With over 70% of the economic experts expecting a last quarter uptick in the economy, now is the perfect time to start preparing for the extra business. I am a big fan of using virtual assistants to help build out my team during peak seasons. This is an especially useful business strategy in today’s market place. One of the best lessons a recession can teach us is that in many circumstances variable costs beat fixed costs any day. To survive the feast or famine rollercoaster of entrepreneurship, you need to make sure your expenses mimic those same ups and downs.
Benefits of Virtual Assistants
Adding virtual assistants to your workforce is a terrific way to turn a traditionally “fixed” expense, like payroll, into a more cash flow friendly variable expense. Let me explain how it would work. For example, most business advisers suggest that payroll expenses should average 20-30% of your sales. This would mean that when sales are flush at $250,000/month that translates into payroll expenses of $50-75,000. When sales hit a downturn at only $50,000/month, your payroll would then move back to a more manageable, $10-15,000. As a business owner, how closely you adhere to this ratio means the difference between bleeding red and staying in the black.
Additional Benefits Include:
- No payroll taxes or employee benefit expenses
- No “on site” office space requirements
- No costly training programs when hiring experienced VA’s
- No long term commitment
- No morale draining lay offs during slow seasons
Understanding the Relationship
When considering virtual assistants to help manage business tasks, there are a couple considerations to keep in mind. For starters, they are not your employee but independent contactors. This means they will most likely have other tasks and deadlines on their schedule while they are working for you. READ: They are on their clock- not yours. Make sure you are respectful of time constraints and provide as much advanced notice of tasks, deadlines, and special circumstances as possible. As with many business relationships, communication is critical. You can’t blame a virtual assistant for not living up to your expectations if you never made those expectations clear. In other words, don’t just say you need something “right away”, make sure you define “right away” as within two hours.
I also think it is wise to start slowly when building a new relationship with a virtual assistant. For example, instead of requesting that they create a new website for you, start by having them update your blog template first. As each task is completed satisfactorily, and communication strengthens, you can then proceed to larger and more complex tasks. Also, be sure to discuss with potential VA’s their strengths and weaknesses to ensure the best experience possible. If you are in the real estate field, consider searching for VA’s with backgrounds in real estate. If you an entrepreneur looking for marketing help, be sure to search for VA’s with a background in marketing or who are currently active in social media.
Tips from an Experienced VA
For more tips, I turned to Dawn Martinello of Monday Morning VA. As an experienced virtual assistant herself, she had some great insight to share. She can be found at MondayMorningVA.
- Be sure to have an exit strategy. Does your contract give you an out if you don’t mesh well? This is especially important for first time clients. For example, our services are non-refundable, but for first time clients we give a 7 day grace period in which they can bow out of the contract if they aren’t working well with their VA.
- When you’re considering outsourcing keep the price in mind. My rule of thumb is that an entrepreneur shouldn’t be doing anything in their business that doesn’t earn them at least 2/3 of their regular rate. That means if you’re a bookkeeper who charges $30.00 per hour, you should consider outsourcing anything that doesn’t earn you $20.00 per hour. The reasoning behind this is that business people need to spend their time and energy on what generates revenue for them. Spending 4 hours trying to update your website doesn’t earn a bookkeeper anything!
If you have never considered hiring a virtual assistant to build out your team, I strongly suggest taking a second look. As technology continues to advance and better networking platforms are built, virtual work relationships will only become even easier. A couple great places to start your search for virtual help include Guru.com, Freelance.com, RentACoder.com, or a simple “virtual assistant” search on Google.
Business Owners, feel free to leave any questions or experiences you would like to share in the comments. Virtual Assistants, be sure to leave any additional tips and your contact information including your area of expertise.