Virtual Assistants: Who They Are & What They Do

Virtual – adjective
used to describe something that can be done or seen using computers or the internet instead of going to a place, meeting people in person, etc.

Assistant – noun
someone who helps someone else to do a job

That was easy, thanks for reading!

Ok, I guess there is a little more to it than that.

Introducing myself as a ‘Virtual PA’ at a networking event or explaining to friends and family that I offer virtual business support services as a job tends to be met with a really broad range of, often confused, responses, Whilst some grasp the concept straight away and perhaps have even worked with virtual teams before, others immediately jump to the conclusion that I must be either a) “the one sat behind those annoying chatbots all day” (actual quote cited directly from someone I met at a business breakfast the other day) or b) that I’m some kind of Siri x Alexa AI lovechild in human form,

Whilst no virtual assistant (VA) is the same, you can comfortably assume that we all are able to take on the tasks and responsibilities that you’d expect someone within a conventional office-based PA, Executive Assistant (or similar) role to undertake. Typically VAs have a niche – whether than be a specialised skill set, a specific type of client they work for or a certain industry that they are experienced working within. You’ll find VAs who are skilled copywriters writing blog posts, articles and website wording for a living. Similarly, you’ll find VAs who have worked at law firms their entire career and have now gone on to offer virtual legal secretarial services. Or, in my case, I’ve developed my niche in supporting small, dynamic teams, start-ups, companies in their infancy and entrepreneurs. 

VAs come in all shapes and sizes. Many are sole traders or ‘one man band’ operations who have taken the leap of faith from traditional employement over to freelancing. Sometimes freelance VAs work with associates who pick up holiday cover or take on additional work during busy periods. Others may work for, or own, a Virtual Assistant agency, equipped with an army of admin ninjas poised and ready to support your business. 

“How could you work for me if we don’t even work in the same office?”

Remote working or working from home has never been easier and is now common in the workplace. VAs typically work remotely or from a home office thus not taking up any of your precious office space. That said, you’ll also find that many VAs work with local businesses and will be asked to attend meetings in person or work from the clients’ office on occasion. We do get out, sometimes!

VAs optimise cloud-based technologies and secure sharing software to virtually support your business. Encrypted password management clients such as 1Password and LastPass allow a seamless and secure handover of log-in credentials. Video conference platforms such as Zoom or Google Hangouts allow VAs to attend business meetings and hold regular catch-ups with their clients. Shared online file storage such as Google Drive and Dropbox and smart editing document tools such as Google Docs allow for collaborative and centralised workspaces. All that and with all core office CRM and accounting software now moving over to cloud-based solutions, meaning they are accessible remotely anytime, anywhere – virtual business support has never been easier.

“But why wouldn’t I just hire someone to work in the office with me and my team?”

Virtual Assistants offer a huge amount of flexibility that traditional, full-time employment simply does not. What happens if you don’t have enough work to delegate to a full time or part-time employee but you still need help picking up the slack? How often have you found yourself in a situation where an unexpected or urgent project or tasks pops up and your current resources are already at max capacity? Perhaps your business is seasonal and it’s only during your peak months that you come unstuck? Or your business may simply not be in a financially or physically stable enough position to take on the risk of a permanent staff member. VAs offer a solution to all of these common problems by offering their services by the hour. If your business support requirements span over a longer-term period of time, most VAs will offer you a discounted rate if committing to a monthly retainer. What’s more, with a Virtual Assistant by your side, there will be:

  • No PAYE or National Insurance taxes to pay
  • No holiday or sickness pay to be liable for
  • No pension contributions to make 
  • No computer equipment or hardware to fork out on
  • One less person taking up your precious office and desk space 

“So you just book in appointments and answer emails, that sort of thing ?”

Virtual Assistants are so much more than ‘just’ that. Yes, we can help you with diary and email management, but when it comes to the business support services you require, the list is pretty extensive: Travel arrangements, event planning, business consultancy, HR and recruitment, preparing documents and presentations, copywriting and content creation, social media management, digital marketing, bookkeeping, transcribing, minute taking, website management, research assistance, writing processes and procedures, data entry, project management, lifestyle management (yes we can even organise your private life too)!

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