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Virtual Assistants: What They Do and Why You Need One

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes. Contains 991 words

Time. We could all use more, right? More time with family and friends… more time for our favorite activities… more time to relax. So why do we work later and later? Why do we keep the mundane tasks at work for ourselves? Do we WANT that clock ticking away our precious minutes for things that we don’t need to do? Um, no…! So, be the opposite of Nike’s slogan: just DON’T do it!!

Don’t do it; outsource it!

There are plenty of things we already outsource. Car fixes are generally reserved for mechanics. Most of our food prep is done by others (we don’t hunt or gather much anymore, right? Well, except for HUNTING down the best restaurants via Yelp reviews and GATHERING easily cooked foods at the grocery store). So why do we insist on doing absolutely every little thing ourselves at work? Well, you don’t need to; you can “buy back” your time by outsourcing tasks to a Virtual Assistant or “VA”.

There are SO many tasks that we do on a daily basis that could be done by someone else with just a little bit of guidance. For example, Email Filtering and Management. While it sounds like a trivial task that wouldn’t really save time, did you know that a recent article in Harvard Business Review stated:

The average professional spends 28% of the work day reading and answering email…. For the average full-time worker in America, that amounts to a staggering 2.6 hours spent and 120 messages received per day.”

Harvard Business Review

What the WHAT?! That’s like… every fourth day of work is JUST spent doing emails! Outsourcing this simple task of email management could save more than a WEEK of work time every MONTH. And sure, it’s not likely that a VA could actually take care of every email… But imagine going to your inbox and being greeted with only 3 emails instead of 133. Talk about a time saver.

So let’s find some tasks to outsource so you can get your time back! First, how about a fun little quiz:

1) The Awful: What are three things you HATE doing at work?

2) The Time Suck: What’s something that takes up a large chunk of your workday?

3) The Overqualified: If an Efficiency Expert was watching over your shoulder for a week, what are the things that would prompt him to poke you and ask “why are YOU doing that?!”

Now let’s take the Awful, Time-Sucking things that you are Overqualified for OFF your list and onto someone else’s by using those quiz answers as the beginning of your Outsourcing list.

Next, check out this ginormous list I made to help us find other things we can outsource:

46 Tasks You Can Outsource to a Virtual Assistant

— Basic Admin Tasks —

  • Booking or Researching (services, appointments, rentals, venues, lessons/classes, repairs)
  • Email Filtering and Management (respond to customer FAQs, manage spam, begin drafting responses)
  • Receptionist Duties (answering calls, checking/answering messages)
  • Transcription (Voicemails, audio or video, podcasts, meeting recordings)
  • Managing Daily Schedule/Calendar (client appointments, general business events)
  • Organizing/Managing Files (via DropBox, OneDrive, Google)
  • Taking Meeting Minutes (via video or audio conference)
  • Creating Reports (weekly sales, deliverables, hours, tracking tasks)
  • Making Travel Arrangements
  • Establishing/Maintaining a Calendar (important events in your business and general industry)
  • Event Coordinator (find/book/confirm venues for remote meetings/parties, act as a liaison for attendees, staff)
  • Ordering Supplies/Materials (track/reorder business cards, marketing materials, office supplies)
  • Organizational Planning or Project Management (liaison between you and subcontractors)

— Tech & Web Tasks —

  • Monitoring Competition (alert you of changes, sales, and trends in your industry and social channels)
  • Facilitating Client Interaction (forum responses, thank you emails, follow-ups, invitations, reminders)
  • Moderating Blog (approve and reply to comments, delete spam, post your articles)
  • Maintaining Link Building Campaign (Comment on other sites/blogs/forums/socials with links back to your site)
  • Setting Up Autoresponders for Email
  • Creating Slides for Presentations
  • Setting Up Accounts on Social Media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube)
  • Updating Social Media (keep your presence fresh with likes, shares, and comments)
  • Brand Ambassador or Reputation Manager (comment on blogs/forums/boards, respond to public on news, YouTube, and socials)
  • Social Media Auditor (analyze traffic, shares, mentions and monitor key hashtag conversations for potential use)
  • Webinar Assistant (watch chat, respond, keep presenter updated, take notes)
  • Support Facebook/LinkedIn Groups (schedule posts, events, approving new members/connections, drafting content)
  • Website Basics (blog maintenance/updates, backups, image optimization, managing posting schedule)

— Research Tasks —

  • Researching Industry-Related Data & Trends (for reports, marketing materials, blog listicles, meetings)
  • Finding Images (relevant to your biz/industry for social media, blog, website, newsletter, emails)
  • Finding Industry Experts/Influencers (interview for articles, podcasts, and webinars)
  • Keyword Research (for website and/or per blog post, very basic SEO)
  • Online Research (article ideas, product reviews, prices, competitors, data mining)
  • Social Media Research (find interesting business/industry related things to share)
  • Finding Competition (list topics others in your industry have covered, strategies developed, a hole you can fill to differentiate biz)

— Writing Tasks —

  • Creating Customer Testimonials (interviewing/surveying them, curating responses, creating case studies)
  • Proofreading (documents, websites and other office materials)
  • Writing Articles (guest posting/blogging)
  • Drafting Newsletters or Press Releases
  • Interviewing Industry Experts/Influencers (for reports, blog posts, marketing materials)
  • Generating/Formatting eBooks or Manuals (training for new staff or remote workers, free downloads)

— Misc Specialized Tasks —

  • Document Formatting (creating, converting, merging and splitting data/files)
  • Basic Bookkeeping/Banking (expenses, payroll, paying bills, transferring funds)
  • Establishing CRM (creating and updating client database, tracking interactions)
  • Surveying Customers (create forms or surveys for customer feedback)
  • Database Building, Entry, Management (like contacts, verifying emails, CRM, sales)
  • Managing Invoices (generate, distribute and, if needed, chase outstanding invoices)
  • Producing Graphs or Infographics (from your data or spreadsheets, Canva)

Phew..! That’s a LOT of things we could be paying a VA to do. How many tasks did you find? I found a bunch of things for which I can’t wait to hire a Virtual Assistant — well, once I get Writing Ninja launched. Actually, wait! I’ve already started; last month I hired two assistants to research and gather a bunch of online data. It was a WONDERFUL experience, one I highly recommend!!

So what are you waiting for?! Give a Virtual Assistant a try with one of these tasks. Then you can see if a VA can help make your life easier and take back your time!

Stay tuned next month for the second half of this topic: “Virtual Assistants: Everything You Need to Know to Hire Amazing Remote Workers”

update: Here’s a link to the second half: Virtual Assistants II: Everything You Need to Know to Hire Amazing Remote Workers

Noi Sabal