Using a virtual assistant can help you save hours from your workweek, but knowing which tasks to delegate is one of the most important parts, whether you are just now starting a business or have been in business for years. According to Entrepreneur, the majority of virtual assistants are contract or freelance workers who work from home and focus on administrative tasks that are similar to that of an executive assistant or secretary. As the number of virtual assistants continue to grow, their industry expertise now runs the show, making it easier to find someone who fits your organization.
Businesses can use virtual assistants for just about everything from making vendor or customer service calls to sending out thank you cards to prospective clients. Having a virtual assistant is a huge part of any business and “they become a team member who just happens to work remotely,” says Jaleh Bisharat, vice president of marketing at oDesk.com. If you aren’t sure where to start, here are 10 ways you can use a virtual assistant to improve your business.
- Bookkeeping: Keeping track of budgets and other bookkeeping tasks can be one of the best and easiest things to assign to a virtual assistant. A number of small businesses choose to share their bookkeeping systems with their virtual assistants who can then follow up on responsibilities like outstanding invoices or unpaid bills.
- Online Research: It is easy to share online research tasks with virtual assistants and can take a lot off your plate. Common requests might include finding information on corporate websites, researching new products specific to your industry, and checking potential employees or new business contacts. It is important to send clear instructions, along with user names and passwords so assistants can get access to specialty search tools or paid websites as needed.
- Database entries: Whether it’s a number of new business cards picked up at a conference or updated information for existing contacts, keeping databases current is a perfect task for virtual assistants. Be sure to be specific about your needs and expectations to ensure that your virtual assistant has all the information they need to move forward on this kind of task.
- Data presentations: Turning raw data into a comprehensive PowerPoint presentation or summarizing research findings in a Word document can save you a great deal of time when prepping for meetings. Having someone who can turn unorganized data into a presentation or document can prove invaluable to you and your business.
- Managing email: To keep you from spending hours on end staring at your email, some virtual assistants will even filter your most important emails and respond to the rest on your behalf. Such email management is easy to do remotely, but it is critical that you provide clear guidance on how to pick out key emails and ask the assistant to copy you before sending out any responses to ensure quality each and every time.
- Social tasks: Virtual assistants can be an excellent resource when it comes to handling tasks like writing holiday cards or sending thank you notes. Social chores have become a very common assignment in today’s workplace and these kinds of tasks can become incredibly consuming for business executives. However, a good virtual assistant can take care of all of it and keep you focused on running your business.
- Travel Research: Virtual assistants are a perfect aid when you need to find hotels, booking airfares, or mapping out business trip itineraries. A virtual assistant can take full advantage of the ever-increasing number of travel research tools and review sites on online.
- Scheduling: With so many scheduling tools offered online, virtual assistants are able to manage the calendars of many clients. Tasks might include dealing with meeting invitations from others, scheduling appointments with clients, and helping to plan events.
- Finding business: Discovering and actively seeking out potential business opportunities can be quite challenging, but virtual assistants can help with the process and make it a little bit easier. A virtual assistant can be in search of new business prospects or even opportunities to get business executives in front of audiences at conferences or seminars.
- Industry knowledge updates: Many businesses may have limited time to keep up with industry news, and some small businesses have turned to virtual assistants to keep tabs on the most important happenings within the industry. Many executives then use the industry information to update their social feeds or will bring up interesting developments in conversation with customers and prospects.