Despite bold visions and big plans, it's all too easy for entrepreneurs to become bogged down by the mundane tasks involved in building a successful enterprise. Even when you put in long hours and personal sacrifice, it can be a struggle to get everything done. This is often the turning point that determines the success or failure of a start-up venture. Will you adapt and delegate effectively, or will you burn out as a one-person show?
In any company, there are a few critical tasks which can't be ignored but can distract entrepreneurs from the work they do best. This is especially true for small companies or start-ups who are not ready to hire full-time support staff.
A virtual assistant (VA) can come to the rescue. It's becoming common to hire an individual who works on your behalf from a remote location, taking care of the crucial tasks that could easily be done more efficiently by someone else, leaving you free to do higher-level work.
A virtual assistant can handle everything from answering emails to developing your marketing strategy. Here's why it's time to consider hiring one of your own.
You know you need help, but you're not ready to hire a full-time administrative employee. There's a great degree of flexibility with virtual assistants which makes hiring a possibility for business owners. Establish what you can afford to pay, then find a professional who will work within those parameters. You don't have to pay benefits or get locked into a long-term contract. They can work on their own time, or establish a routine which works well with your office hours and schedule.
Maybe you need more basic or specific help, such as a receptionist or someone to update Excel files. Perhaps you would benefit from higher-level support, such as a virtual business manager capable of creating the processes and forms that your growing company needs. VAs can also be personal assistants, managing a mix of business and personal tasks. Whatever support you need, there's a virtual assistant who can help.
It's a 24/7 world, and in business, two of the most time-sensitive tasks are responding to customer communications and handling your social media presence. It's critical to devote the resources necessary to stay on top of both. If a customer reaches out to you either by email or in a post on your company's social media page, you need to respond immediately, not when it comes to your attention a week later. Having a person dedicated to serving as the social media eyes and ears of your company can help you protect your brand and stay responsive to your client base.
Some VAs have specific areas of expertise such as marketing, writing, social media, HR functions or bookkeeping. When hiring a VA, whether through an agency or on an individual basis, do so with an understanding of the experience and abilities you need most to ensure you get a good fit. Be realistic; while you may get lucky with someone who can do it all, it's not likely you'll find one person to do the job of several people, crafting emails, basic administrative tasks, developing engaging online content and managing your books.
Small business owners are (understandably) used to doing everything themselves, though this strategy wears thin when you're putting in 100-hour work weeks. Working with a VA lets you exercise your delegating muscles, a talent that will serve you well as your business grows. Start by developing a thorough job description. The clearer you can state your needs, the more successful the experience will be for both of you. Like anything else, you get out what you put in, so it will require an initial investment of time, thought and training to hand work over. However, this up-front investment will provide more freedom to do the things that only you can do.
You may start a VA with tasks like data entry, managing your email inbox or making travel arrangements, but as they succeed in those tasks, they may be ready to take on more responsibility. This is a great way to test-drive support staff and identify people who can develop into key players for your business.