A lot of things may have changed since I started become a virtual assistant for a small business in the USA, but one thing remains surprisingly constant: a lot of startups still don’t know what’s involved in hiring a VA for their business. As someone who has worked with, and has helped set up VAs for start-ups, individuals and long existing businesses from different countries, here are some of the things involved and setting up and establishing a relationship with outsourced VAs.
1. Dissect your needs. Determine if your business will benefit if you hire a virtual assistant. What are the tasks you can assign, and which ones will likely grow in time.
This is the kind of thinking that will take more than a day. I don’t mean what tasks you can assign a VA for a week. I mean it possibly on a monthly basis, the small tasks that take up time, and the occasional tasks that need to be looked at.
Here’s an example:
- Checking emails (sorting and email support)
- Ensuring all orders are sent
- Social media management (Facebook page, twitter and Google+)
- Creating your weekly schedule
- Contacting suppliers
- Checking for online reviews of your company
- Monthly tasks
- Editing and uploading a simple video for your YouTube channel
- Basic auditing
Tasks that will possibly grow
- Support to cover email
- Ensuring all orders are sent
- Contacting suppliers
This will give you a great idea on what skills you might have to teach and focus on for your VA, as well as maybe create processes in case you expand.
Another list that will also benefit you is a list of tasks that your VA cannot do, either for security purposes or because it needs a special touch. That way, you won’t go over the line and expect your VA to do something they do not know, and have not been trained on. It’s tempting, I tell you. So it’s best to set rules for yourself before even hiring.
2. If you’re already sure want to hire a VA, the next step is knowing whether you want to hire a freelancer or a VA from an agency. There are several factors, and both options has its own pros and cons.
- Price – Hiring from an agency is obviously more expensive as compared to hiring a freelancer because of overhead costs.
- Skill set – A freelancer VA might have all the skills that you need, but it’s very unlikely. And if they do, they will most likely be very expensive. An agency will arrange for you to have multiple VA in order to smoothen the skill set gap.
- Personalization – Getting a freelancer will assure that you get personalized attention because there is only one person focused on your business. An agency will assign several virtual assistants based on their skills and your needs. A work through around this problem is if you require a full time VA for a specific function to get the personalized services that you need. You’ll have to voice out this specific request before your project starts.
3. Create a specific job description or requirement.This will be very easy for you since you already have a list of tasks for your business. If you’re hiring a freelancer, you might want to break it down based on skills set. An agency will be able to cover all your requirements. Make sure all your particulars are there, such as requiring someone to work full time. Whether you’re hiring a freelancer or from an agency though, be sure to provide examples of the work that you want.
4. Hire the assistant – After you’ve gone through creating a short list of your bids or applications, and finally have your choice, there are a few things you need to be sure of:
- Communication – Wherever you get your VA, you need to be sure you have a contact person you can call during project emergencies. Sure, email is great, but calling using Skype or other software will allow you to explain the tasks better. If you’re hiring a freelancing VA, ask if they are able to make it on scheduled calls. For agencies, ask if you can talk to the VA personally, or a point person like a project manager to discuss the project details.
- Contract –Before your project starts, aside from the typical contract details, ask for a contract that includes all the details you’ve specified and be sure that there is a confidentiality clause.
- Training – If there’s any special tool used in your business, allot a learning curve and prepare the necessary training materials. These may be available from the software provider, or tutorials online, but time should be allocated properly for training.
5. Manage your assistant realistically –A virtual assistant will make your life easier, the start of the working relationship may be one of the busiest times in your business. Your assistant will have to learn everything about your business and the tasks to be completed, and all the answers to his or her questions will come from you. This is especially true if you have a unique product or service. Therefore, with hiring a VA, you’re making your life a bit difficult at the start, in order to have more freedom once all is set up. Here are some of the things you can do to make the transition easier.
- Be very specific with tasks, tools and examples. The more specific you are at the beginning, the easier it will be for you and your Virtual Assistant in the future.
- Share a calendar where you can outline both your tasks at the very beginning. The goal will be, for your assistant to take over managing this calendar. Giving a good picture of organization will allow your VA to consistently maintain this, and your expectations.
- Provide all the tools and access early on. Even if they’re no using it yet, knowing where to find passwords or having access to tools avoid confusion and delay in the long run.
According to Tony Sherman of Implementation Rabbi, “I chose to go with an agency because I didn’t want to go from one person to another when I needed new tasks done. Hiring from an agency means having an assistant to cover my business, and just going to the same agency when I had special projects like design.”
“The reason i hire VA is for me personally i have a small business and i can’t afford to hire a person local in my country (Australia)–my business just would NOT survive.One difficulty can be communicating “virtually,” says Brenda Giles of notamodel.tv.
Whether you decide to hire a freelancer or hire a virtual assistant from an agency to help you with your business, the important thing is for you to know what to expect, and to help make the transition easier for the both of you. After all, it’s a win-win situation. Virtual Assistants get a great job and pay, and your startup succeeds.