Frequently Asked Questions
Anne Fifield is a Virtual Assistant (VA) who provides general secretarial and clerical services, data entry, and data and project management. (For a complete listing of our services, please visit our services page.)
"What does the term Virtual Assistant mean?" "What are the benefits to me?"
Those are a few questions we receive on a regular basis; therefore, Anne has compiled a list of FAQs. Her answers are based on her knowledge, experience, and All That's Clerical's policies. Much has been written on each topic; Anne has chosen to answer briefly.
If you have a question that is not on the list, please ask.
"What is a Virtual Assistant?"
A business article described Virtual Assistants as being, "an office-manager-in-a-modem
" Simply put - Virtual Assistants are professionals providing specialized services from a distance by utilizing technology such as the computer, e-mail, fax machine, and the like. They work off-site from their own office. They receive and send work electronically or via the mail.
"What is the advantage of using a Virtual Assistant as opposed to hiring staff?"
Many companies - large and small - are downsizing. They just can't afford the taxes, benefits, bonuses, etc. of keeping a large in-house staff. Many start-up businesses need administrative assistance, a Web site designed, and business materials developed, but can't afford to hire staff. That's where a Virtual Assistant can help. You only pay for the hours worked. You don't pay for taxes, benefits, bonuses, downtime, vacations, etc. For more on this subject and to see a comparison chart of VAs versus in-house staff, please visit Our Advantages page.
"How do I know the VA actually worked the hours I'm billed?"
Most VAs use a time tracking software where they "punch-in" when they start on your project and "punch-out" when they're finished, taking a break, or get interrupted. Thus, you're only billed for the time worked on your specific project. I send this itemized time sheet along with your monthly invoice. The software I use for All That's Clerical is TraxTime. To learn more about this software, please visit their Web site at www.traxtime.com.
"How do I know I'm being charged fairly?"
I use the Industry Production Standards (IBS). This publication does not set or suggest rates; however, it details what is involved in specific projects and the amount of time it should take the model operator to complete them. By utilizing this information, it ensures a fair arrangement for all involved.
"Do all VAs charge the same amount?"
No, each VA sets their price schedule. They may charge different rates for each type of service they offer. Several factors, such as level of expertise, education, training, project requirements, overhead expenses, and fair market value, are involved when setting their rates.
"How can I ensure the VA is competent?"
The same way you ensure your in-house staff is competent. First by interviewing them, checking their references, and making sure they have the skills you specifically need; then, of course, by working with them. In some cases, you may be able to see a sample of their work, such as Web sites they've designed. This may not always be the case though due to confidentiality constraints. To see a few of my references, please visit the Testimonials page.
The beauty of using a VA is that you can stop using them - according to the terms of your contract - at any time without the expense of a severance package or paying unemployment taxes. Be aware, however, that the VA has the same rights. There are professional VA trade organizations such as the International Virtual Assistants Association (IVAA) www.ivaa.org. IVAA offers their members certifications in different areas. Currently they offer the EthicsChecked, Certified Virtual Assistant, and the Real Estate Support Specialist exams. Having these certifications means the VA has shown competency in specific skills in order to pass. Please note, though, that not having these certifications doesn't mean the VA isn't competent or skilled in those specific areas. However, being certified can be another consideration when selecting one. For a list of my certifications, please visit our Certifications page.
"Must a VA be local?"
No, that's the wonderful thing about being Virtual. We have many clients who are outside of our local area and state.
"Can one VA do everything?"
It depends on your needs and on the VA. Most VAs are multi-talented, but not all of us do the same things or can do everything. For example, some specialize in Web site design only; while others can perform Web site design along with a variety of other services.
"What if I call a VA and they don't offer the services I need?"
They may be able to refer you to someone with the expertise you are seeking; or they may be able to use a VA subcontractor for that particular project. That's another benefit of being a member of a professional VA trade organization. Through IVAA, www.ivaa.org, I've found qualified, professional subcontractors to assist with parts of your project that I cannot do personally. When that is necessary, you'll always know in advance; in some cases, you'll be able to choose the subcontractor you prefer.
"Do I need to sign a contract?"
My dad always said, "A good understanding makes for good friends." In line with that sentiment, most definitely yes! It's as much for your benefit as it is for the VAs. Whether you have a one-time project or need on-going assistance, having the specific terms in writing protects you both and prevents a misunderstanding later.
"What happens if I need to cancel the project?"
Each case may be a little different, depending on the terms of your contract, but usually you pay for the work that's already been done up to that point.
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