If it hasn’t happened yet, it will soon: Robots will take over the world and run online businesses. But until the robo-pocalypse, you’ll be running every aspect of your e-commerce—selling, marketing, fulfilling, shipping, customer service, and everything else we missed. And you’ll realize that doing it all yourself just isn’t feasible. Thankfully, technology is here to get that problem solved: Virtual Assistants.
Let’s be clear up front: Virtual assistants are NOT robots. At least, not yet. They’re people and they’re here to help ease your day-to-day burdens. They can’t bring you that latte or pick-up your dry cleaning (like those interns of a bygone era), but they CAN help you with the important and sometimes tedious aspects of your business.
“My Virtual Assistant (VA) is my right hand,” says Kayla Fioravanti, owner of several businesses, including Red Cedar Bison, an online store offering different types of bison meat. “I know with complete confidence that I can take on any project even if I don’t know how to do it because my VA will figure it out or help me find somebody who can.”
Fioravanti’s VA has helped build and work on WordPress websites, create brochures, design logos, create book covers, and a variety of technical jobs. She pays her VA per project or per hour. The hourly rate is $65 non-retainer and $55 on retainer.
Fioranti used a referral from the Indie Business Network and uses Jennifer Smith at Eco-Office Gals. If you don’t have a referral from your own network, know that there are many VA options available to you, including Worldwide 101, Upwork and Zirtual, with prices ranging from $20 to $75 or more per hour.
What Virtual Assistants Can Do
VAs can do a variety of essential tasks. Take a look and see if you need any of these handled (Spoiler Alert: You do):
- Customer service. A good VA can help field your customers’ communications and assist them with any problems or concerns they have promptly and professionally.
- Inventory processing and order management. VAs can help you manage stock levels, process and send order invoices, compile your orders, work with your suppliers, and bill your vendors.
- Technology. A VA can be your IT person and Webmaster, and can also handle search engine optimization, social media marketing and blogging.
- Bookkeeping. A VA with the right training can manage your books.
- Photos and Video. A VA can find or create and edit photos and video for your website or marketing efforts.
How to Get the Most Out of the VA Relationship
Whether you place an ad or ask for a VA referral, make sure that you have quite clearly listed the exact tasks you want the assistant to do, and precisely what you expect from them. Some business owners have even created Operations Manuals detailing the process for each task, so that there’s no question tasks are completed to your standards. Using tools like Dropbox or Evernote to communicate or as a repository for information, is also helpful. You may also want to get ongoing reports from your Virtual Assistant that provide details on activities.
As with every relationship, it may take time to get in sync with each other. Be polite and gracious during the process, as you would in every business dealing.
TL;DR: “Find a VA that easily understands your directions because the entire relationship is virtual,” notes Fioravanti. “You absolutely need someone who ‘gets’ you. Look at what the person has done before, ask for referrals and check the VA out online.”
Ready to Get a VA?
Virtual Assistants will free up your time. You’ll be able to focus more on growing your business and doing the activities you love. Check out your VA options today!