Hint: I’m not talking about computer chat-bots…
A virtual assistant (VA) is someone who provides business support services remotely (generally from their own home, or a shared office they rent themselves).
While technically anyone who provides you with any type of assistance from a different location is a virtual assistant, most people who call themselves a virtual assistant provide the type of support traditional administrative employees do, such as reception, customer service, accounts and high-level executive or personal assistance.
I definitely wouldn’t call the graphic designers and website developers I know “virtual assistants” just because they work from home. Someone has to draw a line!
So think of any traditional administrative role and you can find a virtual assistant providing services relating to that type of role.
You don’t have to engage a virtual assistant to take on a full traditional role though – you can get a VA to take on just one or two specific tasks, such as monitoring an inbox and responding to new enquiries or following up your debtors.
Another option is to hire a virtual assistant for a one-off project or test them out for a set length of time, such as 3 months.
Remember that virtual assistants don’t all have the same skills or experience, so it is worth working out your budget and putting together a scope for the role you want to fill before you enter the world of remote workforces.