What Is a “Virtual Assistant” anyway?

What is a Virtual Assistant

A virtual assistant is an independent contractor that provides administrative, creative, or technical services remotely.

There are many types of assistants, but for a moment let’s look to the dictionary:

administrative assistant
a person employed to aid an executive, as in a corporate department, by coordinating such office services and procedures as the supervision, maintenance, and control of the flow of work and programs, personnel, budgeting, records, etc., for the entire department. (1)

personal assistant
a secretary or administrative to an individual (2)

As of this date, neither merriam-webster.com nor Dictionary.Reference.com has an “official” definition for a virtual assistant. One major difference between a virtual assistant and an administrative (or executive) assistant is that a virtual assistant does not work “in-house.” An entrepreneur (or solopreneur) does not need to have workspace available for this person and they do not need to pay a person for “down time,” or benefits.  A virtual assistant does not work exclusively for one company or person, and thus might not be available at a moment’s notice. (However, most VAs know their schedule and can give a realistic time frame for any tasks.

Each person has many tasks which they outsource in their day to day lives. For example, I have the ability, but I have no desire, to change the oil in my car (and try to figure out where to dispose of the oil). There are some  jobs I do not have the ability to perform; for example the house electrical wiring.

For ideas, there is an informative article from Entrepreneur.com titled 10 Things to Outsource to a Virtual Assistant.

Some questions to ask yourself are:

  1. What tasks do I find overwhelming? 
  2. What tasks do I find boring?
  3. Are there areas in my business on which I should focus? (As an entrepreneur, if you need to focus more in one area, perhaps you can hire someone to work on other areas).
  4. Are there areas in my business needing more attention that I need to outsource? (Admit it, that shoe box full of business cards would be more useful in an Access database or on an Excel spreadsheet).
  5. Do I have administrative tasks that I would like to delegate but don’t have the infrastructure to do so?

After all, we all need some help sometimes.

Image Courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

(1) administrative assistant. Dictionary.com. Dictionary.com Unabridged. Random House, Inc.
http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/administrative+assistant?s=t (accessed: May 17, 2013)

(2) personal assistant. Dictionary.com Dictionary.com’s 21st Century Lexicon. Dictionary.com, LLC. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/personal+assistant?s=t (accessed: May 17, 2013)