5 Steps to Hiring an Awesome Virtual Assistant
Wouldn’t it be great if you could finish work on Friday and not think about it until Monday? No Saturday mornings spent catching up on emails and thinking about your ever growing to-do list. Most small businesses share the same problem – not enough hours in the week to do all the routine tasks and the work involved in boosting revenue and growing the business. But you’re not yet in the position to employ someone on a permanent basis to help with these tasks. What to do?
This is where a Virtual Assistant (VA's) come in to play. We’re self-employed, skilled and able to work when you need us. You don’t pay employer contribution National Insurance, pension contributions, holidays, sick pay etc. VA’s take on routine (yet essential) tasks, freeing up your time so that you can crack on with developing your business, allowing you to work smarter not harder.
STEP 1 – What to Outsource? The first step – what do you need to outsource? It's really important to spend some time thinking about the tasks you wish to delegate. Once you know what tasks you need to outsource you will then have an understanding of the skill set the VA will need.
Chris Ducker has an exercise for people to try when they are thinking about outsourcing but have no idea which tasks to delegate. He calls this exercise your 3 Lists to Freedom. I've tweaked it slightly and you can download my version here. The aim is to keep this list to hand and every time you start or complete a task note it down in one of the columns. After a week you should have quite a long list and be in a better place to think about what needs outsourcing.
Consider everything that must be done.
After a week or two go back to your lists. What tasks do you really not enjoy doing? What aspects of your business really need more of your time and what can you outsource?
STEP 2 – Location and Skill-set So now that you have your list, and you now know what tasks you want to outsource you need to find the right VA that can help. VA’s don’t all have the same skill set and work history, so you need to find the one that fits best with your needs. You also need to consider if you are happy working with a Multi VA. These are VA's that subcontract work out to other VA's, The lead VA (usually the owner) will usually manage the work flow but you need to be aware of this if your business handles confidential information etc.
A good VA will point you in the direction of a colleague if they can’t help.
Another point to consider is how you operate yourself. You need to find a VA who should have no issue using your IT systems, CRM, apps etc and if you don’t have any in place, then a good VA will make recommendations. For example, if one of your tasks is to start using a CRM, you need a VA with CRM experience.
Location Do you want a VA that lives locally to you? Some of my clients love the fact that once a month we can meet for a coffee and review what’s going on in person. Or are you happy to work with someone remotely and never meet in person. Most VA's use Skype or some other video conferencing system so we are only a call away.
Step 3 - Where do you find a great VA? Referrals are to my mind, the best way of finding a VA and the way that most of my clients have found me. Are your own network of contacts able to make any recommendations? Put a shout out on your social media platforms – LinkedIn would be a great place to ask.
Google is a great place to find VA’s particularly if you would like one local to you.
Attending Networking Events and Trade Shows are another good way of finding VA’s, as the chances are that if there isn’t one there, then you will probably bump into someone that could make a recommendation.
In all of these cases, the next step is to look at the websites of the chosen or recommended VA’s. Do they have a professional feel to them and how long have they been in business. Is it up to date? Does it have a vibrant (and recent) testimonials section? You will naturally be wanting to find someone who states that they can undertake the tasks in your list, but you should also consider other important aspects:
Insurance – As a minimum, you should expect to see public liability. I also hold professional indemnity insurance.
Contract - the VA should have a contract in place that you would be expected to sign before work commences.
Data Protection/GDPR – are they registered with the ICO (Information Commissioners Office)?
Policies – worth checking so you can see how the VA operates their business
Memberships and Qualifications – Most VA’s have an 'About Me' section. This should give you confidence that they are experienced, professional and credible, but also allows you to gain insight into them as an individual.
Accreditations – some tasks may require further regulatory compliance. Basic Book Keeping tasks may seem straightforward to outsource, but there is UK legislation around this. Click here for UK Government guidance
Step 4 – Interview/Call/Skype Talk to a couple of your preferred VA’s either by phone, in person or via Skype. Pretty much all will offer a free consultation. Have your list ready and give them an overview of what you want to outsource.
Can they help with these tasks? Does the VA inspire confidence in being able to complete the tasks you may end up giving them? Do they have capacity? How do they record time? How do they charge for tasks? Some VA’s use monthly retainers only, while others charge per hour with a minimum charge or a mix of both. Don’t be afraid to ask about their own experience in terms of your tasks.
Step 5 – Select and celebrate Quite a few people have never used a VA before and can be a little sceptical as to how/if the process works. I have in the past completed trial tasks, these are of course paid tasks, but it does allow you, as the client, to see how the process works. And if you have never worked virtually before it may take a little time to adjust so initially only hand over tasks at the rate that you feel comfortable in doing so.
And please do remember that we're not fairy godmothers. Virtual Assistants can do a lot but we're not here to make your business a success, we're here to assist you in making your business a success.
Thinking about what help you need and spending time finding the right VA might seem time consuming but it’s worth putting in the prep work. And in my experience, once you start working with a VA, you’ll wonder why you hadn’t started sooner.