What is the Value of a Virtual Assistant?
Surely it would be more cost-effective or expedient to just get on with things yourself, thereby avoiding the additional burden of trying to manage a relationship with someone else, and the inherent risk that you are, in a sense, losing control of how your business might be represented or the quality of work provided?
Is not a PA or secretary little more than a luxury, or possibly even ego-boost, only to be afforded when business is going well?
What value does a Virtual Assistant bring?
The increase in self-employment and in the outsourcing market generally, must surely be a major reason as to why many SMEs and self-employed business owners are turning to Virtual Assistants for support. And, in this regard, it’s easy to see the benefits. Individuals setting up their own businesses would no longer have access to the back-office resources previously provided in offices, there is not a need to pay for overheads or incur costs with national insurance or tax, and such support can be wheeled in and out of running your business as and when suits, with none of the ensuing HR issues of “managing out” a member of staff if things don’t work out, or of guaranteeing a certain number of hours’ work, if requirements change.
But this isn’t it. This isn’t about value. This isn’t about understanding how a Virtual Assistant can contribute to your aspirations or ambitions, or to the success of your business. This is a justification, or benefit, to a decision already reached in getting a job done.
So, what difference do Virtual Assistants bring? How are we perceived by an increasing number of business owners as both cost-effective and as an investment to their long-term success?
Clarity – Above all else, a Virtual Assistant brings clarity to what you hope to achieve and to how you wish to be represented. They work with you in understanding your priorities, and in supporting, or sometimes setting out with you, processes which enable these to be achieved. They help in identifying your goals, and in setting out tasks which they can then undertake or follow through on your behalf, or which they can assist in coordinating or overseeing. This then enables you to feel clearer about what it is that you need to focus on. It brings a more efficient structure, and it encourages accountability.
Communication – How you communicate with your colleagues, clients or potential clients, is fundamental to how you are perceived professionally. And the role played by the Virtual Assistant within this, is crucial. A Virtual Assistant is to ensure that your written communication is without spelling or grammatical errors. Their role also is to understand your “style” – how you like to communicate, be it formally or more colloquially. Their value is to bring you the confidence that they can communicate as a part of your business, and as a representative of your values.
Time - How you allocate your time, and how much it is costing you to do so – financially and emotionally - is fundamental to how you move forward professionally and personally. Outsourcing tasks which do not reflect your value to your business and which are preventing you from taking a further step back in ascertaining what you need to achieve, allows you the opportunity to focus your expertise and energy more effectively, and enables your worth to be fulfilled. Ultimately, time is your greatest commodity, and the value of the Virtual Assistant lies in empowering you to maximise your time.
Mental wellbeing – Feeling constantly overwhelmed by what you need to achieve, reacting to situations that would seem to come out of nowhere, and constantly fighting the next deadline, almost inevitably lead to an increase in fatigue and stress. A Virtual Assistant enables those individuals they support to have the time to focus more on their own wellbeing, by playing a crucial role in how their time is managed, and in actively encouraging or supporting ambitions for exercise or holidays.
Soft Skills - There are, of course, different types of Virtual Assistants, whose strengths lie in different areas. But typically, we would be individuals who thrive on supporting others, in making a difference to their professional lives, and therefore in understanding the way in which they operate. Normally, Emotional Intelligence would be one of our strengths, and we would rely heavily on our soft skills in the way we work: our ability to listen, to interpret, to communicate in writing and verbally, and to manage information, which is often highly sensitive, appropriately. We would typically be skilled in empathising or in understanding how to communicate differently with different types of people, in different situations. Such skills are fundamental to the success of any business, and to that of a business owner.
Working relationship - Without doubt, the true value of a Virtual Assistant lies not only in their expertise or commitment, but also in the commitment of those people with whom they work. It is a relationship which requires a mutual understanding of what is required, as well as a willingness to suggest and to share ideas. It requires regular communication – via email, skype, zoom, face-to-face, WhatsApp or on the phone – whatever works best. It also requires a clear breakdown of tasks, with regular updates. Above all else, it requires trust, a willingness for flexibility where speedy deadlines are required, a mutual respect of boundaries, and a level of honesty.
Ultimately, the role and support of the Virtual Assistant should enable those individuals who we support to become a better version of themselves professionally – both in the impression they create to others, but also in how they are better able to manage their professional and personal lives. This is achieved through the management of their time, through the quality of work we provide for them, in how we support the follow-up of their goals, and in how we communicate and represent their expertise and professionalism.
Herein lies the true value of the Virtual Assistant.