Aussie virtual assistants get the nod

SEP 2010

Technology upgrades have led to more SMEs outsourcing services to virtual assistants worldwide, but a Queensland industry-leader warns that sending tasks overseas to cut-costs often creates more headaches than it’s worth.

A virtual assistant (VA) is an independent business owner who works from their own office providing business services to other SMEs.

VA Placements CEO Liz Parker, says a range of options are available, but Queensland businesses should carefully consider how they outsource their service needs.

“Outsourcing in the modern world is certainly easier with technology, but the old cliché ‘you get what you pay for’ is certainly true in this industry,” she says.

“Many people will use a service like oDesk to have access to a worldwide network of VAs and while outsourcing work to Asian countries in particular can be very cost-effective, communicating your businesses needs can be difficult.

“VA services now include anything from admin work to creative design and marketing strategies and while an Australian VA may charge higher fees – if you pay peanuts, you’ll get monkeys.”

Debra Spence experienced the frustration of trying to find a suitable overseas-based VA when establishing her male-only grooming centre Manzone.

“If you go on the internet you get a lot of international applicants that can answer your questions, but it’s difficult to find someone who can actually do the work,” she says.

“Australian VAs understand the culture and it’s easy to communicate the direction in which your business is heading. I wasted a lot of time looking for the right person when I could have looked locally and found someone right away.

“I now use several VAs for specific roles. I’ll hire one to do my HR, another for PR and if I just need someone to collate spreadsheets I’ll find someone different at a lower rate.”

Parker’s company provides a free recruitment service for companies looking to commission a VA and says stringent certification is another reason to pick a local provider.

“With studies providing women are waiting longer to have children, our typical VA is a mid to late 30s new mother who is working from home to contribute to the household income,” she says.

“The majority of these women are experienced professionals and are looking to ease back into the workforce. All VAs are subject to our professional standards panel and comply with the principles of competency, integrity and confidentially.

“The advantages of using a VA include infrastructure and equipment setup costs, no energy or internet bills and as you’re dealing business to business there are no IR or staffing laws to worry about.”

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