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Virtual Assistants - What do they do for you?


#1

Hi everyone,

I’ve been thinking about the VA thing. I have a feeling that having a VA on board could help reduce our workload. But I’m having trouble thinking up actual tasks that they could do.

For example, I’d love to have someone book my travel (I travel a lot). But I don’t want to hand over a CC to someone whom I don’t know.

If you have a VA, could you give me a few examples of actual tasks that they do to lighten your load? If you have them do complex things, was training a challenge?


#2

I’ve used temp VAs to collect leads (basically, a spreadsheet of contact information for business in a given market) and research marketing stuff (find blogs, forums, podcasts in a given niche). The amount of grunt work this saves is amazing. This work also required minimal training, just a detailed e-mail explaining what I needed along with a spreadsheet templates with the first few rows already done.


#3

A few weeks ago I wrote a post about my experience using VAs. Here is the link: http://www.phdsolopreneur.com/blog/lessons-learned-one-year-using-virtual-assistants

In the post I even give an example of a complex task I gave them (update my website) with the exact email I sent them.


#4

Thanks Guys. Interesting stuff…heading over to read the blog post :slight_smile:


#5

The Tropical MBA guys did a talk at MicroConf Prague that touched on this. Basically, write processes for everything you do, and it’ll become obvious what you can offload.


#6

Interesting, I didn’t know about him. Thanks!


#7

Adding two links to that:

I hope this helps somewhat


#8

Re: handing out CC info - could you mitigate that risk by using either a Prepaid Visa card or setting up a free checking account and giving them the debit card info?


#9

@pdebruic Good point. I think I’ll do that.

If anyone’s looking for a book to read on the subject, “Work the System” is pretty good. The tropicalmba guy mentioned it in a podcast.

Here’s a non-af link: http://www.amazon.com/Work-System-Simple-Mechanics-Working-ebook/dp/B002UUT3KQ/

The systems approach makes a lot of sense. I’m going to start documenting our processes this week.


#10

Let us know how it goes!


#11

For booking travel without handing over your card details, you could check if your credit card comes with a free Concierge / Personal Assistant service. Amex Platinum cards usually come with it, but so do some Visa Platinum cards. That’s generally what the concierge is there for, and that way your card details stay with a Visa/MC/Amex approved organization.

I tried a Virtual Assistant service a few years ago, but generally wasn’t very happy with the quality and had to do a lot of cleanup of spreadsheets/data myself. Probably to be expected though, as I was only paying $10 - $15 US per hour.


#12

Great use case, David.
Question: How do you contact those leads? Phone, email each manually, or use mail merge services like http://www.talk2customers.com ?


#13

You can get the free PDF from the author’s website: http://www.workthesystem.com


#14

Good find! :smile:

Having read most of it now, I can say that it definitely could have used an editor. There’s about 15 pages of really good content mixed in with a bunch of pseudo-intellectual claptrap.

Strangely enough, I’ve found a lot of business books to be like this.


#15

I contact each lead with a semi-personalized e-mail. I try to look at each lead’s web presence, and address the message to them as personally as I can. This is way slower than mail-merge, but I like to think it promotes higher quality interactions. My conscience also won’t let me mass e-mail without an opt-in list, so that’s also affecting things.


#16

I think the key to Virtual Assistants is having the task broken down small enough that anyone can do it given time. So for example I just had a VA do the following:
Task 1. Do a search query on a particular site to create a list of contacts in a spreadsheet on google docs.
Task 2. Send a specific templated email to the first 15 contacts in the list compiled in task 1.
Task 3. Send a different email to the 2nd 15 contacts. (A/B testing, etc.)

Those are all small enough tasks that they require minimal documentation and were all done within a day just like I needed.

Granted, this is the only tasks I’ve had done yet. I’ll provide more details later, but given that I could go focus on other more critical and/or fun tasks while that was going on, I think it pays off big.


#17

Thanks. :smile:

I’ve been spending the last few weeks documenting processes for our business and coming up with tasks that I’d like some help with.

I posted a job on odesk and so far I have 3 decent applicants. While I definitely want to hire someone long-term, I’m not going to be in any rush to hire. If this hiring attempt fails, at least it’ll make a decent blog post.


#18

Just wanted to do a quick followup:

I’ve been working with my VA for about 6 weeks now, and overall I’m really happy with him. I think that VA is a bit of a misnomer. We’re really using him like we would use an entry-level marketing coordinator in the US.

For a long time I struggled to find tasks I could delegate. I think my problem was that I was thinking in chunks that were too large. Now, I’ve started to chunk things down, and it’s much easier to delegate. For example before I may have had a task to “talk with prospective advertisers.” Now I might break that into two tasks. “Identify & create a list of advertisers” and “contact advertisers.” I can delegate the first one, so that I’m spending a greater % of time on the things I’m specifically good at.

It took a while to find someone I liked. At first, I investigated the different VA services. However I wanted someone answerable to me, not an agency. Also, I’m not convinced that they add much value. Next I tried Odesk. It took a lot of work to screen people and in the end I wasn’t very happy with any of my options. Finally, I coughed up $400 to VirtualAssistantFinder, which is a kind of matchmaker between employers and VAs in the Philippines. They’re definitely worth it because they do all of the pre-screening and give you several qualified applicants to choose from.

All I needed to do at that point was email everybody’s references and have a skype chat with the applicants. In my case, we had one candidate who was the obvious choice.

If anyone has any questions I’ll be happy to answer them.


#19

Interesting, sounds like you figured out a good approach - thanks for sharing it.

With VirtualAssistantFinder, how does paying the person you ended up selecting work - do you go through them, or are you on your own, or what?


#20

Paying the VA has been a lot easier than I thought it would be. It’s really common in the Philippines for VA’s to have paypal accounts. So I just have them send me an invoice every 2 weeks and I pay via paypal.