Categorized | Virtual Assistants

Back Office 5.3. Virtual Assistants

You’re approaching back office outsourcing from two perspectives. On the one hand, you may be a highly experienced businessperson or entrepreneur with in-the-trenches experience outsourcing business processes. You know from all your hard-won experience that you have to approach each outsourcing function with a clean slate. Some of the knocks you’ve gotten in your entrepreneurs’ school of hard knocks have to do with back office turnkey solutions.

On the other hand, you may be new at this. You’re starting a new venture and you’ve never outsourced or off-shored before. You’re rightly suspicious of one-stop outsourcing shops, but you don’t have the time or background to strategically outsource one vendor at a time for each and every business process involved in your venture. While it’s not the optimal solution, the convenience involved in doing all your back-office shopping in one fell swoop permits you to get go back to what you do best: getting your venture off the ground.

There’s no question that mature businesses are better served by multiple business process outsourcing vendors. But the increased quality, service, and cost-savings translate into increased management and diligence on your part. As a start-up without big piles of money or time to pay people to manage multiple outsource vendor relationships, you’re better served by starting with cost-effective turnkey solutions. As your business evolves and the bucks start rolling in, you can start moving business processes to other vendors to realize greater value.

While there are plenty of companies offering turnkey back office services, virtual assistants are all the rage for home-based businesses, single-owner businesses, and start-ups. As distinct from an outsource vendor, a “virtual assistant” is like an employee that you use only when you need work done. Virtual assistants are typically one-person shops―in fact, they are the fastest growing type of home-based, shoestring venture business in America―but some virtual assistants are actually small companies with a network of employees. Almost all virtual assistants bring a multitude of skills to the table―although, as you can imagine, they perform some functions better than others. And almost all virtual assistants target small businesses, home-based businesses, start-ups, and entrepreneurs. In other words, they’ve developed a business model that matches what your needs at an early stage in your business.

A virtual assistant is an independent contractor who performs back office work on an as-needed basis. Because you only pay by the project, you only incur costs when you need the work done. Typically, the per hour cost is greater than an employee (around $30 to $40 per hour), but if your needs do not require a regular employee―typical of shoestring start-ups in the early stages―and since you will not have the time to do all the back office work for your business, virtual assistants should always be in your staffing plans.

When hiring a virtual assistant, check the following:

  • You should only hire someone with an administrative, customer service, office manager, or executive assistant background; the broader their background, the more likely they can perform their services at a high corporate level.
  • You should consider what type of firm they have worked for; people who have worked at a high corporate level typically bring the highest level of skills and dedication to excellence.
  • Make sure that the person has the specific skills you require, like word processing or data management; and take note of what their primary skills are―if their background is primarily word processing and spreadsheets, you probably shouldn’t hire them to design your Web site, even though they offer the service.
  • Availability and communication skills are key attributes for a virtual assistant
  • Finally, you want someone who has well-developed problem-solving skills. Since they typically charge by the hour―as much as $40―you do not want to pay them to futz around trying to solve a problem that would take a good problem solver only a minute or so.

5.3.1. International Virtual Assistants Association

http://ivaa.org

IVAA is the international professional association for virtual assistants. Normally, this would not matter to you, but they offer the most comprehensive directory of virtual assistants on the Web at http://ivaa.org/IVAA/memberDir.php.

If your venture or home-based business actually is a virtual assistant business, membership in IVAA is a requirement. It shows you are operating at a certain professional level and that you are actively engaged in virtual assistantship as a profession. You’re telling the world that you’re not some bum temporarily out of a job (and you’ll find a few of those in places like Guru or Craig’s List).

5.3.1. International Association of Virtual Office Assistants

http://www.iavoa.org

IAVOA is the second largest international association of virtual office assistants. Their Web site largely provides resources for virtual assistants, but also has a worldwide directory of virtual office assistants for you to use. While IVAA is a requirement for individuals running a virtual office business, IAVOA is more of an option, but offers significant benefits to virtual assistants.

5.3.3. VA Networking

http://www.vanetworking.com

While not a professional organization, VA Networking provides services directed at virtual assistants. The site has a large virtual assistants directory as well as an RFP marketplace to connect you with virtual assistant contractors. In fact, VA Networking is the only RFP marketplace for virtual assistants. The site has almost 4,600 registered virtual assistants, making it incredibly valuable as a network for virtual assistants and a place to find the right virtual assistant for your business.

5.3.4. Virtual Assistance U

http://www.virtualassistanceu.com

Virtual Assistance U is an online training and accreditation service for virtual assistants (the other major virtual assistance training and certification service is AssistU, but the site does not offer a graduate directory). Virtual Assistance U includes a directory of virtual assistants that have graduated from their program (GVA―graduate virtual assistant) along with their specialties at http://www.virtualassistanceu.com/grads.htm

5.3.5. Creative Resources

http://www.theadminoffice.com

Based in Jacksonville, NC, Creative Resources provides administrative “virtual assistants” and caters mainly to home businesses, small businesses, and start-ups. You can set up an “as-needed” relationship with them or buy out a certain amount of time each month. While more costly per hour, you can arrange to have work, even full-out departmental work, done only when you need it. Work assignments are passed through the Internet, email, fax, phone, USPS, couriers, and other methods.

They provide services in

  • secretarial
  • administrative
  • executive support
  • bookkeeping
  • desktop publishing
  • office management
  • graphic design
  • word processing
  • travel arrangement
  • internet research, etc.

5.3.6. Suburban Office Services

http://www.suburbanofficeservices.com

Catering exclusively to small business, entrepreneurs, and consultants, Suburban Office Services, essentially a one-person shop run by Eylene Scarpa, provide administrative and other support (“virtual assistant”) on an as-needed basis.

  • word processing
  • database management
  • Web development
  • email marketing
  • desktop publishing
  • spreadsheets
  • document conversion
  • project management

5.3.7. Electric Quill Virtual Assistant Services

http://www.electric-quill.com

Electric Quill offers services to small business and entrepreneurs. Virtual assistants are provided on an as-needed, per project basis in the following areas:

  • word processing
  • spreadsheets
  • meetings
  • Internet research
  • database creation
  • data entry
  • PowerPoint presentations
  • bookkeeping
  • proofreading

5.3.8. Virtually Yours

http://www.virtuallyyoursllc.com

Virtually Yours, run by Sandra Johnson, provides services primarily to small businesses. They offer services on either a project, hourly, or monthly basis in:

  • bookkeeping
  • clerical
  • copywriting
  • contact management
  • customer support
  • marketing assistance
  • personal assistance
  • presentations
  • Web site updates

5.3.9. In-a-Pinch Administrative Services for Small Businesses

http://www.in-a-pinch.com

In-a-Pinch offers administrative services for small businesses including

  • bookkeeping
  • word processing
  • data entry
  • PowerPoint presentations
  • desktop publishing
  • Website development
  • Website marketing
  • Internet research
  • travel services
    • technical support
    • computer training

5.3.10. Virtual Staff Solutions

http://www.virtualstaffsolutions.com

While specializing in entertainment, human resources, and academic transcription services, Virtual Staff Solutions offers services to corporations, academic institutions, and consultants. A seven-year old company, Virtual Staff Solutions provides the following services:

  • word processing
  • transcription
  • correspondence
  • scheduling
  • invoicing
  • desktop publishing
  • proofreading
  • Web design
  • Internet research
  • human resources
  • presentations
  • database

5.3.11. Word Processing Plus

http://www.wordprocessingplus.com

Run by the virtual assistant, Sue Faris, Word Processing Plus caters to small businesses, start-ups, and one-person businesses that do not have administrative staff or medium-sized companies that have cut back on their administrative staff. Despite the name, Word Processing Plus is a virtual assistant firm with services in:

  • document preparation
  • PowerPoint presentations
  • transcriptions
  • correspondence
  • reports
  • data entry
  • spreadsheets
  • general bookkeeping
  • Internet research
  • appointment scheduling
  • faxing
  • survey calls
  • travel arrangements

Word Processing Plus specializes in transcription services: depositions, focus groups, hearings, interviews, general business, legal transcription, and medical transcription.

5.3.12. Virtual Gal Friday

http://www.virtualgalfriday.com

Run by Nancy Brown with an indeterminate staff of “assistants,” Virtual Gal Friday offers services in

  • Virtual office administration
  • Legal office administration
  • Medical office administration
  • Real estate office administration
  • Word processing
  • Transcription
  • Desktop publishing
  • Excel spreadsheets
  • Bookkeeping
  • Payroll
  • Phone reception
  • Travel arrangements
  • E-book design/setup
  • Web design
  • Database development (Access)
  • PHP script installations (!)
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One Response to “Back Office 5.3. Virtual Assistants”

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