You’ve worked hard on your online business – you’re turning a profit, but you’re feeling a little too much pressure with everything on your shoulders.
Your to-do list is never ending, and lately, important things are slipping through the cracks. Frankly, there isn’t any more time and you’re just barely keeping your head above water. The obvious solution to the time crunch seems to be bringing on a virtual assistant, but is that really the right next step?
Whether you’re someone who wants to start outsourcing the minute you’re profitable or you choose to “go it alone” as long as possible, there will always come a time when you need to outsource. Otherwise, you become a bottleneck in your own profitability, and that’s not a winning business strategy.
You’ve heard that virtual assistants can be a big help, but how do you even begin to think about finding and hiring a virtual assistant?
Spending Money to Make Money
The biggest consideration you need to make when you want to hire a virtual assistant is the return you’ll get on your investment.
That’s right, good ol’ ROI should be the fundamental principle driving your decision to hire a virtual assistant. It is an investment, after all – when you do it right.
But how do you know when the investment will pay off?
The simplest way is to compare your hourly rates. What’s your effective hourly rate at the moment?
If you don’t know this off the top of your head, here’s a quick way to find out: take how much income you make after expenses, divide that number by how many hours you put in and BINGO, that’s your effective hourly rate.
Now you need to think about the tasks you do in your business that aren’t worth your hourly rate. If your effective hourly rate is $75, does it really make sense for you to be spending time on simple administrative tasks such as data entry, sending invoices, finding pictures for your blog posts or responding to the same customer service questions over and over?
I’m gonna go with NO.
What does make sense is to hire a virtual assistant to carry these tasks out. Hire a virtual assistant whose hourly rate is lower than yours, and instead spend your time focusing on the things that actually generate a profit.
When a virtual assistant frees you up to go out and make even more money, that’s a good investment. 😉
How to Hire a Virtual Assistant (with no regrets!)
So you’ve decided it’s time to hire a virtual assistant.
You may have a sea of options, many of whom are excellent choices… and some others who aren’t. So how do you find a virtual assistant who is good, who can deliver and who won’t be a time-suck? (Hint: Time-suck = a bad investment.)
A methodical hiring process will be your salvation every time. Here’s what we recommend you do when hiring a virtual assistant:
1. Learn What a Virtual Assistant Can Do for You
Maybe you already know exactly what you want to outsource.
Maybe you just know you’re crunched and you need help.
If you fall in the latter category, don’t worry; you can find a virtual assistant to take on pretty much any task in your business, as long as said task is clearly defined. Some good examples include:
- email/inbox management
- customer service
- project management
- outreach and engagement
- social media
- scheduling and travel planning
- blog management
- data entry
And the list goes on!
You can also find virtual assistants who can do more highly skilled work. These folks won’t usually call themselves virtual assistants though, and you’re moving into the upper echelons in terms of compensation.
Things like graphic designers, video or podcast editors, social media ad managers and digital marketers who can set up sales funnels are some examples.
2. Decide What You Want to Prioritize for Outsourcing
Some business owners want to outsource what’s easiest to chop off and hand over to a virtual assistant (bookkeeping or data entry, for example).
Some want help with their biggest bottleneck (such as email or customer service). Others focus on handing off the tasks that are most difficult, most time-consuming or most unpleasant (think blog management or graphic design) to a virtual assistant. And another approach is to hire out the tasks you know you “should be” doing, but don’t know how to do or don’t want to take the time to learn (say … social media).
You can also, of course, mix and match. If there’s anything you want to outsource, you can be sure there’s a virtual assistant who can pick it up for you!
3. Get a Sense of the Experience Level You’ll Require from a Virtual Assistant
There’s always an onboarding process when you bring on a new team member – that can’t be avoided. But there’s also a difference between “onboarding” and “training.”
The more experienced a virtual assistant is, the less training you’ll need to do. But if you’re working with a newer virtual assistant or if you use a highly specialized software or process, you can expect to do a fair amount of training after hiring a virtual assistant.
Decide how much training you’ll be willing to do, and you can tailor your search for your first virtual assistant toward finding someone at the right level for you and your business.
4. Set Your Budget Expectations Before Hiring a Virtual Assistant
A few things factor into compensation for a virtual assistant.
You need to know, generally speaking, how many hours you want to hire out per week or month, and you need to know the range of hourly rates you’ll be dealing with. Combine those two, and you have a ballpark for your starting budget.
Very generally speaking, brand-new virtual assistants will start around $20 per hour. You’ll be able to find some who charge less, and there will be some who charge more based on their prior work experience.
Also very generally speaking, virtual assistant rates will top off around $40 per hour or so. These virtual assistants are highly experienced administrative assistants who haven’t adopted a high-level specialty yet. If you’re truly interested in the administrative support that a general virtual assistant offers, you can expect to hire somewhere within the $20-40 range.
Once a virtual assistant decides on a specialty and/or becomes an expert in a specific skill set that’s in demand, their hourly rates will go higher. You may see anything from $50 per hour up into $250 per hour or more, depending on the level of experience, technical skill and results provided. But again, these folks don’t usually call themselves virtual assistants; they’ll call themselves whatever their specialty is.
Do those rates seem high? Don’t forget that VAs are self-employed, paying their own self-employment taxes, benefits, overhead expenses, equipment, etc.
5. Write a Virtual Assistant Job Description
Your job description needs to be as detailed as possible.
To get the best results possible, include this information:
- Your business name, website and industry/focus;
- How many hours per week or month you need;
- Specific tasks to be performed (such as data entry, social media scheduling, customer service, etc);
- Any special requirements (e.g. must have industry experience, must be familiar with a specific software, must be willing to work specific hours on specific days, must be available by phone during business hours, open to new virtual assistants or international VAs, etc.);
- Compensation or range, if you’re willing to disclose it;
- Deadline to apply.
Pro tip: You might want to set up a separate email address for virtual assistants to send their applications into if your inbox is already a bit crowded!
6. Post the Job Description
There are several ways to go about finding your first virtual assistant.
We recommend our Virtual Assistant Finder service, of course, because we know first-hand how well these virtual assistants are being trained and there’s a solid track record of excellent feedback on the applicant pool we provide.
“I needed a VA to help with a product launch. I only had two weeks until launch and was looking for immediate help. Horkey HandBook came through and saved the day! I received multiple high quality applications – and hired someone within a few days. The VA I worked with was amazing… she kept me sane during my launch, completed all tasks AHEAD of time, and went above and beyond in numerous ways (including making insightful suggestions for my next launch). I can’t recommend Gina’s Virtual Assistant Finder enough!” ~Sally Miller
It’s also a good idea to ask your fellow business owners and other online connections if they have any recommendations, either for specific VAs or for sources of good virtual assistants. Lastly, dip into your own audience (if you have an established one) to see who might make a good fit!
Once your job description is posted, you’ll start getting applications right away. You may end up with lots of them (hence the separate email account I recommended above).
7. Pay Attention to the Applications
When you’re looking to hire virtual assistants, the first impression matters! Think about these things as you read through each application:
- Did the potential virtual assistant follow all instructions?
- Do you like the communication style you’re seeing?
- Would you feel comfortable having this person representing your business?
- Are the required skills there?
- What questions are they asking, and what does that “say” about them?
Some other things to look for as you begin correspondence with the front-runners:
- Are you happy with the response time, or is there too much lag?
- Are they asking you obvious questions/questions you’ve already answered? (This is not a good sign.)
- Have they shown any initiative?
- Would you be happy to have this person on your team, or would it be more of an energy drain?
Many times, solid virtual assistants don’t have the exact experience you want up-front, but are worth taking the chance. If you find yourself drawn to a particular candidate with one or two gaps in their resume, it’s probably worth moving on to step eight with them to see how quickly they pick things up.
8. Test the Waters with Trial Projects
Some people will pick the front-runner and go.
Others will want to test the waters. I’m a huge fan of trial projects because they give you a taste of what it’s like to work with a person without having to commit fully to an unknown.
The other great thing about trial projects is that you can do them with more than one person. For example, if you want to hire virtual assistants who focus on Pinterest, and there are three candidates you’re considering, you can ask one to create 10 new board covers for your account, another to make a list of 20 Pinterest SEO keywords to use for your business and a third to identify 10 relevant group boards and send requests to join them.
Or reduce the amount and have each do a set number from all three categories to compare apples to apples if you will. There’s no better way then to see people in action!
9. Choose Your New Virtual Assistant
Now’s the exciting part – choosing your new teammate and starting the onboarding process.
Ideally, this part is where you begin to feel a sense of relief as you start offloading your data entry, social media scheduling, or other tasks you’ve been avoiding, and start focusing on the things that truly give you satisfaction in your own business.
Congratulations, you’re about to hire a virtual assistant!
10. Onboard the VA
Most VAs will have their own onboarding process set up.
Usually it will involve negotiating terms, signing contracts, implementing project management systems, creating new accounts and (when applicable) granting access to current accounts. You’ll set a start day, and you may need to put together some training to teach the new virtual assistant the systems, software, and customer service approach you use in your business.
You’ll probably want to consider working a trial period into your contract. Typically 30 days is long enough to know whether it’s going to work or not, but you may want to extend to 60 days, especially if you have complex systems or tasks that the VA is handling. At the end of the trial period, you can work out a long-term arrangement if you’re happy.
Last Thoughts: The Most Important Thing to Remember When You Hire a Virtual Assistant
For both you and your prospective virtual assistant, the most critical aspect of the entire hiring process is managing expectations. You need to be as clear as possible about what you expect from the virtual assistant, both in terms of performance and in terms of things like responsiveness, turnaround times and more.
You also need to be prepared for a learning curve on your part, especially if this is your first virtual assistant. It can feel a little weird handing a piece of your business over to someone else, and sometimes business owners have a hard time truly letting go and letting the virtual assistant do their job.
Finding the balance between going completely hands-off and breathing down the virtual assistant’s neck can take some time. (That’s why the trial period is so great – it gives you time to adjust to the new arrangement while providing an escape hatch if it’s not working out.)