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The basic tasks of being a VA

January 13, 2010

Having talked with my mom last night regarding being her VA, I’ve decided to take a close look at the tasks that a VA might have to take on, to see how many of them I actually know how to do.

On the AssistU Virtual Assistant (VA) FAQ page, there is a list of the typical “back office” tasks that a VA might handle.

  • Handle email or US mail, handling most and forwarding to the client just those which need her attention
  • I’m not 100% sure how this would work in the real world, although I could come up with some solutions if I applied my brain to it. It just seems like more of a hassle than it might be worth, but who am I to say?

  • Make appointments, keep a schedule
  • I have done this in a physical office setting, so translating it to a virtual set-up shouldn’t be too hard.

  • Personal/business paperwork
  • This I know I can handle.

  • Make/receive phone calls/inquiries
  • I have no fear of phones, so we’re good here.

  • Send/receive faxes
  • This I can do, although I don’t have a fax machine, so that might be something I would have to purchase? I hope not; they can be expensive.

  • Research of all sorts
  • *points to self* Liberal Arts Graduate. I can research like it’s going out of style.

  • Plan meetings and events
  • This is sort of vague, but I have scheduled meetings for my employers before, and helped them get there ontime and with all the requisite materials, so that’s probably fine.

  • Plan parties (business and personal), weddings, reunions
  • I have planned a 150 person wedding (my own), and pretty much anything has to be easier than planning your OWN wedding.

  • Make travel arrangements – business and personal
  • I know how to make travel arrangements, since I do it for myself with some regularity. I even know how to find hotel deals and that sort of stuff.

  • Renewing passports
  • I’ve never had to do this for myself, or for anyone I’ve worked for, but it can’t be too terribly difficult and I’m sure there’s an explanation for how to do it on some government website somewhere. Also, I know the post office does it.

  • Dining reservations (local and while traveling)
  • Local reservations I’ve got handled. While traveling throws a bit of a curve ball into the game, but it’s just a question of knowing where your client is going to be and when, and finding a suitable restaurant.

  • Golf tee time reservations
  • Never done it, but again, it’s just a question of where and when and knowing how far in advance to call and make the reservation.

  • Theme park tickets
  • Easy.

  • Site seeing tours
  • I would have to know what kind of sight-seeing tour in the which the client wished to participate, but finding and booking one shouldn’t be too difficult.

  • Worldwide weather information
  • One word: internet.

  • Turn-by-turn driving directions
  • I did this for my current boss just the other day. Google Maps is my friend.

  • Handle reservations for seminars given or attended by the client
  • Reservations for a seminar attended by the client isn’t hard, but I’ve never done anything for a seminar given by the client. I suppose it’s similar to keeping a list of RSVPs for a party, so… not too hard.

  • Basic business writing
  • Got it.

  • Basic proof reading
  • Got it in spades.

  • Basic copy editing
  • I like words.

  • Desktop publishing
  • I have done this, both for myself and for my employers. I can even have some of the software to get pretty elaborate if need be, and I know how to take it to Kinkos (or send it to one near them) and get it printed up and looking nice.

  • Newsletter creation (print and internet)
  • I have never created a newsletter. The idea of doing so makes me a little nervous, but if I had to do it, I could probably figure it out.

  • Canceling, creating, renewing subscriptions
  • Easy.

  • Coordination of web design/hosting
  • I’d have to do a little bit of research into the best places to have a website hosted, and who to get to do the design. It’s not something I’ve ever done before, but it’s something that I’ve thought about doing for myself, if I had any money, so I’ve got the groundwork laid for the task. Plus I know several people I could ask for advice. And my motto has always been, If I don’t know the answer, I can find it.

  • Mailings
  • I have done mailings. I even taught myself mail merge because not knowing how to do it lost me a job once.

  • Buy/send gifts/cards for customers of the client
  • I have difficulty doing this for myself, but that’s primarily because I don’t know the addresses of most of the people I want to send cards to. If I had the addresses, and some idea of the client’s taste in cards / messages, it would be a cinch.

  • Addressing holiday cards
  • I have very nice handwriting (I did my own wedding invitation addresses).

  • List managing (majordomo, listserv)
  • I’m not sure I know what this means, but I am willing to learn.

  • Blog creation/management
  • Uh… yeah, we’re good here. 😀

  • Reminder service
  • I have never figured out how to be a good reminder service to my current boss. This is a very subjective task because the implementation of it varies so much from person to person. Some people prefer to have their reminders in an email, others like voicemail, still others (in a physical office) prefer a list taped to their computer monitor. I know how to remember what I’m supposed to remind my client. What I don’t know is how they will want the information, but that’s just something we’ll have to work out as we get to know each other.

  • Transcription and Dictation
  • Can do.

  • Bill paying
  • I’m the financial person in my marriage, and I LOVE budgeting and balancing the checkbook, etc. I can pay someone else’s bills, if that’s something they want me to do.

  • Advocate for billing disputes
  • I’m not entirely sure what this means. If there is a dispute between my client and someone they were supposed to pay, I know how to handle that. If there is a dispute between my client and someone who was supposed to pay them? … that’s a situation I’ve never run into, but knowing that it would just be a matter of discussing the possibilities with my client and figuring out what they

  • Complaint handling
  • I’ve worked in customer service. I know how to handle complaints. Remain calm. Apologize for their inconvenience. Do not admit guilt. Et cetera.

  • Create/maintain databases
  • If we’re talking Access, no luck. Access doesn’t like me and I don’t like it. However, if we’re talking Excel or any other sort of spreadsheet, we’re good. And if I really had to figure out Access, I could.

  • Relocation services help and research
  • I have moved many times. Figuring out how to help someone else move, especially if I don’t have to pack any boxes or actually pick anything up, will be a breeze.

    The biggest thing I learned from going through this list is that communication with the client is of the utmost importance (well, duh) to figure out how they like things to be done for them, and what they need from their VA.

    I’m glad my mom convinced me that this is something that I would actually be good at. Looking through this list and realizing how much of it I know how to do, or know how to think about doing if I’ve never done it before, makes me much more confident that I could actually be successful as someone’s VA. Neat.

    (Also, as an added bonus, I have experience working for someone with whom I do not mesh well. Recognizing that again in the future will be much easier now that I’ve had the experience once, and that’s good to know.)


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