Does that surprise you? (That I have a VA, that is, and not that I fired somebody.)
You may be thinking: why would I need a Virtual Assistant in the first place?
As someone who has used VAs for a number of years now, I can definitely appreciate having a VA I can delegate tasks to. Sometimes it can be more cost-effective to outsource those tasks because (1) it will free up more of your time, time that you can spend on something more profitable for your business, and (2) VAs have expertise in some areas so they will be able to finish the work quickly and easily.
Hiring a Virtual Assistant is definitely one of the best decisions you, as a small business owner, can make for your business.
I came to this conclusion after reading The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich by Tim Ferriss. I finished that book with a better outlook on business and the components behind a successful one, including hiring (and firing) employees or contractors. This makes up the process of owning and running a company.
Anyone who manages employees or contractors will tell you that great people can be an invaluable asset to the business, in the same manner that inefficient ones can be a poison.
In this article, I’ll attempt to give you a balanced view along with a few tips of best practices as well as best places where you can find a VA. I will also share some tools that may be helpful in managing the process. We’ll discuss the cost factors (e.g., fees, payment options) and what particular tasks may be best outsourced to a VA.
Clearly define your Virtual Assistant’s responsibilities
Anyone who’s ever had an official job description will invariably tell you that a lot of times, the job description and the actual job don’t match. This is because HR personnel or even managers load every wish list into the ad but never spend the time to clearly lay out what the employee should be doing daily.
This creates frustration on both the employee and the manager because they never seem to be on the same page or take a really long time getting there.
It’s the same thing when you hire a Virtual Assistant. To make that hire a success, you must have clearly defined objectives, some roadmap to success, and specify the tasks and deadlines, as well as the quality of work that you expect from the VA.
Here are a few questions you can ask yourself about your potential hire to jumpstart the process.
- What will this new hire accomplish for me and my business?
- What are the 5 most important daily or weekly tasks this VA will handle for me, and how quickly should this happen?
- Based on what I’m paying this VA, what am I willing to sacrifice or compromise on and what am I not?
- If I had to get this job done myself, what details would be important for me to know?
- What is the level of commitment in time, finances, etc. do I have to make for this hire?
Write down the answers to these questions to ensure you have clearly defined what you expect your VA to do and how and in what timeframe the VA is expected to perform the tasks specified.
Ensure you have the right setup
Any spouse, significant other, friend, or employee will tell you that proper communication is the lifeblood of any great relationship.
This is the same for you and your Virtual Assistant. A large part of accommodating this communication is making sure you have the right tools in place and that you and the VA both know how to use them.
Some tools are absolutely critical to ensuring you have the best experience possible with the hire while staying on top of things. Here’s a list of the tools I’d recommend:
- Skype. It’s simple, easy to use, and just about every VA I’ve dealt with has an account.
- HipChat. This is a chat utility that works well when working with multiple people on a single project.
- Team Box. Good for managing tasks on single or multiple projects while working with several VAs. With it, you can keep track of emails, conversation, and files, among others.
- HootSuite. Great for social media marketing and management. The paid version gives you one free team member.
- Upwork. An online jobs site where you’ll find lots of VAs (or any contractor for that matter, from a web developer, to a writer or social media manager) for just about any project. The platform also has neat features, such as the ability to pay fixed rate or hourly.
- Dropbox. It’s great for sending large files that can be shared via email. Note, however, that most ISPs limit your email size.
- Google Docs. Good for sharing documents and spreadsheets with your Virtual Assistant. It updates in real time.
- Skitch by Evernote. This is great for taking screenshots and writing on them to visually explain to your VA what you need to be done.
- Team Viewer. It is excellent for sharing your computer screen with your VA via their meeting feature. You also have the option of switching screen control with your VA so you both can see in real time what’s needed to be done. (Skype has a similar feature called “Share Screens.”)
For more tools and tips you can use for working with your Virtual Assistant, here is a good list by Micheal Hyatt.
Is your business right for a Virtual Assistant, and if so how much will it cost?
Whether you’re running a small business from your kitchen table or an entire factory complex, you share the struggle that all small business owners have, which is how to get the millions of tasks done without sacrificing your sanity.
A lot of small business owners don’t understand the value of their time so they prefer to do everything themselves. You have to assess all the tasks that need to be done and see whether you can outsource them or not. On her Podcast Episode #47, Amy Porterfield discusses this very topic and provides a great worksheet to help you accomplish just that.
Every single task is important, but if you understand the value of your time, many of them are just costing you more to handle yourself and should really be handled by someone else. It makes no sense to try and learn WordPress, for example, or master Google Analytics or learn how to use Photoshop, if you can outsource these skill sets and use the time you save for tasks that are core to the success of your business.
Like every investment, you have to understand and budget for a VA accordingly. Platforms such as Upwork (formerly oDesk and Elance) or Fiverr can be great for finding great talent at very reasonable prices. You can expect to spend anywhere from $3 an hour upwards, depending on the task or skill level you require.
These two platforms also have built-in payment features which handle paying your VA so you don’t have to worry about sending money outside the country. If you want to pay your contractors directly, you can use Payoneer.com or PayPal.com. Technology has indeed effectively shrunk the world; now, more than ever, you have access to a huge pool of great talent around the world at very affordable prices.
The bottom line on hiring a Virtual Assistant for your small business.
So, yes, you definitely should consider hiring a VA to handle repetitive tasks that are taking up your precious time. Time is money, and when wasted it cannot be gained back. So the better you manage what you have, the better it will be for your small business.
Having a Virtual Assistant is your first step towards hiring a full team of employees or contractors that can help you grow your business. Thanks to technology, you now have access to a big pool of talent that can accomplish the tasks you need to be done, quickly, efficiently, and cost-effectively.
Like hiring offline, though, you may have to go through a period where you’ll hire the wrong person, or get burned, financially, and productivity wise. However, once you get the hang of hiring VAs on various jobs listing sites, you will eventually find the right mix of personality, talent, and cost that suits your needs.
Once you have your perfect VA, not only will it benefit your business, it will also benefit your personal life, as you will have more time to enjoy the fruits of your labour and share it with the people you love.
Hiring my first Virtual Assistant was definitely one of the best business decisions I’ve ever made. From time to time, the relationship doesn’t work and I have to fire my VA, but in general, VAs make it possible for me to focus on what is truly important, my core business while living a balanced life.
Resources mentioned in this article