‘Virtually’ working in a regional area
by Peter Switzer
In this 21st century world, technology is bringing people and businesses closer together. And this is a good thing for regional business, especially those business owners who might feel isolated. Setting up a website that’s simple to navigate might mean the difference between a potential customer finding you easily or not, whether they’re locals or travelling through your region. Getting involved in social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook is another way to get your business and your message out there in cyberspace.
It’s also important your business runs efficiently. And with technology, some of the day-to-day work where someone had to come to your office could if done ‘virtually’.
Kathie Thomas, founder of A Clayton’s Secretary, says almost anything that can be done on a computer can be done by a “virtual assistant” (VA).
Thomas says the best way to describe what a VA does is to compare it to a corporate PA - they’re usually in a separate office to their boss. Communication in the office may be through email or phone. And if the person they’re working for is constantly on the move on business trips or on the road all the time, communication is limited to phone, fax and email.
“That’s exactly how a virtual assistant operates,” says Thomas. “A virtual assistant provides services usually from their own home office and they deal with a number of clients instead of just one client. They’re self employed and they will help their clients do any number of things.”
So, for example your business could be in Bendigo, but the VA might be located in Sydney or Melbourne.
Services include word processing, data entry, producing power point presentations, internet research, phone answering services, looking after social media marketing like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, and the list goes on. Some VAs specialise in a particular areas of business, such as bookkeeping or transcription work.
The types of businesses that use VAs varies widely, with business coaches, professional speakers, doctors, authors, just to name a few, using their services.
Thomas explains that regional businesses that use a VA are mostly consultants, professional speakers or coaches.
“I was once helping a horse stud too, mainly with their webhosting and website and then handed it over to a team member who is more local to them later down the track (more convenient as they saw her regularly),” she says.
Thomas says the VA industry has been around since the mid-1990s and there’s now around 15,000 to 20,000 VAs worldwide. The network she operates was the first in Australia and the second in the world and has a few international members the US, UK, France and Germany to name a few.
“Anyone who’s in business for themselves, if they don’t need a full-time secretary or full-time PA, but they still need some kind of admin support, find that engaging a VA is the best option for them because all they’re doing is paying dollars per hour for the work that is done,” she says.
So what is Thomas’ tip for ensuring a business is run efficiently?
“The key thing is for business operators to realise that they can actually delegate what they don’t do best so that they can concentrate on the rest of their business.”
She explains that one of the advantages for a regional business using a virtual assistant is that distance and location is “really no challenge”. Her clients, for example, are local, regional, interstate and overseas – “it’s more the type of services they need or want that is important to them, rather than general location”.
At a glance – three steps to improve the tech region of your business
- Consider setting up a website. Ensure it’s easy to navigate.
- Make sure your business runs efficiently. Most regional business owners know how easy it is to get snowed under if tasks are left in the too hard basket.
- If you don’t require a full-time secretary or PA, consider using a VA.
Important information: This content has been prepared without taking account of the objectives, financial situation or needs of any particular individual. It does not constitute formal advice. For this reason, any individual should, before acting, consider the appropriateness of the information, having regard to the individual’s objectives, financial situation and needs and, if necessary, seek appropriate professional advice.
Published on: Monday, August 16, 2010