If you run a business that’s growing beyond your capacity to keep up, the next step is to add staff in support of your growth. But what if you aren’t quite at the stage where you need an on-site assistant to step in and handle full-time duties? Enter the Virtual Assistant.

A virtual assistant (or VA) is an independent contractor who can work remotely, handling just about any task that can be handled online or on the phone. In many cases, a virtual assistant is a freelancer with a set of specific tasks based on their skill set—all of which are designed to make your life easier. For example, an virtual assistant could function as an executive assistant handling administrative tasks, while others may specialize in areas like social media management. Virtual assistants may work part-time or full-time and usually work from a home office.

The Benefits of Using a Virtual Assistant

Why bother hiring a virtual assistant when it costs you nothing to confirm your own meetings and reply to your own emails? In a word: time. Small business owners who manage growing companies will find that even as their available resources grow, the time demands of their business can start to encroach. A virtual assistant is a fail-safe that helps you manage your time as well as your money.

But what does it look like when you’ve plugged a virtual personal assistant into your business? Here are some of the key benefits:

How to Choose and Hire a Virtual Assistant

Sounds great, right? So why doesn’t everyone do it? Because it takes a little while to set up—especially if you’re going into this process cold. That’s why we’ve put together a few tips for how to hire the right virtual assistant:

Remember: you don’t have to make the kinds of commitments you might make to a full-time employee just yet. Start off slow so you can give a virtual assistant a chance to demonstrate their learning abilities and skills, and then choose the one who best suits your business.

How to Start a Virtual Assistant Business

What if you’re on the other end, looking in? What if you have dreams of working from home as a virtual assistant? It can be difficult to crack into any new career—even one as in-demand as virtual assistant services. But there are a few ways you can get yourself off on the right foot and work from home.

The first step is to create a professional business appearance for yourself. Do you have a website? A business card? An email address of your own? If not, there are plenty of great ways for you to get started. You can browse custom-made themes at sites like ThemeForest.net expressly for virtual assistants. And using tools like Skype will make it possible to work and land your first client without getting off the couch.

You’ll also want to begin a work history of previous virtual assistant work. You may have to charge less than you might otherwise charge to get your foot in the door. Browse job listing sites like Indeed, LinkedIn.com, and Upwork to see where the virtual assistant jobs can be found. Build your profile and your work history by doing your best with each chance you have at virtual assistance, even if the process seems overwhelming at first.

From there, you can always look to expand your skills by taking online courses from places like KhanAcademy.com. Make sure you keep a record of these courses, in case anyone interviewing you for a position wants to know what kinds of qualifications you have with these specific skills.

From there, it doesn’t hurt to make yourself available via a business phone number—one that you can use and take with you easily. You can separate this from your personal number by using a service like Grasshopper. And whether you’re starting your own VA business or hiring one, Grasshopper makes it possible to set up a phone system with multiple forwarding lines so customers can reach the right person. This helps you to establish the workflow you need as your company grows and your business soars to new heights.