This is the first in an ongoing series of interviews with experts who work in fields that support the solopreneur life. Today the topic is virtual assistants, and my guest is Deborah Reynolds, the owner of DediKated Resource Virtual Administrative Solutions. Virtual assistants can be a big help for solopreneurs, but how do you know if you should hire one? This Q&A will help you determine whether hiring a virtual assistant is the right move for your small business.
Larry Keltto: What kinds of services do virtual assistants typically provide?
Deborah Reynolds: Virtual assistants can provide all types of administrative services, such as contact and e-mail management, presentations, research, database set-up and management, scheduling, and document and spreadsheet preparation. They also provide specialty services such as graphic design, Internet marketing, social media marketing, virtual events, and Web site design and maintenance.
LK: How are these services purchased—ala carte, packages, or something else?
DR: Services are typically purchased by the hour, by the project or on a retainer basis. Specialty packages may also be offered.
LK: How much do virtual assistants cost?
DR: The cost depends on the service and specialty requested. Virtual assistant rates for administrative services can range from $35 to $50 per hour. For specialty services, the rates can range from $40 to $100 per hour. Retainer and specialty packages are usually offered at a discounted rate.
LK: Why do solopreneurs hire virtual assistants?
DR: Solopreneurs work with virtual assistants for several reasons:
1) They cannot hire a full-time employee, but need assistance.
2) They work from their home and do not have the equipment or space for a temporary or full-time employee.
3) They do not have the time and/or skills to handle the task themselves. Solopreneurs do not want to spend their time “in” their business. They want to spend their time with their family, taking vacations and on the aspects of growing their business that they enjoy. After all, that’s why they started their own business…for more flexibility!
LK: How much time in a week could a solopreneur gain by hiring a virtual assistant?
DR: This depends on what tasks are outsourced, as well as the task frequency. When first starting with a virtual assistant, a solopreneur will most likely gain several hours per week. As the relationship grows and the solopreneur is more comfortable with virtual assistance, it could easily increase to 10 or more hours per week.
LK: When I hire a virtual assistant, am I hiring one specific person to serve my business?
DR: In most cases, yes. Some virtual assistants have a team they work with and there are also virtual assistant companies. For solopreneurs, I believe it is best to work with one specific virtual assistant so they get to know you and your business and can be more of a partner.
LK: Which services do solopreneurs typically purchase?
DR: Initially, solopreneurs purchase administrative type services. Other specialty services are usually requested as trust is established and a partnership is developed.
LK: When are virtual assistants “on call”?
DR: Typically virtual assistants are not “on call”. They are also business owners and have set business hours. However, their clients can arrange specific hours if needed.
LK: There seem to be a lot of virtual assistants. How do I know I am hiring someone I can trust, and someone who will do a good job?
DR: Excellent question. Unfortunately there is no way to know, just as there is no way to know with an actual employee. I recommend reviewing the virtual assistant’s Web site, read their testimonials and look for credibility. Contact one or several of the clients who have provided testimonials on the Web site.
Additionally, a professional virtual assistant will provide a Proposal and/or Agreement detailing the services requested, timeframe, cost, plus a confidentiality clause protecting the client’s information. You can also interview several virtual assistants to determine if they have the skills you are looking for and if it would be a good personality fit.
LK: What other comments do you have regarding virtual assistants?
DR: Virtual assistants are administrative professionals who start their own businesses because they want to continue doing what they enjoy and support the growth and continued success of other entrepreneurs. We are experienced administrative professionals, and because we have our own business and reputation to protect, we have a vested interest in providing excellent service to our clients.
Deborah Reynolds, owner of DediKated Resource Virtual Administrative Solutions, provides Internet marketing, social media marketing, and virtual assistant services to coaches, solopreneurs and small business owners. She is a Certified Social Media Specialist, Internet Marketing Virtual Assistant, and featured writer for Wise Woman Magazine. For more information on her services, please visit www.dedikatedresource.com or contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Have you ever employed a virtual assistant?
Please share your thoughts in the comments.