Getting started with virtual assistance

When people ask me about virtual assistance, I usually start off with a few stories about things my assistants do, like:

  • Renew my library books and e-mail me a list of the books they couldn’t renew
  • Look up information in my e-mail and call me with it while I’m out and about
  • Call stores to find out if something I’m looking for is in stock
  • Double-check the dates and times of appointments and talks, because I sometimes mess that up and it’s embarrassing

My reasons for experimenting with virtual assistance are to:

  • Learn how to delegate
  • Understand and improve my processes
  • Learn how to scale
  • Help other people grow

I use Timesvr for 15-minute tasks and well-specified processes, and I work with virtual assistants I hired through oDesk for more specialized skills or more extended projects. Definitely worth the experiment, and quite affordable considering what you can learn and how you can help yourself and other people grow. =)

To get started:

  1. Make a list of things you do and things that you’ve been meaning to do.
  2. Identify things you frequently forget to do, don’t like doing, or can delegate to someone else easily.
  3. Set aside some money in your budget for outsourcing. Timesvr costs USD 69 + tax a month, and oDesk virtual assistants can go from USD 3 – USD 20 or more per hour. The virtual assistants I work with generally charge about USD 5 per hour, with specialized skills like illustration costing more.
  4. Try to estimate how much time it would take to complete each of those tasks. If your list has a large number of 15-30 minute tasks on it, consider signing up for Timesvr. If you have extended projects or projects that need specialized skills, consider posting on oDesk. You might even try both.
  5. Try a few small tasks. Timesvr has a free 3-day trial, and you can hire people on oDesk on an as-needed basis (< 10 hours a week, with no charges if you don’t assign them work).
  6. Think about your processes and your outsourcing experiences, and look for ways to improve. You can ask experienced assistants to help you learn, too. For example, I have Timesvr e-mail me a list of sample tasks every day.
  7. Lather, rinse, repeat. =)

Resources for people getting started:

My experiences

Processes

Check out my blog category about managing virtual assistants, and feel free to ask questions or share your experiences through comments or e-mail!

  • http://coevolving.com David Ing

    It occurs to me that one of the skills that you’re acquiring is estimating how much time it takes to perform a task. We all learn to do this, to some extent, in school, as we work on homework assignments.

    In real life though, I’m amazed at how badly people generally are at estimating work effort. If your profession has you billing time (i.e. services by the hour), then your estimation ability improves. At least if you don’t know how much time it takes, your estimate is conservative (i.e. longer), and becomes more precise as more information is attained.

    In managing virtual assistants, I presume that the assistant would give feedback on time estimates. A runaway project happens more often that we would like.