When I started my first accounting business, I did it all: arranged client calls, prepared financial reports, returned client messages and e-mails, scheduled meetings, and even took care of my company's own accounting needs.

While I was more than capable of handling these daily tasks, I soon realized that it was draining me personally. A typical day included running to see clients, then running to get home in time to take care of my kids and help prepare dinner. And after I put them to bed, I worked late into the night. There came a point when I was completely exhausted and knew that I needed to find a better way to handle it all as an entrepreneur.

One of the best investments I made was hiring a virtual assistant (VA) to help me with my businesses's myriad tasks and office jobs. A virtual assistant (VA) is an independent professional who works remotely to help you with a variety of business needs such as administrative tasks and technical and/or creative assistance, to name but a few.

When I began to utilize a VA, I had them answer calls and take customer messages as needed while I was out with clients. For any call that needed my immediate attention, I had them patch it into me. I soon found that with a VA, I had the extra time and energy I needed to focus solely on doing what I do best: supporting and interacting with my clients and building my business.

You might think you can't afford a VA if you have a start-up, or don't need one if your company is already established, but VAs can be game changers for almost any business. After all, there is truth in the saying, "time is money." If you spend more time supporting your business instead of building it, you are not maximizing your efforts.  

VAs can help with almost any type of essential, but time-consuming job. For example, database management, business reports, internet research, personal correspondence, gift sending, meeting planning, email maintenance, editing, social media maintenance, newsletters, banking, and travel arrangements.

 VAs can benefit your business in other areas, too. Here are four examples:

1. Learn to delegate.

It's often tough for business owners to admit that they can't do everything and to relinquish any kind of control. Yet, successful entrepreneurs know the power of delegation.

Remember, you are not helping the short and long-term health of your business if you are bogged down with tasks that others could easily do. Hiring a VA can teach you how to let go and place greater trust in your team so that you can focus on the bigger opportunities.

2. Reduce labor costs.

VAs save on labor costs as you do not have to pay benefits or office expenses like Internet, phone, and rent. You can also hire them for a certain amount of hours to fit your budget and add more of less time depending on your company's needs each month.

3. Support sudden needs.

As your business grows, you may be faced with short-term projects that require specialized attention or quick turnarounds. VAs can fill these needs, like launching a digital marketing campaign, upgrading new operating systems, conducting market research, or managing inventory. 

4. Improve organization.

It's often difficult to identify areas where there may be repetition or glaring gaps in daily operations. Depending on their individual areas of expertise, a VA can help pinpoint inefficiencies and streamline procedures that can help everything run smoother and increase productivity.

Many websites can help you find a VA, such as Upwork, Zirtual, and Vanetworking.  You can also try reaching out to your business network, associations, and industry groups. VAs either charge by the hour or a set figure that encompasses performing specific tasks. You should approach hiring a VA like any other employee, complete with a detailed job description, interview, references and a trial period.

Not ready for a personal VA? There are other ways to outsource admin needs. For example, get an 800 number so you don't have to use your mobile number; it also makes your business look more professional. Additionally, you can set up your voice mail to transcribe messages, which then can be e-mailed or forwarded to your regular phone. This way you have a record of information that can be shared with others on your team.

While you probably have the skills to do all or most of your administrative and specialized tasks, you should take an inventory of your day and decide what is the best use of your time. When we are stressed or not at optimum energy, our executive and critical thinking skills suffer. It is more important to work smarter and devote your workday to the areas of your business that require your full attention and energy. No matter what your business size, investing in a VA can be a small amount to pay in order to help maintain a stronger work-life balance that benefits both you, your company and those in your personal life.  

Published on: Aug 1, 2018