Virtual is the new black…and all the colours in between: What Actually Is A Virtual PA?

The first question I am always asked is “what exactly is a Virtual PA (also known as a VA)?”

My reply, “the same as a traditional PA but done remotely”.  On reflection, my response doesn’t do us any justice.

For years, PAs have helped run offices and businesses and supported Company Directors, often unnoticed of how much they actually do… the forgotten birthday card sent on your behalf, the “they’re stuck in traffic” call when you’ve not even left the office.

A Virtual PA incorporates all these things plus so much more.

Back to basics: A Virtual PA is an independent person or freelancer providing administrative services to clients from a remote setting. Often working for more than one client and on a flexible and ad-hoc basis, meaning you can use them as often or as little as you want, including one off projects.

The benefits to you as a business are far too vast for me to list them all here, so I’ve picked a couple so you get the idea. Firstly, the flexibility means you pay for what you need, usually on an hourly basis. As all businesses know, time is money, and as Virtual PAs work for themselves, there tends to be less time wasting. It is just as important to them as it is to you to get the work done quickly and efficiently rather than hanging around at the kettle a few minutes longer chatting. The usual benefits you would give to a full time employee aren’t relevant; no pension contributions, no holiday and sickness pay. Then there are the physical demands that do not fall to you to provide; IT equipment and the licences associated with those, no deskspace or  workspace needed (doesn’t sound like a biggie, but working for a company who had more staff than it did space, it’s not easy).

Now I can hear some of you thinking… Ok, I get the concept, but what do I outsource to a Virtual PA?  Here is a list of 10 things any business can outsource this second;

  1. Bookkeeping – How long does it take you to chase unpaid bills or generate and email invoices? That could be time you spend on doing what it is you are good at.  Here at The Contemporary PA I charge £15 per hour.  How much does one lost hour cost you?
  2. Research – Are you employing staff? Do you need to vet potential candidates? Are you looking for current topics to talk about at an upcoming seminar?
  3. Database entry – Been to a networking meeting and need to transfer business card information over? Do you have information which needs updating for contacts?
  4. Presentations – Do you have loads of information but no time or idea of how to turn it in to a useful PowerPoint with the key information?
  5. Email Management – Many Virtual PAs will filter your emails, getting rid of any spam, replying to general enquiries, and highlighting ones requiring your urgent attention.
  6. Social Tasks – Special occasion cards to be sent (Christmas is just around the corner, do you send to all your clients and contacts?), thank you notes, organising flower delivery.
  7. Travel including creating itineraries
  8. Diary Management
  9. Websites – It amazes me how many businesses still don’t use a website. Often because of the cost involved. Many Virtual PAs can help build simple websites to showcase your company. At this current time, I manage and have created mine.
  10. Social Media – From setting you up, to updates and creating blog posts.

Just like any industry, Virtual PAs differ significantly in their knowledge and area of expertise, but luckily enough with over 25,000 of us doing it, and this number rising significantly year on year, it’s becoming easier for companies to find one suited to them and their requirements. The best thing, if they don’t work out, or aren’t a fit for you, there are no long, messy procedures for termination of employment and no risk of employment tribunals.


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