VIRTUAL ASSISTANTS (VAs) aren’t as complex
or as expensive as they sound. In fact, you may
already be using one or more through apps such
as Lyft and TaskRabbit. You can also work with
an assistant directly to help with specific business tasks. Here’s what you need to know.
• What’s a virtual assistant? He or she is a
remote contractor who helps an aspect of your
business. A VA may help you book events, organize your work calendar or manage your email
correspondence. A VA is usually hired part-time
and paid by the hour, though some focus on just
one client full time. He or she can be in another
country or continent.
• How do I know if I need one? There are two
common reasons. First, your business has grown
to the point where you need an extra set of hands
to handle more administrative tasks. In this
case, a VA may serve as a bridge until you need to
hire someone permanently, though some assistants work with the same clients for years.
Second, you are spending too much time on
basic activities and not enough time on the
vision of your business. With a VA, you can off-
load work so you can focus on the big picture of
• How much does a VA cost? Expect to pay
$15 to $20 hour for this service.
• How do I find one? There are many services that verify, organize and categorize virtual
assistance. Popular companies like Zirtual (zir
tual.com) and Upwork ( upwork.com) are one-stop shops for VAs.
You can also find them through bulletin
boards like Craigslist ( craigslist.com) and Fiverr
• How do I find the right one for me? It
depends on a few factors. Consider the length of
work you need—e.g., one project versus a long-term assignment. Also, think about the amount
of communication you need, as you may prefer
someone in the same time zone.
Lastly, know your budget before you start
looking, as VA pricing can add up quickly, particularly if you don’t have a plan. But if used strategically, a VA is well worth the expense. C
How virtual assistants
can boost your business
Creating a safe workplace
HARASSMENT IN THE workforce is a
critical issue in any industry. While tips
about what to do if you are harassed are
plentiful, what can you do if you’re a
small-business owner and employer? If
harassment occurs on your watch, you may
be legally responsible.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC; eeoc.gov)
offers tips on how to provide a comfortable
work environment. It says that employers
should adopt, vigorously follow and
enforce a strong anti-harassment policy
and periodically train each employee on
its contents. The policy should include:
A clear explanation of prohibited
conduct, including examples. Harassment
can take the form of slurs, graffiti, offensive or derogatory comments, or other verbal or physical conduct.
Sexual harassment (including unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual
favors and other conduct of a sexual
nature) is also unlawful. Although the law
does not prohibit simple teasing, offhand
comments or isolated incidents that are
not very serious, harassment is illegal if
it is so frequent or severe that it creates a
hostile or offensive work environment or
if it results in an adverse employment
decision (such as the victim being fired
Clear assurance that employees who
make complaints or provide information
related to complaints will be protected
A clearly described complaint process that provides multiple, accessible avenues of complaint.
Assurance that the employer will
protect the confidentiality of harassment
complaints to the extent possible.
A complaint process that provides
and ensures a prompt, thorough and
Assurance that the employer will take
immediate and appropriate corrective
action when it determines that harassment
For more information, go to eeoc.gov/
For information on properly investigating complaints of harassment, go to
Damon Brown is the author
of The Ultimate Bite-Sized
net, self-published; not available at Costco).
MORE IN ARCHIVES
search “Damon Brown.”
FOR YOUR BUSINESS