Hiring your first virtual assistant is a milestone. It means you’ve decided to take some things off your plate so you can concentrate on big picture issues, like growing your business. It takes time to find the right virtual assistant, but it’s definitely worth the effort and the wait. Once you’ve found a good match, you’ll wish you’d started the search sooner!
Why Hire a Virtual Assistant (VA)?
Hiring someone to handle tasks you don’t like (or aren’t good at) will free you up to concentrate on growth and development. It’s exhausting juggling all the plates by yourself, and often someone else can accomplish the tasks you struggle with in far less time than it would take you.
Make a list of all the tasks you regularly perform and identify those you wish to outsource. Start by outsourcing those that are most challenging for you. For instance, I can create graphics quite easily, but setting up automations and sales funnels for my newsletter list takes me longer than it should. I continue to handle the former, l but have my VA handle the latter. It can be difficult at first to relinquish control over every detail, but once you’ve established trust it’s a huge weight off your shoulders when you can assign a task and let your VA roll with it.
Finding a VA
Word-of-mouth is best. Ask peers about their experiences, and post in Facebook Groups for recommendations. Use the CIA forums. Research each candidate, and don’t be swayed by pretty websites—you need proof beyond a good-looking site. Google the person, search for them on LinkedIn, and check out his/her social media accounts.
Skills Assessment & General Vetting
Make sure your potential hire is skilled at the tasks you want her/him to perform. It’s great if someone is a quick learner, but it’s even better if they come to the table already knowledgeable on what you need them to do. This is particularly true of systems. If you use ConvertKit and Trello but the VA you’re considering uses MailChimp and Asana, you’ll need to allow extra training time for the learning curve. It’s far better to hire someone who can hit the ground running.
After you’ve emailed back and forth a few times with your list of candidates and you’ve narrowed down your list, schedule a Skype/Zoom call with your top pick to see if you’re a good fit. I feel strongly that this should be a video call so you can make eye contact and read each other’s body language.
Some key questions to ask:
- How many clients they have
- How long they’ve been a VA
- Systems they are proficient in
- Hours/days they work
- Number of hours they are available per week/month
- Whether or not this is their full-time business
- What their favorite and least favorite tasks are
- Turn-around time from when you assign a task to its completion
- Whether they work alone or outsource their work
- Preferred methods of communication (Email, Phone, Text, Skype, Zoom, Loom, Slack, Messenger)
- Rates and payment methods
- Reporting systems to measure progress/activity
Let them know how many hours you expect to provide per week/month. Discuss what happens if you go over/under those hours. Don’t forget to ask for references and email those people with specific questions about this VA’s reliability and strengths/weaknesses.
Start with a 30-day trial period and include wording in your agreement that prevents the VA from outsourcing your work, if this is important to you. (It is to me. I’ve hired an individual and trust that only that individual is accessing my files.) Include wording that prevents the VA from sharing any confidential information related to your business, including best practices and trade secrets.
My VA and I rely on these:
LastPass – for safe sharing of passwords and access to accounts.
Loom – for video screen shares. If a picture is worth a thousand words, a narrated video screen share is worth ten thousand. It’s like having your VA sitting in the room beside you. Often when I ask my VA to do something, I ask her to send me a Loom showing me how she does it. They are usually 1-3 minutes in length, so they’re super quick and handy reference videos. I save all the Looms in a Google sheet so that the next time I need to accomplish that task, I can refer back to the video and do it myself. Even if I decide to have my VA perform the task again, it’s valuable for me to know how to handle all the issues.
Skitch – for screenshots. When I’m having technical trouble, I include a screenshot in the email I send to my VA asking for help. For instance if I’m having an issue in WordPress, I will go into the back-end part of my site and snap a quick screenshot so she can see exactly where I am and what I’m talking about. This eliminates lots of emails along the lines of “Do you mean what I think you mean?” and saves a great deal of time.
Toggl – time/task tracking. My VA sends me a weekly report that includes the types of tasks she has worked on and how much time was spent on each category. Here’s a screenshot of one of the reports:
Training & Organizing Your VA
Establish a training system that works best for both of you. Everyone learns differently so find out if your VA prefers written instructions, screenshares, or eye-to-eye Skype/Zoom discussions. Share visual samples of what you like so your VA can learn your style and preferences.
Create Dropbox folders and upload your brand fonts, colors, headshots, and other frequently used materials so your VA has everything at hand.
Rates & Payment
Most experienced VAs in the USA charge between $20-$40 per hour. You will find less expensive options in other countries. I’ve found that many bloggers contract with VAs who live in the Philippines.
My VA invoices me monthly and I pay via Stripe. We negotiated a monthly package with a set number of hours. Ask your VA about payment options—most VAs will offer a better rate for multi-hour packages than for their standard by-the-hour task work.
If you are looking to outsource one-off tasks at a lower price point, Fiverr offers freelance outsourcing at prices as low as $5 per task. I’ve used Fiverr dozens of times for Photoshop tasks, and have no complaints.
Be as honest and direct with your VA as possible when you have your exploratory Skype/Zoom call. Once hired, provide the VA with clear, detailed instructions for every task until eventually, your VA will know what you like and dislike, and you’ll have to share far less information with every assignment.
Marjie Kemper offers online art classes and business courses for entrepreneurs, small business owners, and people who want to teach their skills to others. Join her Online Business Solopreneurs & Entrepreneurs Group which serves a community of folks like us, who are often juggling all the plates as we manage our small businesses.