Business Operational in the Cloud: Why Not Use Offshore Virtual Assistants to Run Your Business?

Tim Ferriss made the “virtual assistant” a cool person to have on your payroll back when his first book “The Four Hour Work Week” came out. At that time, outsourcing tasks online was something only done by big corporations, trying to save money by having cheap offshore VAs do menial tasks for pennies-on-the-dollar over what it would cost them to pay a regular office drone to do the same thing.

Then Tim came along with his book and his blog and started telling the public how one could streamline hours of “email checking time” down to just a few minutes per night, by hiring an offshore virtual assistant and having them sort and/or respond to contacts and only bring the most important stuff to their attention.

Thanks to the available technologies, like cloud collaboration and everything-cloud from backup to accounting, there is a new trend of location independent working. Not only that, the cloud-based work-related platforms have encouraged the rise of remote workers and Virtual Assistants.

Tim Ferris and the 4-hour workweek book
photo credit: Brian Caldwell / Flickr

Today, more and more entrepreneurs and small businesses are using VAs to complete everything from simple office work like data entry, to more complex tasks like website administration, design, research, online order fulfillment, accounting, customer service, and much more.

How Common are They?

Indeed, VAs are really common these days. With so many possibilities for making money online, there are tons of hardworking entrepreneurs out there trying to make their mark as the next Internet millionaire. There are several brick-and-mortar businesses that use the services of virtual assistants too, for things like sorting and responding to email inquiries from customers, keeping the books in order, and more – all done in the cloud.

Why Isn’t Everyone Using a VA?

Stubbornness mostly. The “I can do it, why pay someone else to do it” mentality, that’s actually counter-productive to geting more work done, so you can make more money and/or enjoy more downtime from work worries.

The technologies are there; the human resources are there. Stubbornness, indeed.

VAs are actually becoming much more popular and the entire industry as a whole has taken on a higher level of professionalism over the last few years – thanks to the agencies like 24/7 Virtual Assistant, that hand-picked the best VAs for you. Freelance assistants are running their services like real businesses and there are several quality outsourcing agency firms out there with a reputation for delivering quality virtual employees to their clients.

Busy Virtual Assistant

Benefits of Hiring a Virtual Assistant

No overhead – No benefits to pay, no equipment fees, office lease, pens, pencils, computers, printers, fax machine, etc. No fixing things in the office when an employee breaks it.

Day and Night – With so many time zones to choose from, you can have people working on your business’s success 24/7, while you keep your own hours.

Less taxes – They’re “virtual” and the IRS doesn’t recognize virtual workers as official employees. Why? I have no idea why they haven’t amended this yet. Ride the wave while it’s up!

Everything run in the cloud – no infrastructure investments: No computing devices; no cubicles; no meeting room; no coffee corner. Nothing. Just your computing/mobile device and an Internet access.

Mo’ money – You’re saving on overhead, expensive employment taxes and you’re going to be paying way less than half the price in salary expense over traditional office staff. Some VAs can be nabbed for $5 per hour, while others are even less at $1 per. These prices are typical for virtual assistants from developing countries. European and North American VAs will charge more.

Disadvantages of Using a VA

No presence – The “virtual” aspect means that your assistant cannot do anything that requires them to be physically present.

Language barrier – One of the toughest aspects of dealing with a virtual assistant can be language barriers. Always test your VAs proficiency before hiring them and judge their language skills based on how much communication will be necessary for them to get the job done.

Timezone differences – That which can be a benefit can also be a drawback, depending. If you absolutely need a VA who lives in your timezone, you’ll likely be paying more. The timezone issue can also make communication, particularly the timely kind, choppy at best.

Trust building process – It takes a bit longer for some outsourcers to truly trust their virtual staff. While Skype is a great way to talk face to face, it’s not the same as looking someone directly in the eye day in and day out.

What Can They Actually Do?

The easier question would be: what can’t they do? Seriously, there are professionals all over working as VAs. Medical transcriptionists, sales, web development, content writing, video editing, and much more. The quality of what you get when seeking out educated professionals usually coincides with how much you’re willing to pay, but not always. There are little gems to be found at cutthroat rates.

Of course, many people already know about the simple tasks that a VA can do like sorting email, data entry, customer service, social media posting, blog commenting, etc.

Where to Find Them?

When you’re first starting out, you’ll have far more luck seeking out an agency that specializes in recruiting and providing virtual assistants to their clients. This takes a lot of the muss and fuss out of the filtering and hiring process which can be very frustrating for new outsourcers. Usually, you pay the firm a set monthly rate and they provide you with an assistant or assistants, depending on the size of package you choose.

If employees don’t work out, or just plain flake out on you altogether, an outsourcing agency guarantees you’re never left holding the ball and will have someone waiting in the wings to takeover where the other person left off.

There are also an endless source of online classifieds, forums, and VA finding platforms like Elance, Odesk and TaskRabbit to choose from. Classified sites like Craigslist and forums like Warrior Forum have lots of listings for qualified assistants, but you’ll have to suffer through a few misses or more to find people with the qualifications and work ethic you’re looking for.

Platforms are your next best bet if you decide to go it alone and do your own hiring. You can check user feedback to see what other people think about the VAs you’re considering to hire. Though it’s a bit of a racket, since they take a rather large portion (Elance takes around 9%) of what you pay for the VAs services, and continue to do so even after you’ve established a relationship with the VA and decide to keep using them.

The technology is there: But leveraging it is a real challenge. However, when you hire your first superstar VA, you’ll never look back. They’ll liberate you from the grind; the mundane tasks that eat up your time and kill your motivation. Hire a VA and – along with the efficiency and effectiveness offered by cloud technology – watch your productivity go up by at least 75 percent in no time! 

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