Victoria Tretis, Online Business Manager and former Virtual Assistant
Having had many years of experience in the virtual assistant industry, Victoria knows a thing or two about outsourcing and the steps to take for success in this virtual business world. It can be difficult to persuade business owners to use the services of an outsourced supplier, but perhaps there is a misconception around outsourcing? From actually deciding to become a virtual assistant to encouraging people to put their faith and, to some extent, their reputation on the line by handing over their daily essential tasks to someone outside of the business, how do you make a success of your virtual business?
Sara Parker, Marketing Manager for Face for Business, a virtual receptionist provider, asked Victoria 7 key questions surrounding the roles and responsibilities of a virtual assistant and how outsourcing can be a game changer.
Do you want to become a Virtual Assistant?
SP: What are the three main things you would advise a potential VA to do before making the leap?
VT: Firstly, think long and hard about whether you’re actually okay with the isolation that comes from being a freelancer. I was surprised by feelings of loneliness when I first started, and if it wasn’t for supportive communities online, I think I would have quit! Secondly, if your employment contract allows it, set up your Virtual Assistant business on the side until you’ve built up a client base and can replace your usual salary. Building a business can be a really slow burn, so the more you can do while there’s the comfort of a regular income from a salaried job, the better. Finally, view IT equipment, software and training as an investment rather than an expense. With the right kit and know how you can achieve more in a shorter period of time.
SP: What are the typical duties a VA will undertake?
VT: I like to think of the “VA” term as a little bit like a “coach”. There are all sorts of coaches – business, financial, confidence… loads! And they all come under the coach umbrella. Likewise, it’s the same with VAs – there are those who specialise in one-off projects, online course launches, and technical stuff. And then there are also others who prefer building a relationship with clients and so work with them on ongoing block bookings. The actual tasks will depend on the scope of the role.
SP: Is there a recognised qualification for VAs?
VT: The VA industry is unregulated so there isn’t a recognised standard. However, the Society of VAs published a list of recognised trainers who have agreed to abide by best practise rules when it comes to training standards.
SP: What resources do VAs need?
VT: Reliable internet! Google… to work out how to do things! The ability to adapt and wear ALL the hats – IT support (because suddenly your Bluetooth keyboard will stop working and you’ll need to use some mad Google skills to figure out what to do before you throw the blasted thing outta the window!). Sales, yes, it might sound icky but you have to get good at selling yourself if you want to succeed. Marketing, because how are potential clients going to know you exist if you don’t tell people or network? Accounting, we’re adulting to the max here and need to be sensible-like by keeping on top of our numbers, and so on. There’s a lot to juggle and you need to be okay with that.
Outsourcing in general
SP: What do you think the barriers to using a VA are?
VT: There’s a common misconception that a VA is “plug and play.” As good as many are, our success in the role relies on a client’s investment when it comes to both their time and their money. Not everyone is ready to delegate! It’s hard to hand over your life’s worth and built up reputation to someone else, but sometimes you have got to learn to let go and put your faith in others. Ask for references or look at testimonials. When the client can’t see the value in freeing up their time, then it tends to be viewed as an expense rather than an investment. Prove them wrong! Show them the benefits and use your marketing materials and knowledge to get this across. A Virtual Assistant is a cost-effective way to free up time and get those tasks done that you haven’t had the time to focus on. Really sell the benefits!
SP: What do you believe to be the benefits of outsourcing to a VA?
VT: You now have access to subject matter experts who are looking to support businesses like yours on a freelance basis, without you having the hassle or commitment of taking on an employee. You might need a certain freelancer’s skills for a specific project only – just a few hours of data mining, a presentation deck creation, and so on. Or perhaps you recognise the need for ongoing business support – diary management, client follow-ups, and solid right-hand support. Working with reliable support behind the scenes brings peace of mind, and that alone is priceless and business owners are freed up to focus on the good stuff only they can do, rather than everything they feel they have to do, as well gaining a sounding board, a trusted adviser and an ambassador for their brand.
SP: What do you say/do to help people overcome fear in outsourcing?
VT: Work out what tasks you hate doing, aren’t good at, or you know aren’t a good use of your time. Then establish whether any of those tasks need to be done by a professional (such as an accountant, web designer etc). Those tasks left on the list can usually be delegated. A VA is likely to be someone with administrative-based experience. They will have a proven track record (and testimonials to boot) of providing unfailingly reliable administrative support. Check out their website and social media platforms, then read through their LinkedIn profile for their work history and testimonials from previous clients who already know, like and trust the brand they’ve created. If you can relate to those people giving the testimonials, then you’re a little bit closer to finding the right VA for you.
So, is outsourcing for you?
In conclusion, and as Victoria states in her answers, outsourcing can offer many benefits to many types and sizes of businesses. From the sole trader to the smaller business owner to the more medium sized businesses and larger corporate business. Sometimes there are days when additional support is only needed during peak periods in business, or when there is long-term unplanned absence and this is when outsourcing can be more cost effective than hiring a new employee (with associated HR costs) or an economical alternative to paying high temping agency fees.
As well as hiring a virtual assistant to perform administrative tasks a virtual receptionist can be hired to answer business calls – often a service not offered by Virtual Assistants as it would take time away from their VA responsibilities. Acting quite similar to a Virtual Assistant, a Virtual Receptionist (or telephone answering service) will answer incoming business calls as if they too work for the business, answering in their company name and capturing the exact details that they would if they were answered the phone themselves.
Face for Business recently provided information to VACT (Virtual Assistant Coaching Training) entitled ‘Virtual Receptionists for Virtual Assistants‘ about the role a Virtual Receptionist can play in the business of a Virtual Assistant.
If you would like to find out more about Victoria Tretis and her online business coaching company, visit her website ‘My [ ] Rocks’. Also, see our linked blog post entitled ‘A Day in the Life of Victoria Tretis’.
Visit ‘7 Reasons to Use a Telephone Answering Service‘ for further reading.