Share this article on FacebookShare this article on TwitterShare this article on LinkedinShare this article on RedditShare this article on PinterestExpert Author Denis Pelych
With near 100% internet coverage in the UK and the proliferation of increasingly powerful computers in the home, perhaps it’s not surprising that people in secretarial and admin jobs have come to realise that much of their work could easily be done from home. A small number of these have taken the idea further and actually started working for themselves doing exactly that.

Witness the birth of both the VA (Virtual Assistant) and the term Virtual Office Services. It is still predominately the domain of women, with a large proportion of mums preferring this approach to working in an office. By equipping themselves at home with a fast internet connection, telephone, PC and printer they can easily provide a basic secretarial service: telephone work, diary management, typing and more. And, they have flexibility in how and when they work.

But who are these people who ask you to trust them with your business admin?

The Virtual Assistant

VAs are a special breed. It’s difficult enough just setting up on your own without also putting yourself in the firing line with demanding clients. So it’s not surprising that many give up. But those that stick with it are usually professional, resilient, resourceful and capable people who know their job inside out.

However, being a VA brings with it an array of challenges:

The Boss is now a “client” … who can be just as demanding
Their IT equipment is now their responsibility to manage and maintain
They have to cope working alone and with flexibility comes the need for self-discipline
Most VAs are good communicators and have experience of handling demanding clients, but the conflicting priorities can be a headache and managing client expectations has to be a core skill.
The technology is another matter though. The VA needs IT support to keep the operation going. This is often provided on an ad hoc basis by a partner or a friend, which can leave them vulnerable It’s worth checking out their situation first, so you don’t find yourself stranded. If you need your VA to use your technology – ranging from Microsoft Exchange and Groove to iCAL and other online calendar or file sharing tools – then they’ll need to be IT-savvy enough to cope or have access to more professional support.

Working alone has its own set of issues. VAs will usually take steps to break their isolation and have moral support close at hand, but being the only person in the business can again leave them vulnerable to workload peaks and illness … not forgetting, everyone needs a holiday some time too.

My advice to someone looking at using a VA is to ask them about these issues and satisfy yourself that the trade-off in risks Vs benefits is acceptable to your business.

Virtual Office Services

This tends to describe the wider array of services provided by a business that’s more than just a individual VA, perhaps a business that’s grown with a few VAs or an organisation that has secretarial and admin staff providing chargeable VA services to clients. Typically, they will have better office facilities – this can be a physical office or a virtual office setup – and you can expect their IT systems to be superior to that of a VA. This enables them to deliver more sophisticated services just as if they were “within your organisation” but with all of the flexibility and cost benefits of a VA.

The types of IT you might expect to find them using includes:

A website through which they take instructions, track work and manage clients
A web office for document management, calendar sharing and time recording
Collaboration tools such as instant messaging and tele/video/web conferencing
VOIP telephony system for call handling and virtual internal extensions for VAs
Not many people like being forced to use someone else’s IT systems if they can help it. Most website applications will force a new way of working on clients that’s alien and burdensome, so look for someone who can also accommodate some of your more important working practices.

If you create large documents or use digital voice dictation, emailing large files will be impossible and you’ll need to use a file transfer service, a WebOffice or another collaboration tool. This is common so understanding the options for file transfer is important from the start.

The range of services that the Virtual Office Services provider can offer will be far greater than a VA largely because of their technology. You should also find that their IT knowledge and even their IT support people can be extremely useful in helping you to learn how to get the best from your own IT systems and may even help you to solve IT problems too.

Apart from making refreshment and welcoming guests, virtual office services can cover pretty well most of your office admin and secretarial activity. These can include:

Virtual PA
Virtual Receptionist
Mail Handling & Scanning
Digital Typing Services
Transcription Services
Database Management
Marketing Admin Support
Sourcing and Purchasing
Book Keeping Services
General Office Admin.
In fact, providing they have the right technology, the range of services is only limited by the skills of individual VAs. Surprisingly, virtual office services can extend into the most unexpected areas, such as tele-marketing, language translation and even property management as you will see from the following client examples.

Property Development

This property services business manages new build shopping centres and housing developments. The owner is frequently traveling and running site meetings, so he uses his VA mainly for typing services. He has a Digital Pocket Memo for dictating letters, minutes and reports, and also uses it to record live meetings. The voice files are downloaded to his laptop and then sent via email to his VA who emails the finished Microsoft Word documents the next working day.

Medico-Legal Professionals

By yanam49

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