Happy Easter and thanks for allowing me to stop by during the VA Blog Hopping and Podcast Tour, leading up to the Online International Virtual Assistants Convention (OIVAC), May 14-16. I look forward to responding to your questions and invite you to participate in our convention “Intro to the VA Industry” sessions, where we answer more questions about working with a professional virtual assistant.

1. With the current slump in the economy, how is hiring a VA a wise and economical decision for my business?

Great question! Hiring a Virtual Assistant is a wise, economical decision because professional virtual assistants bring a wide range of experience, knowledge and expertise to a relationship. Working with VAs effectively reduces equipment, technology, and personnel-related expenses. In addition, VAs can assume responsibilities business owners lack knowledge or proficiency with, creating savings and freeing clients to handle responsibilities that fuel their passion.

Just as important, clients who develop partnering relationships with Internet-savvy VAs may indirectly connect with an international network of professionals able to assist with special or large projects.

Retaining the services of a qualified VA eliminates the time consuming and financially draining headache of the HR process, including, reviewing large amounts of applications, prescreening and interviewing potential candidates, and after selecting a candidate conducting technology and process training.

While hiring a VA is a prudent decision for business owners impacted by the current economic slump, it is also an excellent option to consider regardless of a business’ economic situation.

2. What are the top 3 qualities I should look for when partnering with a Virtual Assistant?

In addition to being comfortable the VA can deliver promised services, qualities all VAs should possess include:

  • Professional Integrity – upholding strict client and colleague confidentiality, adherence to a set of ethics binding on their conscience and the ability to admit and correct mistakes.
  • Ability to Communicate – providing excellent customer service, as well as verbal, non-verbal, and writing skills.
  • Ability to Collaborate – able to work as part of a team and effectively contribute solutions, offer suggestions and make recommendations to problems the client may experience.
  • Proficiency – a high level of proficiency in the skills of their chosen niche.

3. I hear that many of my business colleagues are finding Virtual Assistants on Twitter, is this a good venue to find a VA?

Yes and no! Why the mixed response? Many VAs use Twitter as a social marketing medium, and will respond to inquiries. If the business owner’s tweet succinctly describes his requirements, he will immediately receive responses from qualified VAs. However, if the 140 character limit prohibits the ability to clearly articulate his needs and specifications, he will be inundated with tons of responses, including unqualified VAs he will have to unnecessarily waste time prescreening.

In addition to Twitter, there are other ways to locate qualified VAs specializing in general as well as niche services. Business owners can submit RFPs to various VA industry organizations, such as VAnetworking.com, IVAA.org, IAVAA.com and many others.

4. I heard about a company offering Virtual Assistant services for $5/hr.   Do you get what you pay for?

Even less! Seriously, there are globally-based companies offering VA services at $5.00 an hour. And, based on the geographic location, cost of living, and economic status of the individual providing services, $5.00 (or less) may be a reasonable rate to charge and make a profit. However, some factors to consider when making this choice can include:

  • Miscommunication due to language barriers, which can result in communication gaps and lack of understanding.
  • Differences in work attitude and culture exposure. Establishing priorities, and deadlines as well as religious considerations may impact work production.
  • Lack of conformity with business ethics and delivery of work with integrity and quality. Confidential information may not be protected as many offshore companies do not have extensive or regulatory personal and data protection.
  • Substandard work product
  • Transition. Amount of time required to bring the VA up-to-speed about your business and project responsibilities and management before deadline.

Yes, you do get what you pay for; but the business owner should also consider that several of the above concerns may apply to local or continental VAs, too. Therefore, the business owner should conduct extensive interviews and assess the potential hire’s qualifications, abilities, experience, and communication skills, etc., to ascertain if the relationship will be a “good fit”. I also recommend that the VA assess the business owner to determine if he is a good match for her business, too.

Well, it’s time to move to my next stop, but before I leave, here’s the first puzzle clue: llsam. Next stop, the Idea Generator blog (http://lindadessau.typepad.com/ideagenerator/), hosted by Linda Dessau of You Talk, I’ll Write.

Sharon Williams is the president of The 24 Hour Secretary and founder of OIVAC. Stop by her blog and signup for the soon to be launched “Let Your VA Handle It” case studies series, where she identifies tasks and solutions VAs offer that save time and money and give clients time to handle responsibilities they are passionate about.

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