In a recent post, I mentioned the benefits of hiring a virtual assistant (VA). Afterward, I received a good number of requests on the specifics of hiring one. I discovered the concept in a book called the 4 Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss, and the idea was further reinforced when I read Virtual Freedom by Chris Ducker. In this post, I’ll try to help explain what exactly a virtual assistant is and why you should have one.
As I mentioned, entire books are devoted to this, but I’ll do my best to give you enough information to be dangerous. In future posts, I'll give you some tips on the hiring process, tips on how to work with a VA, and also list some of my favorite virtual assistant sites.
What is a Virtual Assistant?
A virtual assistant is someone who works remotely to help you perform tasks or projects. We’ve all heard of personal assistants, but due to the advances in technology like video chat, shared documents, artificial intelligence, and messaging apps, many of the tasks that once required close proximity can now be done from anywhere, even from different countries.
Why Hire a Virtual Assistant?
After using multiple virtual assistants and seeing the benefits firsthand, I strongly believe everyone should try to incorporate one into their lives. Let’s face it, as doctors, most of us aren’t used to working with assistants in our daily lives to this degree, but there are many reasons why we should consider it. Assistants are not only for business moguls and celebrities.
Free Up Time
As a busy professional, the main reason I’ve found to hire a virtual assistant is to simply decrease your workload and free up time. If you’re anything like me and my wife, trying to juggle the roles of physician, husband, wife, father, mother, friend, and whatever else you have on your plate. . . well, it’s a challenge.
Add to that “busy-work” tasks that need to get done, and the day just doesn’t seem to have enough hours. We should be focusing on how to free up time in our lives and this is one great way.
Free Up Mental Energy
Ultimately, you want to focus on things you’re passionate about or that will help your side hustles or businesses advance. So much mental energy is devoted to and drained by mundane tasks that can be outsourced. Your focus should be on the fun stuff and higher- level thinking necessary to grow your business. Virtual assistants allow you to do this much more effectively by taking those menial tasks off of your plate.
Get Tasks Done Faster
Let’s be honest, you may not be the fastest at booking travel plans or bookkeeping or making presentations or slideshows (I know I’m not). But there are people who do that on a daily basis and can get it done much, much faster than you can.
You Can Delegate Stuff You Just Don’t Enjoy Doing
Have you noticed that it’s so difficult to get through certain projects or tasks just because you don’t enjoy doing it? You’ll stop halfway and even avoid thinking about it. Think about the things on your to-do list that you've put off for weeks, months, or even years. I bet you it's because they're things you don't enjoy doing.
Personally, I hate bookkeeping, so if I can offload some of that, I feel nothing but deep relief. There are people you can hire to gladly take those tasks off of your plate and do it with a smile on their face.
Downsides of Hiring a Virtual Assistant
It Costs Money
It can be (accurately) be argued that a good VA will ultimately pay for themselves, but there is, of course, a cost to it. No one will work for free.
You just have to do a cost-benefit analysis and think of the productivity you could gain, not the money you lose. “Time is money” the old adage goes, and it’s absolutely true. Ask yourself, how much is your time worth?
I like things done a certain way, and I think that’s true of everyone. Only you know exactly how you want things done, and it takes time to teach someone what’s in your head. It may take a while for the virtual assistant to work in a way that produces satisfactory results. Of course, once that time passes, you’ll be surprised how synchronized you can become.
I go through a similar process when teaching residents. Everyone wants to teach them their own way. It takes skill to learn how to communicate effectively and over time, they become quite good at knowing what you're trying to convey to them. We all went through it.
Have to Let Go of Some Control
Look, I get it. You’re a control freak, used to doing things yourself. I know the feeling -sometimes it’s hard to let that mentality go. Just as much as any other profession (if not more), physicians suffer from “superhero syndrome,” where we feel like we can handle all things and do them extremely well.
We’re used to thinking that if we want something done well, we have to take care of it ourselves. With a virtual assistant, you have to let go of some of that control, and it can be scary. It can also be very worth it.
Trust is Difficult and Takes Time
It takes time to trust anyone, especially if it has to do with confidential information. It may take some time for you to learn how much you can trust this virtual person. You're going to depend on them for something and for some people that process of building trust takes longer than for others.
Is a VA Only for People with Businesses? Is It Worth It for Physicians?
I believe that hiring a virtual assistant is for anyone who wants to free up their time and sees the value in paying someone to do it, no matter your profession. You pay someone for services on a daily basis, whether you realize it or not: paying a CPA to do your taxes, someone to wash your car, someone to make your food, etc. Having a VA isn’t much different, other than their service contributes directly to your productivity and peace of mind.
As physicians, I believe the value of our time is high, and what little free time we do have is even that much more valuable. Do you really want to spend your free time doing things you don’t enjoy? Yes, a virtual assistant worth it for anyone who wants to spend their time doing things they love.
If you have a side hustle or business, it’s quite easy to figure out how to plug a VA in. Need someone to manage your schedule, make phone calls, and more? A virtual assistant can help. Most businesses already have some form of an assistant (if not more than one), so outsourcing here is a no-brainer.
Wouldn't It Be Better to Just Hire an In-Person Assistant?
This really depends on your needs. Do you need someone to literally run and drive to places for you? Do you have a business that involves a significant amount of packaging and sendoffs? Maybe you need someone to come to your house or the office to help you with these things.
In reality, most of the things that could be considered timesavers in our lives can either be done through automation, online ordering, or virtually. So it may be way more cost-effective to hire someone virtually.
What Specific Tasks Can a VA Do?
Plenty! Not limited to but including:
- Organizing spreadsheets
- Create presentations
- Edit writing
- Order presents, supplies
- Ordering your groceries
- Email Management
- Organize files
- Organize photos
- Social Media posting
- Hotel and Flight Booking
- Online Research
- And much more…
How Much Time Can You Really Save?
That depends on how much of your life is filled doing extraneous stuff. Small tasks seem to only take a few minutes of time. But once they’re all added up, especially over a week, it can result in a significant amount of time.
To give you some idea, how much time has shopping on Amazon saved you? Sure maybe you spend more than you need to at times, but it probably saves many of us hours a week not having to get in our car, drive to the store, walk the aisles, wait in the checkout line, and drive back. You probably never realized how much time this technology would one day save you until you used it.
The same can be said for having a virtual assistant. Once you start using a VA, you start realizing how much time you waste on a weekly basis doing things that could easily be outsourced, streamlined, and simplified.
Personally, using assistants routinely saves me 5-10 hours a week. What could you do with an extra hour a day?
How Much Is a Virtual Assistant?
This varies quite a bit. It depends on the following:
- Whether you’re paying by the task, by the hour, or by salary
- Expertise needed to perform the task
- Experience of the VA
- Country of origin of the VA
To expand on this last point, according to Payscale.com, the average virtual assistant in the US makes $15.82 an hour. However, in the Philippines, the average VA makes $4-5 an hour. Again, it depends on the type of job they’re performing. Basic, general tasks make less, while ones that are associated with personal information or complex tasks make more.
Where Can I Hire a Virtual Assistant?
Here's a list of some of the best sites to hire a virtual assistant.
Conclusion: Hire a Virtual Assistant
If it hasn’t been clear up to this point, I highly recommend hiring a virtual assistant. Yes, we’re used to getting things done and doing it ourselves, especially if we want it done right. Unfortunately, we’re already so strapped for time, all we end up doing is filling our precious free time with tasks that we don’t enjoy doing, aren’t that great at, or honestly shouldn’t be doing at all.
Maybe that should be the first step in evaluating whether you should hire one. I'd recommend you do a quick inventory of those same tasks in your own life:
- Tasks you don’t enjoy doing
- Tasks you’re doing that could be done by someone else (likely faster and more efficiently)
- Tasks you probably shouldn’t be doing
Take that list and figure out how much time you’re spending on those things daily, weekly, and monthly. If it adds up to more than even an hour a week, it’s worth looking into hiring someone to do it. At a minimum, that’s 52 hours a year freed up to do the things you enjoy.
Personally, it's changed the way I live on a weekly and monthly basis. Certain tasks like paperwork and online research get done instead of sitting on my to-do list. More of my mental energy is devoted to things that bring a lot more value to my life. More of my time is spent on things I enjoy, like hanging out with my family, watching sports, and working on my side hustles.
Focus on how to free up your time and consider hiring a virtual assistant. Then, just maybe, you’ll be able to reclaim some of that precious time that you feel you’ve lost.
In the next posts, you'll get a list of some my favorite resources when it comes to virtual assistants, tips for the hiring process, and tips on how to work with them.
Have you ever used a virtual assistant? Did you find it useful? What were some of the benefits and challenges for you? Curious about using one?