As I’m enjoying the snowy morning scenery outside my window, I feel reminded of one of the advantages of being an off-site, aka “virtual” assistant instead of having to commute to work. It doesn’t matter to my clients or myself if there is a blizzard and “snow day” that affects everyone else and hampers traffic. Of course, if your VA is located offshore in the balmy Philippines, your local inclement weather doesn’t affect their productivity either.
What can matter though, is that a VA in the same country as you will know and expect that you and your clients will have delays and cancellations of appointments and meetings on a snow-day. They can anticipate and then immediately notify clients and be proactive in rescheduling meetings.
Knowing about and being able to anticipate what’s about to happen in your day puts local VA’s one step ahead of their offshore competition. Here is my take on 3 benefits of hiring a local virtual assistant over an offshore provider:
1. We understand local practises and culture. Every country has its own unwritten ‘rules of engagement’, i.e. social and business norms, for instance, whether to address someone by their first name or surname, or how formal or casual to write business communications. For example, email etiquette varies greatly: In some countries, they are structured like a formal letter and require the appropriate title when addressing someone (e.g. in Germany and Japan) and use of the recipient’s surname. Elsewhere, emails may read more like a text message to a friend and are expected to include a personal note (e.g. in Africa and South America). A local VA will know the appropriate tone to take with your clients and business partners. More at http://www.bbc.com/capital/story/20131106-lost-in-translation. Being in the same time zone also has many benefits for regular communication. When we need to phone your clients or vendors, we can easily do so during their (and our) standard business hours.
2. We have connections with local businesses and vendors. Your local VA is a business owner too, and therefore has personal connections in the business world, as well as their personal life. Often, we can secure you better deals with vendors for anything from your web design, I.T support, printing needs and supplies, event planning or your next office or home move. Many business owners also prefer doing business with other local providers, so having local connections can work both ways and may secure you special discounts. Overseas assistants won’t be able to reap the benefits of “buy local” preferences and deals.
3. Our local reputation is at stake. Although VAs can easily work with clients from around the globe, many of us do like having clients in the same country – if only to avoid currency exchange rates and international payment complications. Our clients quite often request and prefer someone local as well. Because of this, your VA develops a reputation in the local business community that needs to be nurtured and protected. If we don’t do a good job with local clients, the word will get out and damage our hope for future referrals and paid work. An overseas VA or agency has less invested in your local community.
Of course, there are many other factors to consider when you’re looking to hire a Virtual Assistant, so do what works best for yourself and your business.