If you are or aspire to be a suitcase entrepreneur, you know that freeing yourself from what seems like a treadmill full of the million ubiquitous, sometimes urgent tasks that bog you down would feel like sprouting wings.  You know the tasks I mean — they don’t really help you build or grow your business, but they still have to be done.

No matter how much you don’t enjoy doing them, you neglect them at your peril. Like, answering phones.  Answering emails.  Listening to customers.  Resolving problems.  Staying organized.  Submitting invoices.  Keeping your books.  Submitting reports to the government — now that’s a fun one!  You would hire someone else to do these things (if you could afford to), but how could you monitor their work from thousands of miles away?

Well, how about hiring a professional virtual assistant? Even though experts predict that 1 in 3 people will be hired online by 2020, there are still many businesses, startups and entrepreneurs who are unaware of the great benefits of hiring virtual help and how easy it can be.

4 Reasons to Hire a Virtual Assistant

This amazing global talent pool of virtual professionals is growing exponentially as more and more people seek the flexibility of working when and where they like.  As an entrepreneur who values the flexibility of running your business remotely, you may well both use various types of virtual assistance while you yourself provide virtual services to others.

Here are a few of the advantages of hiring virtual staff:

    1. Cost.  Because they are location-independent contractors, you can hire them without paying for payroll taxes, benefits, office space or equipment overhead costs.
    2. Flexibility.  You can hire them for as little or as long as you need, without commitment.  And, through the magic of free and low-cost productivity and communication applications, you can oversee them from anywhere in the world.
    3. Global. Because virtual help can be found all over the world, entrepreneurs seeking to expand the market for their products and services can engage assistance from the country, culture and time zone of their target market.
    4. Experience.  The global talent pool of virtual workers is rich and varied.  Of course, you will need to screen and test their expertise, but it is possible to find experienced professionals willing to take on a project as small as editing a single document to as large as running an entire marketing campaign.  As your needs change, you can continually return to the talent pool to find the right skillset.

How to Find Virtual Help

While it is possible to find virtual help using the same resources as for traditional hiring practices (job boards like Monster.com, Career Builder, Simply Hired, etc.), most clients and providers meet through one of the many general purpose online freelance marketplaces (like Elance, Guru, ODesk, etc.) or sites specializing in specific professions such as programming, design or writing.

For a portion of the provider’s fee, these marketplaces provide minimal services like simple screening tools such as client reviews and skill testing, basic collaboration and communication tools, escrow holding for payments and automated invoicing.

Another, newer option is a virtual professional services company that functions much like a temporary staffing organization, providing additional services such as prescreening candidates, technology platforms and assistance in managing staff.

Keys to Success

As with any staff, to be successful in hiring and working with virtual contractors you need to be clear in your expectations, provide useful feedback and monitor results.  There are many highly skilled and reputable providers and services to be found, but there are also unskilled and disreputable individuals and organizations.

Take your time to vet potential assistants as well as the marketplace or service company you use to hire them.  Try them out with small, less important tasks before entrusting them with critical projects.  Establish good relationships and processes and work to continually improve them.  Do these things and you can build support that lets you fly away, knowing your virtual staff has your back.

Have you hired virtual support? Do you have additional helpful tips to share?