The number of business owners and entrepreneurs taking advantage of virtual assistant services is growing fast, particularly for general business administration tasks. However, many haven’t yet realised that VAs are increasingly available for more specialised forms of business support.
For example, research is one of the critical keys to business success, but can also be one of the most time-consuming activities to carry out.
If you have the time yourself, or the resources to help you, wouldn’t you be conducting research to improve your enterprise’s marketing, brand positioning, commercial performance, and business strategies?
Time and resources often prove to be the obstacles in the way of thorough business research though, and if it’s something you struggle with, a virtual researcher could be just what you need to change your fortunes.
Virtual Assistant Versus Virtual Researcher – How Do They Differ?
When we talk about the possibility of hiring a virtual researcher, we don’t just mean a general virtual assistant who happens to include research in his or her list of capabilities.
Virtual researchers are specialists whose primary skill set enables them to gather data, facts, and insights for people who don’t have the time or resources to do it for themselves.
This type of specialisation is much in demand, but many businesses are unaware that virtual assistants are among the possible options for supplying such a service. Instead they call upon established—and expensive—research companies to provide them with the marketing, or other forms of research data, they require.
Perhaps the uptake of virtual-researcher services would be greater if the distinction between them and the more general virtual assistant role received greater emphasis than it currently enjoys.
Have you always assumed that virtual assistants only covered fundamental admin duties and perhaps reception-type services? If so, maybe we can improve your understanding of how a virtual researcher can save time and money and help you gain the business insights you need to compete effectively in your niche.
The Skills That Define a Virtual Researcher
If you’re wondering what special skills a virtual researcher requires, they’re certainly not the same as those employed by a general virtual assistant. But, of course, some overlap in the skills and qualities possessed by the two types of remote-working professionals can exist.
Indeed, some general VAs are very competent at research, meaning you can happily give them similar tasks that you might assign to a specialist researcher.
Still, perhaps you don’t want a general VA, but need a researcher for some specific projects, and that’s where the research specialist role comes into its own. The critical skills that a competent virtual researcher will possess, and which you should look for when sourcing one, are summarised below:
Analytics: A virtual researcher should be capable of decisively separating information that is relevant and applicable for its intended purpose, from that which provides no meaningful value.
Spreadsheet and database management: Today’s research often relies heavily on the use of digital technology to capture and manipulate data. Furthermore, digital channels are often the most useful for data collection. Therefore, research assistants require basic to intermediate capabilities for using spreadsheets, databases, and other information technology solutions. They won’t necessarily be data scientists, but they will know their way around the most commonly used applications.
An eye for detail: If you just want somebody to find general information relating to a specific topic, you could use a general VA for the task, but when you require in-depth and accurate research, a specialist is more likely to have a keener eye for detail.
Logical thinking: Accurate research offers no room for emotional thinking or personal bias. A skilled virtual researcher can apply logic to the identification of information and data relevant to your project.
Communication: A virtual researcher must be able to articulate his or her findings in a way that’s easy for you and your local team to comprehend, whether the communication is verbal or written.
Time management: Many research projects are run to strict deadlines, and your virtual researcher should be a competent time manager who will organise his or her workload effectively.
Primary data collection: This is perhaps the most critical advantage of using a virtual researcher rather than a general VA for your research projects. Virtual researchers are adept at collecting primary data, meaning they can create and conduct surveys, arrange and execute interviews, and organise focus groups to share and understand insights.
How Can a Virtual Researcher Help Your Business or Organisation?
It’s fair to say that research is research, with the exception perhaps of that required for clientele in the legal, medical, and heavily scientific professions. Therefore, somebody with the skills listed in the previous section should be able to help you with almost any project involving data and information gathering.
Nevertheless, to give you an idea of specific projects that virtual researchers can help you with, here are some of the typical tasks they take on:
- Market research
- SEO and keyword research for your online content
- Web research to gather information from the public domain
- Competitive analysis
- Mining for leads
- Product research
- Image research
- Research for your articles, infographics, blog posts, and social media content
Essentially, any task requiring the tools and skills to collect relevant, accurate, and meaningful information to support your business is fair game for an experienced virtual research assistant.
Some VRs even specialise in research niches, such as legal or medical, so it might be possible to find one who’s familiar with your particular industry or sector, and can actively enhance your business’ research capabilities.
Why Choose a Virtual Researcher to Help Your Business?
Perhaps you’re wondering why a virtual research assistant would be any more beneficial to your business than a research company, or maybe even a local part-time or temporary contractor who can physically join your team.
These options might indeed be more suitable for some enterprises, but to weigh up whether or not that’s the case for yours, it’s worth knowing the advantages that go along with hiring a virtual researcher who works for you remotely.
The most valuable of these benefits include:
- Straightforward contractual and financial agreements, saving you time, money, and the commitments of employing staff.
- Direct communication with your virtual researcher, simplifying task management and helping you to stay in control of your project.
- Flexible scoping of workload. For example, you might ask your VR to complete research and deliver findings only, or request that the researcher takes part in additional team activities arising from those findings.
- The ease with which you can scale resources to meet your needs. Hire one VR or more, and adjust the numbers when necessary to match the workload.
- You can remove the onus of research from yourself and your local team, enabling you to focus your productivity on other aspects of business management. Indeed, you could easily find that a VR delivers better research results than you can achieve with your in-house resources.
- The ability to have your research completed outside of business hours. Suppose you hire a virtual researcher located in the Philippines, for example, and your business is based in Europe or North America. In that case, the researcher can gather information during your nighttime hours, so it’s ready for your review the next day.
Extra Benefits of Researchers Hired Through a VA Company
Of the main possibilities for finding a virtual research assistant, most businesses will either search among the swelling ranks of freelance researchers, or use a company that employs researchers to provide to its business clients.
Each approach has its pros and cons, but it’s worth knowing that some extra business benefits are possible when you source your VR through a virtual assistant provider like Virtual Done Well.
That’s because these providers typically have several virtual researchers in their employ, making it fast and easy to assign them to your projects. As a result, it’s less onerous than searching online through freelance marketplaces and platforms.
Freelancers’ rates vary widely, but you will probably find they are a little lower than those charged by VA companies. However, hiring through such a company will still prove far less expensive than using a research company or employing an in-house research specialist.
Then, of course, there is the value attached to trouble-free sourcing and the guaranteed service and support levels offered by a reputable virtual assistant provider.
Need Some Research? Try Going Virtual
The next time your business requires some in-depth research to capitalise on, why not delegate it to a virtual researcher and see how it goes? It will spare you from diverting your attention, or that of your local workforce, from other value-adding activities—and since you won’t need to make a long-term commitment, it’s a safe way to try using business services conducted remotely.
At worst, you will know, for future reference, that virtual researchers can always be called upon when you need some extra help, even if it proves not to be the ideal solution.
At best, it might be the first step towards outsourcing more of those tasks that tie you up and divert your attention from the things that you prefer to do yourself.
Before you start searching for a VR in earnest, we recommend that you check out the information we provide on our website—because Virtual Done Well is always ready to help you.
We can offer skilled researchers to assist you with a project, for a specific duration, or on an open-ended basis, along with a range of other specialist virtual assistants.
Alternatively, if you’d like to discuss your needs directly, we welcome your call anytime at the phone numbers on our contact page, or you can always fill in the form you find there to leave us a message.