How to Hire a Virtual Assistant

Don't Get Overwhelmed. Here are 5 Steps to Hiring a VA.

Hire a VA
Overwhelmed in your home biz? Hire a VA. Jay P. Morgan | Getty Images

Traditional businesses have a team of people taking care of the multiple tasks required to manage and grow the business. The accountant or bookkeeper tracks and manages money. The marketing department creates advertisements, writes press releases, and manages social media. The tech geeks build and maintain the website and phone apps.

But most home business owners start by wearing all the business startup and management hats.

While doing everything a great way to learn all aspect of running a business, it can easily become overwhelming. Hiring or contracting with a virtual assistant is an affordable answer to getting the help you need.

Pros to Having a Virtual Assistant

  • Get tasks done faster. 
  • Delegate tasks you're not good at or knowledgeable about.
  • Delegate tasks you don't like to do.
  • Frees you up to focus on activities that make money.
  • Reduce stress from trying to be and do everything in your home business.
  • Help you earn more. If your time is worth $50 an hour, you shouldn’t be wasting it on activities that you can pay $10, $15 or $25 an hour to get completed by someone else.

Cons to Having a Virtual Assistant

  • Costs money. While a VA can help you earn more, initially you need to money to pay for help.
  • Let go of activities. Sometimes it's difficult to let go of tasks because you don't think they'll be done as well.
  • It takes time to get your VA trained to your needs. 
  • There is turnover in the VA business. I've had three VAs, one of whom I worked with twice. 

How to Hire or Contract for a Virtual Assistant

1) Start small. You don’t need to outsource everything right away. Start small by finding a task or two that you can delegate to someone else.

Some ideas include email management, research, outreach (i.e. finding blogs you can guest post on), writing, and website set up.

2) Write a description of the work you want done and how you want it done. Virtual assistants know their job and are great resources of ideas; however, as a home business owner, you also have preferences to how you want things done. The best way to work effectively and efficiently with a virtual assistant is to have clear directions on how you like things done. Create a manual, that outlines all the tasks related to the project you want your VA to do. Use screen shots or screenshot video for visual instruction if needed. The clearer your instructions are, the faster your VA will be up and running. If she asks questions, be sure add the information in your manual. That way, if/when she moves on, the next VA will have an easy time taking over. 

3) Determine out how much time you need your virtual assistant to work. Starting out, you may need only a few hours a month. As you add new activities, you might need several hours a week. It is possible to hire a virtual assistant by project or as needed, but they prefer to know in advance how much time to give you so they can schedule their other clients.

Knowing how much time you’ll need a VA to work also allows you to budget the cost of help. If you’ve been doing the activities yourself, you’ll have a guestimate of about how long things take. As you work with a virtual assistant, you’ll get a better idea of how much time tasks take and adjust the amount of time you need help.

4) Use your network to find a virtual assistant. Hiring a virtual assistant requires a leap of faith that you’ll find someone who can do the work and is honest about the time it takes to complete the tasks. The best way to find a competent, trustworthy virtual assistant is through referrals. If you belong to a mastermind group or other business networking group, ask members who they recommend. Another option is to hire through a freelance sites where you can check VA ratings and feedback from previous employers.

 

5) Set up a test-drive with your new virtual assistant. All the virtual assistants I’ve worked with have been nice and competent, but not all have been a good fit. Start out your relationship with a probationary period that is long enough to work out any kinks, but short enough that either of you can end the relationship if it’s not working. Many virtual assistants charge by the hour, month, and/or a retainer. Retainers offer the best per hour price, but they involve committing to set period of time, such as three or six months. To start, you might want to go with a per hour or one month rate. If that goes well, look at taking on a virtual assistant on a retainer basis.

Tim Ferriss’ The 4-Hour Work Week is a best-selling book that explains how to leverage your time to make money and still enjoy life. One of the secrets to a shorter work week is through successful outsourcing of business tasks. Getting started with a virtual assistant is as easy as delegating one task that frees you up to make money. As your business grows, you may want offer your VA more hours or take on multiple VAs to build your business bigger without investing more time.