How many hours do you work in a typical week? 40? 50? 60? 80? How would you like to increase your income AND reduce your work week down to a mere 4 hours? That is just what Timothy Ferris, the author of the NY Times Best Seller The 4-Hour Workweek, did. While I do not agree with many of the things Tim did along the way to achieving his 4-Hour Workweek, there are some important lessons to be learned.
How did he do it? Outsourcing. He outsourced virtually everything in his life. Many small businesses outsource certain things, such as Payroll. But how many outsource their bill payment, their research projects, appointment setting? Tim was able to setup entire businesses on the simply concept of outsourcing. For instance, he would setup a web store (which he outsourced), he would outsource the order fulfillment, customer service, billing, accounting, etc. Do I think anyone can achieve the success that Tim had? Most likely it is like any other business. If ten people did this, there would be one or two that made it long-term.
So by now, you are thinking to yourself that you can not outsource your entire business. Well, most of us can not, or at least we are not comfortable with it. What we can do it outsource many of our unproductive tasks to free up time so that we can accomplish what we do best and what drives growth for out business. Virtual assistants are simply someone who provides administrative, technical, or sometimes creative assistance to their clients. They are becoming more and more common everyday, particularly with independent entrepreneurs and small businesses.
Since a large number of our clients are in the real estate industry. Let us look at some of the tasks that a typical virtual assistant can perform for an agent: schedule appointments, communicate with title companies, flyer creation, postcard marketing campaigns, organization and management of client databases, listing coordination, creation of virtual tours, FSBO Campaigns (For Sell By Owner), website creation/maintenance, blogs, client appreciation gifts and gatherings, or newsletters just to name a few.
The list of what VA’s can do it limitless. I had one client who is starting an ecommerce website have his VA research where he could find a drop shipper for the products he was looking to sell. I personally have used a VA to design documents, proof read documents, design logos, research products that I am in the market for. Currently, I am having a VA research the best lawn mower for my needs and provide a recommendation, as well as finding me the best deal.
If you are new to the subject of Virtual Assistants, you are probably asking yourself: Who are they? Well the answer varies greatly. Many are executive assistants or secretaries that have decided to go out on their own. Many are solo-shops and many are firms with several professionals assigned to your account, each performing the tasks for which he or she is best suited.
Today, with prevailing technologies such as the Internet, Virtual Assistants can be anywhere in the world. There are many right here in the U.S., but there are large numbers of professional firms in other countries who service clients worldwide.
The obvious major difference is that the typical Virtual Assistant from abroad is typically cheaper than those in the United States. You can get a competent Virtual Assistant firm from India from $4 per hour to $8 per hour depending on the firm and the tasks. In the U.S., rates start around $10 per hour but go up to over $30 per hour.
Do not let the low price fool you. Many of the VA’s in India are equally educated to the VA’s in the United States. Their price is typically lower because they have a much lower cost of living than do their United State counterparts. It does not necessarily mean that the lower rates mean you are getting a lower quality of service. In addition, most all of the VA’s serving clients in the United States are fluent in English.
There are a few advantages to consider when looking at VA’s within your own Country. First of all, they are typically working in the same time zone or at least one only a few hours off. When working with VA’s abroad, it is sometimes difficult to communicate in real time due to the time differences. For instance, India is ten and a half hours off from the Eastern time zone in the United States. In addition, there is an obvious cultural connection between yourself and an individual living in your own country while there may be vast cultural differences if selecting a VA in other parts of the world.
The time difference is not always a disadvantage, and it can sometimes even be an advantage. You can send a project to your VA in India before you leave work and it will be completed and in your inbox when you get to work the next day. This can produce great efficiencies in that it effectively allows for a “second shift” for some tasks within your business.
Where do you find Virtual Assistants? There are a variety of methods starting with typing the term into Google search. A method that is beginning to gain a lot of momentum are websites dedicated to this and other virtual services. You can list your project or tasks into a project description and have many virtual assistance bid to provide you services. Examples of such websites include Elance.com, iFreelance.com and oDesk.com. You can also try the International Virtual Assistant Association at IVAA.org.
The economic benefits to having a virtual assistant rather than an employee are expansive. First, you may not have enough work to fill a full-time employee’s time or even a consistent amount of work to provide to a part-time employee. You only pay for the time in which it takes your virtual assistant to complete his or her task. With an employee, there may many hours of unproductive time.
Because a virtual assistant is not an employee, you do not have to pay payroll taxes or provide any benefits. Your cost is limited to their hourly rate. In addition, you will not have to invest in any of that expensive computer equipment or software since the virtual assistant is required to provide all of that themselves.
When starting with a new VA, I feel that it is best to give them less important projects in the beginning and slowly work up as you are comfortable with their abilities. You may want to even hire more than one based on their specialty.
In today’s fast moving world of small business, it is easy to become bogged down with unproductive tasks. If you are not yet using a Virtual Assistant, consider what task are weighing you down and think about whether they can be outsourced. Remember the lessons that Michael Gerber taught us in one of the greatest business books ever written, the E-Myth. In order to grow, we must work ON our business, not IN our business.