At One Agency we’re all about finding ways to run a real estate business more economically, so today we look at the rise of the Virtual Assistant (VA) and when they become a viable option for real estate agents.
A virtual workforce is about supply, demand, and flexibility of use.
How Annette Pinkerton, from One Agency, engages a VA’s
When Annette Pinkerton, a One Agency member based in Newcastle, joined us five years ago, she recognised that a VA would be a critical component to the way she operated. Annette shares;
“For me, it was a very practical business decision. I identified that a Virtual Assistant could be taking care of the highly repetitive work, freeing me up to list and sell more properties!
“The best part is that while I am out spending time with clients, everything else bubbles away in the background.
“Many real estate agents become trapped managing their own administrative tasks, often only getting to these at night. But I wanted to ensure I could maintain a good work/life balance.”
A Virtual Assistant can help reduce your computer-time, giving you more in-person client time
What tasks suit a Virtual Assistant?
“With a variety of experience levels available, it comes down to what an agent’s requirements may be. Basic assignments are most common, those repetitive in nature – like inputting email addresses, or other kinds of data entry.
“For more experienced Virtual Assistants, you can get them to book and confirm appointments, help manage your diary, or collate buyer feedback for vendor reports.
“My VA, Mark, is based in the Philippines and handles a variety of administrative and marketing jobs. From social media to email newsletters, scheduling personalised mail drops and even ordering signboard for newly listed properties.
“Mark liaises directly with my suppliers and includes me in all emails so I am across everything too. He also looks after the automation of sales reports, sends updates of open home listings to the newspaper, and uploads new content and blogs to my website.
“Mark currently works 20 hours a week, which is enough time for him to work methodically through all my admin tasks.”
The benefits of Virtual Assistants
1. Faster business growth
If you can’t afford a permanent offsider, then a Virtual Assistant is a great growth opportunity, offloading admin tasks that hold you back from taking on more real estate listings.
With the advent of virtual meeting rooms, such as Google Meet, and other free screen sharing apps, you can work together as if you were in the same location.
2. Virtual staffing agencies
With a Virtual Assistant, there’s no need to supply desk space or computer equipment. If you engage an agency to hire a VA, you don’t have to worry about tax, holiday pay, sick leave or any other worker compensation requirements. Also, dealing with a reputable firm is key to ensuring the security of important or client sensitive information and data.
3. Low hourly rates
The Philippines is the most popular location for sourcing VA’s. With an hourly rate sitting around AU$6 - $7 per hour, they’re very affordable. Another untapped location for Virtual Assistants’ is rural Australia.
Some companies charge up to $12 per hour, such as Affordable Staff but guarantee consistency. If your VA leaves or goes on holidays they will ensure your services continue whilst recruiting a suitable replacement. Ask your peers if they’d recommend any other reputable agencies.
4. Better work-life balance
A Virtual Assistant can help reduce your own time at your computer or in the office, giving you more time to spend with clients or better still your family. With most Virtual Assistants in another time zone, work can also be completed overnight.
The downside of Virtual Assistants
Before taking on a Virtual Assistant, it’s important to weigh these up both the pros and the cons.
1. Bridging the language barrier
Language barriers can result in miscommunication. When you are not together in person, it can be difficult to explain what you need your VA to do.
2. Lack of enthusiasm
Sometimes overseas staff can lack dedication and enthusiasm or raise issues as they come up. So although cheap, you may need to hire two VA’s to cover your workload due to learning curves and communication barriers.
3. Access to them may be intermittent
As Virtual Assistants are typically based in another time zone, you may only be online at the same time as your VA for a few hours each day. If you go through a VA agency, your assistant may not be under your control and you may need to wait in a queue for jobs to be completed.
4. Limited skills
If you require a specific skill set, you’ll need a qualified freelancer instead. Don’t be fooled into thinking that a VA can do everything from graphic design, marketing, blog writing, bookkeeping, and so forth – those types of people are mythical creatures!
Being organised is your key to success
Annette, says it’s crucial to understand the process of working with a Virtual Assistant. And suggests that VA may not be for everybody.
“As agents, our skill sets are different, as is the way we run our real estate businesses. So you need to recognise what your weaknesses are, or what you want help with, and then ensure you have procedures for your VA to work through those tasks step-by-step.
“You must be organised enough to tell your VA ahead of time what is required, and also allow them sufficient time to come up to speed with those tasks – just like you would with someone in the office.”
Allowing her to focus solely on her clients is the thing Annette values most about having a Virtual Assistant, and for any professional real estate, there’s no doubt we all wish we had more time for that.