Using a virtual assistant can shave hours from your workweek, but knowing which tasks to delegate can be tricky, whether you're starting or growing a business. Most virtual assistants are contract or freelance workers who do their jobs from home and focus on administrative tasks that are similar to those of an executive assistant or secretary. Websites that specialize in contract workers, such as odesk.com and elance.com, have thousands of listings for virtual assistants.
With the number of virtual assistants are growing, their expertise now runs the gamut, making it easier to find someone who fits your organization, says Jaleh Bisharat, vice president of marketing at oDesk.com, which is based in Redwood City, Calif. In 2012, oDesk had 25,000 postings for virtual assistant jobs, compared to about 2,500 in 2008.
Entrepreneurs can use virtual assistants for everything from making vendor or customer service calls to sending out thank you cards to prospective clients. It's important to build trust, just as you would with a permanent employee. "They become a team member who just happens to work remotely," Bisharat says. Not sure where to start? Here are 10 ways you can use a virtual assistant to improve your business.