Have you ever wanted to get some help in your business but were put off because it felt too hard?
- Where would you find the right person?
- How do you know if you can trust them?
- How long will it take for them to ‘get’ what you need?
- Will it be quicker just to do it yourself?
- What happens if it goes wrong?
The thought of using another person to ‘do’ part of your business is nerve-wracking – of course it it, we know our business better than anyone and it’s our baby.
BUT there comes a point quite quickly where we realise we can’t do everything. What we WANT to do is the thing we set up in business to do – what we NEED to do is everything else from admin to legal, marketing to accounts. And although they are necessary, they are not the best use of our time.
Our time is BEST spent doing our thing. The thing we sell.
When we first start out, we tend to have very little money and so we feel like we MUST do everything ourselves.
When we’ve been going a little while and we have customers and orders, life gets a bit frantic. Things suffer.
- The accounting gets left to the side because we don’t have time and then the end of the tax year comes around and we suddenly have a year’s worth of figures to do by yesterday. Eeeek!
- The marketing doesn’t happen. We have fits and starts. We post a few bits to Facebook, tweet a bit and send out one e-newsletter (that took the best part of a week to get our head around and we’re left with chewed nails and a permanently perplexed forehead)
- The client files are done when we are left with no option.
- The blogging just doesn’t happen.
- And as for making updating our website, well that’s a distant dream.
If this is sounding familiar then you are not alone – this happens to nearly every business owner at some point. It’s what you do next that makes the difference.
If you can see the bigger picture and you realise that getting those ‘bad fit’ jobs off your to-do list and outsourced to someone who can do them quickly and efficiently, you will free up valuable time to spend on the things that you do best. That means you can grow your business.
If you stay stuck at the point where you are always fighting the ‘bad fit’ jobs, you will never get the breathing space you need in your business. If you don’t get that breathing space, you never have time to plan or think – and without time to think and plan it’s really, really hard to scale up your business.
What Can I Outsource?
One of the biggest reasons people get stuck with outsourcing is that they don’t know where to start. They aren’t sure what they COULD outsource even if they wanted to. That’s why I’ve put together this list for you of things I’ve outsourced and you could too.
Remember, virtual assistants have different skill sets, so find one who can manage a particular task or role rather than looking for a ‘one size fits all’ person.
Hiring a virtual assistant for even just one or two hours can free up HOURS of your valuable time – things that take you a LONG time to do (because they aren’t your favourite thing and you’ve been avoiding them forever) will take a virtual assistant far less time because a) they don’t hate them and b) they do this all the time so they are good at it.
One last thing – put a trial in place so that BOTH of you can see if you’re a good fit. If not, you can part without issue – that’s what trials are for.
So, without further ado, here are 45 things you can outsource to a virtual assistant.
1. Inbox detox
I read recently that spam makes up over 80% of all emails sent worldwide – I can vouch for this as I seem to attract a few hundred each day. Also, it’s really tempting to sign up to ‘business expert’ subscriptions and newsletters but do you ever get time to read them? If your inbox is full of spam, newsletters and noise you’re probably missing genuine messages and enquiries – you need to take back control. A VA can do this for you by sorting out all those folders, unsubscribing from newsletters you keep forgetting to unsubscribe from, putting you some systems in place and giving you sight of the important stuff.
2. Importing databases
Setting up new software? Starting an e-newsletter? Anything like this usually means you need to import lists or databases – doing all that stuff with .csv files and spreadsheets that brings you out in hives. If you get it wrong it sends your software haywire – best to get it right first time. Why not get a VA to do it for you? It won’t take them long and they can focus on the task in hand rather than being pulled in all directions trying to run a business.
3. Creating reports
Sales reports, postage cost reports, mileage reports – any reports you need – give them the info and off they’ll go!
4. Transcribing audios
Record your client notes and get them transcribed to save you typing them up. Interviewed someone or done an online class? Get it transcribed by a virtual assistant so you can use it for other things (e-books, blogs, videos). Recording voice memos on your phone is easy peasy and will save you tons of time you can spend on other things.
5. Creating forms
Opt in forms, website forms, survey forms, expense forms, mileage forms – any forms you need – they take a little time and patience to set up and that’s something that’s in short supply for most business owners so use a VA to do it for you.
6. Preparing meeting minutes
Do you REALLY want to spend time going through those 23 pages of scribble from the meeting turning it into a beautifully clear set of minutes? Do you? If not, see if you can find a sympathetic VA with a talent for deciphering scrawl and they will have it done in no time.
7. Preparing presentations
Powerpoint slides. They have been the downfall of many a happy business owner. A few hours later and many curses and tears later they give up because the animations didn’t work and they got ambushed by WordArt. It’s not pretty. Whiz your logo and notes over to a VA and let them do it properly.
8. Travel planning
Trains, planes, hire cars, hotels, holidays, sightseeing… That.
Doing all that ‘behind the scenes’ work on your website, optimising blogs, adding keywords, all those important things you never have time to do but that make all the difference to getting found on Google. Just do it – there are VAs who specialise in web work and know this like the back of their hand and when you start appearing in key Google searches and getting more enquiries and sales, the investment in a VA will be paid back several times over.
10. Formatting blogs
You know how blogs need proof-reading? They need headings and images? How about embedded links and a bit of SEO work? No? Ooh, best find a VA who does! Blogs can be an amazing part of your marketing, attracting web visitors, positioning you as an expert and showing you know your stuff so it’s definitely worth going the extra mile and getting them looking great.
11. Formatting e-books
E-books are a brilliant marketing asset whether you’re selling them or giving them away for free in exchange for email addresses to build your list. No matter which, you need to make them look professional – this is the first impression most people will have of your business. I don’t mean you have to pay a graphic designer to whip them up but you DO need to get a consistent style and feel (and they need to be error free and grammatically correct). If you aren’t confident, find someone who can do it for you.
12. Diary management
If you just want to be given a ‘to-do’ and ‘to be’ list each day, there are VAs who will act like your PA, in other words they will manage and protect your time, book in your appointments and keep you right. Not everyone needs this but you will definitely know if you do!
13. Moderating blogs
Blogs are fantastic marketing tools but they are living documents. People will find them long after you’ve written them and if you’ve done it right, you’ll get lots of comments (which is a GOOD thing). My advice is moderate every comment rather than automatically allowing people to post – a VA can do this for you.
Need some statistics for a presentation or sales page or some figures for a client document? Or maybe you need to find some quotes for your FB page or get some information for a client report. If you don’t have time to do the research, a VA will happily do this for you – you just need to give them a time and money budget in advance.
15. Organising Dropbox
Dropbox can quickly turn into a disaster zone with files everywhere, duplicates taking up space and a complete lack of order, leaving you with a headache and lots of time wasted looking for things. Get a VA to set up folders, come up with a naming system and generally tidy up.
16. Data entry
Got a list of people who attended your event and gave you their email address on a sheet of paper? Someone has to input them into your database and a VA can do it quickly and accurately.
17. Creating spreadsheets
If Excel brings you out in hives then shout for a VA who knows her way around spreadsheets. You might think you can live your life without spreadsheets but if you’re honest, I’m sure you could do with some nifty cashflow or management account spreadsheets at the very least, not to mention record keeping, PR contacts, or even your list of tweets you need to schedule. Rather than battling with Excel, find a VA who can do the set up for you – they can even brand for you it if you ask nicely.
18. Checking voicemail
If you’re out and about with clients, at events or in meetings, who is keeping an eye on your phone? Even if you don’t want to stretch to call handling, it doesn’t hurt to get someone to check your office and mobile voicemail at regular intervals and either deal with the queries or put them into your to-do list.
19. Project management
Whether you’re organising a launch, going through a rebrand or working with a team to make something happen, a VA can help with the organisation and project management. You need one person who knows what is supposed to be happened and who is supposed to be doing it, and by when, and if you don’t have the bandwidth then a VA could do it for you.
20. Sending client invoices
You know you need to do it but it’s SO hard to find time! And yet it’s the lifeblood of your business – if you don’t invoice, you don’t get paid. Get a VA to sort it for you – it might take you a bit of time to set up between you but in the (not so) long run you’ll wonder how you ever managed. Some business owners I know do it via dictation – they record their hours and billing info onto a voice record on their phone, email it to their VA and the invoices come back to get checked then get sent. Easy peasy.
21. Credit control
Yeah, OK, so invoicing is only half of the equation. The other half is making sure they get paid. The thing about chasing invoice payments is it feels so PERSONAL – one day you’re treating your lovely clients like royalty and giving great service, the next you’re on the phone reminding them their payment is late. I know, it feels kind of odd. This was the first ever thing I used a VA for. My VA didn’t have to worry about emotions or guilt – she handled it in a very straightforward, matter-of-fact way and guess what? She got the cash in. Time after time. No brainer, if you ask me.
22. Receptionist duties
Maybe you want to look and act like a bigger company. Maybe you just want to make sure all your calls are getting handled. Maybe you only need a receptionist / meeter-greeter occasionally when clients come to your office. Whatever the case, just book your VA, brief them on the task and let them take care of it. You look awesome, your clients feel looked after and you only had to pay for a couple of hours of a VA’s time rather than having a full time member of staff.
23. Uploading to YouTube
You’ve made the videos, you just need to get them out there but it’s a hassle and you don’t have time to sit and upload them all to YouTube, put in the descriptions and make sure they are doing their thing. A VA could sort that for you – you stick them into a Dropbox, they upload them and before you know it, you’ll be a YouTube star.
24. Scheduling Tweets
Hootsuite anyone? Or Buffer, maybe? You know they are there, you know you need to schedule some tweets but who has time to sit and upload them? Not you. But a VA could. Just sayin’.
25. Moderating FB comments
If you’re struggling to keep up with your Facebook page, you’re losing out on sales. When you have a popular post and people are asking questions about your product or service, you need to be on the ball with your replies. They are sales waiting to happen but if you don’t get around to it, quickly, you’ll miss out. Set up a VA as an Editor on your Facebook page and they can handle most of the replies and field anything to you that needs your personal attention.
26. Newsletter creation
I’ve known grown women waste a whole week trying to get their newsletter to look nice. A week! Imagine! That’s not uncommon by the way – it’s very easy to waste a lot of time going around in circles trying to get your newsletter set up if you’re not arty and you don’t know what you’re doing. Get a VA to sort it – you know it makes sense.
27. Newsletter sending
You’ve got the template sorted, your email is ready to go if only you had a list of people to send it to…get your VA to upload your customer list for you and schedule your newsletter to go out when you want. And while they’re at it, ask them to check the stats afterwards for you and tell you what worked and what didn’t.
28. Press release writing
Not very good with words? Stuck for what to say? Tell a VA your story and ask them to turn it into a beautiful press release. You can tweak it afterwards if needs be but the hard work will have been done – it’s much easier to amend a release than start with a blank page.
29. Press release distribution
A VA can send out your press release but they can do far more. They can research publications that are a good fit for your target audience (your Super Customer) and make you a shortlist to work from. They can get contact details of the key personnel and even create a spreadsheet for you containing all the information. They can send out the releases if you like or you can get in touch with individual publications and build relationships, if you want. The main thing is, just get on with it – fame is just around the corner!
30. Setting up a podcast
If you want to start a podcast but the whole ‘techie’ thing baffles you (or scares you witless) then find a podcasty VA. There are some FAB techie VAs out there who know their way around all the software and tools AND can keep you right on other podcasting questions. Don’t struggle in silence, find a VA who already does this and save yourself hours of podcasty pain!
31. Editing audio files
The best podcasts have a snazzy introduction and ‘outro’ – it makes them sound far more professional. The thing is, to add them to your podcast recording requires an element of tech wizardry and using audio editing software can be tricky. Actually that’s an understatement. It can make you cry tears of frustration and throw your laptop in the sink. A techie VA can sort it for you quickly and efficiently – what are you waiting for?
32. Updating website
You know how you’ve been meaning to update the prices on your website for ages? And those new product images you mean to upload last month, remember? They aren’t going to magic themselves onto your website but they NEARLY can if you hire a VA to do your website updates for you. Just check your VA knows their way around your particular type of website and pass over that update list – you’ll feel a huge sense of relief and your website will thank you for it.
If you have an important letter or email to send, you don’t want glaring mistakes or spelling errors spoiling the effect. If you’re paying good money for brochures or fliers to be printed, you don’t want to repent at leisure when you see loads of typos upon opening the box. Let an eagle-eyed VA take the uncertainty away and make sure you get it right first time!
34. Setting up FB ads
Facebook Ads are the nemesis of many an unsuspecting business owner. You think you know what you’re doing and then BAM! A chunk of money leaves your bank account to pay for FB ads and you’ve seen nothing for your hard-earned cash. And then just when you think you’ve got it sussed, FB goes and changes the rules. Aaaagh! You could give it up as a bad job; or you could hand it over to a VA who knows what they are doing and can work with you on budgets and targeting to make your ads amazing.
35. Monitoring FB ads
Setting up Facebook ads is one challenge; keeping an eye on them and tweaking them for optimum performance is another and for most people, it’s a step to far. But, if you do this, you can save loads of money and figure out how to get your best ads performing better – BUT it takes time and patience, which is something most business owners have in short supply. A social media-savvy VA can do this for you AND you’ll learn something in the process.
36. Creating autoresponders
Autoresponders are emails that go out automatically to your customers or email subscribers for a specific reason, such as welcoming them to your business or telling them what to expect from their purchase. There are LOADS of brilliant ways to use autoresponders and the right VA will already know most of them – find someone who has already done this for other clients and bring their experience and expertise into your business.
37. Scheduling autoresponders
Autoresponders are a two step task – first of all you have to write them, then you need to plug them into your email software and schedule them to go out on the right days at the right time in the right order. It takes an organised, patient person to do this and if that’s not you, find someone who can do it for you.
38. Creating Canva images
Canva is an amazing, mostly free graphics programme for beginners that lets you create everything from social media images to blog headers, e-books to brochures and everything in between. It is loads of fun to play with but it can be a serious time drain as you tinker with images. By all means have a play but if you are serious about getting images created, find an arty VA, give them a brief and let them loose on your image list.
39. Basic bookkeeping
Rather than collecting bags full of receipts and steeling yourself for a day of torture when your accounting deadline looms, why not put each month’s receipts into a ‘month’ envelope (or even take photos of each one) and send it off to a VA to input into your accounting software or a spreadsheet. That way it won’t build up and the cost of the VA will be more than justified when you get your life back…
40. Spreadsheet formulae
Remember those spreadsheets we discussed earlier? If you use a VA they won’t just set up your spreadsheet, they can also add – wait for it – *formulae* (said in a reverent whisper) because formulae make magic things happen, are in the realms of secret languages and spells….Seriously, getting my Twitter character-counter spreadsheet from my VA was a happy moment and it was all done with formulae.
41. Reminder services
Do you keep forgetting birthdays? Or missing booking deadlines for those events you wanted to attend? I get it, life is busy but if you had an organised VA, THEY could set up reminders for you and nag you until you do what you need to do OR do it for you. Money well spent, I think you’ll find.
42. Customer service emails
If it’s taking you too long to get back to customers with quotes or answers to questions, hire a VA to do it for you. Give them a ‘cheat sheet’ and your pricing structure, ask them to check with you before they send and watch your customer service levels soar…
43. Sending greetings cards
How long is it since you sent thank you cards to your customers? Or birthday cards to your favourite client? How about a ‘good luck in your new home’ card to the supplier who just moved into bigger premises? Cards like this in the mail make people smile. Making people smile is good for everyone. Task a VA with sending out the cards on your behalf – you can even ask them to compile a ‘birthday’ list for your top clients!
44. Managing events
If you’re running an event, there are lots of things that need to be covered. From finding and liaising with the venue, setting up the ticketing and payments, marketing the event, dealing with enquiries, even manning the reception desk on the day – are YOU going to do it? If not, best get a VA involved early on and it will run like clockwork.
45. Ask them! You might be surprised!
Every Virtual Assistant has their own unique combination of experience, expertise, skills and knowledge so why not schedule in some time to have a Skype or a coffee and chat about what they can do and what they HAVE DONE in the past. A chat like this could give you some great ideas for your business and you’re talking to the person who can make it happen. Awesome stuff!
There are LOADS of other things a VA could do for your business, I’ve really just scratched the surface.
How Do You Find A Good Virtual Assistant?
There are a several associations that train VAs and these can be a good place to start – just Google Virtual Assistant association or training and see what comes up.
Google the specialism you want – if you need a VA who specialises in podcasting then put that into the search bar – any good VA worth their salt will make sure they show up in searches for their expert topic.
Ask in groups – if you’re a member of any networking, business or Facebook groups, see if any names get put forward. Word of mouth is a great way to find a gem of a VA.
Remember – not every VA will be right for your business and not every VA can do every single thing you need – you might have to use a few different VAs for different areas of your business, and that’s fine. Also, it doesn’t have to be forever – put trials in place, keep talking and work in out. Neither of you are mind readers so good communication will make sure you’re both getting what you need.
Finally – when you find a good VA, don’t let them go! A great VA is an asset to your business and can make a big positive difference to your bottom line.
Where To Start Using A VA
Pick ONE task that’s been sitting on your desk for ages and find a VA to do it for you. Most VAs will take on one-off projects and it will give you an affordable way to see if working with a VA works for you (while ticking another item off your to-do list). If the first one goes OK, keep handing over small jobs until you’re confident you have the right person and then think about putting something more regular in place.
Claire Mitchell is a best-selling author of the Awesome Marketing Planner and founder of The Girls Mean Business, a mum and business owner. She has been featured in Marie-Claire, The Guardian, Closer Magazine, Essentials, The Huffington Post and on the BBC.