In a startup, one hand is typically doing everything, however delegating every job to the manager or owner is obviously unsustainable. With compressed timelines to market products or services and constant demands for productivity, a startup will eventually need to bring on board one or more team members to assist with marketing, sales, admin, creative, technical and/or other tasks as well. Outsourcing to a highly skilled virtual assistant – defined as a person who works remotely and online to carry out professional duties and responsibilities for another – is an appealing proposition, for a number of reasons.
Virtual Assistants Mean Cost Savings
Startups generally have limited funds. Since the virtual assistant (VA) works off site, usually from a home office, a startup avoids the costs of providing working space (real estate) and equipment. Furthermore, because the enterprise contracts for specific work and pays the VA only for project-based assignments, recurring tasks or ad hoc assignments, the arrangement also saves on taxes and benefits incurred when otherwise hiring full-time, in-house employees.
Virtual Assistants Bring Flexibility
Owners of startup enterprises can reserve their time and brain power for the most high value, high growth work while delegating routine and/or other important tasks to a VA. Startups often start with a generalist VA for administrative support: answering emails, setting appointments, making travel arrangements and so on. But many specialists and even MBAs choose to work as independent contractors, so it’s entirely possible to find virtual assistants qualified to do or share higher-level jobs. Highly skilled VAs may have specialised talents in areas including (but not limited to):
- Marketing (e.g. doing competitor analysis and customer surveys).
- Market research and financial forecasting.
- Communications (writing or updating blog posts).
- Social media (managing a company’s online profiles).
- SEO and keyword research.
- Website design and graphics.
Online services such as oDesk (full and part-time freelancers) to HourlyNerd (consulting-level services) and many others, help individuals find and match virtual assistants to their businesses. Startups can use VAs for short-term or one-off projects or may develop a relationship with the contractor to provide services as the business grows.
Virtual Assistants Think And Act Entrepreneurially
The ability to think and act entrepreneurially has become a critical work-life skill. Startups are entrepreneurial, and virtual assistants are themselves micro-entrepreneurs in a world where job uncertainty is rather high. Startup enterprises, in may cases, may run better if they’re supported by people who understand the entrepreneurial mindset. Also, if a startup hopes to grow by finding investors, it’s obviously advisable to pursue like-minded partners.
Virtual Assistants Are The Future
If a startup interacts with customers almost exclusively online, they can even go so far as to utilise artificial intelligence-based VAs or avatars (e.g. CodeBaby, NextIT, Creative Virtual, and others) for simple tasks. Their intelligence framework allows them to remember facts for interactions such as pointing website visitors to the right service, explaining product/service offerings or responding to common enquiries. Advances in cognitive computing, improved natural language recognition and algorithms modelled after IBM’s Watson and IPSoft’s Amelia will allow IVAs to undertake more complex tasks in the years ahead. As a result, it’s entirely possible that automation and IT will be able to augment the skills of professional virtual assistants in the future, at least to some degree.