In the early stages of starting an Amazon business, most sellers do everything on their own, from listing creation to customer service. And that’s perfectly fine when you’re just starting out or if you’re running a small operation. But if you want to scale, doing everything on your own simply isn’t feasible. That’s because as demand grows, so will your workload, making it nearly impossible to keep up without additional help. But what if you can’t afford to bring on another employee?
That’s where virtual assistants come in handy. In this article, we’ll explain what a virtual assistant is along with some of the services they provide. We’ll also go over some of the advantages a virtual assistant has over a traditional in-house employee. Lastly, we’ll provide you with some critical information as it relates to hiring a virtual assistant. Sound good? Let’s get to it!
What is a Virtual Assistant?
A virtual assistant is a contract worker who provides administrative, technical, or creative support from a remote location. This form of employment is particularly well suited for the e-commerce industry, due to the fact that all the work involved is done online. Like any other type of worker, virtual assistants can be employed on a full-time, part-time, or on an as-needed basis.
Services They Provide
Virtual assistants can carry out a wide variety of tasks, from simple administrative duties to more sophisticated endeavors, like advertising. Below is a list of services they can provide to Amazon sellers:
- Using messaging templates, a VA can quickly and sufficiently respond to queries regarding product features, delivery status, or bulk orders. They are also equipped to handle general feedback or complaints.
- Whenever a customer leaves a positive customer review, it’s vital that you respond by thanking them for their kind words. This simple task is something you can easily outsource to a VA.
- Equally as important as responding to positive reviews is responding to negative reviews. A VA can help manage your brand’s reputation by addressing any issues a buyer has.
- Following up with customers in a timely manner is vital to maintaining a good buyer experience. A skilled VA doesn’t stop at responding to negative feedback; they actively communicate with buyers to resolve any issues or complaints—a smart way to restore your reputation and illicit positive reviews.
- While not especially difficult, maintaining order records, monitoring shipping dates, processing invoices, and managing refunds/exchanges is certainly time consuming. You can streamline your operations by letting a VA take over this process.
- Even if you use FBA, a VA can still provide some much-needed support by handling unfulfillable orders and transferring inventory from non-Amazon sites to FBA warehouses.
- There’s some administrative work that comes with managing refunds and exchanges, such as creating case files and logging each request. A VA can save you the trouble by overseeing this aspect of your business.
- Some VAs double as Amazon listing experts and can help populate all fields on a product page, including product identifiers, features, keywords, and descriptions. They can even do basic image editing.
- A VA with experience in listing management can also quickly update inventory status and generate reports for new product acquisition. This particular service is very important, given that some inventories are volatile due to an unpredictable supply chain or selling out during peak seasons.
- A VA trained in listing management can execute bulk and single product uploads, saving you the hassle of doing it on your own.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
- Some VAs specialize in search engine optimization (SEO) and can help you create or revise product titles based on primary keywords, nomenclature standards, and character length.
- VAs trained in SEO can also check product descriptions for keyword density, delete repetitive information, add discounts, and incorporate call-to-action phrases.
- This particular type of VA is also skilled in optimizing bulleted product data, ensuring all product highlights, features, and measurements are organized into keyword-enriched bullet points.
- Another key service they can provide is cross-checking backend keywords. Regularly doing so ensures that you have the maximum amount of closely-related search terms included in each product listing.
- Looking to launch an ad campaign? A VA trained in Amazon PPC management can help you set up sponsored ads, using keyword research and analytics to target the most profitable search terms and keep ad spend to a minimum.
- In order to maximize your ROI, you’ll need to continually monitor the performance of your ad campaign and make adjustments as needed. VAs who specialize in PPC management can interpret reporting data, make recommendations, and execute timely tweaks.
- In order to measure the effectiveness of your ads, you’ll need to look at some key metrics. A VA can sift through all the data and compile it into one clear and easy-to-read report.
- Running a successful Amazon storefront encompasses much more than just regular inventory management. A VA can help you with related activities, like setting up alerts for products with a low customer satisfaction index, prepping for probable low stock periods, and making adjustments that improve the buyer experience.
- Want to unearth new sales opportunities within the same product family or sub-category? A VA can help with that, too.
One quick note before we move on: a virtual assistant should never be used as or in place of a professional bookkeeper. Accounting is a completely separate field for a reason! You don’t want someone with little to no knowledge or experience managing your financial records. If you need help in this area, contact us for a custom quote.
Benefits of Using a Virtual Assistant
Now that you see how versatile virtual assistants can be, let’s go over the various advantages of using one.
Frees Up Your Time
Time is one of your most precious assets as a business owner. As such, it is imperative that you use it wisely. If you’re not careful, menial tasks can overwhelm you to the point where you lose sight of the big picture. And therein lies one of the key benefits of using a virtual assistant: when you outsource the little stuff, you have more time and energy to devote to the things that truly matter.
As accountants (virtual accountants at that!), we’re all about finding cost-effective solutions to your problems. And in this case, a virtual assistant will cost you a fraction of what it would to hire an in-house employee. Much of that is due to the fact that your virtual assistant works remotely, meaning you won’t have to pay for any of the overhead costs that you normally would with an in-house employee (such as utility and electricity bills). Their remote status also affords you the opportunity to hire someone from overseas, where wages are significantly lower.
Speaking of remote work, think of all the space you’ll save! An off-site employee means you don’t need to provide an office, chair, desk, or computer! Phew!
Minimizes Employee Obligations
Since virtual assistants are classified as independent contractors, you don’t need to provide benefits, like paid time-off, medical coverage, or 401(k)s. This also means they are responsible for their own taxes, which is a huge weight off your shoulders.
How to Manage a VA
Managing a VA comes with its own set of challenges that are uniquely different than having an on-site employee. Below are some things you need to be aware of.
First, you’ll need to establish how often to pay your employee(s). Will they be paid once a week, bi-weekly, or monthly? After you figure that out, you’ll need to select a method of payment. If you’re using a foreign VA, you might consider using TransferWise, an international money exchange platform. They charge nominal fees for currency conversions. PayPal is another popular option and it also works well for overseas payments.
Holidays & Customs
If your VA is working abroad, make sure to familiarize yourself with their native holidays and customs. In the Philippines, for example, they have something called 13th-month pay, which is basically an end-of-year bonus. A simple Google search will provide you with this information.
Make sure to communicate your expectations very early on to avoid any misunderstandings down the road. Things you may want to clarify include working hours, weekly check-ins, and deadlines.
Providing regular feedback for the purpose of continual improvement is absolutely essential. A good rule of thumb, particularly if you’re working with a team, is to paise in public and criticize in private. You should also make it a point to be readily accessible to answer any questions.
There are multiple different software programs you can use for time tracking, and we don’t have any specific recommendations on this front. If you’re worried about your VA slacking off, look for a program that takes regular screenshots.
What to Look for in a VA
Choosing the right virtual assistant ultimately comes down to knowing what qualities to look for. We recommend you screen candidates based on the following criteria:
- Language proficiency
Keep in mind that you may end up having to train this person in the specific processes you use, so make sure they are easy to understand and take directions well. You’ll also want to keep time zone differences in mind when scheduling trainings or check-ins.
If you are looking to use them for critical tasks like ad management, SEO, or listing optimization, make sure they have the experience and ability to do these jobs effectively. If they can’t, or they are learning on your dime, they will end up costing you much more than any savings you may realize. Just as we don’t advocate using an inexperienced bookkeeper for your business, we likewise don’t want you to try and save money on a task like this by using an untrained VA in a role that directly impacts your business’ success.
How Much Does a Virtual Assistant Cost?
This is a difficult question to answer, considering that it depends on a variety of factors, such as services needed, the experience of the VA, and the country that they’re based out of. With that being said, Amazon seller Luke Filer says you can get a good VA from the Philippines for around 15000 PHP per month, which equates to roughly $2/hour. This varies, however, based on what you want them to help with; the more specific the skills the higher the cost. A VA who can help with SEO and is good at it is going to cost a lot more than someone sending pre-written customer service emails or handling basic data entry tasks.
Where to Hire a Virtual Assistant
As a business owner, it can be tough to let go and trust someone to perform tasks to the same degree of quality and accuracy that you do. But we’re not advocating that you go into this with blind trust! Quite the opposite, in fact.
Being cautious is a good thing, especially considering that the internet is littered with horror stories about incompetent VAs. However, you can significantly reduce your chances of having a bad experience by doing your research beforehand. Below are some trusted VA services we came across in our own research, which you can use as a starting point:
Surely you’ve heard the adage “two heads are better than one” before. As accountants, we like to put a slightly different spin on it: two heads make more money than one.
If you look at some of the most successful companies in the world—Amazon, Alibaba, and Walmart to name a few—you’ll notice that they are run by a team of experts, not just one. They may have started out as a one-man operation, but in order to scale they had to bring on additional employees. Look at hiring a VA as a major milestone in your growth.