When you’re starting a business, you might be wearing multiple hats. You’re answering emails, onboarding clients, managing projects, and doing the bookkeeping. With your plate stacked high with tasks demanding your attention, you’re bound to feel overwhelmed.
Instead of just wishing for someone to help keep the order, you can hire virtual assistants to free your plate of administrative tasks and odd jobs. This lets you focus on the big-ticket items that will advance your business.
If you want to learn how to hire a virtual assistant for your business, here’s what you need to know.
What Is a Virtual Assistant?
A virtual assistant is a professional who offers various administrative services to busy entrepreneurs and small business owners—all from a remote location.
A skilled virtual assistant can assist you with:
- Administrative tasks: data entry, manage emails, answer phone calls
- Bookkeeping: create budgets, track your expenses, generate reports
- Social media management: create content, schedule posts, engage with your audience
- Customer service: address customer inquiries via email and phone
- Personal errands: schedule transportation and manage day-to-day tasks
And much more!
If you’re still not convinced that hiring virtual assistants make your life easier, consider these additional advantages.
How to Hire a Virtual Assistant (VA)
1. Decide What Type of Virtual Assistant You Need
When you hire virtual assistants, you’ll typically look at two categories: general and specialized.
With general VAs, you outsource specific tasks and processes. General VAs handle your various administrative tasks, such as data entry, managing emails, and scheduling appointments or transportation. Creating a standard operating procedure that outlines the process step-by-step is recommended when working with general VAs.
With specialized VAs, you outsource business outcomes. Specialized VAs carry a targeted skill set. Many small business owners hire specialized VAs who excel at skills like:
- Customer service
- Video editing
- Social media management
- Project management
- Cold calling
You hire these types of virtual assistants to leverage their specific skill sets and expertise to help you achieve a particular objective.
2. Document the Tasks You Want to Outsource
Make a list of all the tasks and processes you want to delegate to your virtual assistant. It can help to follow this filter:
- Tasks you should not do: usually repetitive tasks, easily replicated by somebody else (e.g., data entry)
- Tasks you don’t want to do: typically tedious or uninspiring tasks (e.g., social media management)
- Tasks you can’t do: specialized skills you don’t possess (e.g., graphic design or copywriting)
Again, with general VAs, you’ll want to document specific tasks and processes. With specialized VAs, you‘ll want to document specific outcomes.
3. Create a Job Description
Now it’s time to create an interesting job description that attracts top-performing applicants to your job listing. When you want to hire virtual assistants, your job description should include:
- Background information about your business (industry, target customer, product)
- Desired level of education
- List of duties or outcomes they will be expected to fulfill
- Knowledge of online tools for small businesses (like G Suite, Slack, Microsoft Office)
4. Post Your Job Description Online
If you’re wondering where to hire a virtual assistant, there are several online job hiring platforms where you can post your job description:
- Freelance marketplaces, like Upwork or Fiverr
- Mr. Outsource
Quick Tip: Consider asking applicants to include a unique word, like “Eureka!” when responding to your job posting. This small detail can quickly narrow down your pool of applicants to those who are also detail-oriented.
An alternative to posting a job description is to seek a referral. If you have peers who are happy with their virtual assistants, ask for a referral. Referrals are great because a fellow business owner has already vetted their expertise.
5. Review Applications and Schedule Interview
After narrowing down your pool of qualified applicants, you’ll want to schedule a video interview with the top five to 10 candidates. Interpersonal communication matters even in a virtual setting. Putting a face and voice to a name helps you determine whether their personality fits your work style and company culture.
6. Give a Test Project
After the video interviews, you may have two or three candidates who impressed you. At this point, it’s time to test their skills. Ask your candidates to complete a specific task. For example, you can ask them to gather research material with sources and quotes on a particular topic.
We recommend that you pay applicants to complete a test project. Asking people to work for free, even if it is a test, can sometimes turn away top-performing candidates.
7. Sign a Service Agreement
So you’ve finally chosen one perfect virtual assistant to support you in your business. The next step is to sort through some paperwork.
Ask your assistant to sign an employment contract. This document should clearly outline the responsibilities you expect your virtual assistant to fulfill. It should also include basic identifying information, the scope of work, and the mutually agreed upon payment terms. You should also define the terms of their trial period.
8. Create a Trial Period
It’s time for your new assistant to undergo a trial period, lasting anywhere from three weeks to 90 days. It’s crucial that your virtual assistant knows they’re undergoing a trial period. This incentivizes your assistant to prove themself throughout the first few works of working with you.
During this time, you will monitor your VA’s performance. Be patient. There may be a brief time where both you and your VA are getting settled with your workflow processes. Be sure to offer constructive feedback and praise when necessary.
When It’s Time to Hire a Virtual Assistant
If you’re a solopreneur, you might be hesitant about hiring your first employee. But there are some telltale signs that it might be time to do yourself (and your business) a favor and hire virtual assistants:
- Poor Work-Life Balance: You’re working too many hours and have little time for yourself and your loved ones. When you’re all work and no play, you leave yourself vulnerable to burning out.
- Things Are Slipping Through the Cracks: Seemingly small things like not responding to emails in a timely fashion can have a significant effect on your business. Clients may think they’re not a priority and will bring their business to your competitor.
- You Can’t Commit to a Full-Time Employee: Employees can be expensive, and you may not have the budget to bring somebody on board full-time. Virtual assistants are a cost-effective alternative and can do the work you need on a part-time or contract basis.
If any of these indicators apply to your business, and you need extra support, it’s time to hire a virtual assistant.
Benefits of Hiring Virtual Assistants
Virtual assistants are handy for keeping you focused (and sane) when you encounter small business problems. There are also several advantages when you hire virtual assistants over an in-person employee, such as:
According to Outsource Workers, when you hire virtual assistants, you can save your business up to 78% of operating costs per year. If you hire an independent contractor, you don’t pay for office space or employee benefits and insurance.
Moreover, you don’t need to dedicate tons of time and resources to training your assistant. Many virtual assistants already carry a specific skill set, which you can leverage from day one. All of these savings add to your bottom line.
Widen the Talent Pool
When you want to hire virtual assistants, you’re not limited to local applicants. Many business processes are going digital, which means virtual assistants can operate from anywhere in the world. This flexibility widens the talent pool so that you can hire a virtual assistant within a different state or country (although hiring within a similar time zone is usually best). You can pick the best of the best within your budget.
Two heads are often better than one, at least when you hire the right assistant. Practice effective delegation and your assistant will handle all the administrative tasks that are cluttering your mind and schedule. Things stop falling through the cracks, and your business starts running more smoothly.
Focus Your Time on the Important Stuff
Virtual assistants help to clear your plate of administrative tasks and clutter. You can then use this time and energy to work on high-ROI projects. As a business owner, your skills can be better used to developing business strategies. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, a virtual assistant can help you regain more work-life balance.
Make More Money
Just because you’re paying for an assistant doesn’t mean it’s a net loss for your business. When you hire virtual assistants, they can potentially make you more money.
Check out this example:
Let’s say you run a consulting firm and charge $100 per billable hour. But each week, you spend about five hours doing administrative work that you don’t get to charge for. If you were to outsource this administrative work to a virtual assistant, you’d spend $100 per week. You can then allocate those five hours to billable work and make $500. A virtual assistant saves you time and can add to your bottom line.
Tips for Managing Your Virtual Assistant
Be Crystal Clear
The quality of your VA’s work often depends on how clear your instructions are. If you’re unclear about what you want, your VA has more room to miss the target.
Be crystal clear in your instructions. If you ask your assistant to write captions for your social media photos, add more details. For example:
- Create five social media captions.
- Use a combination of funny anecdotes and inspiring quotes.
- Research which hashtags our competitors are using.
- Emulate the captions of the past top-performing posts.
A clear agenda, especially at the beginning, will position both your VA and your business for success.
Evaluate Their Performance
Throughout their time working with you, it’s good practice to offer performance evaluations. Set clear expectations or performance indicators, so both you and your assistant understand what targets they should be hitting.
And if your assistant is falling short of expectations, it may not be entirely their fault. It can become an opportunity to improve professional communication and streamline processes.
Schedule Regular Check-ins
Regular check-ins can be helpful, especially if your virtual assistant is working on a long-term project. This helps you keep track of the project’s progress. You may want to ask your assistant for weekly reports, addressing:
- Which tasks they completed
- Which projects are still in progress
- If they’re experiencing any problems
- What they need from you
Regular check-ins foster open communication between you and your virtual assistant. You can identify problems before they worsen and offer additional tools, resources, or support when your virtual assistant needs it. You may want to consider using small business tools, like Trello, Zoom, or Asana, to make communicating with your VA easier.
After your assistant proves their expertise, don’t be that boss that constantly micromanages. Micromanagement is one reason why good employees quit their jobs. Excessive check-ins and unnecessary meetings can leave your assistant distracted and disgruntled.
After your assistant has shown a track record of delivering results, loosen your grip on the reins. If they’re meeting (or even exceeding) expectations, give your assistant space to work on their terms.
The Bottom Line
When running your business, sometimes you can’t do it all. And you don’t have to. When you hire virtual assistants, you help protect yourself from the occasional exhaustion and burnout that comes with being a business owner. Hopefully, this guide on how to hire a virtual assistant inspires you to delegate certain business operations, so you can focus your energy on the essential things that will advance your business.
- OutsourceWorkers.com.au. “5 Reasons to Hire a Virtual Assistant Right Now”