Are you thinking about working with a virtual assistant (VA)? Many entrepreneurs swear by virtual assistants and will tell you how much they appreciate theirs and how much smoother their business is running with the help of their VA. You may find yourself saying, “I need to work with a virtual assistant.” One member of a Facebook group I am in, is taking it a step further with her question, “How do you go about recruiting the best VA that will meet your needs?” If you want to save time and get the VA that is a “fit” for you, follow this process.
You need to know what your needs are.
You might think this sounds funny. But many entrepreneurs start the process of finding assistance with only a vague idea of what they actually need. Spend some time to actually think through what you want a VA to handle for you.
Make a list of specific tasks you can, and will, delegate. Be detailed. For example, don’t just put down “administrative tasks.” Your list may look like this:
- Tame my inbox: Review email and answer messages that don’t need my direct attention. Move email that needs a reply from me to the ‘read now’ folder. Put all newsletter and solicitations in my ‘read later’ folder.
- Review appointments on my calendar and send reminders where needed.
- Send call recordings to all clients who had sessions the day before. Remind them of the next scheduled call.
- Set up a sales funnel for my next webinar. Verify all links are working correctly and the process will be smooth for incoming participants.
Tailor this list to your needs. If you know you need help but can’t seem to come up with a specific list, track everything you do in a 24 – 48 hour period. Review this list and highlight everything you don’t like doing or that aren’t in your expertise. The highlighted list is your ‘delegate’ list.
What is your budget for paying a Virtual Assistant?
This is an important consideration that many entrepreneurs miss. You might say, “I want the best one for my needs.” This is awesome if you don’t worry about an extra expense item. However, if your fiscally responsible, you need to consider how much of your budget can be tagged for this new position.
You will see ads for VA’s ranging widely. They can be anywhere from $5 an hour to $70 or more per hour. What you should plan to pay will depend on your needs. For an in-depth discussion of this, read this blog post.
What is your management style?
For the success of your partnership with a virtual assistant, you need to know if your management style is compatible with that of your virtual assistant’s.
Do you need someone who you can give “broad strokes” information to and they’ll know what’s needed to complete the project? If this is the case, you will need an experienced virtual assistant with a high-level skill set in your specific business.
Or do you need a virtual assistant to do detailed, specific tasks? This will be someone who works best if you gave them each step of the task you need them to complete.
Here is a comparison for a common request to send your weekly newsletter.
Broad strokes: My newsletter copy is ready to go. Please send it out on Friday at the regular time.
Specific tasks: My newsletter copy is attached. Please proof and set up in my newsletter template. Send me a copy for approval when it is ready. After you receive my okay, schedule it to broadcast this Friday at 8 am (est).
This example is oversimplified but you get the idea of the difference between the two management styles.
Are you ready to delegate?
“If you want to do a few small things right, do them yourself. If you want to do great things and make a big impact, learn to delegate.”
– John C. Maxwell, American author
Don’t answer this question too quickly! Some entrepreneurs think they are ready to delegate but they second guess every task they attempt to assign. This is actually counter-productive because you will take longer to delegate a task and use more of your valuable time than if you just did it yourself!
Write a job description
Now that you have a good idea of what you need. Write out a job description for “Your Ideal VA”. Take the time as if you were writing a job description for an employee. If you need some guidance on writing this, Recruit Loop has a simple, five-step process. Keep in mind you are writing this for an outsourced contractor, not an in-house employee.
So now you have done some self-evaluation and have a good idea of what you really need in “Your Ideal VA.” Now it’s time to put your homework to use.
Where do you look for a Virtual Assistant?
Since this is a virtual, outsourced position, you can’t exactly place an ad in your local newspaper. (Besides, does anyone actually read them anymore?) Obviously, you are going to find your VA on-line.
Start by asking colleagues and friends. Many of the people you are connected with on social media may work with a virtual assistant. Start by asking for recommendations there. Let your needs be known in a straightforward manner and remember that because VA #1 is perfect for your colleague doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll be a good match for you.
Do you belong to a mastermind group or forum? It’s possible that some of the members are virtual assistants. The Bonus here is you’re already familiar with their personalities.
Do a good old fashioned google search. When you find someone who looks interesting, actually explore their website. Does it appeal to you? Is it professional? Does their public face look like your initial impression of them? And, of course, do they have the skills you need? You should be able to answer all these questions by visiting their website.
Look for information on rates and don’t be put off if you see messages like “contact me for a quote.” All this tells you is that this contractor has found projects highly variable; in which case flat rates don’t work.
Make sure this VA fits your Ideal VA profile.
Pick your top 3 candidates and contact them.
Inquire if they are currently accepting new clients. If they have openings, send them your ‘job description’ that you completed earlier. Ask them if they meet these qualifications and where there is a gap if any. If you are having them do any correspondence tasks for you, this is a great way to evaluate their writing and grammar skills.
A few important criteria you should consider:
- What is her communication style, does it compliment yours?
- Does she have a backup plan in place if she can’t work for a period of time?
- Is this a solo VA or a multi-VA company? If multi-VA, will you have one point of contact? Having multiple people to communicate with can actually be quite frustrating, to say the least.
Now it’s time, finally, to interview your top choices.
With your details in hand and all the checkboxes marked, this call is basically a get to know you call. Look for things like –
Is she personable and did you quickly establish a comfortable conversation? This is especially important if your VA will have direct contact with your customers. It’s also important for your relationship with her. Most virtual assistants become an integral part of your business and you will work very closely with them.
Does she sound like she knows her ‘stuff?’ It’s unfortunate but some virtual assistants who look and sound great on their website, fall short when it’s actually time to work. Ask her some questions specific to the tasks you will be delegating. Pay attention to how knowledgeable she sounds in her replies.
What are her terms of service? Remember virtual assistants are entrepreneurs too and will have specific terms of service. This can include items such as length of the contract, payment policies, and cancellation policy.
What are her common business hours? This can vary widely with virtual assistants. Most of them work from home and may actually do work at unusual hours. Consider if her hours will conflict with the tasks she needs to complete. For example, if you need her to contact your clients on weekdays between 8 am and 12 pm, make sure she can accommodate this in her work schedule.
When you make your choice, all that’s left is to sign the paperwork. Ahhh! That feels good, doesn’t it? Your “Ideal VA” should send you a complete contract and invoice for your first payment. When the paperwork is complete, you are ready to go. If you want to impress your virtual assistant as an “ideal client,” send her the work you did at the beginning of this journey regarding your needs and management style. This will help her know how best to work with you.