The Valuable Intangibles of an Excellent Virtual Assistant
With the growing need of businesses to streamline costs, more and more people are looking to outsource non-essential tasks and administrative work. For small business owners and those with limited access to funding, hiring an excellent virtual assistant should be the primary option.
A VA is generally considered self-employed and is contracted to do online work from a remote location. Whereas before VAs were hired to perform secretarial or personal assistant duties, the profession has grown in acceptance that businesses have outsourced more professional or technical work such as accounting, social media marketing and writing. Because the VA runs his or her own enterprise, the cost of hiring one is comparatively lower to a full-time office-based employee. It is estimated that there are 25,000 VAs worldwide.
With such a large pool of talent, the challenge would be selecting the right Virtual Assistant. Most candidates will have similar skill sets:
- Good level of English proficiency
- Appreciable knowledge on spreadsheet and word processing software
- Comfortable navigating the Internet
- Experienced in preparing correspondence
- Familiar with social media
Proficiently levels in these areas can be tested and measured. Hiring a VA on the merits of these tangible qualities will not ensure a successful working engagement.
Business owners who intend to hire an excellent virtual assistant should instead focus on the following five intangible qualities.
Psychologists have said that people who are messy in their homes are probably disorganized in real life. Since a virtual employee resides in a remote location, it would be impossible for the client to visit their homes. A client can tell if the VA is organized if he or she presents structure in the conduct of day-to-day activities. This could include adhering to a set schedule or system in updating the client of upcoming events or appointments. Another indicator of organization is the ability to expediently locate and transmit requested documents.
Time-keeping is a good indicator of discipline. A worker who is habitually tardy is not disciplined or professional. Punctuality can be a difficult quality to be consistent in if there is a 12-hour time differential between the client and the service provider. The most disciplined workers are those who adhere to the schedule even if it is difficult for them. The VA understands the client has entrusted him or her with a specific scope of work that must be accomplished within a specific time frame.
The best VAs are those who can turn in work or projects on schedule. They understand the value of time and the importance of efficiency. This is particularly true in the fields of research and transcription where a turnaround time or TAT is almost always prescribed. These VAs are able to meet deadlines because they also possess the qualities of organization and being disciplined.
An excellent VA is one who is ready and willing to provide the client feedback not because he or she was instructed to but because he or she cares about the business. Feedback is a very important element to process improvement because it comes from those without any biases or vested self-interests in the client’s business. Feedback is an honest overview of performance. Feedback can be sent via e-mail but the most effective ones are those that are discussed verbally.
A business owner who contracts an online worker must understand that he or she will be sharing confidential information including documents and contacts to a person who may be living 100,000 miles away. Of all the intangible qualities listed, trust is the one that takes the longest to confirm. Earning someone’s trust is a process which absolutely has to go through a myriad of experiences. But usually consistency in overcoming challenging situations together is a good indicator the service provider can be trusted.
A Virtual Assistant who has these intangible qualities will distinguish himself or herself from the 25,000 other VA’s in the world and will greatly contribute to the productivity and success of the client’s business.