Virtual assistants (VAs) are increasingly popular for busy executives that find themselves drowning in administrative tasks. Ubiquitous internet, cloud-based software apps, and real-time communication tools make it easier and more accessible for even small business leaders to offload routine everyday tasks to a remote VA that can use the executive's tools and processes.
There are multiple ways to hire a VA. The most common include:
- Hire a freelancer.
- Hire a contractor through an agency.
- Engage a managed service provider.
The difference between hiring a freelancer on your own and hiring a contractor through an agency is minimal. With a freelancer, you place an ad or go to a marketplace and find the right individual to help you. With an agency, the company provides a list of contracted VAs, and you choose one. Either way, it's up to you to interview, vet, hire, manage, and train your VA.
A Team Behind Your VA
Managed virtual assistant services work very differently than the freelancer or agency model. The most significant difference is that instead of hiring a solo VA on your own, you get a team behind the scenes that provides hands-on support for you and your VA. Here's what that team offers:
- Pre-engagement training—account managers document your processes and train your VAs in advance so that your assistant shows up ready to work on day one with no training required on your part.
- Backup VAs—if your VA is sick or absent, a fully trained backup VA will step in without missing a beat.
- Performance management—most executives are not looking for more people to manage. With managed virtual assistant services, the VA is an employee of the service provider, and the service provider oversees the performance of the VA, so you don't have to.
- Ongoing process improvement—account managers work with you to offload more tasks as the team gets to know you and your business.
- Enhanced security—managed virtual assistant services typically operate from secure offshore facilities, not home offices, with protected buildings, devices, and networks. They also do background checks on all employees.
- Scalability—as your business grows and you want to add more virtual assistants for the executive team, it's easy to add more VAs.
- Reporting—managed VA services track your utilization of the VA and the assistant's productivity to help you get the most out of the relationship.
Sharing the Risk
There is always some risk involved in bringing on staff in any capacity. If the person doesn't work out, the time and effort spent recruiting, onboarding, and training that person is lost. Unfortunately, while there are great freelance assistants out there, there are also plenty of stories of those that turn out to be unreliable, and quality control is up to you.
With a managed virtual assistant service, the service bears most of the risk because it does the:
- Performance management
Also, because the VA are employees of the service provider, payroll, benefits, and compliance are off your plate.
Not for Everyone
No service is perfect for every business. A managed virtual assistant service isn't likely to work in some situations, such as:
- You only have occasional short-term projects.
- You have inconsistent workloads from week to week.
- You need specialized creative skills like graphic design or copywriting.
- You need the VA to run local errands.
Managed VA services are ideal for executives that want a long-term productivity partner to help them build and grow their businesses. While the assistants do arrive trained on your tools and processes, as the team learns about your business, the leverage you gain increases. Also, for executives who want long-term assistant, you need to consider whether you have the time and expertise to manage and train a VA. Managed VA service providers have trained and coached thousands of virtual assistants and know how to make the relationship work.
Team vs. Temp
As mentioned above, there are times when a temporary or freelance VA can meet your needs. But if you want hands-on support behind that VA so that you can focus on delegating and not managing, a managed virtual assistant service might be a better option.
About the Author: Bill is Prialto's senior content marketing manager and writes about the future of work and how businesses can be more productive and successful. His work has appeared in the World Economic Forum Agenda blog and CIO magazine.