Mikko Ikola is an entrepreneur and co-founder at Ambronite and V-assistentti.fi. He is an enthusiast in exploring novel ways in lifestyle design. Ikola delivers thought-provoking keynotes about how Virtual Assistants (VAs) shape the world we live in today and how we can make use of their skills to lead a more productive and balanced lifestyle.
“VAs are today’s knowledge work samurais. They allow a new person to grow within you. They enable you to navigate through your day without wasting time on repetitive and manual tasks. You can focus on your strengths and outsource your weaknesses.
Ultimately, virtual assistants make you productive, not busy”, says Ikola.
Mikko Ikola changed his life by tapping in to the world of Virtual Assistants. Ikola uses several VAs every day, has multiplied his productivity and has obtained balance in his personal and work life.
A virtual assistant (typically abbreviated to VA) provides professional administrative, technical, or creative assistance to clients remotely from a home office.
The communication between the virtual assistant and client happens over email.
How have you benefited using Virtual Assistants?
I have been using international virtual assistants for years.
Virtual assistants have upgraded my productivity and brought balance between my work life and free time. I really enjoy working nowadays. Working feels more exciting, as I can focus on the real value-adding stuff. I can outsource the simple and time-consuming tasks such as web research, meeting & travel bookings and expense vouchers.
I have two permanent Virtual Assistants. One from Philippines and one from Finland for Finnish language specific tasks. In addition to these, if I need some specific skill set like video editing, proofreading or graphical talent, I have a network of 20 assistants I have used in the past, which I can contact to.
Can I actually make an assistant do all my boring and difficult assignments?
General administrative Virtual Assistants are great for simple tasks that don’t require industry specific knowledge: web research, restaurant bookings, email and calendar management and so on.
If you need some specific skill set you can find these people as well. There are options available for every price level. Sometimes you can find top talent only virtually, from an another country. For example, few months ago, I recruited online marketing professional virtually. I didn’t even consider to recruit in Finland, as I knew that there wouldn’t be top talent in that field. Of course, the hourly rate in this special case was very expensive, but I have been very satisfied.
To conclude, virtual recruiting can mean much more than just simple and low salary jobs, but this is a bit more advanced stuff of course.
Tell me about different Virtual Assistant services
There are two different type of services and ways to use Virtual Assistants: task-based and time-based.
In general, time-based is good for general administrative tasks while task-based is better for certain skill-specific tasks.
Elance.com is one of the industry’s leading VA platform:
Elance accepts both models but many people use it with task-based model to hire people for fairly small, for e.g 5-25 hour tasks. You as a client can send your proposals very easily, and virtual assistants will offer their services to you. You can see several quotes from virtual assistants with link to their profile and rating. You don’t need to pay anything unless you select one of them. Outsourcing over Elance is like writing an email to your colleague. Very easy, quick and low risk.
Some other services include: Odesk.com which is very similar to Elance. Fiverr is a service where you can find small tasks for 5 dollars. 99designs.com is the best service to outsource a logo contest. And for native Finnish speaking virtual assistants V-assistentti.fi.
How can I be sure that my virtual assistant presents me the cheapest and best alternatives?
Many people are hesitant to try virtual assistants because they are not sure if they can trust that the assistants will deliver. I can just say that the risks are very low. If you outsource for e.g. a 5 hour task, at the end of the day, you are just risking the salary of these five hours. I have worked with tens of virtual assistants in the past, and 95% of my experiences have been positive.
Also, the only way to gather experience and build the trust is to start working together. It’s just like any other relationship. If it works out, you can trust him or her in the future as well. If it doesn’t work out optimally, you can always get a new assistant. However, many assistants really want to put their best effort, as they really like to get the best rating for their profile from you. And they understand, that the switching cost for you is very small.
Do virtual assistants have connections to companies that provide them special offers for flights, dinners etc?
Virtual Assistants are usually independent of any particular service provides. They look where they can find the best offer, just like you would yourself. If you have some good ideas you can of course let your assistant know about them.
Could you give an example of a case between a client and a virtual assistant?
See my presentation here:
I think the most common task is to outsource web research. It can be anything from finding contact details of bloggers in a certain field or making a list of prospective clients. Many clients use shared Google Spreadsheet to gather the data. It is also easy way to see the progress of the assistant and if needed give some comments during the work.
What are you offering in Biohacker Summit? Could you give some specific details about companies and offerings?
Me and my co-founder Sami at V-assistentti.fi have been using international virtual assistant services, like Elance, for years. We have really felt that virtual assistants have upgraded our productivity and balance between work life and free time.
However, there has always been a challenge when you need somebody to help with Finnish language specific tasks. Thus, we started V-assistentti.fi to provide educated and native Finnish-speaking virtual assistants. Our model is time-based and includes 8 effective working hours from your personal assistant for 199 EUR + VAT per month. Also, during December, we have a special christmas campaign discount on the website.
Facebook group “4 tunnin työviikko” Finnish-speaking people where one can share outsourcing tips and experiences, and learn from others.
What can one get out of the summit, meaning practical tools and tips, new routines for one’s life?
At Biohacker Summit I will speak how virtual assistants can upgrade your productivity and bring balance between your work life and free time. I will present concrete example about things to outsource and present the easiest way to get started with Virtual Assistants.
Meanwhile, if you are interested in to learn more and you understand Finnish, you can join at Facebook group “4 tunnin työviikko“, where people share their outsourcing tips and experiences.
Thanks a lot, see you at Summit!
Author: Jeremy Qvick