There was a good conversation going the other day on one of the private attorney listservs I’m on.
An attorney was relating that like most on that particular list, he was a solo with no employees and was finding himself spending an inordinate amount of time on administration and paralegal-type tasks.
He was aware of the Virtual Assistant phenomenon, and wanted more information to explore that route. He did have a few misunderstandings about what we do (he thought he wanted someone local who could run work-related errands around town), so of course I piped right up to help him better understand what Virtual Assistants are, what we do and nip any misconceptions in the bud.
I thought I would share my response with you all here as well…
Hi, [name withheld],
A few of the reasons business owners hire Virtual Assistants include:
a) They don’t have room/space/equipment for in-house staff
b) They prefer working alone and don’t want another person in their “space”
c) They aren’t a large enough business that they have the kind of workload to justify the expense (and administrative hassles) of in-house staff, much less attract the interest of anyone qualified.
That said, you have to understand that Virtual Assistants are not employees. They are independent professionals—just like yourself—who happen to specialize in administrative support. There is a classification of these professionals called Virtual Legal Assistants who have paralegal and legal secretary training and experience.
So understanding that you are hiring a professional and not an employee, there are going to be some differences in how you work together with a Virtual Assistant, and the kinds of things they do for you. Virtual Assistants practice administration in the same way you are in the business of practicing law. Virtual Assistants don’t “run errands” and things like that—you’ll need to find a concierge service for that. A local college student or intern would also fit the bill.
What Virtual Assistants do focus on is taking on some of your administrative burdens. They do the administrative work that would normally take your time, energy and attention away from the real work—the practice of law—that makes you money.
The great thing about Virtual Assistants is that you are getting a higher caliber of administrative knowledge, expertise and service than you would generally find in a temp or college student. My Virtual Assistant association’s industry surveys of the past two years indicate that the majority of Virtual Assistants have at least 20 years real-world experience and training before going into business for themselves.
(But you will need to be discerning and do your homework because in the age of the Internet, anyone can slap up a shingle and call themselves a Virtual Assistant even if they have little or no skills or qualifications to do so.)
Working together virtually is also inherently more efficient and cost-effective. There is a huge amount of technology available that makes it a breeze to work together virtually, and Virtual Assistants are experts when it comes to this.
You also don’t need to have a huge amount of work to keep a Virtual Assistant interested in working with you like you would with other support options. Virtual Assistants typically work with clients in commitments of 10, 15 or 20 hours per month.
AND, you are getting someone who is IN business to stick around; you can’t make a real investment in students or freelancers or work-at-home types who are just looking for side income because there’s no real business commitment on their part. The minute their life/interests/priorities/circumstances change, they are gone or become unreliable.
Besides being a Virtual Assistant myself for over 10 years, I also run a Virtual Assistant professional association—the Virtual Assistance Chamber of Commerce. Anyone who is interested in finding qualified Virtual Assistant professionals can check out our Virtual Assistant Directory.
We also have an RFP Center where you can submit your details and what you are looking for in a Virtual Assistant, and it will get posted to our forum of nearly 600 members—all screened to meet our standards of qualification.
To help you know what to look for in a qualified Virtual Assistant professional, read my guide: How to Hire a Virtual Assistant, Your 10-Step Guide to Finding the Perfect Fit.