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Kick Your Business Back into Shape with a Virtual Assistant

Thursday 1 January 1970, 00:00
By Mandy Cochrane

Mandy Cochrane is the Office ElfThat pile of paperwork you keep glancing at - it won't go away, you know. It'll still be there tomorrow, just the same. As a matter of fact, I lie - it'll be bigger.

Oh, and remember that client who phoned last week? You haven't called back yet. He'll go somewhere else...

And one last thing...the Tax Return you keep putting to the bottom of the pile (yes, I know it's there), well, it's getting pretty close to the deadline now - gonna incur a fine if you don't sort it out soon...

I'm sorry.

I hate to remind you of all the things you're not doing with your business, but should be. Well, actually...that's not quite true. You see, I'm a Virtual Office Assistant and that's my job. It kind of goes with the territory to keep you organised and have your business running smoothly.

So, instead of laying even more stress at your door, why don't I give you a few good reasons to stop trying to do it all yourself and hire the services of a Virtual Assistant... Virtual Secretary... call them what you will - they're the way forward for small to medium-sized businesses and they're just dying to get you sorted out!

This will make you sit up straighter - a Virtual Assistant will save you money!

It's true. A Virtual Assistant will work with you when you need it. So you're not paying an employee to sit around your office twiddling their thumbs when the workload eases up a little. Most Virtual Assistants (VAs) will happily undertake specific tasks and they understand that it's their flexibility which makes their services such a viable alternative to a permanent employee.

A Virtual Assistant isn't employed by you, so they don't get holiday pay, sickness pay, paid lunch hours or coffee breaks. And you don't need to spend time and money training them as they already come with a wide variety of skills, some of them very specialised. You don't need to spend a small fortune equipping your office, either - most Virtual Assistants work from home and have an arsenal of technology to rival Microsoft at their fingertips.

Almost as precious a commodity as money, is time. Your time. The time you should be spending doing whatever it is you do that generates a profit but don't, because that pile of sticky notes littering your office contains hours of mundane chores still waiting to be done.

The solution is to delegate all these time-consuming tasks to a Virtual Assistant. They will diligently and efficiently work through the jobs you have entrusted to them, and probably quicker than you could have done - it's no slur on you, it's just what they do! And, hey presto, suddenly you find that you are getting on with the important things - things that make your business money.

If saving you money and time was not a big enough incentive to hire the office services of a professional Virtual Assistant, how about this? When you employ a permanent member of staff, there's all the associated paperwork that goes with it: preparing payslips every month; filing records with HMRC for income tax and National Insurance; contracts of employment, employment policies, checks for Health and Safety in the Workplace. The list goes on: you may need to offer pension arrangements; and what if your secretary gets pregnant? Well, of course - congratulations, but then you find yourself trying to understand all the ins and outs Statutory Maternity Pay. What if she falls sick? Statutory Sick Pay is another administrative minefield. Sounds pretty stressful doesn't it?

Now consider your humble Virtual Secretary. She'll invoice your business once a week, or once a month, you'll pay (on time, of course, because your VA is a valuable asset to your business and you don't want to get into her bad books!) and that's it. How simple is that?

Your Virtual Assistant can do much more than type your letters and file your correspondence. VAs usually have a wealth of experience in different industries and business fields, a sound knowledge of computerised software and excellent communication skills. If your business is rather specialised, for example in a legal, medical, engineering or technical field, you may be able to find a Virtual Assistant with experience in your niche market. This will prove invaluable as your confidence at delegating work to your assistant grows.

And with such a diversity of work skills and experiences, it's very likely that your Virtual Assistant will bring new ideas to your business - perhaps a different approach that improves your marketing strategy, or some research that identifies potential new customers.

You need to be able to trust the people you work with. By hiring the office services of a professional Virtual Assistant, you can be sure of their commitment and reliability. After all, they are running their own businesses as well, and their reputation (and livelihood) depends on their competence and professionalism.

Talking of reputations, what about yours? If you want to instantly present a bigger company presence, having a Virtual Assistant to answer your calls, sign your correspondence and refer to as "my assistant", will do the job very nicely. The implication will be that your business is thriving, professional and well organised - it makes a big difference to a potential customer.

Do you travel a great deal with your business? Worried that you're missing vital phone calls or correspondence while you're away? Your Virtual Assistant will be your base office while you're away, taking care of things and keeping you informed of any major issues.

When you run a small business, especially if you work alone or from home, it's often difficult to get yourself going in the morning. That extra cup of coffee before you settle down to work, the quick "Google" to follow up an irrelevant train of thought - it all detracts from your working day.

Knowing that your Virtual Assistant is already up and working away on your behalf can help to motivate you. And you can be pretty sure she'll soon be in touch to discuss the goals for that day, so as much as you will be setting her work load, in turn she will be motivating you and helping to concentrate your mind. You'll be surprised how much you come to appreciate and rely on the unobtrusive support of your VA. It's a two way street.

I'm sure you'll come to develop a very productive working relationship with your Virtual Assistant. But as I mentioned earlier, their presence is unobtrusive. So you won't need to put up with distracting chatter in your office or their annoying habits (I have none myself, of course, but not everyone is as perfect). You may never even know it's their birthday!

My point is, your Virtual Assistant will be there for you in every way that's important to your business, and in none of the ways that aren't.

So you've hired the services of your Virtual Assistant, your office no longer looks as if a steam roller has run amok amongst your files and you're beginning to work a lot more productively and profitably. Life is good and becoming self-employed once again seems like a good idea after all.

So now what? Well, take some of that free time to get away from the office and reap the benefits of your Virtual Assistant's labours.

Oh, yes - and just one last thing... don't forget that Tax Return.

Mandy Cochrane is The Office Elf:


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