This blog is just one of the stops on Sharon Williams Virtual Blog Tour. Sharon is promoting the VA Industry and its Upcoming Online International Virtual Assistants Convention: May 17-19, 2007. Read more about Sharon at the end of our chat together.


Hi Alicia and thanks for inviting me to share information about the Virtual Assistant industry and how hiring a Virtual Assistant alleviates overwhelm. It’s great to respond to questions posed from a potential client’s point of view, as it gives me the opportunity to showcase what virtual assisting is really all about. So fire away!

1. As a solo business owner, I do EVERYTHING myself, but I’m drowning in the details of running my business. How would hiring a virtual assistant help me right away?

For starters, a virtual assistant can identify and quantify administrative tasks and the amount of time required to complete them. She can suggest methods to streamline operations and even create an operations manual to document and systemize processes. Because VAs are technology-savvy and have a treasure trove of programs that reduce time on task, we can recommend software to automate many of your processes, and eliminate that “drowning” feeling you are experiencing. Then, you can transition these duties to your VA while you concentrate on income-producing responsibilities.

2. I’m fairly non-technical in nature and get stuck running my business online more often than not. Can a VA help me with the technical side of running my business?

Actually, we live and breathe technology! Your VA can probably handle the majority of your needs; however, if unable, she will identify resources that can. Most VAs are proficient in back office operations software, such as Microsoft products, Adobe, Act!, TimeTrac, shopping carts, autoresponders, audio-recording, and much more; however, ever so often, even we are stumped. Because VAs form collaborative teams and are members of global networks, we can tap into our knowledge base of VA technology specialists for solutions.

3. I’m on a tight budget, but I know I need to hire some help if I want my business to grow. How could a VA save me money instead of cost me money?

It’s all relevant! If you are only looking at the amount you pay per hour or as a retainer you may not see savings, because a typical VA charges anywhere from $50 to $75 an hour, based on the services provided and her specialty. But, if you compare the rate ($50 an hour) to the cost of hiring a full-time staffer or even a temp, you will immediately see the cost savings.

Here’s a typical cost comparison chart:

Minimum # Hours/Day

# of Productive Hours/Day



Onsite Staff
(including benefits)





Temporary Staffing (including fees)





Virtual Assistant
(no hidden costs)





In essence, after you have paid a full-time staffer to man your office, take breaks and lunch and be productive only part of the day, you’ll also expend monies for benefits, furniture, taxes, etc. A temp is contracted through an agency and you are responsible for agency fees as well as even more nonproductive hours, because of time spent training and then ensuring she has enough work to keep busy. When hiring a VA, you only pay for time on task. That’s all! And, you are retaining the services of an expert in her field, someone with well-honed and up-to-date skills, willing to support your mission and goals. So, instead of paying for non-productive hours, you are billed only for time spent actually handling your assignments, which ultimately result in a huge financial savings.

Looking at the question from another prospective, if you traditionally bill your time at $150 an hour, and spend 3 hours performing a task (not including the learning curve), the value of that job is $450 (3 hours x $150). However, if you assign the responsibility to a VA, you can reduce or eliminate the learning curve, and the VA spends less time on task ($50 p/h x 2 hours = $100), resulting in a $300 savings. In addition, you gain 3 hours back of your own time to concentrate on responsibilities that fuel your passion, are income-generating and provide a sense of satisfaction.

4. Ok, I’m ready to hire some help! Where do I find the most qualified VAs to start interviewing?

The “most qualified” VAs is difficult for me to identify as the answer is contingent upon the qualities/qualifications you desire. Many VAs are generalists and others are specialists. Some have combined education, continuing education and corporate employment to develop their business. Others are self-taught or rely solely on skills attained from hands-on experience. I recommend that you identify the tangible and nontangible skills and attributes you require of your ideal VA, and then conduct a thorough screening and selection process to determine the best candidate to fulfill your needs.

Some basic qualifications, however, are:

  • A minimum of five years administrative experience or have completed a VA training program, or a combination of training and experience
  • Ability to work as part of a team
  • Determined to help their client succeed
  • Possess excellent customer service skills
  • Abide by a Code of Ethics
  • Possess a high level of proficiency of the services in their chosen niche
  • Possess reliable equipment and technology

Now back to “most qualified”. There are several associations, member groups and training programs with qualified memberships, actually too many to list here. Several VA groups offer a RFP system useful to preliminarily screen candidates. They include IVAA (, IAVOA ( , VANA (, A Clayton’s Secretary (, Home Secretarial Services (, Alliance of UK VAs (, and others. Several VA training programs list qualified graduates on their Web sites: VAU(, VA Training (, IREAA (, REVA Training Center ( and more. Information regarding all of these organizations is available at the, the world’s portal to the VA industry.

5. Several of my clients are VAs. What would attending the Convention do for them?

Lots! We’ve planned an information overloaded, jam-packed, three day event that can propel their businesses to the next level. Expert SEO specialists, subcontracting, negotiating, and Request for Proposal trainers are scheduled to present. Media relations, branding and networking experts will unveil ways to increase reach and income potential. Attendees can connect with the members of the global VA community, develop collaborative partnerships and leave with resources to help achieve their goals.

Wow Alicia, you’ve asked many thought-provoking questions. I hope I’ve provided enough information to aid in your search for your ideal VA.

Next stop? Back to for Corrie Petersen’s ( questions and tomorrow’s clue. and clue #1 can be found at

I’m not sure what Corrie has in store, but if her questions are as touch as Alicia and Laurie’s, they will require more homework. Oh, I almost forgot. Scrambled puzzle clue # 3 is iocaunnmmtioc. Clue #2 can be found at

Click here for a downloadable white paper on how working with a VA can increase business growth, stability and profitability. (

About Sharon Williams

Sharon is the Chairperson of the Alliance for Virtual Businesses ( OIVAC, and president of The 24 Hour Secretary an administrative, secretarial and internet-based marketing support services company. She is the 2006 recipient of the Thomas Leonard International Virtual Assistant of Distinction Award and co-founder of Virtual Business University ( an e-learning university for enrollees wanting to step towards their greatness.