How much time could you save if you had a personal assistant? What if you could delegate and free your schedule for more meaningful tasks? My work/life balance and my practice are thriving because of my Virtual Assistants (VA).
Working with a Virtual Assistant
A VA works for you virtually with no physical office. He or she can be any place in the world, depending on your need, and can perform a variety of tasks. You can hire a VA either through a VA company or contracting someone personally.
If you have never considered using a VA before and still aren’t sold on the idea, ask yourself, “What are three small tasks that take up a lot of time? Is there some way that someone could do that for me?” It felt weird to ask myself this question at first. But the truth is that there is no reason why you could not have someone save you the 45-minute phone call to your insurance company about a bill adjustment. 45 minutes of your day are precious. They could be 45 minutes earlier that you get to go home from work, finish an H-1B RFE response, do exercise, leave the office for lunch, or meet a friend for a drink.
Hiring a VA
There are two ways to hire a VA:
- Using a Company
There are many different VA companies. They cost of the VA varies, depending on where the VAs are located. The US and Canada based VA companies charge $25 an hour. Many contract attorneys are paid $25/hour, so this is very unreasonable for immigration attorneys. I have tried several different companies (not US or Canada based) and unfortunately have had a negative experience each time.
- Contracting Someone Personally
I prefer to find VA’s personally and have been the most successful with hiring VAs that I personally know. I like knowing that I can trust them. I am not afraid to give them my credit card information for purchases or access to my email account. I pay them as independent contractors, especially because some are outside of the U.S.
Even though we are not in the same location, we feel like a team. None of my assistants know one another but we are all working together. The only bummer is that we can only virtually celebrate successes, instead of toasting together over a glass of champagne.
Creating a Successful Partnership
- Understand that communication takes time to develop. Sometimes there will be miscommunications, especially if you are primarily communicating by email. A call via phone/Skype once every 2-3 weeks is a good idea.
- Act quickly if it is not the right fit. It is best to part ways right away if it doesn’t work for you.
- Create a dedicated email address for your VA to differentiate it from their other email accounts.
- The process of working with a VA requires some trial and error. You will need patience.
- State your expectations. For example, “I want you to spend no more than 30 minutes on research for X. Report to me the summary of what you find out.” Also, if you know that a research project will be challenging or time-intensive, let the VA know so she knows that you are not expecting a quick turnaround
- Let go of the reigns. A lot can get done without us doing it ourselves.
Getting Help with Personal Tasks
A busy working mom needs help. A working mom who is running a company definitely needs help. A VA can be your right hand (wo)man to help you get things done. Here’s how I’ve gotten help with some personal tasks:
- Renewed memberships to places like AAA and Costco
- Researched locations and prices for my son’s 1st birthday and provided me with an excel sheet with the information and what each location offers
- Scheduled medical appointments
- Called insurance companies (especially about billing inquiries)
- Made travel plans
- Edited travel plans, called to get crib in room and added a lap infant to my airline reservation
- Researched and booked a rental car with a car seat; all I had to do was show up at the right rental car company. It was amazing!
- General online research
- Created photo books
- Ordered gifts and home or office supplies (i.e. sheets, toys, bulk items, etc)
Help with Professional Tasks
We do not usually think of having our legal assistants or receptionists do things like this for us. They have a lot to do in terms of office work and their time is better spent on casework than personal administrative support. But we still do need that support. That is where the VA comes in.
- Country condition research
- Write declaration based on attorney notes
- Call clients to remind them of appointments
- Prepare and mail bills and receipts (I bought my VA a printer and send her money for mailing costs and she prints and mails bills and receipts. She is charge of all billing.)
- Print and mail letters
- Call police department to find outU Certifier
- USCIS Case Status E- Inquiry
- Make index of documents lists
- Call EOIR 800 number
- Social media management (i.e. Run FB page, respond to posts, inboxes, put up content, share content, etc.)
- Organize inbox
Alexandra “Ally” Kennedy Garcia is the founder of AMIGA and the founding partner of Kennedy Garcia Law, PLLC. Ally is an immigration litigator and removal defense consultant. Ally lives in Seattle, Washington with her two loves: Luis Enrique Sr. and Jr. and their 3 rescue pups. For more information about AMIGA, follow us on Facebook and Twitter @AMIGALawyers and #AMIGALawyers, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
photo courtesy of plantronicsgermany