My tough love approach (heavy on the love) focuses on bringing order to chaos, and creating solid (and straightforward) strategic plans. I take surveys for fun, never met a process I didn’t like, and am a big believer in personal growth as a keystone to business growth.
It’s not enough to just hire a Virtual Assistant (VA): you’ve got to be able to find the right one that matches your needs perfectly. This is as much about taking a hard look at the transformation you want to see take place in your business as it is finding someone with special talents in a specific niche.
Done right, finding a VA is a process that starts with taking a hard look at why you’re hiring one in the first place. Take a look at your business, understand what you’re trying to accomplish, make some decisions about how things need to be rearranged before a VA arrives, and only then going out and finding the Virtual Assistant you need.
Here are the 5 main areas that are worth considering:
What is it you need to delegate?
What will be the Return On Investment (ROI) to hiring a VA?
Starting the search for a VA
Making your selection
Establishing the relationship the right way
Let’s take a bit of a closer look at these steps and how you can maximize each for best results.
Taking a good look at your daily tasks is the best place to begin. It’s worth taking a few minutes to write down the individual tasks you find yourself performing, as you might realize that while your initial impulse was to hire a virtual assistant for one thing, it’s really a different area that’s impacting your productivity. These tasks can be part of your everyday business or specific to a project you’re working on.
Start by making a list that includes four things:
What you don’t like doing
What you’re not very good at
What takes up too much of your time
What can reasonably be completed by someone else even if it would take a little bit of training at first
From this list the possibilities will start to come into focus right away. The big question you have to ask yourself is this: in this list, what are the items you really shouldn’t be doing?
The answer comes in clearing away tasks that take you away from your passions and unique gifts. For instance: a Yoga Instructor has a passion for Yoga and guiding people through the exercises. When they ask themselves “What shouldn’t I be doing,” the answer comes in areas like bookkeeping, managing social media, being a content developer, secretary, and human resources professional.
You need to focus on your passion and moving your business forward. You’re like the captain of a ship. You set the course and steer while someone else sets the sails and scrubs the decks.
Once you have a list of what you need to delegate, create a job description with those items and move on to the next step.
One of the biggest barriers people face when hiring a VA is the expense. They ask: “Can I afford to hire a virtual assistant?” After taking a look at the hard numbers, however, many people discover that it’s far more expensive not to.
This isn’t so much about investing in a virtual assistant as investing in yourself. Entrepreneurs from a wide range of fields have found that hiring a virtual assistant saved them huge amounts of time, which could then be reinvested into building their businesses and enacting growth strategies that would have been impossible if they had to handle everything themselves. Anyone with a goal for growth in the next year will quickly see the integral part a virtual assistant would play to that success.
Once you’re clear on what you need your VA to do and what role they’ll play in your business, it’s time to find the right one. Putting a call out over social media and among your peers is often all it really takes to find a few candidates, but if you don’t get responses right away there are ways to track down qualified candidates.
If you know someone who has a VA they like, ask them how they found their VA. They might tell you about a network they’ve used that was very useful, or just as important, they might warn you away from services that promise great results but don’t deliver.
Putting out a Request for Proposals (RFPs) is often a good idea. Describe exactly what you want, how often you’ll want it, and how you’ll want it delivered, all derived from steps 1 and 2 above. Sometimes a sense of what you’re willing to pay is included, but more often than not it’s up to the applicants to let you know what they will charge.
Submitting Request for Proposals can be done through associations or brokerages, or posted to various job boards.
If you’re looking for a specific skill set, it’s worth going to an association like The Canadian Association of Virtual Assistants (CAVA), the International Virtual Assistants Association (IVAA), the Global Alliance of Virtual Assistants (GAVA), or another association. These associations can assure you of a certain level of expertise as well as help you find someone with proven skills in the area you’re interested in.
For more general purpose VA work, brokerages like Equity or Virtual Staff Finder can be a big help. The experience of working with these brokerages is similar to working with temp agencies in that while you can generally find competent labor that can get the job done, finding someone who excels in a specific niche might be a bit more difficult.
If you’ve put out a Request for Proposals and received a few responses, it’s time to review them. While it’s important to focus mostly on people who specialize in the tasks you need covered, when in doubt it’s better to hire for attitude rather than aptitude. Your ability to communicate clearly with your VA will often be the single biggest factor in a successful working relationship.
To this end, have a video conference interview with them over Skype or Zoom. While you’re talking, you’ll likely have several questions specific to what you’re doing. Additionally it’s important that you ask some key questions about what it will be like to work with them, such as:
How long have you been a virtual assistant? Or, how long have you worked in the niche I need you for?
What happens if you’re sick or on vacation? Do you have a backup person?
How are hours assigned and tracked? When do I get a report?
What’s the best way to work with you productively?
What kind of response time should I expect if something comes up?
Once you’ve found someone that seems perfect, it’s time to start working together. Most virtual assistants will have work contracts already designed, so all you’ll need to do is quickly review it before you start your working relationship.
The trial period should be made clear right away so that you can both decide if you’re ready to move forward together long-term. In these first few weeks you’ll be focusing on getting to know your VA, and making sure they can get to know you and how you like to work.
This is a good time to watch for compatibility. They’ll need to deliver work to you in a way that’s productive for your business and arrives when you need it. More importantly, the work they do should be formatted in a way that doesn’t create more work for you later.
Part of a good working relationship with anyone is regular feedback sessions. This means going over what you loved about what they did, and what you wish would be different going forward. It’s important to include both the positive and the negative in these sessions, not only because emotionally that’s quite a bit easier to deal with, but also because you want to make sure that the things you like keep happening in the future.
If you’re in a trial period with a VA and it’s been a bit of a rocky start, schedule a feedback session right away. Sometimes it’s a simple misunderstanding that neither one of you is aware of, and getting it cleared up can transform a rough working relationship into an extremely productive one that lasts for years.
These are to be done verbally, not in writing, since the ability to ask questions and go back and forth on various issues will be critical to getting the most out of the feedback.
Also, make sure to get feedback from them as well. It’s important to find out if you’re giving them everything they need to help you in the most effective way possible. Also, this is a unique opportunity to get feedback on your practices from someone who is working with them closely and may have other clients who have similar businesses. A virtual assistant isn’t just another helping hand – they’re a potentially valuable source of feedback as a kind of consultant.
So remember the key elements: clearly define what you need to delegate, define the ROI, do your search, hire the VA, run your trial period, and make sure to both give and receive frequent feedback!
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