The Virtual Assistant Dream – as told by data

Article orginally published on LinkedIn on 23rd March 2019

I’ve been seeing a lot of posts discussing virtual assistants (VAs), in all sorts of groups across all sorts of platforms. It seems like the second you post something on social media about a demanding workload, 16 VAs spring up and offer their services. I thought this was a little annoying but, to be honest, I checked my annoyance. I didn’t really know where a VA should be advertising. And I didn’t know if everyone else in the group was just waiting to meet so many VAs.

While wondering how handy VAs could be and the cost compared to the increased efficiency I stumbled upon a fantastic under-cover data set: a Facebook post asking the question, “If you could outsource one task today, what would it be?” There were 190 comments. This is amazing! So naturally I collected that open source data by pulling out the tasks that each person suggested and I made a dashboard to help me see what really happened in that discussion thread. Guess what? That dashboard is below!

Before I could see the data in a dashboard, I thought I was seeing many people suggesting marketing and social media. This seemed to be such a large proportion of the comments that without seeing the data, I thought that the only real task people wanted to out source was social media and marketing. I didn’t really notice the other tasks that people wanted to outsource.

Putting together the dashboard was a lot of fun; I’m an absolute data-nerd/data-naught. I had to really think about what I wanted to show. In the end I wanted to be able to show the people commenting what their comments really came up to as a data set. Because the post had so many people engaging the topic of outsourcing I thought It would be great to try and show a tangible value to hiring a VA. I wanted to start changing how people saw VAs as a cost and could not put a tangible amount on the returns they would gain. I started with a very rough estimate and I hope that we can open that up in the discussion and I can add better information into my calculation. I finally wanted to include one comment that kept coming up: automation.

I have a fair amount of automated processes myself but I think it might be a little too technical for most small business owners to attempt by themselves. Never the less, I included this in a heat map to show the comparison between what the virtual assistants where offering to do and what was being suggested for automation. Hopefully some people who cannot afford a VA could see benefit from automating a process to save some time.

Once I could see all of these charts together it really became clear to me that virtual assistants are an amazing gift to small business owners. If nearly 50% of the demand for outsourcing is for marketing, and a flurry of marketing focused VAs was present to offer their services, why was it so rare to see this move towards hiring the VA?

If this giant list/heat-map of skills VAs say they could cover is accurate, why are so many small business owners trying to do everything and feel like they are drowning?

I can definitely see that we need to know more about the relationship between cost and return of investment in the form of sales growth from a more efficient business owner. So stay tuned for Part 2: The Money

My goal was to run with the VA topic and make it a little more insightful by using data visualizations in a dashboard. My own tricks have worked on me and I can honestly admit that I will be asking Santa for a VA this Christmas.

I’d love to hear what you think and discuss in the comments below.

-How many hours would you save if you just outsourced social media and marketing?

-How many hours of work result in 1 sale?

-So how many hours does an outsourced marketer need to save you to be good value for money?

If you’d love to hear more from me and my crazy dashboards follow the link below.

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