Note: This article is compliments of Entrepreneur Magazine.

The biggest secret of highly productive people isn’t in any way ground breaking, but it is most often forgotten: They don’t try and do everything themselves. In theory, delegating work sounds like a fairly easy mantra, but in reality it’s a huge challenge for heads of startups and small businesses. For starters, it’s difficult relenting control at such a crucial phase in a company’s growth. That’s why burnout due to extreme multitasking is such a common misstep with entrepreneurs. Entrepreneur recently published an article on lessons for early entrepreneurs — and the first one? “Say no to stuff that won’t move the needle.” The key point here is that effective delegation is about placing your focus where it matters most, and letting others take care of tasks you shouldn’t be doing.

However, startups and small businesses face another unique challenge: cash flow. As an entrepreneur or small business owner, even if you are on board with getting help, you often don’t have the time, space or resources available to hire that additional employee you desperately need. That’s why so many successful business people have turned their attention to virtual assistants (VA’s). VA’s not only save you time and money, but they are also an affordable and experienced investment in the growth of your company.

The rise of the virtual assistant:
Virtual work has become increasingly popular among employees and employers. From 2005 to 2012, the number of telecommuting employees in the U.S. grew by 79.7 percent. And the number of self-employed workers is growing too — freelancers now account for over 34 percent of the total U.S. workforce.

You can understand the reasoning behind this trend. Technology has allowed for workers to have more flexibility in their schedule and complete a wide range of tasks that don’t require them to be physically present in an office. It also allows for businesses to access a huge talent pool that may not be readily available in their neighborhood.

The number of VA’s is growing rapidly:
They range from contract workers to freelancers who focus on administrative tasks in different sectors. Agencies that specialize in managing contract workers have thousands of listings for VA’s, and companies like Worldwide101 are dedicated entirely to managing the relationship between VA’s and employers.

When you should hire a virtual assistant:
A virtual assistant is a worthwhile investment for your startup or small business if you know how they can (and should) be utilized. If you fall into any of these categories, it might be time to consider a VA:

You don’t need and can’t afford a full-time employee.
You’re having trouble completing your most important tasks.
You need work done that doesn’t require an office presence.
You travel a lot and need someone who likes working virtually.
You spend more time organizing rather than executing.
You know what tasks need to be done but you don’t have the manpower.

As with hiring any employee, finding a good fit is about addressing your individual business culture and goals. But if you know you need help with administrative tasks and you’ve got the flexibility to hire someone who can work remotely, it’s definitely something worthwhile to consider.

The Virtual Assistant: A Startup’s Secret Weapon

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