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Once upon a time, men in pinstripe suits would sit in grand offices at a big dark wooden desk, and just outside would be their PA typing away and screening phone calls. But as technology began to rise, the business landscape started to change.

Many years later, tasks usually carried out by a PA could be done more easily without them. By the 2000’s offices were being replaced by computers and phones and the need for physical premises and assistants declined.

Or so they thought!  Even though the landscape had changed in terms of the physical, operations of a business still needed to be managed.

In fact, technology brought its own demons in the form of things such as social media, emails and data monitoring. The virtual office was missing something, it needed support from someone who knew their way around the systems and the technology. lIt needed someone to manage emails just like the Personal Assistant who would deal with the post when it came in. Most of all it needed someone to greet and engage with its customers via its shop window, now known as a website and social media just like the receptionist who welcomed you as you walked through the doors… and so a Virtual Assistant was born.

What exactly is a Virtual Assistant and how does it work are amongst the most frequently asked questions which we have addressed below.

What is a Virtual Assistant?

Also known as a Virtual PA, Virtual Personal Assistant or VA, a Virtual Assistant is an independent person or freelancer providing administrative services to clients from a remote setting. Often working for more than one client and on a flexible and ad-hoc basis, meaning you can use them as often or as little as you want, including one off projects.

Who is a Virtual PA’s audience?

Virtual Assistants are extremely versatile and therefore they can help anyone and everyone. From business activities for a large corporate to personal tasks for individuals.

Small business and start-ups/ entrepreneurs tend to find that the flexible nature of a VA makes them an affordable and accessible source to complete their tasks as and when required, rather than having the responsibility of permanent employees.

As businesses grow, often they continue to work alongside the VA, as they have become an extension of the team and understand the way the business operates.

Larger businesses usually outsource to a Virtual Assistant for holiday and sickness cover or for tasks such as minute taking for meetings which affect that business or it’s staff, and high confidentiality is needed.

What services does a Virtual Assistant offer?

Virtual Assistants cover a broad range of expertise, some specialising in areas such as coaching or HR and others being more general.

The majority of VA’s will offer the tasks of a more traditional Personal Assistant such as diary management and administration. However, you’ll find us assisting more with the digital and technical side of a business such as website creation, marketing and social media management.

Defining the services of a Virtual Assistant isn’t easy and when we say we do everything, we pretty much mean we do everything. Our job is to save you time by completing the tasks you shouldn’t be doing, or you don’t want to do, and therefore leaving you to do the things that bring you revenue. Every single client of a VA requires a different service, there’s no one size fits all and that’s why it’s important to find a VA that will fit your business model.

What are the benefits of using a Virtual Assistant?

The best thing about using a VA is that you get instant support of a highly skilled individual, but only when you need the services. Using a VA cuts down on your overheads as well as any employee benefits, taxes, and insurance you would normally be responsible for. There is no wasted downtime; you pay only for the time we spend working on your project or tasks.

How does it work?

We use the most advanced and up to date technology in order to connect with our clients. Communication is key, and regular update meetings are held using face to face digital platforms such as Skype or Zoom.

If you are looking to use a Virtual Assistant on a more regular basis, you may wish to set them up under your own systems for easy and secure sharing of documents, such as Dropbox or Office 365.

How much does it cost?

VA’s usually charge based on an hourly rate, the average costing being between £25 and £35 per hour depending on experience and skill set. But remember, you aren’t liable for the usual costs associated with employees, and you only pay for the hours you need which can save thousands over the course of a year.

What hours does a VA work?

Virtual Assistants are self-employed and therefore you’ll find many don’t work the standard 9-5. Often, you’ll find a VA will work around your business requirements.

How do I choose a VA?

Getting a VA that fits with you and your business values is key for a healthy working style.

Having to micro-manage your VA is not only stressful and time consuming to you but can be highly frustrating for the working dynamics for both parties.

Interviewing a VA is just as crucial as interviewing an employee. Knowing their background and their experience is vital for the selection process. Be sure to set out your expectations from the beginning and allow them to set theirs.

On initial instruction, set simple tasks which you can monitor in order to satisfy yourself that they are the right VA for you.

If you have any more questions regarding Virtual Assistants of find out about how we could assist you and your business, do get in touch and email emma@theumbrellatree.co.uk, call 07977 640119 for a chat or visit our www.theumbrellatree.co.uk