How to outsource work to a virtual assistant – what are the best projects to outsource
Written by: Alex Wong
When you outsource work to a virtual assistant it is important to know what the best projects to outsource are. The main goal of outsourcing is to free up your time, so you can focus on the work that brings in the most results and that only you can do. Here are the best tasks that can be outsourced to a virtual assistant:
Almost any type of research can be outsourced to a virtual assistant, be it speechwriting or simple fact checking. Fact checking is important because it can be outsourced for cheap and there is nothing that can ruin your reputation as quickly as presenting incorrect information. You can also outsource research that is not related to your business, such as writing a speech for a wedding or choosing the best product to buy in a given niche. The possibilities are endless. Outsourcing can free your time, so you can focus on more important tasks or it can simply create free time for you, so you can enjoy a nice vacation or time with your family.
Keep in mind that a lot of virtual assistants get paid by the hour when doing research, so make sure you choose the most effective one that can quickly complete the task in hand. Also, there are a lot of areas where you would think that only you can do the necessary research when in reality – anybody can.
- Sales Leads – VA can find and research individuals, companies, and technologies, via blogs, websites and forums. They can prepare reports and briefs to help you determine who to contact next. With the right information in hand you can focus on developing new business relationships instead of having to spend time researching
- Fact Checking – To be persuasive, you need facts on your side; nothing ruins your credibility quicker than inaccurate information. A VA can double-check facts, provide statistics and backup information, and verify data to make sure you always put an accurate foot forward
- Products and Services to Buy – A VA can take into account your budget and preferences, sift through the options, check out reviews and recommendations, and create a short list of the prime contenders for purchase. Plus, a VA can comparison shop, find the best deals possible, and even arrange the purchase if you prefer
- Products and Services to Sell – A VA can perform a lot of basic research: Products already marketed that can be privately labeled, products you can buy wholesale and sell at retail, products you can license so you have the right to sell them… the possibilities are endless.
Data entry is one of the most time and energy consuming tasks that fortunately – can be easily outsourced. From article submission to craigslist ad posting, this type of work is most commonly outsourced, which means you can quickly find someone that can do it for cheap. Website registration also falls into this category – many businesses require you to use certain websites, for which you have to register. Doing this involves a lot of manual work and typing, which makes the job perfect to outsource to a virtual assistant.
Collecting contact information also falls into this category. You can easily find the contacts of potential advertisement publishers for example. This type of work requires total focus on the task, so it can be difficult for you to complete if you have many other projects to focus on. That’s why this type of work is best outsourced to a virtual assistant. What you can do next is have the virtual assistant type all the contact information as outlook entries – this makes it quick and easy to send offers to all the contacts at once.
Creating slideshows can also be outsourced easily to VAs that understand how to do it and are good in graphic design. Creating a slideshow for a meeting can be tough, especially if you do not have a lot of experience with it. Trying to learn all the ins and outs of PowerPoint is pointless, when you can outsource this work and focus on more important tasks
- Turn Business Cards into Outlook Entries – putting information from business cards into your Outlook address book helps you stay organized and automatically organizes your phone or PDA. Who really has the time to do this? You can fax/scan the business cards you receive, or send Excel or Word contact listings to a VA who can transfer the information for you
- Website Registration – Many websites require you to register to access certain articles and information, sign up for newsletters, or post your contact information for other visitors to see. Registering can be a tedious process – so outsource it! Compose a list of websites you wish to register with, along with your contact information, and allow a VA to take care of the rest. You can also ask the VA to research other relevant sites you haven’t listed, and to sign you up there, too.
- Collect Contact Information - With a little research performed by a VA you can collect all the data you need, including phone numbers, email addresses, social media links, etc. They can then enter the collected data into spreadsheets, documents, address books… whatever is most useful to you.
- Article Submission – Posting articles in article directories, press release directories, and other websites, can be a great way to build an audience and generate links to your website or blog. Hundreds of directories exist. Make the process easy by hiring a VA: Simply provide your articles along with a list of directories you wish to submit to (or ask the VA to create a list for you), and your words can be seen by thousands of readers worldwide.
Things like to-do list planning and travel scheduling fall into this category. This is one area where outsourcing the work can be even better than doing it yourself, because you may miss important details that virtual assistants will quickly notice. Planning meetings is most commonly outsourced and there are assistants that are specialized in it and can complete the task down to the smallest detail quickly. Virtual assistants can quickly choose the best venue for the meeting as well as make a reservation and do a bit of research on your potential client or associate. If you participate in a meeting that has people you have never met before it is important to know at least some basic background information about them and this can be quickly researched by your VA. If you are going to travel somewhere, the VA can research the cheapest and most suitable accommodations as well as choose the best travel schedule.
- Meetings – A well-planned and executed lunch meeting with one important client could be as important to your business as a meeting with 20 or more participants. Every meeting has the potential to make or break your company – make sure they are planned flawlessly! A VA can research venues, make reservations, schedule the appointment with participants, and even follow up a few days ahead of time to make sure your plans are all set. Let a VA take care of the details so you can focus on accomplishing your goals at your meetings.
- Prepare Participant Bios – You’ve probably seen movies or television shows where a politician or leader has names and personal information whispered into his or her ear just before he greets another person. While a VA can’t attend the meeting with you, they can provide the next best thing: If you provide the names of people who will attend your event, or any other event for that matter, a VA can give you background information, recent news, and other tidbits that will help you make a great impression on everyone you meet. Then, instead of saying, “Nice to meet you,” imagine yourself saying, “Nice to meet you… congratulations on starting your new product line. How is that going?”
- Travel Research – Planning a trip, but aren’t sure how much to budget? A VA can provide detailed research and a breakdown of potential costs including flights, accommodations, local transportation, and daily expenses (like food and entertainment, etc). If you have multiple destinations or departure dates in mind, costs can be broken down by location or season to help you make the right decisions for your business trip or vacation.
- Slideshows – Creating a compelling and interesting slideshow is tough. So is having the right tools and techniques to zoom, pan, and fade individual slides to keep your audience engaged and your images looking their best – while making the maximum impact possible. Whether you’re showing personal photos at an engagement party or wedding, or you’re a contractor showing off past building and construction projects, make sure your slideshow looks great and functions perfectly.
If you own a blog it can be impossible to hire someone to write posts for you, especially if you have built an identity around your blog. However, even then you can outsource a lot of the work that comes with every article writing task, such as topic research, collecting news and so on. Virtual assistants can notify you on important blog comments that you need to approve or answer. You can even outsource something like online dating, which was first done by Timothy Ferriss – the author of ‘The 4-Hour Workweek’ and is not becoming more and more popular.
But most importantly, you can create proper social media exposure by outsourcing it. Sites like Facebook and Twitter are becoming increasingly important for business and you have to take advantage of them. Fortunately, this can be easily outsourced for very cheap.
- Blog Posting – First a caveat: If you have a distinctive writing “voice,” only talented writers will be able to mimic it and create blog posts that “sound” like you. But don’t let that stop you from hiring a VA to help with your blog posts. Virtual Assistants can collect news, keep up with trends, do research… even write rough drafts of posts that you can then shape into your “own” distinctive style. And to keep the conversation among your readers going, a VA can respond to comments left on your blog, alerting you when a comment requires your expertise to answer. Many bloggers generate a mixture of posts. Some are simple news recaps and updates while others are more like opinion pieces. Let a VA help you make your blog more robust… while also making it easier to maintain and keep fresh.
- Commenting and Linking – Leaving comments on blogs and social media sites is a great way to make new connections and leave backlinks to your own sites and blogs. A VA can take care of the process for you. Create a list of sites (or have the VA create it), give guidelines on comments you’d like to leave, and off you go! You can also have the VA send you links to new articles or sites that you should check out personally. While you’re at it, a VA can respond to comments and questions left on your sites and blogs, too.
- Profiles and Accounts – Want to benefit from social networking but don’t have the know-how or the time to start? Hire a VA to create your accounts and profiles on LinkedIn, Facebook, MySpace, and/or other social networking sites. Once you’re all set, you can focus on creating and developing relationships.
- Social Media – Social Media sites like Facebook are great ways to network and create social connections – but managing your accounts can take time away from other productive work. A VA can keep up with your friend requests, respond to messages, and keep you informed about your account activity. You can take it a step farther and hire an application developer to apply current solutions or develop a new tool to keep you on the cutting edge of social networking.
This is the area that can free up the most of your time. In this category fall things like email responding and management, voicemail management, sending gifts and cards to customers and potential customers and follow-up orders. A lot of business owners and even employees fall in the trap of constantly checking email and voicemail, because that is the most important part of the business. It is surprising how much of this can be outsourced. After outsourcing, it is not uncommon for business owners to start checking mail as little as 2 hours per week or even less. If checking email occupies most of your workdays, this may seem impossible but it is true.
Make a list of the most common email questions you get and write detailed answers for each. Than you can easily give this task to a virtual assistant, or even create an automatic software auto responder. Follow ups are also important and involve calling the customer after an order has been completed. It is one of the best ways to get repeat business and a lot of business owners overlook this.
- Voicemail Management – Do you receive a lot of voicemails? Do you spend a lot of time in meetings and dread having to check your messages? A VA can check your voicemail on the schedule you set, prioritize your messages, and even email summaries to you in case you’re not in a position to receive calls. A VA can also return routine and emergency calls, saving the important or sensitive calls for you to make when you have the chance.
- Email Management – Even if you receive hundreds of emails each day, chances are a number of them are routine – and if they’re routine, that means a VA can respond to those emails using guidance you provide. Then all you’ll need to do is respond to unusual or out of the ordinary emails. You can take it a step further and have your VA forward emails only you can handle to a separate account; that way you’ll never see or need to deal with the hundreds of emails your VA can handle for you. If you feel like you type the same response – to different people – more than once, a VA can handle the task.
- Gifts and Cards - Whether they’re our friends or our customers and clients, all of us want to remember important people at special times. Provide spending guidelines and other basic information, and your VA can track down and ship the perfect gifts, send online cards, or mail pre-signed greeting cards to everyone on your list.
- Thank You and Follow-Up – Many businesses send notes or make phone calls to recent purchasers. It’s a great way to say “thank you” and also to answer any questions and proactively resolve potential problems. A VA can send thank you cards or make post-purchase calls to new customers or clients, creating a memorable personal touch that can help drive repeat business and build long-term business relationships.