According to the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), the average small business owner spends up to 40% of his or her time on routine administrative tasks.
Constantly working on non revenue-producing tasks that could be more productively and cost-effectively performed by a highly skilled, knowledgeable assistant is likely losing your business significant income.
I could not imagine running my Internet-based business without contracting many of the tasks that are more productively done this way. Granted, when I first started my business I was not outsourcing to the level I do now. Yet, as my business grew, I had to continually evaluate what was a good use of my time and what was better left to outside experts.

As you grow your business, it will be necessary to consider outside help. Over the last few years, the Virtual Assistant industry has taken the market by storm. What was practically unheard of a few years ago is now a viable and growing industry.
When done correctly, one of the greatest advantages in hiring a Virtual Assistant (VA’s) is you can focus on higher level objectives while your VA takes on a huge part of your workload.
Virtual Assistants range in expertise, specialty and pricing. Most VA’s work on a per hour rate, retainer fee or contract basis. VA’s either own and operate their business or contract under an umbrella agency. This means you are not responsible for employee taxes, benefits or insurance, which can substantially reduce your costs and liability.
A VA’s experience level range from new to the industry to many years of experience. However, most have previous work experience that qualifies them to jump right into the services they offer.
The VA’s goal is to help your company grow. In essence, when you succeed, they succeed. Unlike a temporary agency where you might get a different temporary worker for each job you have, with a VA the same person works with you on an ongoing basis.
Depending on your needs, you can hire a VA for as few or as many hours a week as you need. You can also hire on a per project basis. Again, this means you are not burdened with hiring a part or full-time employee. You simply hire as needed.
In many cases, once you contract a VA you will be charged for phone conversations, planning sessions and any project changes you make. Be aware of spending too much time just “shooting the breeze” with your VA as it can cost you money and time.
Before hiring a VA, determine your needs, plan how you will utilize their time and be prepared. Some of your projects will require you to contract vendors who handle specific types of tasks such as editing, copywriting, transcription services and web design. However, a highly skilled VA may be able to do many of the above-mentioned tasks.
What I have found to be very helpful is to write out a list of specific jobs I need done by any one person. If I have tasks for my own clients I outsource, such as article submission, blog optimization, blog carnivals, etc., I will put a list of tasks under each clients name in order of importance. At the beginning of the week, I send the list to my VA’s. This saves time and confusion.
If you are on a limited budget, you may be able to negotiate the pay structure to include commissions and bonuses. Some VA’s may be willing to take a lower hourly rate if there is an opportunity for commissions or bonuses. For example, if you have a VA who books speaking engagements for you, you can offset the hourly amount with a generous commission structure. However, before you offer commissions and bonuses, make sure the VA is qualified and skilled to handle the specific jobs you need done. You may also be able to negotiate one fee for any training you do and a higher fee when the VA is fully trained.
Hiring a Virtual Assistant is not something that should be taken lightly. It is a position of trust and confidence. Often the VA has access to your usernames and passwords, confidential information, financial data, databases and other highly sensitive information.
A partial list of what a VA can do:
Transcription services
Set up a blog
Blogging on your behalf
Post to blogs and forums
Set up Virtual Book Tours
Submit and track articles to directories
Answer support emails
Set up autoresponders
Write media releases
Distribute media releases
Clean up a mailing list
Do keyword research
Proof copy and provide editing services
Assist with teleconferences and seminars
Update web pages and build squeeze pages
Input sequential autoresponder messages
Organize joint ventures and submit bonus items and programs
Concierge services
Travel arrangements
Event planning
Procedure documentation
You can choose to use a VA agency or contract an independent VA. It all depends on your needs, plans and budget. Take time to interview your VA prior to hiring them. Check their references and track record.
To find a qualified Virtual Assistant, do a Google search under Virtual Assistants. You can also ask for referrals from other professionals you know and trust. Chances are they have VA’s they can recommend.
Let others know what you think about VA’s by posting a response to this posting.
What are your experiences on using VA’s? Do you plan to use any? If so, what for? Please share any thoiughts you have about VA’s to enhance and grow your business.
Kathleen Gage
The Street Smarts Marketer