One of the greatest wars that most entrepreneurs will wage is one they may never know they are fighting: What exactly is their job description? What tasks should be priority one and, perhaps more importantly, what shouldn’t they be doing?
When you’re growing a business, your role constantly shifts and adapts to accommodate new challenges. Some of those challenges are extremely complex, and we don’t know how to do them. As such, it’s easy to default to the tasks we feel comfortable with: admin, emails and general ‘busy’ work that can help us to feel productive, but that doesn’t help us along the path to success.
The average entrepreneur spends 68% of the time working ‘in’ their business – doing day-to-day tasks, putting out fires, etc – and only 32% of the time working ‘on’ their business
(Source: The Alternative Board)
Every hour spent doing tasks like invoicing, HR, employee benefits, scheduling meetings, or general admin is helping to keep your business small. Instead of dedicating your time and energy to achieving your short and long term goals, you’re diverting it towards the things that keep it going.
For micro-business owners, hiring isn’t the obvious solution as this can create an even bigger administrative burden. But there is a more flexible option that frees up your workday without blowing up your workload: hiring a virtual assistant.
A virtual assistant can be strategically deployed to pick up a huge variety of tasks across any business, and in ways that might surprise you. They are, ultimately, self-employed specialists who know how to get things done.
If you think you have nothing that can be outsourced, then you either have the most supremely efficient company in the word (in which case, congratulations!) or you might be mistaken. Did you know that most of the most successful people in history have been administratively supported?
You may never have heard of these people yet Elizabeth Nel was the personal secretary to Prime Minister Winston Churchill during World War 2, Mary Beth Brown was Elon Musk’s assistant for 12 years, and Marcus Tullius Tiro was aid to the Roman politician Cicero.
Successful individuals have a mighty support system holding them up, and they outsource as early as possible in the life cycle of their businesses.
See: Virtual Assistant Vs. Freelancer: The Best Ways To Outsource
What could I outsource to a virtual assistant?
As a rule of thumb, you should be outsourcing any task that is important but not urgent, and anything that doesn’t directly take you closer to your personal or business goals.
That is where this list comes in. Below is a collection of fifteen of the most common jobs that burn up your time and energy and then we’ll explain why you shouldn’t be doing them.
Small-scale market research
Invoicing and chasing late payers
Social media posts
Gathering service quotes
Proofing your writing
Sourcing & buying
Transcribing audio or video
Gatekeeping incoming calls
Boosting your website SEO
Locating contact information
Dealing with customer questions & issues
See: 50 Tasks You Can Outsource To A Virtual Assistant To Save Time In Your Business
Delegate small-scale market research to a virtual assistant
To be a contender, you have to know your competition and your market inside out to understand the demand for your product or service. But, while you need to know the headlines, you won’t have time to do the granular, time-consuming research required.
A virtual assistant can help you interpret Google Analytics, or create reports and suggest actions based on data from platforms you use for social media. They can set up A/B tests so you can work out which ads or content resonate best with your target audience, and they can build surveys, or work with a survey company on your behalf, to help you gain a better understanding of your market.
They can also call up your customers, past and present, to ask them for feedback on the service you’re providing, yielding some valuable insights and highlighting weaknesses in your customer journey.
The number one reason startups fail is ‘no market need’ (42%), based on 101 startup ‘postmortems’
Failing to fully understand your market has serious consequences for your business. Make sure your blind spots are covered.
Invoicing and chasing late payers
Having to politely chase clients for money owed is an inevitability in any service-based business. While cloud-based accounting software can automatically issue reminders to late payers, sometimes a personal touch is required.
Having a virtual assistant do this for you can help create distance, protecting your relationship with clients whilst getting the desired results i.e. payment. Invoicing chasing as the company founder can also make your business look small, which may or may not be a problem.
Let your virtual assistant book your travel
There will only ever be 24 hours in the day. The business leaders who seem to get an unnatural amount of work done are only doing so with the help of other people clearing their schedules, streamlining their time, and letting them focus on what matters.
Booking travel can eat up extraordinary amounts of time, especially when comparing prices on flights, organizing transfers, checking amenities in accommodation, and gathering receipts for expenses.
Instead, give your virtual assistant a list of requirements e.g. hotel location to within 3 miles, gym, and free Wi-Fi, direct flights only, free cancellation only, and let her or him research, compile a shortlist and book on your behalf.
You can also use your VA as a travel agent of sorts, outsourcing family holidays, couples getaways, or even honeymoon research. Virtual assistants don’t only do work-related tasks, many entrepreneurs outsource their ‘life admin’ so they can focus their energy on their business.
Social media posts
A strong presence on social media can be game-changing, but finding someone to execute your strategy can be tricky because it’s so time-consuming and so easy to get wrong: clunky messaging, bad graphics, or poorly written posts can really hurt your image.
In 2021, 92% of U.S. marketers in companies larger than 100 employees were expected to use social media for marketing purposes
A virtual assistant can create and schedule posts in advance, and be on hand to react to any comments or direct messages that you receive. This can be especially useful if you’re a business that uses social media as a customer service channel.
Gather service quotes with a virtual assistant
Gathering quotes isn’t exactly the most thrilling work in the world, which is not least why it’s absolutely a prime target for outsourcing. It’s also one of those jobs that have to be done during working hours when brokers are contactable and customer service centers are open.
It’s not only business insurance quotes that your virtual can gather, home and contents, car, and travel should be switched annually to get the very best deals, along with your household energy supplier, broadband, and mobile.
You only have to share your details with your VA once to enable them to do this for you. If you did this job yourself, you might have to type your details into an online form dozens of times.
Proofing your writing
The image that your business projects comes from multiple touchpoints, and communication is one. Whether it’s through emails, social media posts, your company website, or letters, words matter. This is why having a second pair of eyes on everything you produce, to sense-check as well as proof for typos and errors, is so crucial.
Your virtual assistant may also offer useful feedback on whether or not you’re striking the right tone and can fact-check any statistics or statements you’ve included.
Why a virtual assistant should handle sourcing and buying in your business
What does your business need to operate? From stationery, toner, and office kitchen supplies, to an accountancy firm to produce our annual business accounts, and software to help your team collaborate, finding what you need and where to buy it from can take weeks or even months.
Give your virtual assistant a set of requirements and they can do the research for you, creating a shortlist based on value, what’s included, and existing customer feedback to ensure you’re making the best possible decision based on fact rather than urgency. Your VA may also be able to negotiate a better deal or search for offers for you at the same time.
Transcribing audio or video
Generally speaking, one hour of audio will take three or more hours to transcribe into text. Suddenly a one-hour meeting becomes a half-day job.
While recordings are helpful, text files are far more searchable e.g. for auditing purposes, and in some industries, minuted or transcribed meetings are a necessity for compliance.
For social media, adding subtitles to video content is advised. While there is software available to transcribe video audio and turn it into subtitles, having it checked over by a human to correct mistakes is incredibly important.
Put your virtual assistant in charge of your incoming calls
Phone calls can break our focus exactly when we need it most and affect our mood, too. Your virtual assistant can act as a gatekeeper, answering phone calls, deciding what’s urgent, what isn’t, and dealing with any requests she’s able to do herself.
Penni Pike, who was Sir Richard Branson’s executive assistant for 32 years, acted as his phone call gatekeeper. In fact, she took the call from lawyer Randolph Fields about starting an airline for £1 and knew instantly that Branson would want to be involved so she set up the call between Fields and her boss that would lead to the launch of Virgin Atlantic Airways.
This isn’t just a brilliant productivity hack, it’s also a great way to appear bigger when you’re still a fledgling business.
Data entry tasks
We’re getting better at avoiding data entry, with the rise of software for businesses but it still happens, even in 2021, in industries like insurance and HR.
Paper-based processes, like feeding new employee data into a platform, or fiddly manual processes, like making spreadsheets compatible with existing IT systems, are still happening. If you’re struggling with these, outsource them if you really can’t automate them.
Boost your website SEO with a virtual assistant
Search engine optimization—a way of boosting your brand’s visibility—is a game of strategy that calls for strong, original, relevant, and regular content. Most virtual assistants are also strong copywriters who know how to research, draft, and publish content.
Freelancers charge, on average, $68/hour for SEO services whereas SEO agencies charge almost double that ($134.66). It’s a similar story for monthly retainers and per-project fees; SEO agencies charge x2-4 more than freelancers and significantly more than consultants
They won’t have the expertise in your field that you have so, to reduce the time it takes to produce articles, spend 15 minutes talking your virtual assistant through the main thrust of the article, and providing links to similar articles you’ve read and enjoyed.
And remember, it’s not only writing the article that can be time-consuming. Uploading it to your website with a headline, royalty-free images, picture captions, metatags, and keywords—as well as sharing it on social media—consumes more time, so get your VA to do these too.
It can be cumbersome to navigate a complicated world of pensions, perks, and private healthcare. You’ll have to speak to dozens of companies, produce employee data in various formats, compare offers, and evaluate how your current packages match up. Then you have to communicate any changes to your staff.
In a survey of 2,000 employees taken during COVID-19, 54% said their benefits should be re-evaluated due to the rise in remote working
(Source: Blackhawk Network)
While the final decision should be yours, the research portion can be delegated to your VA, as can the internal communications.
Let your virtual assistant handle fact-finding
You’re 24 hours away from a meeting with a venture capital firm and they’re expecting a killer pitch deck packed with robust stats that demonstrate why there’s demand for your product, plus summaries of your competitors.
While you practice your presentation, your VA can be fact-finding and fact-checking your deck’s content, making sure you have the most up-to-date figures available and that they are presented clearly.
Locating contact information
Akin to dealing with insurers and energy providers, finding contact information can be a frustrating pursuit that involves calling switchboards, help desks, and being left on hold for something that should take five seconds.
Get your virtual assistant to keep your contacts updated and accurate by doing the hard work for you.
Dealing with customer questions & issues with a virtual assistant
Many entrepreneurs pride themselves on their involvement at their business’s frontline. Staying attuned to customers and clients provides crucial feedback—essentially it’s market research—so many business owners will put out fires and respond personally to issues that may arise, especially in the early days.
While you will always want to have that connection, being so ‘hands-on’ has a cost. Instead of handling every query and complaint personally, outsource customer service to a VA and request a report at the end of each week or month, so you can be made aware of what’s going on without having to be so involved.
Perhaps the most important lesson for all entrepreneurs looking for greater efficiency is this: you are definitely not the best person to do every job in your business. If it doesn’t help you to grow then don’t do it yourself. And if you can’t automate it, then outsource it to a virtual assistant.