By Mark Swartz
Monster Contributing Writer
You need an extra hand when you run a small business. Someone to make a few sales calls. And order supplies that run low. Or do your weekly bookkeeping.
But what if you can’t afford to hire, equip and create space for a full-time employee yet? Consider retaining a Virtual Assistant (VA) instead.
With a VA, you can go back to focusing on your core pursuits. Leave the other stuff to these outsourced office professionals.
The Lowdown On Virtual Assistants
A VA is an independent contractor who helps small businesses with their overflow. VAs work from their own offices (frequently home-based). They can help with many tasks that are usually handled by an in-house employee.
According to the Canadian Association of Virtual Assistants (CAVA), VAs enable small business owners to get the aid they need with administrative tasks while concentrating on generating revenue.
Where To Find A VA
CAVA offers a free search feature to find a Virtual Assistant. Type in the services you’re looking for, and you’ll get a list of appropriate Vas. Or you can post an RFP there and let the members bid for your services.
A new offering from CAVA is pre-screened VAs. CAVA knows that reading through proposals and quotations takes time. With their screening service, you provide your criteria and they’ll submit an RFP on your behalf, screen the candidates to make sure they meet your criteria, and even check references. It’s available for a modest fee.
You can also use a search engine to locate a VA. Type in “virtual assistant” as your keywords. Include an area of specialty, or a particular locale, if you want to narrow the results.
Services That VAs Provide
From data entry to event planning, live phone support to schedule management, there are VAs available. Here is a sampling of services provided:
- Accounting / bookkeeping
- Advertising assistance
- Article drafting and submission
- Customer service support
- Database creation / management
- Desktop publishing, graphic design, presentation creation
- Internet and market research
- Meeting planning
- Public relations
- Social media updating and SEO
- Transcription and word processing
- Travel planning and booking
How Much Do They Cost?
The benefit of a VA is they get your tasks done without you having the overhead of an actual employee. So you’d expect a Virtual Assistant to be affordable.
In fact, rates vary considerably. You can contract a VA on an hourly basis, by the week or month (longer if needed), or by project.
Some firms are cropping up that act as personnel agencies for VAs. These companies provide guarantees of performance, but may charge a higher tariff. It’s common for them to offer package rates based on a maximum number of useable hours per week or month.
Temporary Staff And Contract Workers Versus VAs
There is some overlap between the terms “temp,” “contractor” and “Virtual Assistant.” Temps tend to be temporary staff you retain through a placement agency or personnel firm. The temp normally works at your company’s premises. He or she is paid by the staffing firm that represents them.
A “contract worker” is someone you hire directly. They may be treated like an employee – you give them temporary space, equipment, even a job title – or you might have them do project work remotely, using their own space and tools.
Virtual Assistants are a form of independent contractor you almost never meet in person. More often than not they perform administrative tasks and do so remotely.
It’s A Virtual World
Small and home-based businesses need reliable support while not yet able to hire a permanent employee. Even a single-person operation can use an extra hand.
Virtual Assistants are a just-in-time resource you should know about. Try one for a small assignment and see if they balance your load. Later, make sure to contact us at Monster.ca when you’re ready to hire your first employee!
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