Think back to the time when you decided to make it as a solopreneur.
You were probably planning to break free from the corporate rate race and start your own business.
You’d have more freedom to work on the projects you liked, more time to spend with your loved ones, and more energy to take care of your own needs (ahh, plenty of sleep and exercise).
But somewhere along the way, things get hectic again. And that’s when you realize that running your own business leaves you more tired and more strapped for time. You found that it doesn’t bring as much freedom as you were expecting because you’re always tethered to your phone, replying to customer emails even when you’re supposed to be spending the afternoon with your family.
Not to mention that there’s no room in your foggy sleep-deprived brain for more business ideas and the creativity seems to have flown out the window.
This is the trap that a lot of solopreneurs fall into.
Is there a way out of it?
Bringing on another team member to take some of the load off might be the answer. If you’re thinking that you can’t possibly add another paycheck to your already long expense sheet, the good news is that you don’t have to. You can hire a virtual assistant (VA).
A VA is usually not a full-time employee. A VA is an independent contractor that you can outsource your tasks to without needing to take care of extras such as benefits, taxes, sick pay and so on.
What’s the kicker? The VA will work on their own schedule, often remotely, and they might work for several clients at the same time.
But should you hire a VA now or wait a bit longer?
We’ve put together a list of scenarios to help you decide.
You should hire a virtual assistant now if:
1. You’re drowning in admin.
If most of your work day is spent in reactive (not proactive) mode, that’s a sign that it’s time to consider hiring extra help.
How does reactive mode look like? Constantly answering calls and emails from clients or suppliers, fulfilling orders, invoicing, routine data entry, or any other tasks that would usually fall under the job description of an office manager – from ordering office supplies to making travel arrangements.
None of these tasks help your business grow, but your business can’t function without them. You can’t (and shouldn’t) ignore your clients. And you can’t (and shouldn’t) fall behind on paperwork.
This is when most solopreneurs decide to hire a VA to take care of the routine admin work that is necessary for the smooth running of a business, but contributes very little to scaling it.
2. You’re having a hard time focusing on what makes you money.
This is often a consequence of focusing too much on admin-type work.
If you start your work days with the best of intentions, but then get sucked into replying to clients and answering the same questions over and over again, you’re probably not making the best use of your creativity and business acumen.
You have to realize that there are a lot of qualified professional virtual assistants out there who can deal with client inquiries (yes, some even better than you would).
But nobody can come up with ideas for your business or set projects in motion better than you.
So if you have ideas for growth, but never seem to have the time to develop them, or if you find yourself constantly putting projects on the back burner in order to deal with putting out fires, then you should probably consider bringing in extra help.
Your cognitive load is limited, and so is your time. There’s no point in wasting either of them on routine work.
3. Your business is growing.
As the months roll by, you’re noticing that you’re making more sales. Or word-of-mouth brought you more clients. Or maybe it’s a Facebook campaign that worked so well that you’re now inundated with orders. You welcome all of these prospects, but for how long will you be able to grow while also doing everything all by yourself?
And even if your business is not exactly growing right now, but it has the potential to, a VA can help you research prospects and organize a database, do lead generation (either via email or through good old-fashioned cold-calling), follow up with leads or create an onboarding experience that would impress newly acquired customers.
4. You’re spending more time learning than doing.
It seems that every social media platform has its own set of rules and best practices.
It’s not enough to set up a Facebook ad campaign; you have to know about audience segmentation. It’s not enough to send out a newsletter anymore. If you want it to be effective, you have to learn a thing or two about sales funnels.
It’s impossible to keep up with everything in your business. And it’s unreasonable to think that you could become an expert at everything. This is when hiring a specialized virtual assistant can help you regain your time and your sanity. Rather than spending hours googling how to set up a CRM platform, you could spend that time on tasks that actually help you increase your ROI.
5. Your personal life is taking a toll.
We should probably have mentioned this as the first reason why you should hire a VA – because the lack of a work-life balance is one of the underlying causes of entrepreneur burnout.
Here are a few symptoms that you’re biting off more than you can chew: email is the last thing you check before going to bed, and the first thing you check in the morning; you’re not mentally present when you’re with your family or friends (even when you’re physically present); you lack motivation to do anything fun, and when you finally do it, you feel guilty for taking time off.
In some more extreme cases of fatigue and burnout, you start resenting your work, and what was once rewarding and exhilarating, now feels overwhelming and exhausting. And on top of that, your immune system is telling you that it’s time to slow down.
If you feel like you’re missing out on living your life just so you can get a little bit more work done, then it’s time to start thinking about delegating.
In solopreneurs circles, it’s quite common to make the case for hiring help by pointing out how many hours of high-ROI work you could do if you hired a virtual assistant. (And we truly believe that’s the case.)
But you don’t necessarily have to fill the hours freed up by a VA with more work. You can just use them to spend quality time with your family or even take some time off and take care of yourself.
You’re not ready to hire a virtual assistant if:
So far, we’ve talked about when you should hire a VA. But in all honesty, a VA may not be the right choice for you, at least not right now, in these following scenarios:
1. You’re not sure what you can outsource.
As a solopreneur, you’re used to juggling everything. So it can be hard to figure out what tasks you can delegate to a VA, especially if you think that no one can do it as well and as fast as you can. (You may be wrong, by the way.)
Take a week and write down every single task that you do in your business. Spent 15 minutes on your lunch break replying to emails? Write it down. Spent one hour looking for social media content that you can re-share? Write that down too. Maybe you’ve been spending a couple of hours each week tracking orders or doing bookkeeping. On the list it goes.
If any given week is not reflective of all of your business processes, you can extend the experiment to a month. By the end of your “observation period,” you should have a clearer idea of what repetitive tasks you can outsource to a VA.
2. You don’t have time to onboard your VA.
A lot of solopreneurs wait until the reach a breaking point before they bring a virtual assistant on board. And because they’re so stretched for time and resources at that point, they just throw a long to-do list on the VA’s plate and expect them to figure it out.
The results of such a “strategy” are usually predictable: the entrepreneur is not satisfied with the work and falls prey to confirmation bias. “I knew I shouldn’t have hired anyone. Nobody can do it better that I can,” they tell themselves.
Where did the disconnect happen? The business owner just assumed that the VA would jump right in and take over a part of the business that the VA knew nothing about.
Before hiring your first virtual assistant you have to make sure that you have some processes in place for how you want things to be done. Yes, the VA may be super-proficient at using Trello or Evernote, for example. But that doesn’t mean they know how YOU use those programs.
If you want your VA to be effective and efficient, you have to put in the time to train them. Go through the tasks you’ve identified as ready for outsourcing, and re-trace them step-by-step. Record how you want tasks to be handled (and why) and make sure you communicate that to your new VA early and often.
Maybe start by outsourcing just a few tasks, and gradually add the rest when you feel that your VA has a pretty good handle of how you want things to be done.
3. You can’t relinquish control.
Entrepreneurs often see their companies as their babies. And yes, they find that very hard to let go, so entrusting someone else with parts of the business seems like an impossible feat. But if you can’t let go, you can’t grow.
A common trait among business owners is perfectionism, and that leads to the almost-chronic desire to always be in control of EVERY SINGLE LITTLE THING.
What control freaks don’t understand is that they are creating bottlenecks left and right by not trusting other professionals to do their jobs.
Just as you would trust a (professional) teacher to educate your children, and a (professional) contractor to replace your roof, you should trust a professional virtual assistant to represent your business to the best of their abilities.
If you’re having trouble relinquishing control to a virtual assistant, the solution is to start small. Choose one task that they can work on, explain how you want it done, and then step away.
The tendency to micromanage is strong for business owners when they hire a VA for the first time. But if you’ve vetted your VA well, and spent the time to onboard them properly, they should be able to transition into their new role without disrupting your business processes. And yes, they might even improve them.
4. You’re treating it as a cheap fix.
If your plan is to hire the cheapest VA that you can find and then pat yourself on the back for how much money you’re saving, you might want to reconsider. You get what you pay for, so make sure that you’re paying for quality work.
Since we’re talking about money, here’s what you can do. First, calculate the ROI of having a good VA. How much of your time will a professional save you? How can you invest the time that you’ll free up? For example, say you’re hiring a VA for $30/hour for five hours per week. That’s a $150/week investment. But say that now you can take on another consulting client for $100/hour for five hours per week. See how that works?
Keep in mind that not all the value is tangible.
Having someone to promptly deal with client requests or to keep your social media platforms up to date is not exactly easy to quantify, but it will help with the visibility and reputation of your business in the long run.
Now it’s your turn. Have a look at the list of scenarios above, and see if any applies to you. Would a VA help your business at this point, or should you get your processes in order first?
If you’ve decided that it’s time to bring a virtual assistant on board, the VA Finder is a premium tool that will save you time and money by bringing VA applications straight to your inbox.