Your business (or blog) has grown. Now things are starting to feel overwhelming. There are so many roles a business owner has to fill: marketer, administrator, service provider, product developer. What do you do when you feel like you have too much on your plate?
Hiring a virtual assistant is one of the most effective and cost-efficient ways to start delegating in your business. As someone who has both worked as a virtual assistant and hired assistants for my own businesses AND this blog, I’ve got some tips for you on how to find the right virtual assistant and how to work with a virtual assistant most effectively.
What is a VA?
A virtual assistant (VA) is a remote worker to whom you can delegate tasks that range from traditional administrative assistant tasks to tech tasks like WordPress and social media management. Every VA has their own skills and specializations. There are blog VAs, marketing VAs, social media managers, online business managers, and personal assistants.
My FAVORITE article on things you can delegate to a VA is here: 101 Tasks You Can Outsource to Your Virtual Staff to Grow Your Business.
If you’re not sure what to delegate, start by making a list of all the tasks you do. Highlight or star the ones that you could hand off to someone else. Make note of tasks that you might be able to delegate, but aren’t sure about. Check it against the list in the article above. You may even find some items you didn’t know you could delegate to a VA!
How Much Does a Virtual Assistant Cost?
Virtual assistants charge anywhere from $10 to over $80 per hour, depending on their skillset and level of expertise. General administrative assistants tend to charge less, whereas virtual assistants with high-end tech skills charge more. A great VA is worth the price tag.
You will also save money because virtual assistants are independent freelancers who charge by the hour or packaged service. That means you don’t pay the taxes and other costs incurred by hiring an employee, you don’t have to provide an office space, and you only pay for the actual time spent on your tasks.
Finding the Right VA
There are so many places you can go to find a virtual assistant. You can go through an agency like Zirtual or Time Etc. You can search Upwork for virtual assistants. However, the best way to find a virtual assistant that is an ideal fit for your business is to interview individual virtual assistants or small VA teams.
One way to find a virtual assistant is to visit Facebook groups related to entrepreneurship. These groups are full of VAs who want to find clients. You can create a post advertising an opening in your business for a VA, specify skills you require, and choose assistants to interview.
Here are a few of my favorite groups:
I also own a virtual assistant company run by a small team of assistants. We provide social media management, virtual administrative assistance, blog support, and content services to small businesses and bloggers. Check us out at Be Vibrant Business Services.
Virtual assistants generally do interviews via phone, Skype, or Zoom. Most VAs provide some kind of free consultation or discovery call to assess your needs and go over the types of services they have to offer. Take the time to interview a few virtual assistants. I recommend video calls over phone calls because you can get an idea of their personality. Aside from their skills and rates, a good personality fit is important too!
Some questions to ask when you hire a VA:
- How long have you been a virtual assistant?
- What types of clients have you worked with in the past?
- Do you have a website?
- Do you have references or testimonials?
- What experience do you have in ___? (Specify skills you need your VA to have upfront!)
- How do you communicate and keep tasks organized? (See “Communication and Organization” below.)
- How are your services priced – hourly, hourly retainers, or packages?
- What is your turnaround time on tasks?
A virtual assistant should always provide a contract that outlines their policies and scope of services they will provide. A contract protects both of you!
Putting Trust in Your VA
If you’ve never worked with a VA before, you might be wondering, Is this person trustworthy? For the most part, virtual assistants are people who can become a trusted part of your business team. There will always be a few bad apples in the bunch, but there are some steps you can take when working with a VA for the first time to protect yourself while you’re building up that trust.
- Make sure their contract has a confidentiality clause. There should be something on paper that protects your private information, such as passwords and important company information.
- Use something like LastPass to allow your VA to login to your accounts without sharing the actual passwords.
- Check references. This is the best way to know if other people have had good working experiences with the VA you are hiring.
That covers building trust in your virtual assistant as a person, but what about trust in their services? Will they provide what they’ve agreed to? Will they meet deadlines and follow up on tasks?
Only time will tell, but some virtual assistants offer an introductory package – a small commitment to 3-5 hours per month – to allow you to test their services before you commit to handing over the entire to-do list for your business. Take advantage of smaller packages to try out services before you get in too deeply. Some virtual assistants also offer shorter contract terms for new clients as a way to build trust in their services.
Keep in mind that the first month is often shaky. Like any job, it takes a few weeks for a VA to get used to how you work and learn the systems you have in place…or to help you set up better ones to make your business more productive!
Communication and Organization
One of the things that we value in my company and that I reiterate to EVERY new VA or entrepreneur who is thinking of hiring a virtual assistant is that communication and organization are vital to a strong working relationship between a VA and their client.
Your virtual assistant should have some kind of system in place for communicating, organizing, and assigning tasks or should be willing to adapt to your process for those tasks.
Tools for Communication and Organization
- Asana – Project and task management software. In Asana, you can divide tasks into projects, assign tasks and communicate about them with their commenting function, set deadlines, and even set recurring tasks that need to be completed daily, weekly, or monthly. You can attach files and images directly to the tasks they relate to. No more chasing files down in emails, sharing a million links, or sifting through communications in several different apps.
- Slack – Slack is an amazing tool for communicating with different sections of your business or talking about different projects. This may work well for teams, rather than a sole proprietor and their assistant, who can probably get away with using only Asana. Slack allows you to create channels for different topics, projects, or company departments to keep each sector’s communication in its own place. Like Asana, you can attach files to the corresponding channel to minimize spreading communication across many emails or types of software.
- Zoom – For face-to-face communication, I absolutely love Zoom. It’s a little sleeker than Skype, it’s free, and it’s designed for businesses. You can easily set up a one-on-one or group video chat.
Many people hire a virtual assistant, have all the right tools in place, then aren’t sure what to do next. Ideally, your new VA should walk you through the process of figuring out what you need to delegate and creating a plan to get things done.
However, you can help them do their best work by providing clear instructions, especially in the beginning when they are still learning about your business and style of working. Here is an example of a task I might assign to one of my virtual assistants in Asana:
Find Guest Post Opportunities – Due Monday
Please find 10-20 blogs that might allow me to guest post. They should be in one of the following niches:
- Social Media Marketing
- Saving Money
- Productivity and Organization
Please list these in a spreadsheet with the website’s name, URL, contact person (if available), and contact email address or link to contact form.
Let me know if you have any questions. Thank you!
Be as detailed as possible in your description of the task that needs to be performed. This will minimize guesswork and misunderstandings. For very involved tasks, set up a call to discuss before beginning. And ALWAYS encourage your VA to ask questions if they’re not sure about something. Nothing is worse than someone botching a whole project because they didn’t understand and were too afraid to ask.
Part of great communication is staying up-to-date on what is being completed and what the next steps are in your business. Ask your virtual assistant if they can send a weekly status update.
Time tracking tools like Toggl allow VAs to create weekly or monthly time reports that will show you how much time is being spent on each task or project, which in turn helps you figure out if time is being used efficiently or if other tasks should take priority.
Many virtual assistants also offer some kind of status call or biweekly meeting to check in and make sure you’re on the same page with everything on your task list.
When You’ve Found the Perfect Assistant
When you’ve found the perfect virtual assistant, hold onto them! Treat them as a collaborator and team member. Recommend them to your business pals. Share their website or join their referral program, if they offer one. Do what you can to support their business as they support yours. Thank them when they do a good job. Kindness and support go a long way.
Work with a Virtual Assistant
Working with a virtual assistant can be an extremely rewarding experience that helps your business grow and thrive. When you’re ready to work with a virtual assistant, start with some of the resources above and conduct a few interviews to find someone who is a good match. Remember, your business is your baby and a good VA will treat it with the same care.
Have questions about working with a virtual assistant? I’ll answer anything in the comments below!