Win the Services of a Virtual Assistant to Help Lift Your Business Game

Drawing up my wish list for 2008, I thought An Extra Pair of Hands would be a good thing. Or, come to think of it, a virtual assistant.

A virtual assistant, as the title implies, is one who is not physically present at your place of work, but uses communications technology to provide a range of services traditionally provided by secretaries, executive assistants or personal assistants. Or, for many home based business professionals, by the business owner herself or himself. The last-mentioned being common practice, but not really a great idea, at least if we want to work smarter, not harder.

A lot of smart coaches and other business people of my acquaintance get more value out of their working day by engaging a virtual assistant. I’ve thought about it often enough, but have not taken action.

Now, with a contest announced recently (thanks to Anita Campbell of Small Business Trends for the heads up), there is an opportunity for one of us to have our own virtual assistant in 2008. The contest, with a $5,000 grand prize, is being sponsored and run by Elance, a kind of online marketplace for people looking for professionals to hire, and professionals offering their services.

What kind of services could a virtual assistant provide for your business? The contest page has some suggestions:

  • Travel Plans
  • Data Entry
  • Word Processing
  • Transcription
  • Market Research
  • Event Planning
  • Presentations
  • Calendar Management
  • Online Marketing

If you’ve read Tim Ferris’ much vaunted The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich
you will have found, in Chapter 8 “Outsourcing Life”, a lot of practical information and commentary on using virtual assistants (as well as a few very valuable caveats).

The terms of entry for the Elance contest are straightforward. Basically, answer the question (hint: use the bullet point list above to help):

How would you use a virtual assistant to grow your business or improve your personal life?

The answer can be in text, audio or video.

You need to be a member of Elance – basic membership is free.

And just so none of us waste time fantasizing that we’ll win the five grand and use it to book a Caribbean cruise or a villa in Tuscany, the Grand Prize is not actual money in your bank account but “Elance promotional credit redeemable for the purchase of $5,000 in services on Elance”.

Closing date is January 25, 2008 and the time of day is 11:59:59pm PST.

I’m going for it. How about you?

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About Des Walsh

I show business owners and other professionals how to navigate the social media maze and use LinkedIn effectively. I'm an author, speaker, business coach, social media strategist and LinkedIn specialist. Connect with me on LinkedIn, Google Plus and Twitter. And to stay in the loop, get my weekly Social Business Bites.

Comments

  1. Frank
    Kathie has made some good points here. You might think of checking out the Virtual Assistant Network – http://www.vadirectory.net – where you can search for what you need. And note Kathie Thomas’ comment above about what to look for. The other day, looking for a VA to be take minutes of board meetings for an international organisation where I am a board member, I went to Kathie, she circulated my request and came up with someone with appropriate skills, whom we would probably not have found otherwise.

  2. Fred Mugone says:

    Great info. Thanks! I found the information quite “mind opening” – I had never thought of using a virtual assistant before but after reading this blog and visiting elance, as soon as I can, I will factor this into my business – especially the “mechanical” aspects that do not need my direct attention and can be done by somebody else

  3. Vicky
    According to the contest site (I found out by just clicking on the link from the graphic in the body of the post above) the names of winners will be made available after February 25: details there of how you can get that information.

  4. Who won? Being a VA myself it would be nice to know if the winner is actually going to use it for a real VA.

  5. Angela
    Good luck with your pitch

    Kathie
    Thanks for sharing your very informed perspective.

  6. First, let me introduce myself. I am a Virtual Assistant in Australia with a business that is almost 14 years old and 23 years of PA experience prior to that. I helped birth the industry in Australia and have seen it grow around the world.

    Today I manage a network of Virtual Assistants in 16 countries and belong to several other Virtual Assistant networks based in different countries. Due to our vast skills and experiences, and cost of living, rates will vary considerably from VA to VA, from state to state, country to country.

    Given the above, there are Virtual Assistants and there are virtual assistants. The industry originated with people from corporate backgrounds, usually in the admin and secretarial field and has expanded far beyond. But over the past few years people have picked up on the term and labelled anyone with a computer and internet connection as a ‘virtual assistant’. This is inaccurate.

    It takes a special person to be a VA, someone who is dedicated to supporting their clients and is prepared to work alone in their office for long periods of time. Anyone can type on a computer but when you want speed and efficiency, as well as someone who really knows the program they’re using, you need someone who is trained. And for that you’ll be paying a higher rate. VAs do much more than data entry or word-processing – they are there to help the businessperson operate their business – just as a PA assists their senior Execs in the corporate world.

    Late 2006, a committee of VAs from around the world surveyed (professional) VAs, gathering suggested minimum qualifications. The results were compiled into a Core Competencies document which has been developed as a benchmark of skills, knowledge and experiences for individuals interested in becoming VAs as well as those already operating as VAs.

    The final document will be published later this year and widely circulated amongst various VA organisations, VA training programs, and the general business community, as well as be available for VAs to post on their individual Web sites. It will assist in the continuing and often challenging campaign to promote the use of qualified VAs and help dispel the misconception that anyone can call themselves a VA, and, that VAs are “low wage”, “lesser skilled” individuals which is often the case at the auction/bid type of sites.

    Anyone could Google the term ‘Virtual Assistant’ and find the 20+ professional VA networks online and have access to thousands of professionals within a short space of time.

  7. I’m a Virtual Assistant myself but I can think of many ways $5,000 towards virtual assistance would be a huge boost to my business so I’m going to go for it too. I think I’ll do a video since they’re fun to make. My problem with video is that I’m just so darn uncreative with it so far — maybe I can ask for it for a last birthday present from eLance since it’s on the 23rd, lol.