Why a Successful E-commerce/Dropshipping Store should have a VA (Virtual Assistant)?
When you’re starting out with your business, you’re doing it all: fulfilling orders, responding to customers, managing your social media, and so much more.
But while we pursue entrepreneurship for many reasons, having less time in our lives isn’t one of them.
That’s why the first “employee” many eCommerce entrepreneurs hire is a virtual assistant: someone who can take on the daily tasks and processes that are important for running your business, but not necessarily focused on growing it.
A virtual assistant is like having an extra pair of hands without hiring an actual employee. If you’re experiencing stress and the other “good problems” that come with success, it might be time for you to consider hiring your own virtual assistant and get back some of those hours in your day.
What is a virtual assistant (VA)?
A virtual assistant (VA) is any form of remote help that you contract to hand off your workload. They can operate anywhere in the world, have multiple clients, and can be hired to take on a variety of your day-to-day tasks.
A virtual assistant is a common “first hire” for many entrepreneurs, especially amongst online businesses, who don’t have the budget for a full-time employee or the time to continue doing everything themselves.
The difference between a VA and a freelancer or a traditional employee is that VAs are resourceful generalists (sometimes competent in areas like marketing communications or design) who perform tasks or routines rather than owning an entire function of your business.
And while they aren’t permanent employees, they offer an affordable way to get ongoing help running your business without any of the additional expenses of hiring a full-time person (plus their services as a contractor are often tax-deductible).
A virtual assistant won’t build your entire website, but they might help you manage parts of your store. They probably won’t write and manage all your content, but they might help you with research. They shouldn’t take on an entire function of your business, but rather own a specific process or part of the whole machine.
Giving up control can be hard for entrepreneurs, and so taking on a VA is the perfect way to practice the soft skills of managing, delegating, and hiring on a smaller scale — all of which are essential to being a good leader.
What can you outsource to a virtual assistant?
While virtual assistants often do a lot of administrative tasks, you can also hire them to perform roles ranging from sales to social media management (if you give them clear guidelines and instructions).
If it’s a repetitive routine, you can probably hand it off to a VA. If you can write down a tedious process on paper, you can probably teach your VA how to do it for you.
As long as the tasks or processes are something a reasonably intelligent and resourceful person can accomplish when given clear instructions, you can probably get a virtual assistant to take them on.
Here are just some of the things you can hire a virtual assistant to do for you:
- Customer Service: Answering emails and phone calls from customers.
- Social Media Management: Curating content, replying to comments, and other community management tasks.
- Research: Looking for a list of bloggers/influencers to reach out to or curating stats or examples you can use in a piece of content.
- Store Management: Order fulfillment, inventory management, running sales for you (you can find VAs that have experience with Shopify, specifically).
- Data-entry: Bookkeeping or inputting data from different sources into a spreadsheet.
- Cold Calling: Making cold calls (usually provided with a script and canned responses to common questions), and scheduling meetings between you and prospects.
- Personal Errands: Getting flowers bought and delivered to your mom for Mother’s Day.
From the uses cases above, you can already see how much time a VA can potentially save you if you were to incorporate one into your day.
When should you hire a virtual assistant?
Generally, you’ll want to get your hands dirty first before you hand anything off to a virtual assistant. This way, you’ll know how to teach them the process, what guidelines you need to set, and what good work looks like.
That said, here are some of the conditions were hiring a VA would be ideal, even for a relatively young business:
- You’re highly familiar with a process within your business and feel you could easily teach it to someone else.
- You find yourself thinking, “I could do bigger, more important things if only I had the time”.
- You have the revenue or disposable income to go towards buying back your time.
- There’s a task that you find really draining, such as customer service, that doesn’t come naturally to someone like you (e.g. you’re an introvert and feel drained after answering a few emails).
- You may not require full-time help, but just a handful of hours every day.
- You’ve already explored IFTTT, Zapier, Kit (Shopify’s free marketing chatbot), and the App Store for ways to streamline a process, and found it’d be easier if another person just owned it.
- You feel overwhelmed by the new success you’re experiencing with your business, or you work a 9-to-5 and are building your business on the side.
As an e-commerce store owner, customer service is likely the first thing you’ll want to outsource when you start making sales at a steady pace. Dealing with customers is one of the most stressful, time-consuming challenges for many. And the more you sell, the more of time it will consume.
Think about the opportunity cost of continuing to perform a task on a regular basis. What is your time worth? If you spend an hour a day answering customer questions, what could you be doing instead with that time, energy, and attention?
You can let go of these tasks and use your newfound hours to chase greater profits and other pursuits — for an affordable price.
How much does a virtual assistant cost?
Prices for virtual assistants vary, and usually, American-based virtual assistants cost more than overseas ones. Many charges by the hour. Some charge per task or project. And some will accept a flat rate for a certain amount of time.
Hourly is usually the best route in most cases, especially for daily tasks, and you can monitor your invoices to ensure there’s a consistent output per hour.
If you’re diligent and willing to look internationally, it is possible to get a great virtual assistant for as low as $3 to $10 per hour for a role like a customer service. It also depends on the work you want to outsource to them. Keep in mind that you generally get what you pay for and should always properly vet any potential hires.
If you’re a busy entrepreneur who’s willing to pay a higher rate, you can also hire a remote “executive assistant”, who can act as your right-hand person and do a wide range of business and personal tasks on your behalf.
The platform you use to hire your virtual assistant will also affect the amount of time you spend managing that relationship, which should also be considered alongside the price.
Where to hire Virtual Assitant?
While Upwork is a great choice for hiring a VA that can take on aspects of your eCommerce business, there are plenty of other ways you can go about hiring a VA that come with their own pros and cons.
For an affordable on-demand virtual assistant that you only need occasionally, you can use Fancy Hands to access a pool of VAs who can complete one-time tasks. It’s better for outsourcing personal errands (setting up meetings or negotiating your phone bill for you), or parts of a project, rather than an entire process as you won’t get the same VA every time.
Zirtual is another popular option for a dedicated U.S-based virtual executive assistant that’s experienced and skilled in one or many aspects of running a business. They’ll cost more (starting at $398 a month), but can handle a mix of business and personal tasks for you throughout each month.
There are also agencies and independent VAs that you can hire outside of all of these platforms, but you’ll likely have to handle a lot of the details like finding a good time-tracking tool and enforcing confidentiality yourself.
If you are a successful e-commerce/dropshipping store owner and need help with managing your store, I can help you with a very minimum hourly rate or fixed rate.
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