We have wrestled with the answer to “When is my VA available?” for several years now. The honest answer is “It depends when you need her and which flexible Virtual Assistant you select.” If we’re going the standard support route, our VAs are available Sunday-Thursday during business hours EST. Our employees (yes, they are employees, not freelancers) never work on Friday nights or Saturdays Israel time, and depending on time of year and daylight savings, that hard cutoff is often around noon on Fridays for East Coasters. That said, your Virtual Assistant’s availability for you can be shaped around your requirements and schedule. We have been fortunate to work with clients around the world and can often (although not always) bend and identify the right VA to work the hours they need. Let’s have a look at the specifics:
First, it’s easy to contact your Virtual Assistant. You don’t have to wrestle with Skype or be sitting at your computer. All of our VAs have American phone numbers, so calling her is as easy as calling your neighbor or any of your clients. You can call while stuck in traffic or standing in line at the bank. Don’t worry about the time difference – either you can install a FoxClock add-on to your browser or run an international clock on your iPhone so you always know what time it is in Israel, or you can just go ahead and call – if your VA is unavailable, she has voicemail!
Case Study #1: “I want to sit down at 6am to a clean inbox and a To Do list for the day.”
We have a luxury travel client (how jealous are we of his life?) in California. He’s an early-bird who begins his workday at 6am PST. Instead of spending the first two hours of his day weeding through his inbox, responding, prioritizing and corresponding, he wants to sit down to an organized list of the responsibilities he has for the day so he can begin accomplishing. Therefore, we matched him with a VA who has committed to spending 4 am – 6 am PST (2 pm – 4 pm Israel, don’t worry, we don’t make our VAs work through the night!) each day leafing through his ever-expanding inbox, responding to any inquiry she can handle (they have set up several templates and she has learned his business so she can manage many of the requests independently) and drawing out a list of the things he has to take care of personally.
Case Study #2: “We are switching to a virtual support model for all our executives and need a team of flexible Virtual Assistants available until 4pm CST and ready to take phone calls and instructions at any given time during those hours.”
We began our relationship with a certain private equity firm in Chicago two years ago, and initially supported 4 of their execs. We now work with 16 of them with a four person team. When expanding the team and pairing a new Virtual Assistant with this client, we make sure that the VA understands the particular requirements of this client. Until 4pm CST, these VAs need to be ‘at the ready’ for immediate response and request turnaround. Not every member on our staff has that availability, so we are careful who we place with this client, to make sure that we are fulfilling the client’s requirements.
Case Study #3: “I need to talk to my Virtual Assistant daily, at the end of my workday, when my head is clear.”
We have worked with this MD client since the inception of our business and he resides on the West Coast. He was more comfortable giving instructions and delegating tasks via phone than email, and happened to be a night owl. Therefore, we needed to match him with someone who was available 6 days/week at 10 pm PST (8 am Israel) for a one hour phone call. Not the easiest match, but we did it and have worked with a satisfied client because of it for 4+ years!
Case Study #4: My client sends me requirements at the end of her business day, and she needs the reports compiled by the time she wakes up. I don’t want to work at midnight anymore. Can you do the work between 10 pm and 2 am MST?
This client is a crackerjack – she runs a market research firm and her clients send her requests at 5pm or 6pm daily. They expect the numbers logged, crunched and the reports on their desks by the time they arrive in the office the next morning, and she had been doing all this herself for several years. Sleep deprived, she reached out to us for help and specifically needed someone detail-oriented with heavy database experience who could commit to daily availability from 10 pm to 2 am MST (7 am – 11 am Israel). Not all our clients’ work is time-sensitive like this, but her business depends on it! We paired her with someone who is thrilled to have the consistency and has learned the database and reporting system inside and out. Our client has slept better in the last year than she had in the five years prior.
As a boutique firm our clients are mostly small business owners and entrepreneurs who enjoy the advantages of working with “the small guy.” We know our employees inside and out, and most of them have been on board with us for years. We know what they can handle (not only their skill sets but their availability as well) so we can do our best to match clients with someone who is up for their requirements. We will also let our clients know if they have a provision that we simply cannot fulfill. Yes, there are things we do not handle and we are comfortable being straightforward if a client’s request is not something within our core competency, or if the required hours are simply off our radar. Why do we turn away or refer out work that is not the best fit? So that we can ensure the work we do preform is done to 110% of our capability, always. Go ahead, contact us and find out if we can help you, too!
Submission by Hilary