As a startup business owner or an entrepreneur, you have no doubt experienced the tension between trying to do everything yourself on a shoestring and knowing that there are some things better left to others – either because they can do it better or to free you to focus on more strategic tasks.  When is the right time to bring your first staff person on board?  It is a difficult question to answer, but I am here to offer an alternative that may enable you to get the help you need sooner than you think – the power of virtual professional services.

For the past three years I have helped large and small businesses around the world tap into the power and flexibility of virtual staffing. Virtual service providers are freelance professionals who can be located anywhere around the world and can provide any service that does not require a physical presence.  Administrative, customer service, logistics, design, programming, marketing, writing, audio and video production, research – these are some of the services most commonly provided on a project or hourly basis.   Inevitably, when my clients begin to see some of the load lifted from their shoulders by affordable and capable professionals, they wonder why they waited so long. Here are six reasons why you should consider hiring a virtual professional sooner rather than later:

  1. Overflowing talent pool.  Every day more professionals are leaving the corporate life and joining the worldwide ranks of freelance virtual service providers.  In the first quarter of 2012 alone 180,000 new providers joined Elance, one of the largest virtual service marketplaces.  With so many to choose from, the chances of finding someone with the exact skillset you need is virtually guaranteed.
  2. No commitment.  You can hire a virtual assistant for whatever size project or length of time you need.  You can try someone out for a few hours and move onto someone new if it doesn’t work out.  You can have multiple people in different fields working on multiple projects – one to design your website, one to write the content, one to ghostwrite blogs, one to answer your phones and schedule appointments.  No need to agonize over having to lay someone off when the work ebbs.
  3. No overhead.  Because virtual professionals work on a contract basis, you do not need to pay taxes or provide benefits.  Because they work from their own homes or offices, you do not even need to provide space or equipment.
  4. Global reach.  Have you ever thought about expanding your business globally but hesitated because you don’t speak the language, know the culture or the business environment in your target market?  Hire a virtual assistant located in the same country and time zone as your customers.
  5. Great technology tools.  With more and more tools for communication, project management, productivity and work sharing, you can manage staff from halfway around the world almost as easily as from the office next door.  Some of my favorites include Skype, Dropbox, Jing, Desk.com, Freshbooks and Hall.com.
  6. It probably costs less than you think.  Virtual professional fees vary widely — you can post your project and have multiple providers bid on it.  One caveat here – don’t expect to get top talent at rock bottom prices.  As in most things, you get what you pay for.  But you may be able get good services at a reasonable price by helping a talented beginner or semi-retired seasoned professional establish themselves in the virtual services market.
  7. You can’t do everything yourself.  Give it up!  Don’t waste time reading up on how to build a website or trying to learn Photoshop.  Focus on the thing you do best – the reason you went into business for yourself in the first place – and let someone who can do it better take care of the other stuff.

Got other reasons? We would love to hear them!