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Virtual Assistance

Personal assistants have moved online along with the rest of the world. You can now outsource your administrative tasks by the hour instead of hiring a full time employee. Shailey McLean from Real Assistance goes into more detail.

As a real estate professional, you may have been left to your own devices, a business within a business, with minimal administration support. You often need a spare pair of hands, but you’re not necessarily in a position to hire a permanent employee and pay the payroll taxes, superannuation, and other expenses that follow. Hiring a Virtual Assistant who can work for the hours you need, when you need them, is fast becoming a solution for real estate administration and marketing support.

What is A Virtual Assistant?
A Virtual Assistant (VA) is a flexible, cost-effective alternative to hiring a permanent personal assistant. They work as an independent contractor from their own office, providing administration support as and when required to a variety of clients. They are effectively a business partner, working with you to grow your success. Some agents have already caught on to the concept, with Rosa Gentile of hockingstuart saying she was “so pleased to outsource those follow-up calls, it has freed up my time to concentrate on my listings and get back to having a social life!”

There is minimal risk to hiring a VA. It isn’t a problem if you run out of work; you don’t need to commit to a permanent contract nor allow for extra office space. You are guaranteed 100 per cent productivity, as you are not paying for breaks, public holidays, annual leave and social chitchat. Neither do you have to pay superannuation or payroll tax.

What Can a VA Do?
A good Virtual Assistant will enable you to grow your business and stand out from the crowd, while still devoting your time to looking after clients. Morgan Young of Ray White found that his “time freed up immensely since working with a Virtual Assistant. The ability to have hours that fluctuate has worked so well when listings are quiet.”

A professional Virtual Assistant can improve your lead generation by following up marketing drops, initiating a social media campaign and organising regular database contact. They can design a referral program, find events for you to network in and set up a basic website. A VA can free up your time by making your follow-up calls, booking appointments, proofreading, designing brochures, preparing reports and managing your database. Your personal branding can even be spruced up, ensuring you are perceived as an expert via newsletters, forum posts and a blog.

An experienced VA will be able to manage your diary and emails, arrange seminars, organise client gifts and even do basic bookkeeping. These are just some of the real estate-based tasks a Virtual Assistant can do offsite using today’s technology.

How Do I Find a VA?
Before starting the hunt for a Virtual Assistant, you should assess your needs, starting with what will immediately make a difference. Make a to-do list of what you think could be delegated. Try jotting down what your goals are for hiring a VA, what skills and real estate experience they need and what outcomes you desire. Now estimate how many hours you will need each week or month, and what you are willing to pay for the service.

You can do a basic Google search, or you can post a free ad on sites like Craigslist or Gumtree. There are also sites, such as Elance and Guru, where you write a proposal and freelancers place bids for the work. On these sites you will find that most bids will be from overseas and they will often be very cheap. You have to be wary that, in general, you will be getting what you pay for, and any language barriers or time zone differences can be a problem. If you are looking in Australia, you should expect to pay $25 to $45 per hour for a professional VA.

When you have narrowed down the search to three to five individuals, set up a phone call, Skype meeting, or meet for coffee if they are in your area. Ask for testimonials, and have them confirm their background and any real estate experience or training. Now is the time to pay attention; do they sound confident on the phone? How are their communication skills and grammar? Did you feel a sense of trust and chemistry? Did the VA show interest in what you do and ask smart questions? Also take a look at their website, as this will give you a good indication of their level of professionalism. Don’t forget to ask about rates and see if they have discounts for setting your hours each month (often the case).

Once you have made your choice, ensure you receive a detailed contract or agreement, checking over the payment details, confidentiality and ownership of work clauses. This is where you can stipulate how often you would like to be invoiced; for example, monthly to coincide with salary payments. You may then want to start with a trial and have them design a newsletter, write a blog post or complete some follow-up calls. If you are satisfied with the work output, you are ready to start delegating tasks and building your Client-VA relationship.

When working with your VA, be sure to clearly indicate your expectations and never leave room for assumptions. To save time, always give clear, concise instructions and provide all the information and deadlines necessary. Also be sure to ask for an estimate of time required for each task. Your VA may even have access to project management or collaboration software, which will help you to track their tasks and hours.

A good VA will put effort into learning about your business, use their initiative when completing work and keep you updated on a regular basis. You will need to invest a little time in the beginning to answer questions and build trust but the result is potentially a long-term business asset. Virtual Assistants are out there to free up your time so you can direct your energy to what you do best. Hiring one could be one of the best decisions you make to maintain and grow your success in real estate.

Shailey McLean

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