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Hour 25 Virtual Solutions

A Virtual Assistant for Wine – Wait…What!?

This article was originally published at Liquid Lounge – The Liquid Careers Blog

What is a Virtual Assistant?

The use of the title ‘virtual assistant’ is so widespread it’s become at once both stereotypical and multi-faceted which equals – you guessed it – plain, old confusing! It’s like saying “bring me a glass of wine” if asked what you’d like to drink when out for dinner. Well, would that be red, white, orange, rose, sparkling, light, medium or full bodied, dry, off-dry, sweet, a suggested pairing for your entrée….? You get the idea.

From the $4/hour telemarketer to the $60/hour professional freelancer and on to the army of Virtual Assistants working together under the umbrella of an agency, the term applies to a mind-boggling soup that is ultimately overwhelming for a busy entrepreneur, small business owner or executive that needs immediate, efficient assistance.

For the purposes of this article a virtual assistant is a business owner (a real, individual person) who provides a service from a remote location. (Yes, there’s Siri and Alexa but we’re talking about real people here. Now, if Siri could do my laundry…..)

Virtual Assistant skills and experience levels range from entry-level administrative assistants all the way up to highly experienced (and often formerly office-bound) executives that simply transitioned from an office location to work remotely.

These individuals often specialize in a certain area such as business management, marketing and communications, to specific expertise in copywriting, website design, social media, CRM and they may also offer specific software expertise such as with MailChimp, Infusionsoft, WordPress, ConvertKit, etc.

(Click here to access 3 excellent articles that answer the question ‘What is a Virtual Assistant’)

Who Can Benefit from Working with a Virtual Assistant?

One of the great advantages of engaging a virtual assistant is that a business owner can tailor exactly what type of services their business needs at a specific time and work within their budget to obtain these services.

Hour 25 Virtual Solutions Increase RevenueThis is especially wonderful for smaller or remote businesses or consultants that don’t yet have the budget for full time employees or contractors with a defined expertise such as a Digital Marketing Manager, Content Creator/Manager, Social Media Manager, Communications Specialist, etc. These businesses have reached a point where they can no longer handle everything as a one-person show and their company cannot grow successfully without another pair of hands for knowledge and support.

Companies that have traditional office based positions can also benefit from working with a virtual assistant. Those with a large sales staff or other professionals such as architects or designers where their industry or business model doesn’t typically allow for individual support staff for senior and/or deadline driven positions.

Depending on how progressive a company is they could bring on just one virtual assistant to provide administrative support to a group of these professionals allowing them to focus on the higher ROI tasks and improve their performance as well – and not have to provide for any extra office space (which is typically at a premium in any major centre these days). Travel booking, expense reconciliations, appointment booking – these take up considerable time from a busy executive’s schedule but could easily be taken care of by a virtual assistant.

Virtual Assistants have also become an asset to families where both parents are working demanding jobs and really need to protect their personal time. Choosing to outsource a few hours for someone to process health claims, keep calendar items up to date (school recitals, car maintenance, appointments etc.), shop and send gifts/greetings to friends and family, source contractors such as plumbers, painters, or landscapers or to research and assist with vacation planning can free up a large portion of time that a busy family can then spend together. Similar to a Personal Assistant in this instance they perform many of the same tasks yet do so remotely thanks to modern technology.

(Click here to read about How a Virtual Assistant Can Save You Money)

Benefits of Working with a Virtual Assistant for Wine:

For the drinks industry, working with a Virtual Assistant that provides a wide range of business support and systems services along with the added value of wine, beer and spirits knowledge. This specialized experience provides both context for specific industry needs and the ability to create related content for these particular businesses.

I’m going to get specific and give you an example:

Your last blog article/newsletter/product offer was more than 3-6 months ago. You need someone to research, draft and/or create brand specific content for your newsletter or blog (Knowledge required: wine, beer, spirits knowledge & marketing, content creation/writing/proofreading skills).

Virtual Assistant can help

HOWEVER, you also need someone to put that content into your WordPress site, with SEO and images and distribute that post out to your social media channels. (Knowledge required: WordPress, SEO, Graphics, Social Media Management).

But wait! Before you can even address the issue of problem #1, your email inbox is overflowing and your bookkeeper/accountant is hounding you because your tax deadline is just two weeks away. You definitely need someone to organize your overflowing email inbox, set up folders and rules/filters and then e-file all of your paid invoices into Dropbox for your accountant. Rounding up all that junk mail and unsubscribing would be super handy as well! (Knowledge required: email management/executive assistance, online application skills).

Uh oh, HOW do we get back to Task #1?

THAT is where working with a Virtual Assistant for Wine adds value: the ability to provide a wider range of technical and administrative skills while adding knowledge with WSET or other formal wine and spirits education to respond to the specific needs of the industry.

A Virtual Assistant for Wine’s Story:

I arrived at this career direction through an extensive work history in a variety of office based administrative positions over many years, which translated into a wealth of varied business experience. I really enjoy business systems and processes, protocols and conventions, and organizing like crazy. I take great satisfaction in making someone’s life easier by creating the systems and organization needed to help them become more efficient. I am also fascinated with everything to do with wine. Perhaps it is that wine requires the same passion for multi-faceted processes – from vineyard to bottle – to achieve a satisfying result.

One day it occurred to me that I should – and could – do both.

At the time, I was already working from my home office providing administrative services to an investor relations, merger & acquisitions consulting business and had begun my WSET studies. My ‘light bulb’ moment came to me after a particularly enjoyable glass of wine at a local restaurant and the subsequent search to get my hands on a bottle for myself! Consequently, I discovered the importer whose business was at a pivotal point of growth, and the rest is history – we’ve been working happily together every since.

Hour 25 Virtual Solutions WSET ClassSo, I married my administrative passion, knowledge and experience with my love of wine, a WSET Level 3 certification and mixed in a healthy dose of modern online business technology. Thus, I’ve essentially become a ‘Virtual Assistant for Wine’.

You can find a Virtual Assistant for whatever business tasks you require whether it be general administrative or a specific area of expertise, BUT if you want to work with someone that can provide added value for your business with a variety of services PLUS a higher level of knowledge of wine, beer and spirits then you should consider a Virtual Assistant for Wine.

Click here to read my original (but short) missive about being a Virtual Assistant for Wine.

So if you find yourself exhausted from performing everything for your business as a one-person show or your staff morale and performance is sagging because of lack in support staff I encourage you to seek out an alternative to the traditional – try a virtual assistant. A few hours outsourced to someone else can really make a difference in your efficiency, productivity and ultimately your bottom line.

Click here to read my blog post on Getting Started With a Virtual Assistant.

or here read my blog post on Questions to Ask your Potential Virtual Assistant.

I hope this article has shed some light onto what a Virtual Assistant for Wine is and how you can utilize their skills to your benefit.

There is so much information out there in the vast expanse of the internet and after spending a couple of years sifting through it myself for my own business I hope to save others even the smallest amount of time by providing real, useful information.

Feel free to contact me with any questions you might have or simply to connect through social media. Cheers!

Sylvana Dagostini
Email: sdagostini@hour25vs.ca
Website: http://www.hour25vs.ca
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/hour25vs

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Questions for your potential Virtual Assistant

To me, the most important aspect of working with a client is our relationship. Clear communication is vital to this partnership, so much more so than when you are in a conventional office setting, because it’s so very easy to convey the wrong tone via an email message. It is also very easy to let accountability to each other fade away, because we do not see each other face to face every day.

Hour 25 Virtual Solutions

This communication begins when you meet with your Virtual Assistant for the very first time. It is important to have your questions ready and also to realize that your Virtual Assistant will have questions for you. Remember, a VA is in most cases, a business owner and is looking for their ideal client as much as you are looking for your ideal Virtual Assistant. This is a factor that is valuable to you and your business as it reflects the quality of your Virtual Assistant’s services.

Step 1: Prepare

Before speaking with a Virtual Assistant prepare the following items:

  • A specific list of tasks or functions you need your VA to perform – email/calendar management, social media, CRM maintenance, blog research/posting etc.
  • Your process, tools and desired results for each task – programs, training, time requirements etc.
  • Your budget for these tasks – estimated time, hourly wage, monthly retainer, etc.
  • Your communication plan with your VA – frequency, method (Skype? Email?) etc.

All too often business owners embark on a relationship with a Virtual Assistant with the sub-conscious attitude that even thought it might take them 4 hours to do a task to completion it should only take their Virtual Assistant half that time. So be very realistic in your expectations when you format your information. (To see my post on how a Virtual Assistant saves you money by doing the same tasks you do look here).

If you have found a VA you want to approach it’s also advisable to have taken a look at their website and hopefully the links to their social media sites – especially their LInkedIn profile – before meeting with them. By doing this beforehand, you can make the initial contact more efficient by checking your tasks and questions against information from these sources leaving  more time for other things you might want to ask about such as any special interest in your particular industry or their own business experiences and direction.

Questions for Virtual Assistant

Step 2: Questions to Ask

I’ve gathered a few questions to ask your Virtual Assistant upon your initial meeting/consultation that you may find helpful. You need to think about what is important to your specific business needs but these will get you started.

For your Virtual Assistant:

  1. First, start with an introduction of yourself, your business and your business goals.
  2. Ask your Virtual Assistant about themselves and their business. Although not essential, ideally, you probably want to work with a Virtual Assistant that shares either a common business related interest even if it comes from their personal interests or current situation in life.
  3. What are your Rates/Terms? Hourly, per project, retainer etc.
  4. What experience do you have in the areas I have indicated on my task list?
  5. Which items do you not have experience in and would you be willing to learn?
  6. What are your areas of strengths and what areas are you looking to strengthen or gain experience?
  7. What are your hours of operation and preferred method and hours of communication?
  8. Do you have any questions you would like to ask me about my business?

Questions your Virtual Assistant may ask you:

The nature of a Virtual Assistant is to be able to work with a variety of different types of businesses or have specialized in a specific area of interest/expertise. Many Virtual Assistants are operating in one stage or another in the overall process of finding their niche, be it a General VA or a specific niche such as a Virtual Assistant to Life Coaches, Social Media Management or Real Estate Virtual Assistant and some Virtual Assistants only offer particular services to clients or certain services exclusive to one industry or another.

Regardless, Virtual Assistants are always looking to work within a healthy, profitable, working relationship and so they will have questions for you as well:

  1. Have you ever worked with a Virtual Assistant and what was your experience like?
  2. What skills and experience do you think the ideal Virtual Assistant should have?
  3. What is the biggest problem you are facing that you’d like your partnership with a VA to solve?
  4. What are your strengths and what areas are you looking to improve upon? Are there challenges I might face in agreeing to work with you?
  5. Specific questions regarding technology, communication methods & styles, business goals and your expectations of working with a Virtual Assistant.

I hope this post has given you some encouragement and tools towards finding and working with a Virtual Assistant. I really believe that the right fit can truly make an incredibly beneficial difference for you and your business.

If you like this post and would like to receive future posts, please subscribe to my blog. I post regularly but I promise not to clutter up your Inbox so you or your Virtual Assistant has more work to do!

If you would like to contact me regarding my Virtual Assistant Services just click here to get started!