So you’re thinking about hiring someone to help you in your business, but need to keep expenses low.
You can’t really afford to pay someone $15 or $20 an hour, but you also can’t keep doing all the work. By now, you’ve probably read Tim Ferris’s 4-Hour Workweek and even dabbled in some outsourcing on Upwork. You might have even listened to podcasts about the power of delegating. Either way, you’ve made the decision to finally do it. You’re going to hire a virtual assistant. Now what?
What is a virtual assistant?
Virtual Assistants (or VA’s as they’re most commonly known) are a business owner’s best friend. Gone are the days of old school entrepreneurialism – busting your butt doing absolutely everything in your business is no longer necessary or sensible. Thanks to the power of the internet, we now have access to talents quite literally across the globe who can assist you in any area of your enterprise, from managing social media to creating graphics, building your website or transcribing your videos, posting blogs or researching new topics. The list of possibilities is endless, and the price (some start at $3 per hour) and convenience make it a no brainer.
Where are they?
Finding the right virtual assistant for you, like any relationship, is a personal choice. But thankfully the process is now easier than ever due in part to a number of marketplaces you can use in your search. More are popping up every day so just doing a google search will no doubt bring up more options for you. But for now, here are the 3 main virtual assistant websites:
Onlinejobs.ph – Free to view, with a $49/mth membership if you choose to post an ad and receive contact details. These VA’s are all based in the Philippines and range in skill set from general VA’s, to digital marketing specialists. Great if you’re looking to bring on a team member for any role, part-time or full-time and are prepared to do the entire recruiting process yourself.
Virtualstafffinder.com – Like onlinejobs.ph, these VA’s are also based in the Philippines however this service acts as a recruiter for you, which essentially means you can outsource your outsourcing! For a one-off fee of $495, Chris Ducker’s team will match your job requirements with the applicants they believe are the best fit following their thorough testing process. Great if you’re looking to bring on a General Virtual Assistant (GVA) on a part-time or full-time basis and would prefer assistance with your recruitment.
Upwork.com – Have project work that you need outsourced, but not quite enough to bring on a team member on a semi-permanent basis? Upwork might be for you. This marketplace brings together talent from all over the world, and then you post your job offering and they apply with their offer (which includes time frame and price point). Your payments are all kept safe through Upwork’s billing system, so the freelancer is only paid after the work is completed. Perfect for a one-off job, but not ideal if you’re looking to build a relationship with a freelancer, as once the work is over, so too is your connection.
Step 1: Identify the tasks that you would like your virtual assistant to handle for you. This is super important regardless of which route you choose. Whether you hire someone you know, bring on a full-time virtual assistant, or just want to outsource a one-off project, you will need clarity around what you want done right from the very beginning.
Step 2: Choose your preferred hiring method.
Step 3: Produce your job advertisement/listing.
Hot tip! Hiring a virtual assistant – If you choose to do the hiring yourself (i.e. you’re not using a service like virtualstafffinder.com to do the sifting and sorting for you) then make sure you include a line in your job listing that your applicants must mention in their response. And anything goes with this one. “Please mention the blue alien in your response.” “Don’t forget to let us know how excited you are to meet our furbabies.” “In your response, be sure to include a line from a Bruce Springsteen song.” This is SUCH a time saver. You’ll be surprised how many applications come back that don’t include your “magic phrase” and on closer observation, are clearly an automated/ cut & paste response.
Step 4: Filter through your applications and select your top 10 based on their skills/experience, and begin the interview process. Now, there are plenty of different methods you can utilize in this process, but the most important thing (particularly if you’re bringing on a team member for the long term) is to take your time. You may like to do a series of email interviews to begin with (after all, you’re most likely going to communicate via this method once they’re in you’re team, so treat it like a test run), move straight to your first round of Skype interviews, or give your applicants a trial task to perform (which ideally, you would pay them for regardless of whether or not you hire them). Once you do move on to getting to know your applicants via a face-to-face/ Skype interview, this is where you’ll want to consider beyond their skills and experience and make sure they are a fit for your culture, personality, values and if you’re going to get along!
When asking questions in an interview, be sure to request specific examples or incidents. We humans have a tendency to be very vague and speak in concepts rather than being honest about our real behaviors.
Asking a question like, “tell me about your favorite aspect of your work history, the thing you’ve enjoyed the most” when answered with a specific time/place reveals a lot about a persons passions and their preferences. But even more powerful is following up by asking “and what have you done before in your career that you would say was your least favorite, or that you really enjoyed the least?”
This can highlight someone’s dislike of change, working on their own, working with others, a penchant for drama…let’s just say it can be very interesting, and not something people would normally express in an interview!
Step 5: Choose your new VA and make them an offer they can’t refuse! Be sure that you’re completely upfront about the hours you expect your VA to work (will they be working on your time zone or theirs?), how much the pay will be, when and how you will be paying them, and if you will be starting them off on a probationary period. It would definitely be in your best interest to seek out some advice from your accountant and your legal representatives for this step, and you might like to consider making your offer and the agreement formal by having a contract prepared.
Step 6: Start out slowly and allow your new team member to acclimate to their new role. Utilize screencasts/videos to show them exactly how you would like tasks to be performed, check in regularly with them and provide lots of feedback (both positive and constructive). Remember how you felt whenever you started a new job? This is no different for them.
Step 7: Start releasing the reins and DELEGATE! The whole purpose of outsourcing is so that you can use your time more efficiently, to do the thing that only you can do. So make sure that’s what you’re doing! Micromanaging is not going to benefit you or your new VA, so allow some wiggle room for the teething process and get to work being productive, not overprotective.
But I want to know more about finding a virtual assistant! Where can I go?
There are a number of great books you can read to wrap your head around outsourcing, like Outsource Smart: Be Your Own Boss… Without Letting Your Business Be the Boss of You by Daven Michaels, or Virtual Assistant Assistant: The Ultimate Guide to Finding, Hiring, and Working with Virtual Assistants by Nick Loper, and even courses you can take to understand all the intricacies involved with having a global team, such as Chalene Johnson’s Virtual Business Academy. And you can also check out each of the blogs at upwork.com, virtualstafffinder.com and onlinejobs.ph for current tips and tricks.
In the end, the best knowledge is the one you garner for yourself. So take your time and get your ducks in a row before you hire, but then understand that it’s going to be a learning process and like any hire in the “real world” there will be ups and downs, but having someone else on your team, helping you out, is worth it.
UPDATED Resource: Hiring a virtual assistant vs. a personal assistant by Chalene Johnson