What is a virtual assistant - Ivy Answer can help explain

What Is a Virtual Assistant

 

In 2015, 3.9 million Americans worked from their homes, while in 2020 this number climbed to 4.7 million. Not in every sector, is it possible for employees to work remotely; however, due to better technological infrastructure, this number is quickly increasing.

If you are running a small company, letting your employees work from home could also be a matter of convenience - your employees would save time on the commute, while you wouldn't need to rent a big office.

However, a virtual assistant is not quite like a regular assistant that performs administrative tasks remotely. In a moment we'll explain what virtual assistants are, what are the tasks they can perform, and what are the benefits of hiring one.

What Is a Virtual Assistant?

A virtual assistant provides services to companies while working outside the office. Most commonly, their job responsibilities include calendar management, answering phone calls, travel arrangements, data entry, providing customers with accurate information, and managing finances. However, they can perform all types of services within reason that would help your business.

What Are the Benefits of Hiring a Virtual Assistant?

Why do business owners hire virtual assistants? Surely hiring a full-time employee that would be solely focused on administrative tasks would be better for your company? The answer is: not really.

Regardless of whether you are running a small company or a large corporation, hiring a virtual assistant is better from a financial standpoint.

Virtual assistants are usually paid at an hourly rate. It means that if your company is pretty small, and there aren't that many administrative tasks that need to be done, hiring a full-time employee wouldn't make sense.

On the other hand, if you hire virtual assistants, you would only need to pay for the time they spend actually performing duties for your business.

Although initially when remote work was rather uncommon, many people were reluctant to put their trust in virtual assistants. That's because most of us were used to interacting face-to-face with other employees.

However, the times have changed, and, depending on your field, the chances are that you haven't met your co-workers aside from Zoom and Skype meetings. The technology allows us to communicate with others in real-time, and the distance is no longer an issue. That's why in recent times, many companies have decided to go one step further, and hire a virtual assistant whose work encompasses a wide range of tasks.

Think of all the times when your employees spend time answering incoming calls. They've got work to do, but instead of being focused on their work, they are wasting their time. Though it might be disruptive to the workflow, ignoring the phone calls would hurt your business even more, as clients would feel like your company doesn't really care enough to help them. You might have considered letting automated answering machines do the hard work, but your clients would surely prefer to talk to a real human being. Until AI gets better, your customers won't be entirely sure whether their request will be processed correctly.

If you think that hiring a full-time employee who would be responsible for customer service would cost too much, but at the same time, you want your staff members to focus on key activities, and keep great relationships with your clients, hiring a virtual assistant is an excellent idea.

This way, your employees would focus on things that matter, while a virtual assistant would deal with routine tasks.

What Tasks Can a Virtual Assistant Do?

So far, we have mentioned that virtual assistants are just like regular assistants, with the caveat that they won't be working from your office. Fortunately, thanks to technology, it is no longer a problem. However, apart from being just an administrative assistant, VAs can perform many different tasks:

Calendar management is one of the basic tasks that every virtual assistant is ready to perform, making it easier for you to focus on more important matters instead. Although technology makes it easier to contact others via Zoom or Skype, most probably, from time to time, you would like to meet with your clients face-to-face.

If they live in other cities, or countries, making travel arrangements wouldn't be so easy. You would need to book flights, hotels, and rearrange other meetings, and as a result, you would have less time for key activities. A virtual assistant could take care of all those tasks so that you wouldn't have to waste time managing travel.

Although business owners can hire a virtual assistant to help with specific tasks, their primary job responsibility is administrative support. There's nothing as frustrating as looking for important papers all around the office. Thankfully, in most cases, it is enough to find a digital version.

Still, if there's too much chaos, your employees might have trouble focusing on their work - instead they'll spend most of their time trying to find PDFs with essential information. An experienced virtual assistant can assist your employees by helping to bring order to your organization.

Apart from clerical duties, a virtual assistant can also manage the expenses. We are talking about things like compiling receipts and keeping track of the expenses. Most virtual assistants don't have accounting degrees, which is why your business will need a real accountant. However, a virtual assistant can help decrease the workload by taking care of necessary tasks related to the company's finances.

If your business needs someone who would provide great customer service, hiring a virtual receptionist seems to be a better choice, but a virtual assistant will excel in this role as well. Good relationships with your clients are essential to the success of your company, but after a long day of work, you might be tired of providing lengthy answers to all potential questions.

Thankfully, there's a simple solution to this problem - hire a virtual assistant. This way, anytime someone would call your company, they would receive all the necessary information, while you could focus on the work. Sometimes customers might call your company with a specific problem, not even knowing who would be the right person to talk to. That's when virtual assistants, with their excellent customer services skills, can be of most assistance.

Benefits of Virtual Assistants

If you remain unconvinced, below we have prepared a list of benefits of hiring a virtual assistant.

Extensive Experience

If you have never encountered a virtual assistant before, you might be under the impression that because of their low cost, they will provide low-standard services. The opposite is true. Individuals who want to become virtual assistants usually have at least a couple of years of experience as office managers or regular assistants. They are highly trained employees who know how to get things done. You might not see them on an everyday basis, but they will help your company grow by making use of their expertise.

More Space & Fewer Costs

As your company is growing, fitting all your employees in the office could be a problem. If you hire virtual assistants, you won't have to worry that there might not be enough space for all. That's because virtual assistants can support your company while working from any place in the world. As a result, you won't need to buy an additional desk, a computer, or a chair. On top of that, virtual assistants are usually paid at an hourly rate, which would help you save money as well. However, you aren't the only one benefiting from this arrangement - a virtual assistant doesn't have to spend a long time each day on commute.

If you hire in-house employees, you'll have to spend your valuable time on training. During this time, you, and your co-workers would have to dedicate your time to teach newcomers procedures and processes. Depending on the type of your business, it could take weeks before they would be ready to start performing their regular job duties.

On the other hand, if you hire a virtual assistant, they'll be ready almost instantly to successfully deal with day-to-day responsibilities. That's because, as we have previously mentioned, they already possess a great deal of experience. Although they won't be physically in the same office as you, they are no strangers to office work.

Scalability

Another reason why many business owners decide to rely on virtual assistants instead of regular employees is that it allows them to quickly scale back or down according to the changing situation. It is especially common among start-ups, where the demand for administrative duties can increase pretty rapidly. To keep up with the changing demand, hiring permanent in-house staff would be less than perfect choice, as it would take time before they would be ready for work.

On the other hand, you can't be really sure that after a period of fast growth, your company won't experience some temporary difficulties. As COVID-19 pandemic showed us, we can't really predict every single possibility. As a result, you might hire several assistants, and soon, the workload could dramatically decrease. It would be a waste of resources and time spent on training.

However, if you hire a virtual assistant, there wouldn't be such problems. That's because they would only work when there are things that need to be taken care of. It would prevent you from paying for services that temporarily might not be required.

On the other hand, if your business experiences an astounding success, you might be facing the opposite problem. What should you do then? That's simple - just upgrade your package to suit the increased workload.

That's especially useful for businesses in seasonal industries, like tourism or agriculture, where, depending on the time of the year, the demand for workers significantly varies. Hiring a single full-time assistant might be enough to keep the things going during the calm months, but then, when the season finally comes, the flexibility of services provided by virtual assistants would help keep the chaos under control.

The Necessary Skills

As we have mentioned before, to become a virtual assistant, you've got to have experience as an office manager or a regular receptionist. Their education varies, but often includes fields such as administration, management, or finances.

Despite their experience, you might be worried that finding someone who would excel specifically in your company could be difficult. However, virtual assistant companies know how to help by suggesting a perfect fit for a position. This way, you wouldn't be stuck with someone who would do suboptimal work.

Conclusion

Although not that long ago relying on someone whose face you wouldn't even see to perform essential tasks would seem irresponsible, the times are changing. Even if it's the first time you hear the term "virtual assistant," you are probably accustomed to working with people whom you only know from Zoom and Skype meetings.

Instead of signing a contract with a single company, increasingly more people work as freelancers. Although it means that most likely such individuals won't spend a long time in one place, it gives them a certain amount of freedom and flexibility. Apart from that, business owners value the flexibility of such arrangements as well.

That's why, in recent years, it is more and more common for companies to rely on virtual assistants, instead of hiring full-time employees. Because of that, there's no need to dedicate resources to training, as a typical virtual assistant has several years of experience as an office manager or in a similar position.

On top of that, you won't be stuck with employees with regular contracts during a downturn in your industry. If you let virtual assistants support your company, depending on the current needs of your business, you could freely scale up or down. We hope that after reading this article, you know what virtual assistants are and what is the reason behind their growing popularity in businesses all around the world.

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