For every glorious goal, there’s an assistant who makes it possible. And today, those assistants will get their due. Because, as Kathryn Amenta so clearly outlined in a previous Line//Shape//Space post, there are some challenges that entrepreneurs need help with in order to overcome them.
At the same time, small businesses and startups aren’t in the position to expand rapidly at first, and technology has become an indispensable resource for making life easier. In particular, virtual assistants have provided countless SMBs with services ranging from administrative work to managing your social media networks.
Whether you’re starting out or just need an extra hand for the time being, here are five helpful resources to help you hire a virtual assistant.
1. oDesk/Elance. “Why are two resources listed as one?” you ask. Well, the truth is these sites offer a layout and tools that are largely interchangeable. The main difference between them is the price tag and the consistency of quality that you find in reaching out to discover a stellar virtual assistant. With oDesk and Elance, you get name recognition due in large part because there are millions of users who have signed up either to be found or find someone for virtual assistance.
Elance offers free signup and registration for businesses looking to hire. You write the job description according to your specifications. The company also provides payment protection by way of escrow services and software that keeps track of the time your virtual assistant takes to complete his or her work.
oDesk, on the other hand, is backed by a Better Business Bureau guarantee and allows you to post jobs publicly or privately—or even a combination of the two to find the right virtual assistant. According to the entrepreneurial blog Launch A Startup, you can have a lot of success if you are patient in looking for a freelancer. With each of these sites, it’s up to you to select the virtual assistant that best fits your needs, hammer out an agreement, and provide feedback. As far as payment goes, oDesk asks for 10 percent—which is already taken out of the posting you see online—and Elance charges 8.75 percent.
2. Virtual Staff Finder. As a busy entrepreneur, you’re probably looking for an experience that’s as convenient and reliable as possible. That’s probably the founding principle of Virtual Staff Finder as well, because the steps to finding a virtual assistant are numerous (five, to be exact). Despite the low-level bureaucracy, this chain of events is designed to help mitigate any issues you’d otherwise face in being connected with the wrong person. The signup fee is substantial—$395—but it’s advertised as an investment in building your small business with the most qualified talent available.
Next, Virtual Staff Finder provides you with how-to videos developed by founder Chris Ducker to guide you through the outsourcing process. The following step encompasses the search, which the company does for you, including phone and face-to-face interviews with virtual-assistant candidates. The company narrows down the list to three individuals whom you’re given a go at to interview and make sure they’re the one you want. This process takes a fair bit of time—between one to two weeks—so it pays to plan ahead. However, one added benefit is you’re free to change your mind about your virtual assistant within 10 days.
3. Fiverr. One of the new players on the outsourcing scene, Fiverr was established in 2010 upon the premise that freelancers who sign up on the site will provide their services for a whopping $5—although it has increased to $500. Each job is called a “gig,” and you can “buy” a virtual assistant’s help using a credit card, PayPal, and even Bitcoin, according to Fiverr’s terms and conditions. It’s important to note that you cannot pay your assistant by any other means besides the Fiverr site, and the company recommends handling any disputes through it before you appeal to your bank or another financial institution. You also remain anonymous, so you won’t be bombarded by spam once you make contact with a freelancer. TrendHunter explained Fiverr rates users by level, which helps entrepreneurs decide among the millions of gigs posted on the site. The Next Web also indicated the company has a mobile app, which should make finding a virtual assistant that much easier.
4. International Virtual Assistants Association. There’s just something so reassuring about a .org domain name, especially one that offers services to help find you a qualified virtual assistant. Yes, the IVAA is a professional association dedicated to providing virtual assistants with access to education about the profession, as well as keeping the public at large informed of what this niche occupation does. As a membership organization, it asks that individuals involved in the organization abide by a code of ethics. Now, to find a virtual assistant for your specific purposes, the IVAA website has a Request for Proposal, which informally just means they want certain details that will help them post the job opportunity. As you’d imagine, this includes all necessary contact information, the kind of service you’re looking for, deadline information, location, and a thorough description of the position. Like the resources listed above, you’re responsible for any agreements with the virtual assistant, and the IVAA primarily facilities the partnership.
5. Ziptask. Along with Fiverr, Ziptask is one of the recent entrants on the scene, acting almost as a virtual consultant. TechCrunch spoke with founder Shawn Livermore about the digital resource, which combines hiring, communications, payment tracking, and goals analysis all in one. It’s described as a project-management tool that fixes outsourcing. The fee for the process is 10 percent, making it about as affordable as its cohorts Elance and oDesk. However, Ziptask provides you with a living, breathing project manager whom you speak with online to arrange your project. Afterward, you’re provided with cost estimates and benchmarks your virtual assistant will be expected to meet. Once an agreement is reached, Ziptask connects you with your freelancer and you’re free to collaborate.