Hiring a virtual assistant for the first time can be tricky, so I put together five tips for hiring a virtual assistant (from a virtual assistant!).
1) Know exactly what tasks you want done before looking
It’s really useful for you, before you even speak to a VA, to list out exactly what your virtual assistant will do for you. Why? Well, it will help you make sure you definitely have enough work for them. Sure you might have a list of stuff you need to do now, but what about next week? The week after?
Making a list will also highlight to you what skills your VA should have – if they have to answer phones, or speak Mandarin, or know how to use WordPress; your requirements dictate which assistant you should hire. So that makes finding the right assistant easier too!
Maybe looking at your list of jobs, you realise you don’t need an assistant, but instead you need a person with specific skills, like a PPC Manager, or Accountant. Until you make a list, you won’t know!
My top tip: I recommend you make a list of jobs and then split it in to sections, like daily, weekly, monthly, yearly, and random. Assign time to each task and then do some calculations to show how much time per month you should need help for. i.e. If a task on your weekly list takes 1 hour, multiple 4 weeks in a month, you need a VA for at least 4 hours.
2) Be sure a virtual assistant is who you need to hire
A virtual assistant is someone who can hep you with general admin tasks. As the virtual assistant market has grown, you definitely find assistants with niche skills, like social media, or sales outreach. But these tasks are most likely still being directed by someone else. Don’t get confused and expect an assistant to be able to do complex tasks normally reserved for management.
For example, an assistant should not be expected to put together a complete professional social media campaign from scratch. As that person then won’t be a virtual assistant, they would be a social media manager (or maybe even a marketing manager).
If you need a cleaner, you don’t hire a CEO. If you need a CEO, you don’t hire a cleaner. And it’s the same for an assistant. A virtual assistant isn’t a sales manager. Otherwise they’d be called a sales manager! Expectations need to be set early on, and a virtual assistant is there to respond to your requests, not to put together complex plans or do the job of a manager. Be realistic in what you are seeking for.
My top tip: A virtual assistant is the same as any other employee – their ability to do their job, and how well they do their job, is in the hands of the person who manages them. If you don’t communicate, don’t expect them to read your mind. If something needs to be done in a specific way, it’s your fault if you didn’t tell them, and they do it wrong. Having an effective assistant very much relies of having effective management.
3) Expect to spend time setting up your VA
Imagine it: you are overloaded with work, missing deadlines, stressed and feel like you need help. So you think
“A virtual assistant can help me get out of this mess!”.
Well, you’re probably wrong.
To have an effective assistant, you need to spend time training them, teaching them, checking their work, giving feedback. This process is not suited to someone who is already overloaded. You should be looking to hire help when you are reaching 80% of your maximum output – a 20% margin is needed to train up your assistant, or it’s there for emergencies.
My top tip: If you need immediate help due to be overloaded, you should bring in professional help to help you manage your immediate tasks back to a suitable level, and only then seek to spend time training an assistant.
4) Allocate time every week for your VA
OK I hear you!
“Aren’t you supposed to be saving me time? Why do I have to give you time every week?”.
You need to invest time to see a return. One hour properly managing your VA, gets you 10 hours back from them. If your time is worth a few hundred dollars, then your VA has just paid for themselves multiple times.
VAs need to be managed; no management = ineffective assistance. So take an hour or as long/short as you need to look over your VAs tasks once a week, load up the tasks, respond to queries, paint the bigger picture, and help to make sure your VA knows the direction of your business, your needs and how to effectively support you.
My top tip: I love Trello boards for planning. Clients can dump notes in there whenever they think of something, and we can talk back and forth on points until they are clear. Once a task is clear, it can be moved to the immediate to-do list, and moved to a completed list for easy review by the client. I haven’t found a more effective system yet!
5) Pay on time every time
Your virtual assistant may be virtual – you’ve never met them, maybe you’ve never seen them – but your assistant is a real person with bills to pay and life to live. They are effectively an employee, and who wants their employer to miss paying their wages? No-one!
Unlike a large corporation with cashflows and invoice factoring, many virtual assistants are small independent businesses, who rely on their clients payments to live. And no-one wants to be the reason that food isn’t on the table or household bills are left unpaid.
Paying your invoices on time not only is the right thing to do but it also lets your VA know they are respected, an important part of the team, and they should continue to do their best for you.
My top tip: Setup a recurring retainer payment with your VA to ensure regular payment. Your bank can most likely do it. If not, TransferWise makes payments so easy and quick, it’s only going to take you a minute to make payment.