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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.

I originally wrote this blog back in 2018 when the Virtual Assistant landscape was very different. The market has exploded this year with more and more VA's appearing. I'm not sure if this is due to demand, or simply people looking for alternative careers due to Covid. But what's really important here, as with any industry, is to make sure that you choose a suitably experienced and qualified Virtual Assistant. Do your due diligence as you would when entering into an agreement with anyone else. Yes, randomly selecting a VA to work with may reduce some of your tasks, but are they the right fit? A good VA will add value to your business, and not just blindly complete the tasks that occupy your valuable time.

This blog is intended to help you determine what to look for, and tips for choosing the right VA for your unique needs.

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. We're not fairy godmothers! I can't help if I don't know what you need doing. Yes, it can be difficult to set aside time to do this when you're already super busy but it's time well spent. In the past, I have spent time with the client going through this process initially (paid of course). They were really upfront and said they were in a bit of a muddle and needed help getting organised first.

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? Quite often when you start working with a high calibre VA more jobs become obvious anyway.

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 skillset 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.

I never take on work that I don't have experience in. For example, if one of your tasks is to start using a CRM, you need a VA with CRM experience (not me). It's not fair to take on a client and offer a service that you have no experience in, and not tell them, particularly when they're paying good money. I wouldn't want that for my business.

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.

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 Zoom, Teams, Whatsapp 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. Does the website have a professional feel and how long have they been in business? Is it up to date? Does it have a testimonials/case study 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. You may be surprised how close you end up working with a VA, so it helps if you have some affinity between you

  • 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

Once you have narrowed down your list to two or three, get talking. We're all used to Zoom now, so book a call. I use Calendly and on my Contact Me section it's easy to book in. Pretty much all VA's will offer a free consultation. But don't push it and use this as a freebie admin strategy session. Been there, done that!

Have your list of questions ready and give them an overview of what you want to outsource.

  1. How long have they been a VA?

  2. Do they have experience and specific skill set for the tasks you want doing?

  3. How do they manage their time and deadlines from multiple clients?

  4. Do they have capacity?

  5. How do they record time?

  6. How do they communicate and what systems do they use?

  7. How do they charge for time and how do they manage/charge for urgent work? Some VA’s use monthly retainers only, while others charge per hour with a minimum charge or a mix of both

  8. Ask about insurance, qualifications and contracts

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. To help with this, 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. Pre Covid many people had never worked virtually before so this was a new daunting process. But that has all changed and most people now have the equipment, expertise, and are comfortable working this way.

And please do remember, as I said before, we're not fairy godmothers. Excellent 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.


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