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Freelancers - does anyone employ a virtual assistant - and is it worth it?

(21 Posts)
TantieTowie Wed 26-Aug-09 12:58:46

I'm a freelance journalist and I sometimes get fed up with the interminable email writing, phone calls etc needed to set up interviews, not to mention the transcribing, dealing with accounts and expenses etc, going through and sorting out inbox (which isn't at all sorted)

Sometimes I think if I just outsourced all of the routine stuff, I'd be free to take on more work (have had to turn some down recently). It would also mean my non-working, childcare days would be less hassle, and I might not have to work so many evenings.

In a way I already do this with childcare - so I thought it could work in other areas of my life. But then I also tend to assume it would be too expensive.

So my question is: do any freelancers on here use a virtual assistant - and is it financially worth it? Do you use an individual or an agency? Is there a hourly rate you have to be making yourself before you make a profit from the hours you save, IYSWIM?

biscuit76 Wed 26-Aug-09 14:24:42

I use a VA (well my last one has just left to become a fulltime SAHM) but I'm missing her so on the hunt for a replacement.

It has made a big difference but you do really need to find the right person - so far the people I have interviewed just think it will be a basic admin job without any responsibilities that they get to do while watching This Morning. You do need to pay a good rate of pay to get the ones with experience - my last VA was getting around £22 an hour and I think I'm going to have to pay around this again.

You also need to get the systems in place for it to work.

I use lots of online services such as the Microsoft OfficeSpace so that the virtual part works easily - I found that I often wasted time explaining stuff in the early days so I could have just done the task myself, IYSWIM

TantieTowie Wed 26-Aug-09 15:03:35

Thanks, biscuit76 - it's interesting to hear it can make a real differenc. I think my more adminy stuff becomes a real distraction from what I'm supposed to be doing so that I lose more time than the actual hours it takes me to do the stuff.

So just as it takes removal people a fraction of the time to pack your stuff because they're not looking at all their old photos etc, so it might take a VA less time to sort my emails and so on. Is that what you found?

biscuit76 Wed 26-Aug-09 15:20:49

To be honest it depends what kind of emails they are.

If they are kind of thing that a VA can handle then it does save time. I get fan mail (sounds more glam than it is!) and a VA can usually send out a reply on my behalf....thanks for getting in touch blah, blah.

However, if the emails you get are more complicated and your VA isn't clear on the answer that I'm afraid I've found it doesn't really save time as they have to get in touch with me for me to give my answer.

I do use my VA for making travel arrangements, buying presents etc so that saves me lots of time - plus I never forget anyone's birthday as she keeps track of them all. Oh and finding a VA with book-keeping skills is also a bonus as I'm terrible at all that number stuff...

TantieTowie Wed 26-Aug-09 16:29:30

Does sound very glam - though very glad not to have to deal with the work that probably entails! grin
Thanks for the feedback. Think probably I should get myself more organised. What I really need is to clone myself - but that's out of my budget.

Eddas Thu 27-Aug-09 13:37:32

i'm just giving this thread a little bump as i'm interested if there's a need for this service and how much it would pay as i'm interested in doing it myself(being a VA)

It's interesting that biscuit76 said finding someone with bookkeeping skills is a bonus as that's what I do atm. I just feel I could offer a complete service offering admin etc aswell. More to think about.........

TracyK Thu 27-Aug-09 15:03:48

There seems to be a deluge of new VA type companies advertising in Glasgow just now. Is it going to be a saturated market soon?

What's MS Officespace? what does it do - I'm intruiged.

Do you have to be sat at your desk most of the day to be able to offer VA services - does the client expect you to be 'on call' most of the time?

I'm going to start offering these kind of services - but just to existing clients - so not 100% virtual iykwim.

biscuit76 Thu 27-Aug-09 17:35:32

You can find out more about MS Office's virtual programs at www.officelive.com - basically it means I can share documents with my VA via the internet in a virtual space- we can both view, edit etc without having to email back and forth.

As for VA working times - I pay by the hour so in the hour I'm paying for then yes I expect them to be available and be working 100 per cent for me.

However, I may be different as I employed my VA on PAYE rather than her being self-employed, IYSWM. - I think a lot of VAs offer a service rather than looking to be employed.

Eddas Thu 27-Aug-09 19:31:58

thinking along the same lines as me then Tracyksmile (hello again btw <<waves>>)

TracyK Fri 28-Aug-09 10:44:08

smile helllooooo....

LteMadrid Fri 28-Aug-09 13:43:02

If anyone is looking for a VA just call me as I am one! grin

I work through www.elance.com and do all sorts of weird and wonderful thing for clients from sorting out travel to emails, database management etc etc. I live in Madrid, my clients are in US, UK, Aus and somewhere on the road in Europe.

For pricing, you do pay for what you get BUT if you just want online basic admin assistance then I have to tell you that in the current climate we are all selling ourselves very cheap. I do indeed have a brain, used to be senior management but am now working from home due to various reasons so am pretty well available all day kids are at school. Depends what the client asks for as to what level of support I give.

I see that there are many companies setting up the service in the UK so worth checking out. I think we can definately save time and effort BUT only if you are clear what can or will be done by a VA and how they will do it.

Shout if I can add more clarity to this - either to start up working or to hire.

Blackduck Fri 28-Aug-09 13:45:49

LteMadrid I'd like to know some more about how to go about setting up as one - can I CAT you?

LteMadrid Fri 28-Aug-09 13:54:36

Of course!

TracyK Fri 28-Aug-09 14:59:54

I'm very suspicious about these new websites saying how wonderful they all are - only because a colleague of mine has set one up and the website looks fantastic.
All singing all dancing VA/call forwarding etc. Sounds as if he's a big operation - but it's just him and a phone - which he re routes wherever he is - even if it's the loo! and he knows nothing!
I think I'd only use one from word of mouth - or good references.

walkthedinosaur Fri 28-Aug-09 15:08:57

LteMadrid do you find elance.com is useful? Is it worth the subscription fee? How long have you been registered etc? And any other information you feel you can give.

I would be very grateful. Do work as VA from home but have all eggs in one basket so to speak.

TantieTowie Fri 28-Aug-09 19:09:58

So, out of curiosity - and for the information of those considering this as a potential market - these are the time-consuming admin-type jobs that I have to do. (They're all easy enough but can be very time-consuming). Of them, realistically, what might a VA do for me?

organise emails
answer emails
arrange and chase up interviews - mostly by email but also by phone
transcribe interviews
check my emails on days when I'm not working or away

invoicing
chasing invoices
keeping track of expenses and income - and putting them in a format I can give to the accountant

LteMadrid Fri 28-Aug-09 22:28:31

Hi TracyK - doesnt take anything to set up and look fancy and then people pay! That's why I work through established companies like elance as then everyone knows they can pick the person that suits them, there is competition for bidding for projects and you can see how much work we have won, how much we have been paid in the past and what our feedback values are.

Hi Walkthedinosaur - elance works for me. I only started in a serious fashion in May but now have 17+ hours per week of fixed work for the next 6 to 9 months as I have elected to go for the 'an hour a day/week' assistance type jobs as now have a regular income and dont have to do so much bidding. But when I fancy something different or want to try and get a cash input I bid on one-off projects. I find the UK sites like ifreelance useless for operating and getting jobs and elance also has the advantage of a $50 min. Of all of them it's the only one I get constant work from so for me the subscription is worth it, only basic level membership though, not paying to be 'golden' as that does seem silly to me. Feel free to CAT if you want more info etc

Hi TantieTowie - VAs will do anything you want them to. Have seen ads for VAs who will do the 'pick up laundry' etc etc but the usual is email and dairy management, managing tasks like follow up on basic work items, yes to the invoices etc etc. VAs are just PAs in a virtual world. The real difference is that you both have to be organised and ready to work 'virtually'. For me the bonus for you is that since we havent had to travel to an office or house we can be utilised in small pieces so if you only have 10 mins work for me today no big deal.

overthemill Tue 01-Sep-09 11:31:33

ltemadrid
you sound exactly like me although i haven't found elance before so thank you for the link.
can you rtell me please whaqtt kind of work you bid for - i've looked and wantt some work taht fits around me retraining to teach - i am able to turn my hand to most things after my varied acreer(jack of all trades, master of none) but dontt want towaste my time bidding for articles i wont get. so do you bid for admin or writing, or what? would love advice
thanks

LteMadrid Tue 01-Sep-09 16:28:07

Hi Overthehill

I personally go for the mundane and querky admin work eg. one off jobs like travel planning trip to London for a family next year; aussies travelling to europe for a couple of years who need help with various things - they hire me on a 'as needed' basis. What it isnt worth bidding for is the stuff that is just going to attract literally hundreds of bids or where they clearly want to pay nothing for your services as they will instantly hire one of the dirt cheap $1.50 or less per hour Indian companies.

If you want we can 'chat' and I'll walk you through what I have done to get going (17 hours fixed work per week across 4 companies plus some one offs). Send me an email with what you specifically want to know and I'll walk you through it.

saz333 Sun 27-Sep-09 00:42:08

Hi LteMadrid,

I currently work as a nanny 3 days a week as second family have just had another child so don't need me for two days so I now have two days a week to fill.

I was wondering how you went about starting with Elance and how easy it is to get work, how you get paid, how tax etc works. Could you email me and let me know some more details.

That would be fab.

Thanks so much!

NickyNoo38 Mon 24-Nov-14 14:07:54

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

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