The more of an acorn your SME or business startup happens to be, the more you could potentially use the services of a virtual assistant. Virtual assistants are simply people who are not formally part of your organization. They are somewhat like contractors in that you pay them for specific tasks or by time. However, unlike most traditional contractors your virtual assistant will most probably never set foot in your office – and quite possibly may never even see you in person.
Hiring a virtual assistant has its pros and cons, and in this article we’ll discuss a few considerations you should hold in mind before deciding to proceed:
- Be careful what data you allow a virtual assistant to access. There are some tasks that lend themselves perfectly to virtual assistants. More to the point, there are some tasks that don’t. Remember, you’re hiring a stranger who may not have the same sense of loyalty and ties that a traditional employee may to your company and its well being. Therefore, keep sensitive information and data away from virtual assistants if possible. It can be risky to expose payment and bank account data (for your company or your clients) or key client contact details.
- Decipher which tasks your virtual assistant will be responsible for before you look for one. You wouldn’t go looking for an employee before you knew the roles they would be filling. In much the same way, decide what jobs the virtual assistant will be helping you with. Some of the tasks that virtual assistants can help with include book keeping, online marketing, database management, cold calling, scheduling and so on. The more clear your needs, the simpler it will be to hire a virtual assistant.
- Decide where you will recruit from. There are many potential places to pick virtual assistants from. Sites such as ODesk and Elance are crawling with thousands of potential candidates, and you can also find people looking for work on various forums. However, using sites such as Elance could be viewed as potentially safer as there are set guidelines in case either the employer or assistant has an issue with the job.
- Does the country of your virtual assistant matter? The answer to this question will depend largely on the task itself. For instance, if you wanted to hire someone to call leads, you would ideally want to hire a virtual assistant who had a good grasp of English. If the task is entirely done without interaction with others or requires little grasp of English (ie no reading and writing involved), arguably you could choose someone from any location. Virtual assistants in some developing world regions are obviously significantly cheaper to hire than those from the USA/UK.
- Interview your candidates. You should treat hiring a virtual assistant in much the same way as you would in hiring any normal employee. Make sure that the potential assistant has sufficient working knowledge and experience to get the job done. Ask probing questions, and consider asking them to undergo a test or prove their abilities.
A good virtual assistant can be a great way to get certain tasks done efficiently and at cost. There are none of the normal formalities and expenses related with hiring a full time UK employee, and it it doesn’t work out there are no redundancy fees or messy tribunals to face. Cheep, cheery and effective.