~originally published by Christine Pilkington in 2017
I’m in love. With my virtual assistant – or VA. I actually don’t know how I’d ever survive without her. I suppose it’s cliché to be in love with your assistant, but in my case, I’ve never met her in real life. Besides, my husband loves her too (see point number 7, below).
It started innocently enough. I had a small, temporary task – posting a job description, sorting through resumes and booking interviews – and I had no time (this is why I was hiring in the first place). A VA made sense and I thought I’d spend about $400 all in. And Shannon Cassidy’s team at Admin Slayer was up for the task.
About nine months later, I’m still working with them. After the initial briefing, it became clear that there were other administrative tasks that were weighing me down. As time wore on, Jen, my assigned VA, started taking more and more work off my plate, freeing me up to do things essential to my business – closing sales, overseeing the growth of my business, and just generally having more time to breathe.
Here are some of the tasks.
1. Calendar management
I can’t tell you how freeing it is to not have to deal with the back-and-forth of booking meetings with people. Sure, your internal team can use the meeting availability function built right into your calendar platform. But for clients and other external people, there is an unbelievable amount of drain here.
In a previous post, I mentioned using booking software. Personally, I think it works only in specific cases. When you’re trying to get a meeting in with one of your clients, particularly one you're trying to woo in the sales cycle, soft hands are sometimes needed. Sending them to a link to select a time for them to book themselves seems utterly impersonal – as if I’m saying “take a number”. Jen personalizes the process, plus follows up if she hasn’t heard back. She’ll even book restaurant reservations and organize meeting rooms - all I need to do is show up at the appointed time.
2. Mileage tracking
Each month, Jen goes into my calendar and looks at the various places I’ve had meetings. She then logs them into a mileage-tracking sheet and then creates a journal entry in my bookkeeping software. When you factor in the savings on taxes, this alone pays for itself. Plus I don’t have the headache of needing to think about it at year-end. Because who has time to pull together their mileage throughout the year?
3. Accounts Receivable
Everyone has customers who are slow to pay. For a business owner who works directly with clients, it can be tough being bright and chipper one day and then demanding payment the next. Jen flawlessly plays bad cop, making the task purely about business, leaving me to play good cop. As someone not deep in the client relationship, she can ask for the payment without making it personal.
4. Account Management
The account management, especially on the media side of our business, can be very intense. There is a lot of back and forth trying to get creative assets from our clients, plus managing dates. I previously had this task assigned to another person but it became clear that the skill sets of “doing the job” and “coordinating the job” were too challenging to merge together. I created a process that was easy for Jen to follow, including email scripts, folder structures, naming conventions and more. Now, everything is organized and my clients know exactly what’s required. Jen consistently follows up, keeping our workflow moving, and she reaches out to me whenever she needs any help. As we scale up our Facebook Campaign services, Jen will be essential here.
This approach would also work nicely if you needed someone to actively manage inbound customer service queries.
5. Outbound Sales
Having Jen help me with outbound sales came as a surprise. If you have a relatively repeatable process around outbound sales, a VA can work wonders. I had Jen come up with a list of prospects for a specific niche we wanted to target. The list came from our existing database as well as doing some research online. She then emailed the contacts through our CRM, as well as created deals and assigned activities within our system, assigning each to me with a due date.
Once the sale was closed, we followed our Account Management process. Based on the sales generated, Admin Slayer's services paid for itself eight times over.
6. Any repeatable tasks
One of our clients required a particular email update every other week. It could not be late because it was forwarded to the company’s CEO, but it also required inputs from various people on the project team. I create a “mad libs” style template for her, which she would populate once she received the inputs. She would also follow up with the team if the inputs were late. She then presented it to me for my final review and I sent it along to my client. By assigning this to my VA, this task was never late.
7. Saving Your Marriage
I haven’t limited my VA’s tasks to my business. I forward my kids’ soccer calendars (there are three to manage!) to Jen and she inputs the practices and games in a Google calendar I share with my husband, including details like who the opposing team is and buffer time for us to show up early for warm up. She inputs all the information on my kids’ pro-d days and hot lunch days. She even watches out for days that my husband is out of town (this is also in our calendar) and knows when I need to cover off days when he normally does school drop off and pick up.
So is it all worth it? 100% yes. My payroll has dropped significantly (even though Admin Slayer charges a premium rate) and I've been more free to build more business - the combined effect has more than paid for their services. The quality of the work is top notch and because she's a contractor, the delivery of service is extremely high - I rarely need to correct what she's done. And don't let the premium rate deter you. If you were to go with a less expensive VA (I've done this) or one that's overseas (I've tried this too), it will undoubtedly come back and bite you. You absolutely get what you pay for.
Christine is the CEO and Founder of Crisp Media, your ally in marketing strategy, content, and execution. This award winning entrepreneur has provided consulting services to large companies such as AOL, BMW, MINI, Indigo and RadioShack, as well as some of Canada’s top media brands, like Macleans, CityTV, and Today’s Parent. A dedicated parent, it’s clear that Christine believes that parenthood and business don’t need to stifle each other, delivering the annual outstanding Leading Moms event in Vancouver, and providing parenting expertise to GlobalTV, National Post, CBC Radio, and more.