How to Hire a Virtual Assistant: The Ultimate Guide
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Being a CEO of your own business usually means that you do everything. Being that invested in a business you build from scratch is absolutely expected. However, it can be damaging to both your physical and mental health and to your business as well. Letting go is difficult, but quite necessary. In order to achieve the best possible outcome, you should start by using your resources wisely. Your time and energy are your most valuable resource - put them to good use by hiring a virtual assistant.
Hiring a virtual assistant might not be the solution you would consider first. However, it is the one that will bring you the biggest ROI. VAs can be extremely useful - if you know how to hire them and how to use them properly. In this guide, we will teach you everything you need to know about hiring and managing virtual assistants to improve the health and performance of both you and your business!
What is a virtual assistant?
You’ve most certainly heard about the term virtual assistant, but perhaps you don’t know what the scope of work of this position entails. A virtual assistant is a person who provides various services to entrepreneurs or businesses from a remote location. Their popularity is on the rise and they are hired to complete certain tasks and duties that help alleviate the stress and workload of an executive, CEO, or a manager.
VAs help business owners, similar to executive assistants, and personal assistants in their roles, by taking over certain tasks. Since the scope of work is very broad, it is best to discuss, since the very first step in the selection process, what would be your expectation from your VA and how can they improve your small business and your everyday workload.
Which tasks can a virtual assistant perform?
That is one of the biggest perks of hiring VAs - they can’t do everything but they can surely do a lot. Virtual assistants provide various and daily administrative tasks such as answering emails, scheduling meetings, and arranging travel arrangements. Since they complete their responsibilities remotely, they only need an Internet connection. In this role, virtual assistants work to enable their employers to focus on large-company goals.
Duties and Responsibilities
- Help clients with any administrative tasks
- Provide customer service
- Respond to emails and phone calls
- Schedule meetings
- Book travel plans
- Manage a contact list
- Organize the employer's files and calendars
Are there different types of VAs?
Considering how much can fall into the scope of a VA, it comes as no surprise that there are several types. Before you start your hiring process, first take a look at these two types and decide which one serves your needs best.
General virtual assistant
First, there is the most common type - general virtual assistant. Someone doing this role is very organized, quick on their feet, and doesn’t mind working under pressure, or with some information missing. Their job is to keep track of the administrative part of the role, always informed about the schedule and plans of their superiors, as well things like travel schedules, social media content plan, emails, and all sorts of other obligations and appointments. Their position isn’t directly contributing to revenue generation, and they are able to measure their performance in the number of tasks they have successfully performed.
Specialized virtual assistant
The second type is the specialized virtual assistant - a person responsible for a very specific process. Unlike general VAs, specialized VAs have a specialty - an area where they can implement their knowledge and previous experience. They are usually focused on that one topic and a specific skill set, without expanding into other areas. Due to that, they are also more expensive, but they usually don’t require any additional training.
Some assignments they can perform are:
- Project management
- Video editing
- Graphic design
- Social media management
- Content publishing on WordPress or other CMS
How to choose which tasks to delegate to a VA?
If you can delegate almost anything to your VA, how to decide which tasks are suitable and which ones are not? Well, first you should consider the aforementioned types of VAs - general and specialized. Why is this distinction so important? Because it gives you a deeper understanding of which tasks to delegate, and most importantly how.
If you want to have someone responsible for specific tasks and processes, with your input, training, and instructions, then you should hire a General VA. Their performance will be measured in the quantity and quality of the tasks they’ve accomplished. They will be someone who helps you reduce the administrative, repetitive tasks, that are necessary to your business but don’t necessarily need to be done by you. Data entry isn’t something a CEO should do but often has to. That sort of task is perfect for a VA.
On the other hand, you have Specialized VAs. Their role is entirely different. Instead of being someone who shields you from the mundane and exhaustive, of what you can do, but you don’t want to, they should be someone who is doing something you can’t do even if you want to. Specialized VAs should be skilled in things CEOs aren’t and they should be in charge not of tasks, but of outcomes. The instructions they should be getting are all about what to, but never about how to do it.
Example? The sales department. Your General VAs can put info about followers in a spreadsheet, can keep track of your CRM, and send cold emails. But a Specialized VA will create a strategy, be responsible for lead generation and track down your prospective clients, attracting them in with a good pitch.
There is another way of looking at what you should and shouldn’t outsource, regardless of who you choose to outsource it to. Every task that you will be doing as a CEO, can fit one of these four criteria.
First are the task that a business owner should do - they are high-value tasks and CEOs are usually good at doing them and want to do it - building brand, creating strategy, making partnerships, hiring the best candidates, and turning them into valuable team members… Those are the tasks you should never outsource, to anyone.
The second type is the tasks that entrepreneurs are having difficulty letting go of - small, lower-value tasks that they either enjoy doing (making Excel spreadsheets, organizing team buildings, making Powerpoint presentations, transcribing podcasts), or have trouble letting go. As soon as the CEO realizes they can’t do everything themselves, and they don’t need to, their business will grow and their to-do list will be much shorter.
The other two types also belong in the outsourcing category. Why? Well, number three are the tasks a CEO doesn’t want to do, but can easily hire someone to do it. For example, updating databases, keeping track of the company’s orders, contracts, or monthly payments, sending e-mails, organizing conference calls, etc.
Last but not the least, the type of tasks that are perfect for a specialized VA - the ones that a CEO can’t do because they lack skills, knowledge, or both. They should be the first ones to be outsourced.
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When should you hire a virtual assistant?
Have you ever met an entrepreneur that has never struggled with delegating? Well, neither have we. By definition, entrepreneurs are used to doing everything themselves, considering they usually build their business up from scratch - with their blood, sweat, and ideas. They arent’ used to sharing the responsibility, and that very often leads to burnout. This is where VAs come into play.
One thing that separates good from great is the fact that they have a team. It is simply impossible to run a successful business by yourself. Your business needs to be scalable - operations, structure, culture… But you can’t scale yourself. This is why to make the best possible strategic decision for your business - you need to hire help.
Not every task that a CEO has is worthwhile. How can you tell that you need to outsource some of it? Well, the first clue is very simple - are you working for more than eight hours a day? Or, better, are you working more than twelve?
The solution isn’t to lose sleep but to work less. Yes, you heard it here first - to achieve more you should work less. Less lower-value tasks that don’t directly contribute to revenue increase, aren’t part of your core business, and - most importantly - can be done by someone else. This is how you can tell that you need a virtual assistant because they would be doing these tasks for you - administrative duties, scheduling, customer support, email management, office management, bookkeeping, etc.
Even when CEOs know that they will need a VA, they postpone the decision. It seems easier to do everything themselves than to invest in hiring and training someone else. It also seems like an expense that could be avoided. However, this way of working can’t last for long, so ultimately the person that suffers is the CEO. And if you are an entrepreneur - your business is you. If you are suffering, so will the business. Even if you do decide to hire a VA as a team member, the damage will still be done. This is why the best time to hire a VA is - yesterday.
There is no need to wait until you are ready, you’ve hit a certain goal or a calendar date. Hire someone before the issues we mentioned appear, hire them as prevention, for that not to happen. You might feel like you can’t afford one, but affording to lose your business is not a better alternative.
Why hire a virtual assistant?
We’ve already seen what a VA can do for you. The answer is that they can do a lot, but that won’t help you if you don’t take full advantage of the benefit they are providing you - being relieved of the repetitive, time-consuming tasks. What you do with the time you’ve saved determines in which direction your business will go.
You should hire a VA not only because they can perform assistant services for you but because they can free up your time to do what CEOs should do all day - learn and improve, strategize, research, lead and manage your business and all employees in it. Your years of experience should be put to good use - by coming up with new innovative ideas and focusing on your areas of strength. You will know that you’ve hired the very best virtual assistant when you see your revenue go up. It may seem difficult to connect the dots at first, but their involvement in your business day will make all of the difference.
How much does it cost to hire a virtual assistant?
The hiring costs of VAs depend on their home country, working conditions, and their work experience and seniority. However, hiring virtual assistants is usually a very cost-effective method of improving your business.
If you’ve chosen to hire a VA that handles tasks such as phone calls and appointment scheduling, their hourly rate, if they are US-based is $8-$12. If you include more complex administrative services, the rate goes up to $20 and executive assistants can charge you around $30 to $40, for very complex tasks such as project management, creation of business proposals, etc.
Instead of hiring a full-time employee, with a lot of time to spare, and a long list of benefits, you can choose a VA and determine what your necessary scope of work is. Also, VAs don’t require training, equipment, and any sort of additional investment, besides the upon-agreed fee which can be significantly lower.
Since you’ve decided that your assistant will be virtual, you should take the full range of what the recruitment world has to offer. That means scouting the world for a VA that can complete any professional and personal tasks that you give them, even if they are across the world from you. Usually, their hourly rate is less than a qualified worker in the US, and they are very experienced, often successfully juggling several clients at once. When it comes to countries outside of the US, The Philippines are slowly cornering the market of the VAs, although you can find them in almost any country in the world. Just make sure you’ve chosen someone that can work within your time zone.
Where to find a virtual assistant?
Once you’ve come to the conclusion that your VA is not an option but a necessity in order for your business to grow, you need to start looking for one. Depending on where you are located, your preferences, and long-term plans your hiring ground may shift a bit, but considering that you are looking for a very common remote position, certain websites should definitely be your first stop.
UpWork and similar sites for freelancers can give you a solid talent pool of candidates, along with their references, success rate, and entire career history. Fiverr can also be a good starting point, since their talent pool of freelancers is quite diverse. LinkedIn is another great source of prospective employees, especially if you take the time to really go through someone’s profile and check their bio, references, and posts, and articles they’ve made.
What to look for when hiring?
Outsourcing even the smallest, most mundane tasks can be tricky psychologically because it means that you are letting someone else be in control of your business, even if it’s something that isn’t that important. This is why so many business owners postpone hiring their first virtual assistant for so long. Instead of that, come up with an ideal profile of someone you’d like to work with and then start looking.
You shouldn’t look for someone that is like you, as most people, especially entrepreneurs tend to do. Although they will help you directly, if they possess a skill set that differs from yours, they will be able to assist you way better. In addition to this, look for someone you will feel comfortable working with. You will surely spend a lot of time communicating directly with them and no matter how qualified they are, if it seems like you won’t be a good match, keep looking. During the interview look for any red flags, anything that makes you feel like the candidate won’t be able to meet your demands. Virtual assistant job isn’t difficult, but when you don’t get along with them, every Skype call will be a nightmare. At the end of the day, it’s you who will provide their paycheck, guide them and grow with them. You need to be able to enjoy working together.
In addition to your personal preference, any VA should be able to meet a couple of criteria. They should be comfortable with technology, not just on a basic level. They should be good communicators and excellent at time management. Since they will be working very autonomously that should be not only their strength but also their preference. If they are good at self-motivation then they are the ideal candidate.
How to hire a virtual assistant?
After reading this article, you are surely quite motivated to hire a VA as soon as possible. However, they are a couple of things you should do first. To begin with, you should document all of your processes, create standard operating procedures, as well as templates. You don’t want to spend the first month with your VA just explaining every task step by step only to repeat the same process with the next person you hire. Investing time in creating workflows will save you a lot of trouble down the road.
Next, you should come up with a list of tasks you want to outsource and then create a job description out of it. Be as honest as you can in your job posting in order to attract people that will want to work with you. After you have your first round of applicants, create a shortlist, and schedule an interview. Hiring remotely is a challenge, but it is one that is easily overcome. Once the interviews are over you should have a list of candidates that could be a good fit. The best way to determine that is to give them a small test. Delegate something to them, as you would if they are hired, and evaluate the results. Once you make up your mind and make an offer to a candidate, hire him on a trial basis. That will help you decide whether or not you should start thinking about long-term cooperation and expand the contract then.
What is the best way to use your virtual assistant?
VA is there to make your job easier, and if they aren’t doing that, it doesn’t matter their number of hours, results, references, or experience. In the end, it’s you that needs to be happy with them and their performance. But, you can also be the one sabotaging them.
One of the biggest challenges of any VA is its boss. Expectations, lack of information, too little management, or in some cases micromanaging… How can you avoid all of this and use your VA wisely?
First of all, make sure you have plenty of time to onboard your VA. Give them documentation, set expectations, show them the ropes… A minute during their first week is worth hours of the potential cleanup if they mess something up. Teach them what they need to know before you share the responsibility with them.
Secondly, schedule regular check-ins with your VA. It can be via email, Skype, Slack, or a video call. The medium doesn’t matter, what matters is that you are exchanging feedback, suggestions, and all the necessary info. How much they know is, essentially, your responsibility, so don’t drop the ball.
Thirdly, it is important not to over-burden the VA. They are usually remote employees, juggling several clients. Make sure that their to-do list isn’t too full, otherwise, you should consider hiring someone to work with you full-time.
How to manage a virtual assistant?
Working with someone remotely doesn’t come naturally to everyone. In fact, it doesn’t come naturally to most. But, just like with every other skill, it can be taught. In order to successfully manage someone working for you but not with you, you need to think outside of the box and implement new ways of thinking.
One thing that will set the tone for your business relationship is communication - frequency, tone, duration… The more, the better. In the early days, your VA should be on your speed dial. Once they are up to date and fully operational, the quantity will dime down. Another important topic is expectations - it is best to set them as early as possible and to determine the level of control you would like to have over them. Eventually, you can decrease the level of management, when you’ve had enough time with them to form a solid foundation and a good professional relationship. Lastly, it's worth considering the performance evaluation. In order for both parties to be content, you should determine how you will be keeping track of the performance, be it by hours, tasks are done, results achieved, etc.
How to pay your virtual assistant?
One of the biggest issues with hiring virtual employees is payments. Luckily, the technology seems to be rising to the occasion, more and more. You can come up with a payment system for remote workers that works best for you - usually by hours, and the frequency - usually monthly. However, the method of payment may be trickier since every digital payment method has its pros and cons. If you opt for using Deel you can enjoy various benefits we have in store for clients as well as employees.
Virtual assistants are not just the newest business trend - they are a key component of a successful business. Hiring one will help you reach your goals faster and decrease your stress levels. Help yourself by creating a list of tasks that can be outsourced and look for someone who will complement your strengths and weaknesses. And with all the time you’ve saved - work on strategy and continue to work on your business and yourself!