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February 19, 2021

How to Hire a Virtual Assistant (What You Need to Know)

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When you first start a business, you’re a one-person show. You wear all the hats and do everything yourself. You’re a bookkeeper, social media manager, customer service agent, and secretary all rolled into one. And that’s ok, you can manage. Just about! 

However, as your business grows and your workload intensifies, it becomes harder to wear all these hats and keep up with everything. Very quickly, you find yourself spending way too much time on tasks and activities that don’t move your business forward. Sound familiar?

If you find yourself in this position, it’s time to hire a virtual assistant, also known as a VA. 

Virtual assistants, as the name suggests, are assistants that work remotely over the internet. They handle all of the jobs and tasks that business owners don’t have time to do themselves. Jobs that as a business owner, you shouldn’t be doing anyway. 

Some of the tasks and jobs that virtual assistants perform include: 

  • Organising calendar and schedules
  • Replying to emails and answering phone calls
  • Customer support 
  • Performing research 
  • Social media management 
  • Bookkeeping 
  • Data entry and filling
  • Proofreading and editing 

These activities, while important, suck-up your time and ultimately cause you to lose money. The five hours a week you spend on replying to customer support emails would be better spent on landing new clients or improving your product or service offering. 

So, if you think a VA might be the solution to your ever-growing workload, continue reading and find out how to hire one for your business.

Step # 1 Determine if you need a virtual assistant

It’s a big decision for any small business owner to hire a virtual assistant. However, if you’re still on the fence about it, here are some telltale signs that you really do need one. 

  • You’re spending too much time on mundane, repetitive tasks
  • You don’t have free time for yourself, family, or friends because you’re too busy
  • You’re struggling to stay on top of everything
  • You’re performing tasks that you dislike and drain your energy
  • You want some help but have limited financial resources for hiring 
  • You’re doing tasks that don’t move your business forward

If you relate to any or all of the above, then a virtual assistant will ease your burdens. 

Step #2 Prioritise the tasks you will delegate 

Once you have determined that you require a VA, the next step is identifying what to delegate. Start by making a list of all the repetitive tasks or activities you typically perform on a weekly and monthly basis. Then break them down by theme or group – something like below: 

Items that you can’t delegate: These are activities and tasks in the core areas of your business where your expertise and knowledge are vital. For example, improving your product or service offering. You won’t be delegating any of these to a VA.

Administrative tasks: You are probably doing a lot of admin tasks throughout the week and month, such as filing receipts and invoices, managing your email inbox, and booking appointments with clients.

Repetitive marketing activities: These types of activities might include researching for blog posts, managing social profiles, replying to comments.

Customer support tasks: Depending on your business, you might be interacting with customers through multiple support channels – email, live chat, social media, and a ticket system like Zendesk.

Tasks your dislike: Some tasks you might dislike but are core to your business, so you have to keep them. Other non-core tasks you can pass to a virtual assistant.

After you have put all your tasks and activities in groups, you will have a better understanding of the areas of your business that are sucking-up most of your time, and the activities and tasks within those areas that you can delegate to a virtual assistant. 

If you find that more than one area of your business is consuming your time, you will probably need two VA’s, because many of them tend to have skill sets focused around specific areas. A virtual assistant that offers customer support services, probably won’t have the skills to handle your back office administrative tasks. 

Step #3 Write a detailed job description

When you know what tasks you want your VA to cover, it’s time to write a job description. It’s crucial to write a detailed description. It will help you separate the whey from the chaff and attract the right VA that will meet your business needs. 

It should include: 

  • An overview of your business (2 or 3 sentences) 
  • An overview of the role (short paragraph) 
  • The duties/requirements of the role 
  • Qualities of the perfect candidate
  • Required skills
  • Proficiencies with tools or systems (if required) 
  • Certifications (if required) 
  • Hours per week/month 
  • Salary or per hour rate 

Once finished, it’s time to post your description on popular freelancer and virtual assistant platforms. On these platforms VA’s will see your post and respond. 

Step # 4 Find the right candidate

Hopefully, you will have a flood of VA’s reply to your job posting. Now, you just have to pick the perfect candidate. Hiring a virtual assistant is the same as hiring any other employee for a business. You want to ensure your ideal candidate has not only the skills required but also the right character, personality, and temperament. 

Here are some tips to help you choose the right candidate: 

Read reviews: Some platforms like freelancer.com show customer reviews for the virtual assistants who offer their services. Reading reviews will quickly help you identify if the VA is a potential candidate or not.

Ask for references: Unless this their first job as a Va, candidates should be able to provide you with references from previous employers.

Give them a task: Give your top candidates a task. Pick one that would be part of their role and see how they perform. With this test, assess not just their ability to do the job correctly, but also their professionalism and communication skills.

Perform a video interview: Performing a video interview is the next best thing to a real-life one. Use it to get the know the candidate better and assess if they are a good fit for both you and your business.

Give a two week trial period: This is a standard in the VA world. And it works to the benefit of both parties. In this period, you can determine if your VA meets expectations, and they can decide if you, as an employer, meet their expectations.

Step #5 Onboard your new VA

Just like you would have an onboarding process for an in-house employee, you should also have one when you hire a virtual assistant. From their first day, they should have all the tools and resources that they need to execute their role.

To make the life of your new VA easier, provide them with detailed SOPs (standard operating procedures). These are basically how-to manuals (templates) for each task that they will perform. For more complicated and involved tasks you should create video walkthroughs. 

During this onboarding period, feedback and patience are super-important. Even a superstar VA might take a few weeks to become familiar with you and how you work. You should also be open to feedback. If you have hired a competent virtual assistant, they will probably be able to recommend better and more efficient ways of doing things. 

Are you ready for a VA?

The thoughts of bringing an outsider into your business may be a little scary (maybe not). However, if you hire a virtual assistant, it will be a real game-changer for you. Instead of working in your business, you will be working on it. And that makes all the difference! You will have the time, energy, and resources (by way of an extra pair of hands) to push your business to the next level. 

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