Most business owners have one clear goal: business growth.
There’s only one little thing standing in the way. You’re just too busy. Whether you’re a one-man-band just starting out or you’re running an established business with existing employees, chances are you’re too busy tackling the day-to-day work, dealing with clients, doing the admin and putting out fires.
The tasks you need to complete consistently to grow the business — the marketing, the sales, the leadership — tend to fall to the bottom of the to-do list. Or drop off the list entirely. As Michael Gerber, author of The E-Myth Revisited would say, you’re too busy working in your business to work on your business.
You probably realise that this is exactly what you’re doing but perhaps you’re not sure how to free up your time? Those clients need to be dealt with; the admin needs to be done, right? And taking on employees (or good employees anyway) is an onerous task and can feel like too big a risk when you’re first growing your business.
So, is there an alternative to hiring an employee? Especially when the tasks you want to delegate are too small in total to justify the cost of a full-time (or even a part-time) member of staff?
The alternative is to grow your business with a virtual assistant.
What is a virtual assistant?
A virtual assistant is typically a self-employed individual who’ll work with you and their other clients remotely. They’re not an employee, although you can (and in my opinion, should) treat them as a trusted member of your team. More on that later in this article.
Virtual assistants (or VAs) are typically paid for the hours they work, or on a project-by-project basis, and they can be based anywhere in the world. I’ve used VAs based in India, Eastern Europe, the Philippines and many other foreign countries. The advantage to this sort of VA is that you’re getting highly skilled workers, who can deliver great results at a rate that is often (significantly) lower than in the UK or USA.
Good virtual assistants are typically self-starters — they’re business owners in their own right — so they don’t need as much managing as an employee.
After selling a previous business I had no desire to rush into taking on employees again and using a stellar team of UK-based virtual assistants to help me grow my business has turned out to be a serious win!
So how can you grow your business with a virtual assistant?
Virtual assistants are a misunderstood bunch. The typical image of a VA tends to be the generalists who will help you with your administration, finance, accounting and any number of other tasks that you’re bogged down with on a day-to-day basis.
And many of them do specialise in those areas. But there is so much more these talented folks can help with.
Many virtual assistants are highly-trained and offer specialist work in a wide range of fields. Some specialise in particular areas of marketing, whether that be email marketing, social media management, public relations or direct marketing.
Others are visual creatives adept at web design, graphic design or document design.
The key question here is to ask yourself: what is the highest value use of your time?
Is it doing the invoicing, the admin and playing around with Canva, or is it finding new clients and winning new business? It may be something else, but it’s probably some task that only you can do but are not currently doing because you’re too busy chasing late payments or trying to set up an email opt-in.
The real reason you’re not already working with a virtual assistant
You probably already know what would be the best use of your time — and it isn’t the mundane, but important day-to-day jobs that are keeping you so busy. The answer is clear: you need to outsource these tasks to a virtual assistant, right?
So why aren’t you doing it already?
For most business owners it boils down to one thing. It’s not the cost. It’s not because they don’t know where to source a great VA. No, for most of you it’s that persistent belief, that voice in your head that insists:
“Nobody else can do it as well as me”.
As business owners, we think that nobody else can do the work as well as we can. I mean, we’re indispensable, aren’t we?
I definitely don’t think this way. I like to surround myself with people who are better than me at loads of things, and I can tell you it’s liberating! It’s also hugely reassuring…
Are you a Single Point of Failure?
I wrote in a recent post, “Why I’m rebooting my blog and my business” that, given the year I experienced (complete with two hospital stays, a move 250 miles North and a wedding), without my virtual assistants, my business wouldn’t have continued. It couldn’t have continued because I was often incapacitated and unable to run the business!
Could your business run without you, or are you an SPF — A Single Point of Failure? If you were knocked over by a car tomorrow (don’t dismiss this idea, it happened to me!) and hospitalised, do you have the people around you who can help things tick over until you’ve recovered? (I do. Meet Team Tubb.)
If not, then it might be time to ditch the idea that you need to do everything yourself. Because really, there are loads of talented people that could do some of your business tasks as well as you. And it never hurts to have a backup team!
How to work with a virtual assistant
I currently employ five virtual assistants to help me in my business. Each one can, without a shadow of a doubt, do the jobs they need to do not just as well as me, but better than me.
Michelle knows Mailchimp better than I ever will.
Mark knows video editing in a way that I’ll never master.
Col can grow a significantly better beard than me — oh, and he’s really good with design.
You get the idea. I’ve built myself a highly specialised team of experts, which brings me to my Golden Rule of hiring virtual assistants…
Don’t try to find one super-VA to do everything for you
It may sound easier to find one generalist who’ll do everything for you but there really are advantages to looking for people who are experts in their particular field.
Virtual assistants, like everyone else, have their strengths and weaknesses. Play to those strengths. Hire somebody with the skills for the task at hand. This isn’t an employee you’re taking on who has a whole working day you need to fill. A virtual assistant could work an hour a month for you, or many hours a month — it’s all down to what you need doing.
And of course hiring one single “Super VA” who can do everything, if you could even find such a talented individual, takes you right back to that Single Point of Failure. You’d end up relying on them too much! What if that “Super VA” was hit by a car and was unable to work, or decided to quit the VA business? You’d be back to square one.
How much do virtual assistants cost?
Cost might not have been objection number one to hiring a virtual assistant but, of course, it is a concern. Many people assume they’ll be too expensive to work with.
That hasn’t been my experience.
If cost is truly an issue for you, then you can work with virtual assistants in India, the Philippines or other parts of the world where the skill-set is high and the cost is very low by our country’s standards.
But as I’ve shared, I’ve chosen to work with a team of UK-based virtual assistants and they cost my business in total, less than the cost of a single employee would every month. And I guarantee they bring a far more varied range of talents to my business than a single employee ever could.
Obviously, the cost of a virtual assistant depends on their skill set and the number of hours you want to work with them, but think hundreds of pounds each month rather than thousands.
One final important observation on the cost of virtual assistants: if you still think you can’t afford to hire one, then please sit down and work out how much money you’re leaving on the table by doing those jobs you know you shouldn’t be doing. How many new clients could you have won if you weren’t doing the invoicing? What is that worth to you, in real terms? I’d be surprised if it’s not much, much more than the cost of hiring a virtual assistant.
How I work with my virtual assistants
Want to know more about how you can grow your business with a virtual assistant and, beyond that, how to actually work with them?
I’m conscious about elaborating on how I work with virtual assistants within my business because your business is different to mine, and what works for me, may not work for you. My business is business consultancy; yours may be IT, or software development, floristry or fishing tackle.
With that said, I’d encourage you to check out team collaboration tools such as Slack and Trello, and connect your virtual assistants with each other. It’s my experience that by doing so, you’ll avoid becoming the ‘bottleneck’ and allow your team to get on with the work your business needs doing.
If you are interested in learning more about how I work with my VA team, then leave a comment below or contact me. I’ll happily consider writing an article about it if there is enough interest.
I hope I’ve given you a flavour of how to grow your business with a virtual assistant and given you some ideas on how to work with one.
Working with one or more VAs can help free up your time and energy to concentrate on working on your business rather than just working in it.
Working with multiple VAs reduces the risk of you being a Single Point of Failure (SPF) within your business.
Working with a team of VAs is often cheaper than taking on an employee, and comes with the added bonus of a wider variety of skills and experience.
And above all, working with VAs allows you to choose to spend your time working on the things that are the highest value use of your time.
If you’d like to know more, contact me — I regularly help my IT Solution Provider and Managed Service Provider (MSP) clients to implement the use of virtual assistants in their businesses.
Or if you’d prefer, reach out to the members of Team Tubb directly. They’re a friendly bunch and I know they’d love to hear from you!
If you’ve got this far and want to learn more about how to grow your business with a virtual assistant, you’ll love this: “Virtual Freedom: How to Work with Virtual Staff to Buy More Time, Become More Productive, and Build Your Dream Business” by Chris Ducker.
If you’ve got this far and you still don’t see how working with a VA might be for you, then I’d recommend you go and read “The 4-Hour Work Week: Escape the 9-5, Live Anywhere and Join the New Rich” by Tim Ferriss. This seminal book will change your perspective on work forever.