If you are reading this you most likely have reached that pivotal point in your business where you recognize the need for outsourcing and are now considering hiring a Virtual Assistant (VA) to help relieve your workload and stress levels. Understandably, you may be nervous and apprehensive about handing over elements of your cherished business and confidential details to a total stranger. So, if you have never worked with a VA before, here is what you can expect. Before you jump headfirst into the hiring process, it is important that you are in a good position to take on a VA. After all, you don’t want to be wasting any of your precious time if you are not completely prepared. Make sure to consider these factors:
- Ensure you are really prepared to outsource and have a clear understanding of the sort of tasks you want to hand off.
- Think about what your desired outcome will be by hiring additional help in your business. What are your short-term and long-term goals and how can a Virtual Assistant help you achieve these goals?
- How do you intend to spend the time freed up from outsourcing those time-consuming tasks?
- Depending on the project, you should be prepared to allocate some time for training or guidance on a specific system or program that your VA may not be familiar with or otherwise have access to.
- Make sure a VA fits within your budget. As a guide, general administrative VA rates typically start from around $25 per hour for those based in the US. VA’s offering specialized services such as social media management or website development normally come at a higher cost.
- Keep in mind that many VA’s offer general administrative services to a particular niche or offer a specialized service. Just like any other business owner, their skill set will not cover absolutely everything.
- Most VA’s don’t work the typical 9-5, they work on their own schedule, and sometimes at odd hours.
- It is important to remember VA’s offer a business partnership and are not full-time employees. Please be aware they service multiple clients and have to prioritize their workloads as such.
After you have shortlisted a few VA’s that spike your interest and seem like they would be a good match, it’s time to jump on a video or phone call to learn more about them and the type of services they offer.
The initial communication is normally in the form of a discovery call, which will provide an opportunity for both parties to learn more about each other and potentially establish a basis for a working relationship. Video calls are a great way to get a real insight into the personality and demeanor of who you are talking to. The VA will seek to obtain an overall picture of your business: a little about your background, how you run your operation, who your ideal clients are, and how you got started. It would also be helpful to know your working style, working hours, and your working philosophies. The main purpose of the call is to establish your pain points and discover the types of tasks you are looking to outsource. Discuss the problems you are experiencing and how you envisage these will be solved by working with a VA. Similarly, you will probably want to know the background of the VA and how they got started. Consider what qualities you are looking for in a VA and what are the top skills they ideally need to successfully assist you? Your expectations should be discussed and how you intend to measure the success of the collaboration. Methods of communication and any tools or programs you currently use should be highlighted. Be clear on how many hours you most likely will require, or if you have a budget you are working towards. The VA should listen carefully to all of your questions, and be prepared to offer suggestions on how they could help your business. They should suggest a package of their services that best fits your needs, and then determine how soon you are looking to start. Most commonly, VA’s offer retainers for blocks of hours, packages of services or hourly rates. The VA should also advise you of their working schedule, on-boarding process and the details they would need from you to begin work. By the end of the call, you should be well informed enough to make a decision and select a VA that will be most suitable for your business.
The Next Steps
Once the basis of the work is established, and both parties are in agreement on all aspects of the partnership, the next stage is to complete and sign a client agreement and pay a deposit or retainer amount, depending on your chosen package. The agreement should cover the following terms: payment, outline of the services provided and delivery of services, expenses, indemnification/release of liability, confidentiality, and any additional points. As part of the on-boarding process you may be asked to complete a questionnaire (if not already done so prior to the discovery call), which will outline all the pertinent information for the VA to best be able to serve you. It is the VA’s responsibility to be transparent about their working methods and philosophies. This should be discussed in the discovery call, and also followed up with documentation either included in a contract or a ‘How I Work’ document. This typically outlines their working hours and covers topics such as confidentiality, rush jobs and holiday cover, etc. Any other outstanding questions or concerns should be discussed at this stage.
Decide upon the primary method of communication that works best for you and the VA. Would email, phone calls, texts or another method be most preferable? Will the VA be communicating direct with your clients? If so you might want to set up a dedicated email address for them. Will the VA need access to any of your systems/platforms? If necessary, passwords can be shared easily and securely through a program such as Lastpass. There are also many helpful project management apps that can be utilized to submit tasks, have conversations and share files. Agree on one that is mutually beneficial. The VA should agree to touch base with the regularity that you have expressed.
Tasking your Virtual Assistant
Ensure that communication is clear and concise, and provide as much detail as possible, so the VA clearly understands the objective and what steps are needed to complete the task successfully. Consider your end goals: is there a deadline, an expected delivery date, how do you want the information presented, and is there anything specific the VA should know? The VA should clarify and ask questions to ensure complete understanding of the task in hand, in addition to keeping the client aware of any issues with deadlines. Try not to micromanage, but allow the VA to proceed with the assigned tasks. Any time sensitive work should be communicated as such and the goals clearly defined. Realistic expectations of the project should be discussed between the parties.
It is important to provide feedback to your VA whenever possible: Is there something you loved or weren’t thrilled about? Could they have done anything differently? Did it take longer than expected? Did they complete to your satisfaction and/or how could things be improved? The VA also can provide you with feedback – for instance if they really enjoyed a particular project, or if they found it a challenge. Time tracking should also be clearly communicated so there is transparency with how long it took to complete a project. It is common for the VA to provide the client with a weekly time sheet which will display this information.
A Working Progress
As with any collaboration, it may not always be plain sailing, as there may be a few hiccups along the way, miscommunications can happen and despite best efforts, sometimes human error occurs. Initially you can begin with some simple tasks and slowly build up with more involved, timely projects once your confidence grows with your VA. Over time, as you get to know your VA’s capabilities and feel more comfortable with assigning work, you will ultimately get into more of a flow and rhythm of what works and what doesn’t. I would suggest holding regular reviews to discuss any changes, improvements, and general feedback. I hope that by reading this it has provided a valuable insight into the steps involved in working with a Virtual Assistant. Bringing on some assistance in the form of a VA is an investment that requires time and energy to form a solid support system. In the long run, it can help revitalize your business, free up time to focus on other areas of your work, and help you attain your business goals.
Are you ready to start working with your own Virtual Assistant? Contact me today!
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