Horkey HandBook Blog

What Is a Virtual Assistant?

When you’re trying to grow a business, one thing you’ll never run out of is ideas. From marketing and sales to improving your customers’ experience, you’ll find yourself imagining a lot of possibilities for expansion.

Now if you only had enough time to implement and test all of these ideas. Alas, time is the one resource that you can never get more of.

Enter… A Virtual Assistant.

“What is a Virtual Assistant?” you ask?

A Virtual Assistant (sometimes shortened to VA) is a professional to whom you can delegate different aspects of your business. You will collaborate with this professional online, often through email, video calls and task management platforms (such as Trello, Asana or Dubsado).

A Virtual Assistant can be located in your own country of origin or they can be located overseas. That shouldn’t matter, as the work a VA does for you is often asynchronous (meaning you don’t have to be in the same office, working at the same time).

Who Works With a Virtual Assistant?

Virtual Assistants are usually working with small business owners who delegate tasks or business processes that can be done via the internet.

However, it’s a common misconception that only online entrepreneurs can work with VAs. In reality, a lot of brick-and-mortar businesses can benefit from remote help.

A few examples that we’ve encountered include real estate offices, advertising agencies, financial advisors, insurance agents, non-profits, religious institutions and healthcare practitioners (such as therapists, dieticians, counselors, etc.).

What Does a Virtual Assistant Do?

In a nutshell, a Virtual Assistant can take care of all the tasks that can be done remotely – bookkeeping, maintaining a website, setting up and managing your social media presence, creating promotional materials (such as newsletters, brochures, posters), data entry, scheduling appointments, fundraising, operations, etc.

The list goes on and on!

There are literally a ton of services you can offer as a Virtual Assistant, and you might be surprised to find out just how many opportunities there are when it comes to finding something you’ll enjoy doing. 

3 Things You Need to Know About Virtual Assistants

Now that you’ve got the short answer to the question, “What is a Virtual Assistant?” here are three essential attributes of a VA to keep in mind.

These are good details to know whether you’re in the market for a VA or are thinking of becoming a Virtual Assistant yourself!

1. A VA is an independent contractor, not an employee

Virtual Assistants are often small business owners themselves, operating as independent contractors with a roster of clients.

This has several implications. Most importantly, VAs are responsible for paying their own taxes and securing their own benefits (such as health insurance, retirement contributions and unemployment insurance). That responsibility is reflected in the rates they charge their clients.

So if you’re thinking of subcontracting to a VA for minimum wage, you should probably consider whether you’re financially ready for one.

Another implication is that Virtual Assistants usually set their own hours. A solid VA contract will outline the services or deliverables that a Virtual Assistant will work on and an agreed-upon deadline. However, a client shouldn’t dictate a VA’s work hours, unless that’s specifically stipulated in the contract (for example, if the VA is hired to reply to emails between 8-10 AM).

In addition, a client cannot ask a VA to be on-call 24/7, or to drop everything and tend to their business needs.

One aspect we like to point out is that a 9-5 employee rarely works for the entire time they’re in the office. In fact, according to 2016 survey by Gallup, the work engagement of employees in the United States is at a staggering thirty-two percent. Oftentimes businesses end up paying for unproductive hours and disengaged employees.

If you’re outsourcing to a VA at an hourly rate, you’re only paying for dedicated productive hours.

So while you might end up paying more per hour (and you should!), you’re actually only paying for productive work hours. We see this as a win-win scenario for both clients and Virtual Assistants.

2. A VA is a skilled professional

Just because someone chooses to work from home doesn’t mean that their skills are not transferable to an office environment. Because they are business owners themselves, Virtual Assistants often deal with the intricacies of different departments – they do their own marketing, sales, contracts, onboarding, as well as continuously learn new skills.

One of the main reasons business owners choose to bring a Virtual Assistant on board is to plug a knowledge gap – the VA has specific skills that no one else in the business has.

It may seem that being a VA is easy work, especially if you’re still thinking of it in terms of clerical work, such as data entry. Keep in mind, however, that the experience needed to run marketing and PR campaigns, do complex bookkeeping or organize events – all of which you can outsource to a professional VA – takes years of study and practice.

3. A VA is a valued team member (and should be treated accordingly)

We’ve heard of cases in which business owners have the wrong idea when they bring a Virtual Assistant on board.

They expect the VA to jump in from day one, and they often have unrealistic expectations about what’s possible when they delegate tasks to a VA.

True, a pro Virtual Assistant will be able to get up to speed quickly, but there should always be an onboarding process, just as it would be with any employee on their first day. During this process, the client should clearly communicate their expectations, as well as their standard operating procedures, do’s and don’ts and general way of doing business.

One thing we like to stress in our conversations with people hiring a VA, as well as with VAs themselves, is how important it is to communicate and behave like a professional at all times.

Due to the remote nature of this business relationship, there is a tendency, albeit a very rare one, for business owners to be “less than nice” to a VA and to forget that there is another professional at the receiving end of their brusque emails or phone calls.

This doesn’t happen very often but really it shouldn’t happen at all!

Before You Start Working AS a Virtual Assistant

I understand what a Virtual Assistant is now. How can I start working as a VA?

We get this question A LOT, so we’ve put together a mega-post to teach you how to get started as a Virtual Assistant. Grab a cup of coffee, put your feet up and enjoy! 

Before You Start Working WITH a Virtual Assistant

I’m a business owner, and I’d like to hire a Virtual Assistant. But can working with a VA be risky?

We get it, giving out passwords and control over your various accounts to someone you’ve never met face-to-face might feel a bit nerve-wracking (until you realize what a game-changer it is for your business!).

We’ve outlined some strategies to help you find a reliable and trustworthy VA. Once you know what (and who!) you’re looking for, you’re on your way to freeing up your time – and getting back to what you enjoy most about your business! 

Ready to start your journey as a Virtual Assistant? Check out The #FullyBookedVA System for starting, building and scaling a kickass Virtual Assistant biz! 

Gina Horkey

Gina Horkey

FOUNDER & CO-OWNER

Gina Horkey is a married, millennial mama from Minnesota. Additionally, she’s the founder of Horkey HandBook and loves helping others find or become a kickass virtual assistant. Gina’s background includes making a living as a professional writer, an online business marketing consultant and a decade of experience in the financial services industry.

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