A Virtual Administrator (or Virtual Assistant) otherwise known as a VA is a professional who provides administrative support to businesses online, or virtually. VAs are becoming more widely known and are a strength for businesses looking for cost-saving options.
There are over 4,000 VAs operating across Europe, with a variety of skills and expertise. More and more PAs and EAs are transitioning from employed positions to business owners. Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, there was an estimated 4 million of the global workforce that will work from home by 2025. That number is very hard to quantify now, as it became almost the norm for people to work from home due to lockdowns, health, and safety, or changing business priorities (many for the better).
Society has moved its work channels from the physical to the digital, erasing the need to have to go to a physical location to support teams. Coupled with the growth of the internet and mobile integration into our daily lives, working from home has become a regular feature. For VAs, however, this was already a trend and the ability to adapt to business requirements has been for the most a seamless transition.
As businesses move to online practices, the team needs to be adaptable to new software, systems, and information. Often there is a lack of time or skills to fully adapt or learn, and this is where bringing in support, even for a short time, can be extremely helpful. Businesses are always looking for new ways of streamlining work practices and maximising outputs.
Virtual Administration is a developing sector that businesses are tapping into to provide more flexibility for their teams. A VA can be brought in to help share the workload and ease the burden on the team as much as possible.
How can you trust someone will do their job remotely?
As the pandemic has shown businesses, the location is not generally the factor of delivery, it’s the ability to communicate, clear scopes of work, and trust. For virtual administration, trust is sometimes hard-fought with clients who doubt delivery can be achieved without some impact on their time.
To be clear, you’re paying for someone to deliver tasks, not for their availability at all times. Flexibility is a part of the trust and you need to lay ground rules with each other of when and how work will be provided, and the deadlines to meet work commitments. It’s hard work at the start but is definitely worth it when you find a person that can understand your business needs deeply and support you when you need them.
A virtual administrator will often invest in training, and many have bachelor or master degrees so you are generally not starting with a beginner. Blue Ninja director Louisa Stewart completed certification with Virtual Assistant Coaching and Training in the United Kingdom and with that training came business skills and best practices in virtual administration. There are many training schools for VAs across Europe that help administrators transition from employee to consulting style roles so ask your VA what their experience is, you never know what background they may have!
A VA is only required when a business has a need
Traditionally, the scope of administrative business support has been full-time, part-time, and temporary (temp). Administrators have not been viewed as experienced consultants. That is changing. Hiring administrative staff via agencies is time-consuming, costly, and can be unsuccessful as the expectations of support are misaligned with what the business actually requires so getting administrative support, short term or otherwise is challenging.
By recognising what specific skill-set is required means a business can bring in an administrator who has a high-level proficiency with that skill. Administrators find their talents and work hard at maintaining and growing those talents. If they don’t know, they will find out and learn (on their own time) to become more proficient. New products and tools are being developed every year so knowing the difference between say automation tools such as Zapier and Automate.io may save you a lot of time and money, but may not be something you as a business owner are necessarily paying attention to.
At Blue Ninja, we have award-winning virtual assistants who work at all levels of a business, from supporting projects and teams, providing oversight and support to CEOs and Directors, to speaking to clients on a person’s behalf to help with delivery. It’s an area we are very proud of and more and more clients come to us because of our ability to provide confidential, timely services to a point where we are trusted to assist with planning and execution of business concepts.
Having other team members cover work will not solve the team’s administrative burden
Businesses want to save money. Small businesses will often integrate the administrative support function into another person’s role in order to cover the work. This can cause extra pressure on the team and often the team may not have the skills or time to achieve what’s needed.
A professional VA will likely start from €40 upwards, with VA support in The Netherlands averaging over €50 per hour. Businesses will be gaining an experienced administrator with training, experience, and skills to support, with an expectation of a successful partnership. VAs are also business owners and will be valuable, as long as the VA fits with the business. Many VAs refine their specialism so businesses should consider what skillset is needed (eg. social media), then look for a VA that supports those requirements. This flexibility is a big plus particularly in rural areas where finding business support can be a challenge.
What are the negatives?
You may not find a VA that fits right away
Getting the right support may take a couple of tries. It may be that the VA does not fit your vision, or isn’t adaptable to your needs. Whatever the reason, you may need to be flexible enough to trial more than one VA during your time. They are also not your employee, so you need to be clear on the boundaries you set in terms of confidentiality and security. Trust your VA has your best interests at heart, but they will not tolerate abuse or lack of clarity.
You may incur extra business costs upfront
Businesses do not pay leave, sick pay, or equipment for a VA to support them. What is agreed is what is paid. VAs track all time and costs and will report regularly on progress. VAs work remotely, so generally, there will not be an expectation to be onsite. VAs take communication very seriously and use a range of tools to keep in touch with teams. In certain circumstances, onsite support will be required if bookkeeping or paperwork needs to be dealt with. VAs will evaluate the most efficient, cost-saving options where possible. VAs use time trackers and online tools to maximise their value, often passing this knowledge and information onto businesses. It takes time to build the relationship but once you’re on track you will save time and money in the long term.
Bring in a VA can be a great long term strategy
Whatever your business, bringing in virtual administration support can work exceptionally well. As working from home becomes a new normal, VAs already have the structure, acumen, and skills to work remotely. With trust and communication, you can build great business relationships with a compatible VA.
VAs are very careful about client confidentiality, and make sure there are strict protocols in place to protect businesses and information. Businesses will have their own procedures and systems and a VA will fit into this structure where possible or may recommend solutions as needed.
VAs can be a useful support option for businesses and should be given due consideration. Why not try a VA today. If you are interested in bringing in remote administrative support into your business practices, get in touch with Blue Ninja today to arrange a free 30 minute consultation.