of the top things that we can do is make sure that everyone has their own logins, that way information sharing is easily traceable. Owen Enaohwo at Hire Your Own Virtual Assistants has a list of easy to follow best practices here.
The last thing we will want to do is to get a good Non-Disclosure Agreement in place! A Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) is a legal document that says your industry secrets cannot be shared. This is a document that legally keeps us safe, and many VA’s are happy to sign them.
I hope this article has clarified some of the myths about working with VA’s. They can be a great resource when we build our businesses and should be thoroughly understood. VA’s can help us grow our business by maximizing our time.
VA’s are great at what they do! So, do you think you’re ready to work with a VA? Check out our article on what it is like to work with a VA here!
Remember the key take away points:
- VA’s can fill several roles and contexts
- VA’s can be flexible members of your teams
- VA’s can help build your business as a service-based solopreneur
So cast away those misconceptions about work with VA’s and start maximizing your time!