Hiring a Virtual Assistant – The Complete Process

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In this article, we start explore the complete process of hiring virtual assistant (VA). We dig into 1) who is a virtual assistant? 2) benefits from hiring a virtual assistant; 3) the process of hiring a VA; 4) common mistakes while working with a VA; as well as 5) entrepreneurs’ advices on hiring a VA.

WHO IS A VIRTUAL ASSISTANT?

Virtual assistants are hired by business owners or companies for creative, technical, or administrative support on a work-from-home basis. A virtual assistant is an independent contractor and provides services to businesses and companies using their equipment and space.

Virtual assistants do not enjoy fringe benefits, insurance or employee-related taxes as they are not permanent employees. There are no fixed terms and conditions of hiring a virtual assistant as they are different from one situation to another and are decided in between the virtual assistants and their clients.

Fax machine, online conferences, phone calls, email, and the internet are common ways of data delivery and communication. Video calling services such as Skype, Google Hangouts, Oovoo, etc. are increasingly being used by virtual assistants to stay connected and collaborate with their clients in real-time.

BENEFITS FROM HIRING A VIRTUAL ASSISTANT

There are various business related benefits of hiring a virtual assistant, but here are some of the major ones.

Flexibility: A business can hire a virtual assistant on per month, contract, or project basis. This means that a business will not have restrictions of any sort, and it can flexibly hire a virtual assistant for extra help when the deadlines are approaching near. Working conditions and terms are planned by a business and hence this enables it to find suitable candidates who will not mind working on holidays or late hours according to the project requirement.

Cost Factor: With the greater flexibility of a virtual assistant, businesses can tremendously cut down operating costs such as office maintenance, rental fee, equipment, etc. Moreover, a virtual assistant can be hired on any terms depending on the feasibility of a business and, therefore, invariable expenses such as insurance and monthly salary are significantly reduced.

No Location Restrictions: You can travel any destination in the world while your virtual assistant will still be at work. Businesses do not need to ‘provide an office’ to virtual assistants that makes everything a lot easier.

Expertise: It does not matter what skill set or expertise a business is looking for, it will get exactly what it requires in a virtual assistant. A business can find suitable VAs from even the most refined fields to get assistance. This also saves a lot of time and money that businesses spend on testing and training their employees.

Work Focus: Managers can hire virtual assistants to delegate fewer important tasks so that they focus on core business related operations. This ensures an increase in work productivity as work is delegated according to the personal expertise of the employees.

Reputation: A virtual assistant can become the brand ambassador of a business and make a business appear more attractive to its partners and clients.

Business Growth: Hiring a virtual assistant is probably the best way in which a business can plan growth while taking calculated risks only. With lesser costs related to hiring a virtual assistant, a business can access the skill set it is looking for and use it to plan growth. Businesses can scale up and down very quickly with the help of a virtual assistant in a cost-effective manner.

Scheduling and Multi-Tasking: Most businesses struggle with scheduling that includes receiving reminders of important events or functions to be performed, planning the workflow in a timely manner and so on. A virtual assistant can help a business in all these issues while multi-tasking and managing other important aspects of the business as well. A virtual assistant can play roles in customer support, research, business analysis, social media marketing consultancy, etc.

Increased quality of life: With higher work delegation, a business owner or manager can increase the quality of life through spending more time with their family and take part in activities that truly make them happy.

THE PROCESS OF HIRING A VIRTUAL ASSISTANT

The process of hiring a virtual assistant is not easy and requires businesses to put a lot of effort to self-assess their needs, tasks that need to be delegated and then to find a perfect candidate for the job of a virtual assistant.

Here are some basic steps that every business should follow in the process of hiring a VA:

Step 1: Decide if you need a virtual assistant and have a clear idea about the tasks that you want to outsource.

This is the first step in the hiring process, which guides a business to breakdown its assistance requirements. A business should at least take out a day to list down minor tasks that are taking too much time and are disrupting the workflow. Tasks that cannot be conducted by a virtual assistant should not be mentioned in the list.

Step 2: Decide which skills you want in a virtual assistant.

Every business has a different requirement; some businesses hire virtual assistants to keep their social media profiles and blogs updated with new content for user engagement whereas some businesses need them to manage a particular project. Once a business has successfully conducted the first step; it will be able to make a list of all the skills that are required to conduct the tasks. This helps entrepreneurs to focus on the listed abilities and skills to find the most suitable candidate for the job.

This step is closely followed by the payment plans that a business will opt for. Again, this completely depends on the nature of work that is being delegated. However, a business should set a standard payment for the virtual assistant and decide how much it is willing to pay for the services. The typical earning of a virtual assistant in the United States is about $15 an hour, although it could be higher for specialized tasks or lower for clerical tasks.

Step 3: Analyze whether it is a feasible choice to hire a virtual assistant through an agency.

Majority of the businesses decide to hire a virtual assistant who is working for an agency, just because it is much simpler than recruiting an independent freelancer. However, such virtual assistants are typically costlier. Businesses should conduct a thorough evaluation of the pros and cons of hiring through an agency and then move towards the final decision.

Another option are common online platforms like Elance and oDesk that consist of virtual assistants that provide services on an individual basis as well as the ones who are working for agencies.

Experts believe that independent virtual assistance freelancers are more capable of personalized attention as compared to the ones that belong to an agency. Most agencies also rotate assistants for particular tasks or projects. In a business environment, it is important for the business owner to develop healthy relations with the virtual assistant that could only be possible if he/she is an independent freelancer.

Confidentiality of the business should also be considered. If the tasks deal with highly confidential information regarding the business, then a virtual assistant might not be a good idea. However, some businesses put up a very staunch confidentiality agreements with the VA or only recruit one from close family referrals to avoid any future problems.

Timing is also of the essence. Since the internet has made the entire world a global village, a lot of entrepreneurs have begun recruiting virtual assistants from different countries. While hiring an assistant that does not belong to the native country of the entrepreneur, he should make sure the importance of the assistant’s presence on his timings and then make a decision accordingly.

Step 4: Create a job listing.

A great and precise job listing is crucial to attracting the right kind of talent. The best way to know whether the applicant is able to understand the description is to incorporate strong call-to-actions. For instance, an entrepreneur can ask the applicant to email samples of his/her previous works.

Your job listing should also comprise of a precise job description that should tell the candidates about the skill set you are looking for, hours or days you want a virtual assistant to work and your channel of working i.e. via phone calls, Skype, Whatsapp, etc.

Following this step, businesses should also make the final decision about the platform they want the job listing to appear.

Step 5: Entrepreneurs should go through the list of applicants, shortlist candidates and then arrange the interview.

If you have chosen an online platform, it will help you by showing the scores of the applicants on various tests that the applicant has taken the English proficiency exam and more. This further helps an entrepreneur in the decision-making process.

Video calling for the interview is extremely important as it will help you to determine the personality of the applicants and whether they have technical equipment that is required to perform the job well. For instance, some businesses require high-speed internet connections, high-quality sound, and video calling equipment to manage clients.

Step 6: Tasks should be well communicated and delegated to the virtual assistant to free up your day from less important work and to make sure that the work progresses smoothly.

Good management is crucial in the higher productivity of the VA. If a VA is well-managed, he/she will quickly adapt to the style of the business environment of the entrepreneur and will be able to deliver great results.

Provide all the details to the VA including Google Drive documents explaining every inch of the daily tasks, required passwords and permissions and relevant rules.

Entrepreneurs can use a vast variety of online tools present to manage virtual assistants. For instance, a tool named as Process Street enables the assistant to repeat certain processes and leave their comments where required. Similarly, there are numerous online tools that can provide an entrepreneur with the screen shot of the assistant’s desktop to assess their productivity and to evaluate the number of hours they are working.

Entrepreneurs should also strengthen assistants and allow them to provide criticism or feedback so that the whole workflow can be improved. The feedback of the assistant is extremely important, but it will only be possible if the entire work environment is warm and welcoming.

Entrepreneurs should also decide whether they should trust their assistants with case-sensitive information such as passwords. If the business type includes passwords of various accounts or other sensitive information, then a non-disclosure agreement with the assistant becomes a compulsion.

A good follow up is also required to manage the assistant well. If it is possible, an entrepreneur should at least meet the assistant once in person and then make a habit of communicating with him/her through online video calling on a quarterly basis.

COMMON MISTAKES WHILE WORKING WITH A VIRTUAL ASSISTANT

A virtual assistant can be a great long-term or short-term asset of a business and can help it to achieve its goals in an effective and planned manner. However, in order to truly capitalize on a virtual assistant, a business has to ensure great management. Here are some common managerial mistakes that businesses commit while working with a virtual assistant.

Ineffective communication

A business should first create a list of all the tasks that a virtual assistant needs to perform and distribute that list to all the related employees of a business to clear out any confusion. If you are sure which tasks you want a VA to perform, you will be able to select the most appropriate candidate for your job. All the tasks should be clearly communicated so that a virtual assistant should know his/her responsibilities. Ineffective communication of tasks can lead to barriers to workflow, poor work quality, crossing of deadlines and financial loss.

Not reviewing work done by the assistant

Most business owners and managers commit the mistake of delegating the tasks to virtual assistants and then forget about reviewing what they have done. This is a wrong approach and can cause serious disruptions in work quality and flow. Managers should make sure that they review the work done by the virtual assistants to assess their quality and then providing feedback. This ensures that the loopholes in work quality can be fixed in a timely manner. Keeping a regular check on virtual assistants is important to know about things that they might be struggling with.

Not providing strict guidelines

In order to increase productivity markedly through a virtual assistant, a business has to make sure that it provides step-by-step guidelines to them. This will tell a virtual assistant the entire course of tasks with their respective deadline. A business owner or manager will have to put in a little extra effort into this but in the long run it will just save more time as the VA will not constantly be asking them questions regarding different tasks.

Making mistakes, repeating them and then taking measures to solve them just decreases the effectiveness of a virtual assistant and does not foster monetary gains for the business. Therefore, it is important for businesses to understand the importance of management and avoid the common mistakes to be able to gain positive results out of a virtual assistant.

ENTREPRENEURS’ ADVICE ON HIRING A VIRTUAL ASSISTANT

Virtual assistants are increasingly being hired by emerging entrepreneurs for the management of workflow. A lot of these entrepreneurs have advices for other people about different aspects of hiring a virtual assistant.

For instance, Pat Flynn, who is a successful online entrepreneur, provides his readers with a lot of insights, tips, and stories to start a successful business online. Pat believes in keeping his efforts passive in order to earn great amount of money online. For Flynn, time is very important for entrepreneurs, and he believes that they should only invest their precious time in tasks that drive the most returns and delegate the rest to a virtual assistant. In his four years of experience that took him to earning a five-figure salary each month, he has learnt that an entrepreneur can only do well in life if he/she knows the true value of their time.

The author of “I Will Teach You to Be Rich”, Ramit Sethi is an entrepreneur and guides people in managing their finances. He is no less than a guru. Sethi has tremendous experience in training assistants and suggests entrepreneurs to stop underutilizing their assistants. He believes in providing training to virtual assistants to help them do the best at the tasks they are given.

Gina Trapani has developed numerous apps and is the founder of the Lifehacker blog. She has also authored four books guiding people on how to use technology to make their lives easier. Trapani believes that scheduling is an important part of the running a business, and it is great for entrepreneurs to receive the daily schedules of events, meetings, and tasks every day to increase work productivity. All of this is only possible through hiring a virtual assistant.

The author of the revolutionary book “The Four Hour Work Week”, Tim Ferris believes that virtual assistants are great at managing emails as they are time-consuming and unproductive for an entrepreneur. He believes that entrepreneurs should not waste their time checking emails and must delegate this task to a virtual assistant.

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2 comments

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1

An insightful article you got. I've been a VA for almost 3 years now. The biggest challenge I've ever faced is communication due to time indifference. Mostly my clients are USA based where my day time, its night at the other end thus communication challenge.

2
Sarah - Worldwide101 (@SWorldwide101)

Great article; I really appreciate all the detail! I completely agree, it’s extremely important to decide whether you want to use a freelance VA or an agency. There are benefits to both, and it’s a matter of choice, and comfort level - but an important component when deciding to hire a virtual professional. By using an agency, while generally more expensive like you said, you skip the legwork of screening the candidates, and the hassle of not knowing whether the “untried” person will work out! Most of the clients we work with look for that “peace of mind” which is obviously backed by agencies who offer a 100% satisfaction guarantee, and we promote a thorough vetting and screening process. In my experience, you get what you pay for! Or course, it’s all about finding the right VA for your requirements and really preparing the make the partnership successful whether you use a freelancer or an agency.