As a business owner your business may well be just you or perhaps you and one other person. After all, there’s no money in your budget to afford employees. However, at a certain point, routine tasks may well become so overwhelming that you’ll be unable to dedicate enough time to your core business activities. This is the time when you need to start thinking about hiring a virtual assistant.
The benefits of hiring a virtual assistant are numerous. For one thing, you’ll learn important skills that you’ll need later to manage a team. Finally, a VA can help you stay organised and keep you up to date with your work, which is critical for any growing business.
Should I hire a virtual assistant?
No one can answer this question but you, though if any of the following apply then you should hire a virtual assistant.
- If you’re working far longer hours than you’d like to,
- If you’re unable to keep up with your workload (to the detriment of your business)
- If you spend far too much time on menial tasks.
However, if hiring a virtual assistant is a perk you cannot really afford at this time, it may be better to wait a little longer until you’ve grown your business.
How to hire a great virtual assistant
Before you jump right in, it’s important to know how to hire a virtual assistant. Taking the right steps will ensure you find someone who is ideal for you and your business.
Step 1: Decide what your virtual assistant will do
There are virtual assistants for just about any task. VAs can do data entry, calendar management, bookkeeping, social media management, correspondence, research… the list goes on. The point is: you need to know what you want your virtual assistant to do from the start. Otherwise, it will be impossible to find the right person.
VAs tend to market themselves as general virtual assistants and specialised virtual assistants. If you just need help staying organised, a general virtual assistant will be able to best meet your needs. However, if you need support in a particular area, you’ll want to hire a specialised VA.
Unsure about what you need? Spend a week (or perhaps a month, if your activities are quite diverse) making a note of everything you do. Decide what doesn’t require your expertise and that you could outsource to a virtual assistant.
Step 2: Figure out your budget
You may have many tasks that you could potentially hand over to a VA, but this would likely be too expensive. To start, just focus on a few tasks — perhaps the most monotonous or maybe those you struggle with.
To determine how many tasks you can afford to assign, you’ll need to know how much a virtual assistant will cost. Unfortunately, there’s no clear answer though you can expect to pay anywhere from £20 – £60 per hour.
Try to give each task you need a monetary value to decide the maximum you can pay a VA. Bear in mind that you’ll need to pay more for higher quality. However, you can often save money by hiring a virtual assistant who is just starting out but who does have relevant experience.
Step 3: Onboarding your virtual assistant
Depending on the task, training could take a few minutes or several hours. Whatever the case, you will need to design some sort of onboarding. This will help the VA complete work to your standards and use the same processes as you. Training can be in the form of a document where you outline steps (perhaps with screenshots) or a video showing the process.
Step 4: Search for a virtual assistant
Now, we come to an important point: where to find a virtual assistant. You have three main options:
- Ask for recommendations from fellow business owners
- A virtual assistant agency
- Social media
Step 5: Write a job post
The perfect job post will clearly explain what work you need along with any skills or qualifications the VA should have. This will prevent you from wasting your time on unqualified candidates. It’s also a good idea to throw in some questions. As well as giving candidates the chance to explain their skills, this will allow you to easily check if respondents have read the entire job post.
Finally, it’s important to include how many hours you need the VA to work — per week or per month. Virtual assistants who are already working for several other small business owners or who have other commitments will need to know that they have enough time for your job.
Step 6: Interview candidates
The interview could consist of asking candidates a few simple questions by phone call or video chat. Its important even if you are using an agency that you get to meet the VA at this point.
Step 7: Create a short test
To assess candidates, you may like to develop a test that VAs can complete in 10 minutes or less. Don’t make it much longer than this, as it could come across as if you are looking for free work. The test should allow you to judge relevant skills, attention to detail, and ability to follow instructions. It should also be related to the work the VA will do for you.
Tests tend to be appropriate for general virtual assistants. For specialist VAs, though, it may be better to see samples of past work. For instance, if the VA will manage your social media accounts, you may like to see profiles the virtual assistant is already managing.
Step 8: Do a trial run
There’s only so much an interview and short test can tell you. Before committing to a long-term contract, it’s a good idea to hire the virtual assistant for a short trial period. A week could be sufficient. A trial run will give you both the chance to see if you’ll work well together in the long term. It will also mean that neither of you are committed to continue after the trial is complete.
Step 9: Set reasonable expectations
After you hire a virtual assistant, it’s important to have realistic expectations. There will be a learning curve at the start while the VA adapts to your working style. As time goes on, though, you should expect to see improvements until the work you are receiving is perfect — or close enough.
Step 10: Adapt your approach
Some small business owners hire one VA after another but nothing seems to work out. In these situations, you need to think if there’s something you should change.
First, consider the instructions you’re providing. Is it clear what you want, how you want it done, and in what timeframe? You need to be as specific as possible. Otherwise, even the best virtual assistant will feel lost.
Next, how are you communicating? Over the first week, you’ll likely need to check in often — through messages and maybe the occasional video chat. After this, tone it down. There’s no need to schedule a chat if you have nothing specific to say. Just make sure you do give feedback every time the VA delivers work. If everything looks fine, a simple “thanks” may suffice.
Finally, think about the deadlines you are setting. If they are too tight, your VA may be unable to keep up, which could result in poor-quality work. As a result, the VA may quit to find someone who is less demanding.
Finding success when you hire a great virtual assistant requires attention to every stage of the hiring process. You need to be clear about what you’re looking for and vet candidates by asking the right questions. Then, you need to create a supportive atmosphere where your virtual assistant can thrive. Do this and your VA will become a valuable member of your team, putting your business on the path to growth.
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