BEYOND BUSINESS BASICS
Are You a Business Coach or a Paper Pusher?
By
Sylva Leduc

A common lament I hear from coaches struggling to be effective in managing their time is, "I hate paperwork!"

Guess what? Me, too!

Several years ago, as an Internal Coach/Consultant in large companies, I was spoiled. I always had at least one assistant. As an executive in an international consulting firm, I had a network of people to format articles, proof proposals, do the design work, send invoices, and generally take care of all the administrative stuff. 

For solopreneurs and the owners of our own businesses, all those "delightful" tasks become ours. So what are we to do?

Get thee to a VA!

Sorry, I've gotten ahead of myself. I've worked with VAs for such a long time that I forget--not everyone knows what that is. A VA is a Virtual Assistant.

What is a Virtual Assistant?
A Virtual Assistant is a person who specializes in taking care of the administrative or office management tasks of running a business. Virtual Assistance is a relatively new profession. What's interesting is that it's a service which grew out of the coaching industry. Most often, a VA doesn't physically visit your office to take care of your paperwork. He or she works remotely, just as many coaches work remotely and do not travel to their clients' offices. 

What tasks do VAs look after for their clients?
A VA can assist a coach in an endless number of ways. What a VA does for each coach is dependent upon the expertise of the VA, as well as the needs of each business.

Some basic tasks where a VA can help include:

  • screening and handling email
  • receiving and placing phone calls
  • formatting documents so they look professional
  • distributing a newsletter
  • conducting research
  • managing projects, important deadlines and dates
  • scheduling coaching sessions

As your VA becomes more knowledgeable about your business, he can assist with additional tasks, such as:

  • creating marketing strategies and putting them into action
  • setting up and maintaining a shopping cart or billing system
  • building automated forms
  • drafting correspondence and articles
  • writing your newsletter and getting it ready for publication

Where can a coach find a Virtual Assistant?
Various associations of Virtual Assistants can be found on the internet. For example, the International Virtual Assistants Organization, International Association of Virtual Assistants and the Canadian Virtual Assistant Connection offer directories on their Web sites. Also, ask colleagues who they recommend. 

When searching for a VA, I strongly suggest you find someone who will suit your future needs as well as your current needs. Look for someone who is very detail-oriented and has great follow-through. 

What are the standard rates to hire the services of a VA?
Rates are dependent on the particular tasks a VA is looking after and whether the person is acting as an assistant or managing your business. For administrative tasks, rates are generally $25-$50 an hour. For more technical tasks, such as web design, rates will be higher. 

Many VAs offer their clients retainers at a reduced rate. This means the client pays them by the first of the month for a standard number of hours. This arrangement is beneficial to both parties. The VA knows the committed hours for the month for that particular client and the retainer client is now a "preferred" or "priority" client. 

How do I get started?
These are the steps I've found most helpful in building a productive relationship with a VA:

  1. Arrange a time to speak with the VA about your business and your needs. Tell the VA about your products and services, and also about your target market.
  2. Ask about their background and how the VA thinks he can help you in managing and building your business.
  3. Ask to review their client agreement. Professional VAs will have a formalized agreement outlining their rates, hours of operation, confidentiality policy, etc.
  4. Assign a short-term project you want completed. This allows the VA to manage the project and learn more about your business. It also allows you to evaluate their work style.
  5. Decide if this is the person you want to represent you and your business. If it is a good match, then contract for the number of hours you need for the month or on a project basis.

I've worked with different VAs over the years. I now go through this process with each and every person. It works very well. My current VA (actually Virtual Manager -- a VM) has been working with me for more than two years. If you begin the relationship by setting this strong foundation, your VA can become a critical member of your support team. Working with a VA can free you up to focus on growing your business instead of shuffling papers.

 
Sylva (Syl) Leduc, MEd, MPEC, is a Certified Executive Coach who has worked with business owners, leaders, executives, and coaches for the past 14 years. She is the President of www.TheLeadershipCenter.com and www.ProductivityPlace.com. She was also the creative drive behind ClientCompass, a custom software program for coaches that was recently acquired by John Wiley & Sons. Read more about Sylva in the WABC Coach Directory. Sylva may be reached by email at info@TheLeadershipCenter.com.

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