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What is a virtual assistant?

Virtual Assistants (VAs) are independent entrepreneurs 

. . . providing professional administrative, creative, managerial, technical, business office and/or personal support services for business owners and busy professionals. Virtual Assistants use the most advanced means of communication, and the newest and most efficient and time saving office products and work delivery, regardless of geographic boundaries. Virtual Assistants work from their own offices, on a contractual basis, and abide by an established Code of Ethics requiring integrity, honesty and due diligence. What is a virtual assistant going to do for me and my Michigan business and how do I use a virtual assistant? In short, a Virtual Assistant can do just about anything a regular employee can do.  You just won’t see his or her face every day and the manner in which you send tasks to him or her will vary slightly. Instead of walking paper files into the next office, you can simply attach those same electronic files to an email and hit send.  Your virtual assistant will work on those files according to your instructions and return them, mail them, or do whatever else you request with them.

A virtual assistant can assist or complete the following:

  • Research for potential clients or customers

  • Call contractors (printers, office supplies, other) to get quotes for you, pass those quotes on to you for approval, set up the contractor and baby sit him or her for you until the job is done.

  • Screen clients or customers for motivation or to be sure they’re qualified to work with your company

  • Process mailings to potential clients or customers

  • Perform outbound telemarketing calls seeking clients or customers.  Handle other parts of your business marketing mix

  • Enter your leads into your CRM program

  • Set/cancel appointments

  • Work with Excel spreadsheets and with MS Word

  • Answer incoming calls for you, as well as return phone calls

  • Type and send letters or contracts

  • Make travel arrangements

  • Call for quotes for almost any work you need done.

  • Schedule your rental car or your vehicle for service

  • Order services on your behalf

Many virtual assistants are more specialized, but some of the tasks a virtual can do are:  

Human resources
Concierge services
Sales / Lead Generation
Travel arrangements
Marketing Research
Appointment setting
Word processing
Meeting arrangements
Letter preparation
Event planning
Proof reading
Reports Manuals
Data processing
Data entry Document scanning
Answering phone calls
E-mail processing
Procedure documentation
Customer support
Web design

Virtual Assistants are typically a very intelligent group of people.  Many are college-educated and even more have countless years of solid business experience to draw on.  This comes in very handy when you’re looking for ideas for your new Michigan Business.  How can a virtual assistant help me make more money in my Michigan business?  How are other professionals using virtual assistants?
  • Perhaps the most important thing she can do is relieve you of the mundane, time-consuming tasks that keep you from selling what you need to sell.  As a Michigan business professional, your time needs to be spent out on the streets or on the phones and in front of clients, not with your head tucked in a filing cabinet.  
  • She/he can also be your telemarketer, can do follow up calls after post cards or letters have been sent (which by the way, she can also mail those post cards or letters for you).  Follow up calls and outbound cold calling are essential in any business to keep touching new potential clients – your telemarketer can also do the cold calling for you.  Give her a simple script, tell her what you want done with the good leads, and unleash her on your prospect list!  If the prospect appears to be a good lead, ask her to gather as much information for you as she can and send the good leads back to you for follow through.

  • Your virtual assistant can also take your inbound calls for you.   Each and every client should be treated as the individual that they are.  Each client, regardless of how big or small should be assigned just one admin.  This admin is then able to get to know your clients/customers, your Michigan business, and how you like your work performed.  That's how the personal touch and true human element stays intact.  Answering your inbound calls for you is as easy as forwarding your existing business line to your virtual admin.
  • A virtual assistant can save money because there is no need to rent office space to accommodate him or her, you don’t need to buy a computer or desk for her to work at, he or she is an independent contractor so I don’t need to pay FICA, health insurance, vacation time, Social Security, or other taxes and benefits.
  • A virtual assistant can help you make more money by also acting as my marketing assistant.  
How can hiring a virtual assistant benefit me and my Michigan business?

As a business professional, you need to constantly have new leads flowing you’re your sales pipeline.  A virtual assistant can help you find those leads, help you qualify them, and basically act as an extension of you.  This keeps you out there selling and can ensure a constant flow of new leads.  Virtuals work best when plugged into your current marketing system.  If you’re doing marketing campaigns that already work well, but need to do more of it to keep the leads coming, task portions (or all) of that out to your virtual.  Let her do the prep work so-to-speak and free you up for the more impactful activities like closing the sale.
They’re the savviest of the savvy when it comes to operating on a low budget and using technology to their advantage.  Their cost consciousness should extend to your business expenses as well.
Most are equipped with the latest software (and lots of it), multiple phone lines, Internet, e-mail, fax machine, cellular phone, copy machines, scanners, and a great attitude.  Many even come with a cat or dog!  He or she should use all of the latest technology to communicate with you and get your work done as quickly as possible.  Hiring a virtual that already comes with all of the best software saves you hundreds of dollars by not having to purchase all of that software yourself.

A virtual should only “clock in” when they’re on your project.  This means you don’t pay for her time playing solitaire on the computer or while she’s waiting for the next assignment.

A virtual assistant can free your time to do what you’re good at and what’s important to your company.  Whether that’s making sales, following up on leads, attending speaking events, or doing the other meaty tasks your business requires. 

How can I trust a person I’ve never met in person, and never will, to keep my leads and my business confidential?

Virtual Assistant’s are as concerned with your business success as they are with their own.  In fact, their success depends on your success.  So, a virtual assistant can become one of the best assistants and business partners you’ve ever had.  Just like you, they are business owners and very interested in helping their clients.  

It’s also a good idea to get your virtual or the company providing the virtual under strict confidentiality agreement.

How quickly will a virtual assistant be available to me when I need to assign a task?  When will s/he get it back to me and how?

A good virtually will be available almost immediately - if she’s serious about her job, her work, and her clients.  Most virtuals work with a handful of clients and need to prioritize their work.  Your virtual should let you know, when sending her a new task, when she will be able to get to it and she should ask you how high the priority.

How can I find a good virtual assistant?

Virtually, of course!  The Internet is probably the best place to go in search of your very own Virtual Assistant.  

How can I successfully screen a virtual assistant? There are several things you need to know before you start looking:  

  1. What exactly do I need help with?

  2. What expertise does the Virtual Assistant need?

  3. How much do I have available to spend?

  4. How quickly do I need this project done?

  5. How long will I need virtual assistance?

  6. How often will I need my Virtual Assistant to work?

  7. What hours should he or she be available?

  8. What days of the week?

  9. Is there any specific software he or she needs to have?

  10. Is what I need accomplished so specific that I’ll need to incorporate some training time?

  11. How will I pay him or her?  Visa, MasterCard, Check, Paypal, wire transfer?

  12. How do I want to communicate with my Virtual Assistant?  Phone, e-mail, snail mail, or a combination?

  13. Does my Virtual Assistant really need to be located in a particular time zone, country, part of the country, city?

  14. Any other particular qualities you’d like your virtual assistant to have?

Just as you would screen someone who would apply to work in your office, you’ll still need to spend a little time screening your virtual assistant.  You’ll need to tell him or her what you need and want, and what is and isn’t acceptable.  You’ll also need to negotiate pricing and terms with the virtual.

How do I train my virtual assistant to do what I want?

Training a virtual assistant should be no different than training an in-person assistant.  Use the latest technologies that everyone has access to in order to facilitate training.  Communicate your needs via telephone, instant messenger, and by emailing documents for review.

How can I manage an assistant who is 100’s of miles away?

Well, do you mean manage or micro-manage?  No successful business owner can afford to micro-manage.  If you need to micro-manage, you should find someone to sit right next to you in your office.  If you can refrain from micro-managing and allow your admin to think and do on her own, you’ll have no problems managing her from a distance.  

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