For small town small business people, virtual assistants could be one of the best kept secret tools. A good VA can take some of the administrative load off of your shoulders, and make your business more successful. As a bonus, VA’s can work from anywhere, so I see them as an emerging class of small town entrepreneurs. For this installment of the Small Biz 100, I interviewed former small town gal and current virtual assistant Michelle Wolverton, aka Chel Pixie, on how to work successfully with a VA.
Tell me about the services you provide. I know you do some things that I’m sure most don’t.
I provide a wide range, so wide that sometimes it’s hard to really narrow down the services that someone might need from me. Obviously anything that I can do virtually, which includes managing contacts (especially after conferences when you come home with all those business cards), making appointments and arranging for service that one might need in the normal course of business and/or personal, and I manage social networking sites for some clients.
The unique thing about me is that I can switch from installing and configuring WordPress to writing a legal document to creating databases for musicians to market their music. These all came about because I’m a geek, have been trained as a legal assistant and got some experience working as an intern for Matthew Ebel.
What surprises clients or what don’t they know?
Some clients are surprised at the depth of services I’m willing to handle, some are surprised to find out that x tool will work great for a task they need completed. I really think the biggest thing that they don’t realize is what to delegate and how. It really is a big task to sit down and look at the things you’re dealing with and say, oh okay, I can hand this over, but now I need to find the time to do that. It has to be a priority, and I think it surprises clients to know how difficult it is to get started. Once they start, it seems to get easier to think, “now that’s something that I can give to the VA and it’ll save me time”.
How do people find a VA? How do they make a good match?
I’ve connected with clients via Ning, LinkedIN, Twitter, email, phone, Skype, and WOM. I think the first step is knowing that you CAN have a virtual assistant. Most corporations and companies look inside the box for someone that can be in office doing those same tasks for 8 hours a day. My clients tend to understand they can have someone do this work for them and not BE there. It can be hard to find someone that fits to bring into your home office.
I’m sure that some people utilitize Craigslist.org, job boards and other service, but I’m guessing that the majority of people find VAs through online networking services or WOM.
Trials are the key. Sometimes I hit it off with clients instantly, sometimes we don’t, it really takes an effort on both sides of the fence to make the relationship cement. If the client is having difficulty knowing what they need me to manage or what they can have me manage, then it’s a lot harder on both of us to find a good place to start. If you’re going to take on a VA, be prepared to know what you can delegate. Ask yourself, “can I let go of this task and let someone else handle it for me?” If the answer is yes, just let go of it. It’ll make your life easier. That’s my purpose.
What makes it work? How do you manage across the distance?
To put it simply, it’s the acceptance of telecommuting plus the tools to collaborate online. Tools like Google Documents and Calendars, Skype, Plaxo, oovoo, Todoist, de.lici.ous, Basecamp, Backpack, etc. have changed our way of thinking about how we communicate with our co-workers and business partners. For myself, that includes almost always being connected.
Companies like The Advance Guard, crayon, and Abraham Harrison are starting out as digital offices and they are doing it successfully. What absolutely has to be present is lines of communication between co-workers and even between clients.
This article is part of the Small Biz 100, a series of 100 practical hands-on posts for small business people and solo entrepreneurs, whether in a small town, the big city, or in between. If you have questions you’d like us to address in this series, leave a comment or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. This is a community project!
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Becky started Small Biz Survival in 2006 to share rural business and community building stories and ideas with other small town business people. She and her husband have a small cattle ranch and are lifelong entrepreneurs. Becky is an international speaker on small business and rural topics.