As an entrepreneur, there are lots of priorities competing for your attention on any given day. It's helpful to have an extra set of hands to help when those pesky tasks pop up—but what if you don't have the physical space or budget to bring on a full-time assistant?
Enter the virtual assistant. With technology like FaceTime, Google Drive and smartphones, it's easier than ever to get administrative support from beyond the bounds of your physical space. Here's a look at the pros and cons of hiring a virtual assistant.
Pro: Increased Productivity
Calendar management, expense reports, booking travel, talking on the phone with vendors—these are just some of the administrative tasks that can eat up a huge amount of your time, time that could be better spent on more important activities. As the business owner, you want to focus your efforts on endeavors that provide the best return on your time investment. Hiring someone to handle those mundane duties frees you up to focus on big picture issues, like strategy and growth.
Con: Logistical Pitfalls
Sure, working from the comfort of your couch is great, but there are certain times where it's important for a team to come together and work face-to-face. With virtual assistants, who are sometimes in different time zones or even on different continents, it's often not possible to be in the same room. This can be a hindrance to productivity. Fortunately, there are lots of online solutions that work to recreate the feeling of an in-person meeting—from video conferencing platforms like Skype and GoToMeeting to programs like Sococo, which allow you to create a virtual office space online.
Pro: Maximized Space, Minimized Cost
If your business is still in the early stages, you might not have the capital to take on another full-time employee and all of the costs that come with hiring an additional person. Virtual assistants are freelancers, so you pay them on an hourly basis and are not responsible for extra expenses, like health insurance and equipment such as computers or cell phones. Plus, since virtual assistants are remote, you don't need to designate space in your office for another work station.
Con: Weakened Data Security
If you work in an industry like healthcare or financial services, data security is paramount. Unfortunately, when you're sharing information virtually, this can sometimes leave your data vulnerable to breaches. Beyond the threat that comes from outside individuals, you want to be sure you can trust your virtual assistant. You should consider drawing up a contract and non-disclosure agreement prior to beginning your working relationship to ensure you have an agreement in writing that your virtual assistant will handle sensitive information with care.
Pro: Bringing New Skillsets to the Table
Everyone has their strengths and weaknesses, entrepreneurs included. Many virtual assistants have worked in more traditional 9-to-5 environments, so they bring knowledge and expertise from their past jobs to your business. That means they can help streamline operations and fix issues you might not have been able to manage on your own. There are also virtual assistants with specialized skillsets, so whether you're looking for someone to help with customer support, digital marketing or payroll preparation, there is someone out there for you.
Con: Challenges with Work Ethic
While it's nice to imagine employees are perpetually diligent and self-motivated, it can be easier for virtual assistants to become unfocused when they're working from home with pets, kids and a Facebook newsfeed to distract them. When considering who to hire as a virtual assistant, ask direct questions during the interview process, check references and be frank about your expectations regarding the assistant's availability and responsiveness throughout the day.
Pro: Greater Flexibility
Because virtual assistants are, well, virtual, you can find someone that allows you to run your business the way you want. If you want to be able to provide 24-hour customer support, you can hire an assistant who's based in Asia to man your phones and email while you're asleep in the United States. If you're looking for someone to help you during business hours with more traditional administrative tasks, there's a virtual assistant for that, too.
With all of the hats you wear as an entrepreneur, it's important to have another person to take on the tasks that are distracting you from your most essential responsibilities as a business owner. Virtual assistants can be a great, cost-effective way to get the support you need to propel your business to the next level.