Author: Joshua Keen
Successful real estate agents are experts at multitasking—juggling open houses, taking calls from clients, and coming up with innovative marketing strategies—all while trying to maintain a balanced personal life. For some agents, the demands on their time become too great, and certain tasks fall by the wayside. In order to restore efficiency and ease the pressure, many realtors today hire personal assistants.
Is a personal assistant right for you? If you’re a real estate agent who has yellow sticky notes and to-do lists blanketing your desk, then you might need a personal assistant. If you can’t find important paperwork within a minute or two, then yes, you need an assistant. If your family can’t remember who you are when you walk in the front door, then you definitely need a personal assistant.
What kinds of things can personal assistants do for you? If they have their real estate license, they can handle many of your regular responsibilities such as showing properties, hosting open houses, advertising the business, going over contracts with clients, and accepting payment.
An assistant that does not have his real estate license is more limited in what he can do for you, but he can still make your life much easier. He can see to the daily administrative tasks such as handling contact leads, answering the telephone, responding to email inquiries, as well as general office jobs such as faxing documents and filing papers. These chores often require focus and attention to detail, which can quickly eat up your time; if someone else can take care of them for you, you can devote that time to generating more income, or to spending quality time with family.
If you like the idea of hiring a personal assistant, but only need help on occasion, consider getting a virtual assistant. VA’s can help you with appointments, phone calls, and time management. Some virtual assistants can even help with the maintenance of your website. VA’s are independent contractors, so you don’t have to worry about offering benefits and taking off taxes from their paycheck. You also don’t have to furnish them with office space and equipment because they perform their work offsite, from their home office. Many VA”s have experience with creating listing presentations, property searches, lead follow up, social media marketing.
A personal assistant isn’t just for celebrities or the very wealthy; it’s for anyone who has a successful business and limited time. If you hire an assistant, you not only rid yourself of some of the more menial tasks associated with the real estate profession, but you can also use your newly acquired free time to garner new business, or simply to take some much needed down time. A personal assistant can help your real estate business run smoothly, and enable you to use your time in a more productive way.
About the Author
Joshua Keen is an experienced and professional Atlanta real estate agent. With a focus on customer service, The Keen Team has become one of Atlanta’s elite real estate companies.
Over the past 5 years the Virtual Assisting industry has almost tripled. With companies and entrepreneurs alike looking for ways to save on overhead expenses or simply not having the resources to hire full-time staff many have taken to the internet to get the support they need causing the demand for Virtual Assistants to sky-rocket. To meet the demand some have been drawn to the VA industry with thoughts of being able to work from the couch while enjoying their favorite day time talk show. Boy were they in for a rude awakening! Yes, virtual assistants do in fact work from the comfort of their own homes however more often than not it is anything but relaxing. The working space of a VA must be furnished with modern equipment, containing the latest technology,high speed internet access and comfortable furniture for long periods behind the desk. Having the ability through technology to connect with clients around the world in various time-zones typically the VA’s work hours surpass the the standard 40 hour work week.
Good client/VA relationships are built on communication and trust. Communication is key to establishing expectations, goals, objectives, and resolving issues. The client is responsible for effectively comunicating to the VA relevant information related to the project so that the VA has everything needed to complete the project on the agreed upon deadline; poor communication is often the cause of missed deadlines. The most important factor in the client/VA relationship as with any relationship is trust. The client has to trust that although the VA is not in the same physical location that they will perform their work on time and in excellence. In many cases the VA will have access to important information related to the clients business and personal lives with the expectation that the VA will always uphold behaviour that is ethical and moral at all times. The end result is after meeting the clients expectations the VA has to trust that the client will uphold their end of the relationship an pay for services rendered in a timely manner.
Finally let’s dispose of the notion that VA’s are glorified “Receptionists” or “Secretaries”. The successful VA has to have the capabilities of a project manager, office manager, bookkeeper, customer service rep, IT specialist, marketer, business manager, and the list goes on. The VA must be able to not only effectively manage their time but often be responsible for maintaining their clients time and calendar as well making excellent time management skills a must have of any VA. In many client/VA relationships the VA is the first point of contact for the clients business making a professional, pleasant personality a non-negotiable. A far cry from stuffing and sealing envelopes huh?
For years I equated success with my elaborate title as the Operations Director of a million dollar corporation and the salary that allowed me to lavish my kids with expensive gifts that were a substitute for my time. As a single mom of four I thought it was important for me to simply have a good salary. Weeks on the road, long hours at the office, average report cards, and thousands of dollars spent on childcare prompted me to re-prioritize my life to focus on what matters most -MY FAMILY. With an extensive set of administrative skills and background in management, I decided to swap my corner office for a home office where I would provide services virtually allowing more time with my family. You don’t become a millionaire over night but the opportunity to work from home and give my children the time they need is priceless. For those who may be considering making the transition I’ve come up with the 10 MUST HAVES for transitioning to your “Virtual” workplace:
- Dedicated Work Space - You must have a space that is solely used for working. You cannot have your client files sharing the kitchen table with your three year olds PB & J during lunch time.
- A Good Chair - TRUST ME ON THIS ONE! Often during your “start up” process to working virtually you will spend COUNTLESS hours sitting at your computer. Can you imagine sitting 10 hours a day in a wooden kitchen chair or a folding chair? I didn’t so! Invest in a chair that is not only comfortable to your “bottom” but has a good support for your back.
- Reliable Computer - This may seem like a no brainer so let me explain; your work computer should not be used by your eight year old to play angry bird and surf the web. One wrong click can cost you $100+ to remove a virus and cause you to lose data that is not backed up. Since your computer is the key factor in you working virtually it should have minimally the following requirements: 2 GHz Processor Speed (this is the pace at which the machine functions), 80 Gigabytes Hard Drive (for storing programs, data, and files), CD/DVD, USB port, and ethernet card.
- Business Telephone Number - You don’t want your new clients calling your home phone;nor do you want your cell number printed on a 1000 business cards. You can get a “virtual” number that you put on your marketing materials, which you can forward to a number of your choice. You can get a toll free number or local number through Evoice for as little as 12.95 per month, an they are currently offering 6 months for free.
- Professional Business Cards - You may be tempted to print your own to save money; however when you leave your card with someone it is what they have to remember you by..so make it good.
- Productivity Software- Microsoft Office seems to be leading the industry in document creation software with prices ranging near $350.00 for the Microsoft Office 2010 Professional which includes Word, PowerPoint, Access, One Note, Excel, Publisher, and Outlook. You also have the option of purchasing an older version of Microsoft Office if you are looking to keep your costs minimal during your start up. Google does offer document creation through Google Docs but does not offer all of the formulas and functions of Microsoft Office.
- Time Tracking Software- I suggest Paymo.biz the software is easy to use, allowing you to track your time for accurate billing for your hourly clients. The best part of Paymo is its FREE. There are other time tracking products out available, just be sure to chose one that is user friendly that you’re more likely to use consistently.
- Account with a Freelance Community - Unless you have a waiting list of clients already freelance communities will be instrumental in you getting your first wave of clients. Freelance communities allow clients to post specific projects for “virtual” workers to bid on. Popular sites are Elance.com an Odesk.com with thousands of projects ranging from website design to ghost writing. Many of these companies do charge a monthly fee depending on the amount of projects you want access to but it is well worth it. There are free communities but my personal experience has been that the quality of the projects compared to the number of people bidding on the projects just aren’t worth the hassle.
- Creditable References - Being new to the virtual workplace potential clients will want to know about your previous working experiences. Were you reliable? Are you able to handle difficult tasks? For references do not include friends or people that you only have social relationships with.
- Do Not Disturb Sign - This is probably one of the most important items! Although you are working from home it is important to let your family know when you are on a conference call, speaking with a potential client, or focused on a task. You don’t want your five year old yelling for milk while you tell a potential client the benefits of your service. It will take some time for your family to fully comprehend what the sign means, but positive reinforcement always helps.
This list is not set in stone. It is based upon my experiences, good and bad while I transitioned from corporate america to working from home. There is no wrong or right way to join the virtual workplace these MUST HAVES are simply to help you get the ball rolling. With that being said..are you ready for your first client?