Keyboard with Virtual Assistant Written

Online helpers

The answer to uncluttering our busy lives? 

Written by Professor Gary Martin FAIM
3 minute read
Keyboard with Virtual Assistant Written

Most of us dream of a time in the future when we can come home from work and enjoy well-deserved "me time".

Instead, we return home most days only to have to wrestle with a seemingly endless to-do list. There are bills to pay, family birthday celebrations to organise, online shopping orders to place, dental appointments to make and accommodation for your next budget holiday to organise. 

While most of us persist and plough through our lists, others are cutting themselves some slack. They are part of a growing movement making use of virtual assistants to unsnarl their busy personal lives.

The business world, and particularly small business, has long made use of virtual administrative assistants (VAs). Now their popularity is spilling over into our family and personal lives.

What could a VA do for you?

Just like in the business world, VAs are skilled online helping hands - human beings rather than robots - who take on the role of coordinating aspects of people's personal lives.

A VA can clear the junk mail out of your inbox, plan an itinerary for your next holiday, find the perfect place to go for a pedicure, or put together your family's digital photo album.

A VA can answer  your phone calls, help you to choose an insurance provider and post images to your social media accounts.

A VA could be a university student, someone with parenting responsibilities who prefers to work from home or ­ increasingly - a semi-retired worker.

Despite trusting their VAs with any number of their personal details (think: credit card to pay bills or do online shopping) those who work with virtual assistants rarely meet them in person - they could live anywhere in the world.

Communication is often via videoconferencing, email, instant message or phone.  A single VA may manage the personal affairs of multiple clients to create a full-time job.

What does a VA cost?

Australian-based VAs usually charge from $30 to $40 an hour though cheaper hourly rates can be sourced for those online helpers located overseas.

The more skilled and experienced the VA, the more you will have to pay. Experts suggest that those new to using VAs should start by only assigning basic tasks until there is a clear sense of their helper's capabilities.

Crystal-clear communication with a VA is essential as well as an understanding that services are not necessarily "on demand". Depending on how many hours someone is working for you, there may be a lag in response time.

And until such time as there is a trusting relationship, it is unwise to dish up sensitive or personal information to anyone-and that includes a VA.

While they have only recently made an entrance to our personal lives, a VA has the potential to unclutter your personal life to give you back hours of extra down time.

The bottom line is that if you pay for someone to mow your lawn, why would you not consider hiring someone to co-ordinate your personal diary, locate a reliable dog walker for you, or find an outfit for a night on the town?

Assuming you can afford one, the case for hiring a VA seems so compelling that the only question remains: what tasks would you delegate to your online helper?