trade tales | May 12, 2023 |
The realities of working with a virtual assistant

Virtual assistants sound ideal: Delegate the little things, and free yourself up for the important stuff. As with anything, though, there are always challenges that come with an additional employee, even a remote one. We asked four designers—Filsan Hassan, Shaun Crha, Meera Bedi and Juanita Jimenez—to share what they’ve learned from getting virtual support.

The realities of working with a virtual assistant
Filsan HassanCourtesy of Filsan Design Group

Lift Off

“I’ve had my virtual assistant for one month. Right now, I am utilizing them for admin and research, though I hope to incorporate the help more and more as my business grows. The major pro to virtually working with someone is the instant access—no need to wait for them to commute to your location in order to collaborate. Admin work is very consuming and can take a lot of time away from business owners and creatives, so being able to off-load those tasks helps tremendously. I also find it more affordable than having in-person help. The one downside is they cannot provide physical help, which is fine as I grow my business and my team.” —Filsan Hassan, Filsan Design Group, Bowie, Maryland

The realities of working with a virtual assistant
Shaun CrhaChristina Best Photography

Eyes on the Prize

“I’m easily distracted, so when we have the entire team in the office, a lot of my time can disappear. By the end of the day, I’m [often] trying to triage my priorities, and I felt like I was letting vendors and clients down. The design assistant I brought on four months ago is a freelancer who works for a few other designers, so she understands our industry and our business. It’s been a relief for me that she works 100 percent remotely, so I have fewer interruptions during the day. It can be tough to get her on an impromptu call or meeting, but we’re learning to work with that. She focuses on my inbox, scheduling meetings, tracking orders and [prioritizing]. Having a virtual assistant has helped relieve some of the emotional weight of our work, and I’m really grateful to have her support.” —Shaun Crha, Wrensted Interiors, Long Beach, California

The realities of working with a virtual assistant
Meera BediCourtesy of Meera Bedi Designs

Fill the Need

“I had been looking for an [in-person] assistant for a very long time, but I couldn’t find one. To manage my workload, I hired [a virtual assistant] overseas on a recommendation from a friend. I was super skeptical, but my assistant was meticulous and managed a lot of admin responsibilities, even my calendar. I used the service for about four months, but I found that what I actually needed was a person to come into the office two to three times a week. There’s a lot that cannot be done virtually, especially in a design studio where a lot of work is based on samples. If it was only admin, phone calls and managing meetings, I think I would have continued.” —Meera Bedi, Meera Bedi Designs, Jersey City, New Jersey

The realities of working with a virtual assistant
Juanita JimenezCourtesy of Willow & East

Helping Hand

“Outsourcing tasks like 3D renderings [to a freelancer] has been so beneficial to my business. It has allowed us to present ourselves more professionally and efficiently. About a year and a half ago, I wanted to find a way to offer my clients a total package [including renderings], but I knew that taking on this task myself would add unnecessary pressure. Adding 3D rendering as part of my package has given me the comfort and confidence of knowing that my ideas will be represented, giving us the ability to conduct sales faster and smoother. Overall, it gives me the time to focus on other aspects, things I enjoy and have the capacity and experience [to do].” —Juanita Jimenez, Willow & East, Lyndhurst, New Jersey

Homepage image: A breezy California dining room by Shaun Crha gets warmth from woodtones and brushed gold lighting | Charlotte Lea Photography

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