Every business has mundane tasks that take up time. From social media management and data entry to making travel arrangements, many things steal the valuable time you could otherwise invest into more profitable work like improving your products or services.
Luckily, you can hire a virtual assistant to handle all of that.
What is a Virtual Assistant?
A virtual assistant is a professional who remotely helps business owners with administrative and non-core repetitive tasks. Virtual assistants typically perform routine work like arranging meetings, making phone calls, or scheduling travel.
These remote contractors usually help you shoulder the burden of some odd jobs so you can save time for more high-value tasks.
While some virtual assistants may focus on specific tasks, others can be more versatile.
What Does a Virtual Assistant Do?
You may be wondering how a VA adds up to what you can get from a personal assistant. You won’t be seeing them in the office or interacting physically, so how much help can they be? Why should you hire a virtual assistant?
Not to worry; here are some of the most common administrative tasks someone who remotely serves as a PA can handle:
Customer service. Do you often have to make phone calls and appointments and deal with customer queries daily? Do you need someone to take care of those tasks so you can focus on more high-value ones? Then you probably should hire a virtual assistant. By helping you deal with your customers over the phone, a VA enables you to free up time for more important things.
Data entry. Data entry is one repetitive task that continually bores small business entrepreneurs daily. You can outsource your data entry to a VA and never worry about putting figures into the computer every day.
Online research. While you may not yet know it, online research takes a lot of time. You’re busy searching for the best scanner to buy, a suitable software solution for your small business needs, and more. A VA can handle all of your research needs and allow you to focus more on more critical management-level decisions.
Social media management. How often do you create content and publish it on social media? Apart from that, you also need to respond to comments and queries on time. A VA specialized in social media can be just what you need to gain more perspective for your business.
Bookkeeping. Taking accounting records is at the core of your business. You need to track expenses, revenue, inventory, etc. While this is important, it’s not a profitable task for you as an entrepreneur. It also takes time and is highly repetitive, making a VA the best guy for the job.
Other virtual assistant jobs include:
- Social network management
- Content writing and management
- Email management
- Scheduling and travel arrangements
- Calendar management
However, before looking for where to find or how to hire a virtual assistant, ask yourself, do you really need one?
Reasons to Consider Hiring a Virtual Assistant
If you find yourself in any of these situations, it would be in your best interest to hire a virtual assistant as soon as possible.
- You’re working long hours on low-value administrative work daily, causing you to postpone other more profitable activities.
- You’re losing clients because you can’t respond to calls and emails on time.
- You find yourself exhausted, frustrated, and annoyed because you’re doing work you don’t like.
- You want to scale but don’t have enough hands to support the increasing tasks.
- Your business requires specific skills you don’t possess, such as copywriting, bookkeeping, or data entry.
- You can’t focus or engage in critical thinking.
How to Find a Virtual Assistant
Thousands of people are looking for virtual assistant jobs online and on freelance platforms. However, you want to ensure you hire only the right one.
You must design a hiring process that attracts a VA best suited for your needs. The first step is to clarify what you want precisely and note it down.
#1) Clarify your needs
Here’s how to go about that:
- State the required skills. Do you need a tech-savvy VA with customer service or data entry expertise? Or are you hiring a generalist who can handle a wide array of administrative work? While the latter may be best for a business owner on a budget, the former would work for someone with highly critical administrative tasks.
- State the working relationship. Ask yourself if what you need is a virtual team member on a full-time basis or one you hire whenever you have some admin work to outsource.
- Decide what payment plan works for you. Some virtual assistants charge per hour, while others get paid per project or monthly. Find out what you’re most comfortable with before negotiating and hiring a VA.
#2) Create Your Job Description
Hiring a virtual assistant involves communicating your business needs so that candidates are on the same page with you. Then, having written out those needs, write out a well-structured job description based on them.
Here’s how to create a well-structured job opening for a VA:
- State the type of task. Ensure you’re explicit enough. If you need multiple tasks covered, list them out.
- State what you need from your ideal candidate. What skills do you need from the VA for them to be most productive on that particular job? Aside from specific skills like accounting and scheduling social media posts, it would help if your VA is good at collaboration tools, such as Slack. Also, do well to mention required soft skills like good written English and the ability to work independently.
- Give details about your company. Since candidates worldwide can see the virtual assistant jobs you post, many of them haven’t heard about your company. So it’s crucial to include relevant company information like what you do, your values, and your mission statement so that candidates will know if your company is one they can work with.
- Write out your work process. Explaining your strategy will let candidates determine if they can be comfortable working with you. Let your expectations for work schedule, timelines, etc., before hiring a virtual assistant.
#3) Post your Virtual Assistant Jobs Online
Having established who your ideal virtual assistant is, it’s up to you to post this description where candidates can see it. The following section discusses the best platforms to post your virtual assistant jobs.
What is the Best Place to Hire a Virtual Assistant?
One way to find a VA is to ask for referrals. Virtual assistants who come with recommendations will likely have what it takes to make you one of their happy clients. So get on platforms like LinkedIn or Facebook groups for business owners. Numerous candidates are looking to find virtual assistant jobs on such platforms.
Aside from LinkedIn and Facebook, some platforms on which you can post virtual assistant jobs include:
- Skip the drive
- Working Nomads
Ensure you include the profile of your ideal VA and your company details. That will help narrow the search results to only suitable candidates.
However, since referrals such as job boards usually take time, a virtual assistant service can be a faster alternative.
So, what are Virtual Assistant Services?
Virtual assistant services are online platforms or companies where virtual assistants link up with potential employers. On some of these platforms, the virtual assistants are staff of the companies; on others, they’re registered as freelancers.
Depending on how the service operates, you may search for a suitable candidate yourself, or the agency will find one according to your requirements.
Here are some of the best virtual assistant companies to try:
#1) Time etc
Time etc is a virtual assistant company that offers US-based virtual assistants to business owners. The staffing company is known to hire virtual assistants based on high standards to ensure clients get nothing but the best. You’d be given a dedicated VA that can work with you long-term to understand your company profoundly, making them more productive towards your business goals. Pricing starts at $290/month for 10 hours.
As the name suggests, OkayRelax aims to help you relax while mundane administrative tasks get ticked off on your behalf. More than just a service for business owners, the company offers virtual assistants to assist nursing mothers, bloggers, busy freelancers, and anyone needing a breather. This virtual assistant service provides three packages priced at $29.95/month, $99.95/month, and $399.95/month.
Upwork is a global freelancing platform where you can find a wide range of freelancers, including virtual assistants. You can locate individuals looking to find virtual assistant jobs by posting your request.
Upwork gives you total control over the hiring process by allowing you to post virtual assistant jobs, wait for candidates to respond, and choose by the virtual assistant’s skill set, price, etc.
There’s no fixed price since every freelancer is independent, and you deal directly with them rather than the Upwork company.
12 Secrets to Hire Virtual Assistants the Right Way
A good VA will save you hours on non-essential tasks and free up time to focus on making more money. However, you might only be going in circles when not done correctly.
Not to worry; here are things to consider when hiring a virtual assistant so you can get the best out of the collaboration.
#1) Be clear on what administrative tasks the VA will handle.
Clarity is an important factor when hiring a VA. Not being clear about what specific tasks you want your VA to handle can cause many problems as you’re not on the same page. Instead, know exactly what you need, communicate it to your assistant, and they’re more likely to execute their job with that in mind.
#2) Ascertain your VA’s problem-solving skills
Aside from the regular qualifications like bookkeeping or email marketing, how does your assistant handle specific situations they may face?
The STAR method (Situation, Task, Action, and Result) is an excellent way to determine how your VA will respond to tricky situations. This will also help you find out if the person can work independently without calling on your judgment all the time. It would help if you did this as a part of the interview when hiring your VA.
#3) Look for someone who owns up to their mistakes.
The right VA is never afraid to own up to mistakes. Rather than find flimsy excuses, they try to learn from their mistakes and prevent such incidents from reoccurring in the future. This quality makes them easier to work with.
#4) Keep communication lines open.
A VA is unlike a personal assistant or full-time employee that can walk into your office when there’s an issue. Instead, virtual assistants do remote work and communicate via digital channels.
Therefore, it’s best to choose a communication platform and style that works for both of you. Communication is key to meeting expectations, so staying in touch with your assistant is an excellent idea while carrying on with their tasks.
Whether you’re more comfortable with Zoom live videos or Slack text messaging, ensure you keep the communication lines open so that both parties are always on the same page.
#5) Find someone who makes suggestions.
No one is an island of knowledge. You may be a small business owner just getting your feet on the ground.
A good virtual assistant who has worked with other entrepreneurs would have the experience and confidence to make suggestions to help you in areas you lack expertise.
If you’re going the wrong way and your VA cannot offer suggestions on how best to go, that’s a red flag.
#6) A virtual assistant who asks questions is an added advantage.
A person who asks questions never misses their way. When a potential VA asks you questions about their role, your expectations, and your company, it shows their level of interest and how detail-oriented they are
Additionally, answers to such questions will clarify and prepare them for their responsibilities.
#7) Do a trial
It’s alright to be uncertain about how your relationship with your VA will turn out, and that’s why there are trials.
Before you hire a virtual assistant, you can put about three candidates on trial for a week. Then, within this time, you’ll determine who you would like to continue with.
Notably, after hiring your virtual assistant, it’s wise to gradually ease them into your daily administrative tasks, as adjusting may take some time. Handling too many new tasks at once can be overwhelming, and it becomes difficult to evaluate how good the VA is.
Instead, delegate small tasks to your current VA to build trust before offloading the high-value ones. This will prevent critical things from going wrong if the VA isn’t a good fit.
#8) Verify their skills
While many virtual assistants will claim to be the best for their potential employers, verifying those claims is advisable by going through their testimonials. For example, what have other clients said about their service? Ratings and reviews will, at a glance, tell you if a professional is worth his salt.
#9) Find a VA who understands your business and goals.
A VA who understands your goals is invaluable to your small business. They become more involved and can contribute toward your short and long-term goals.
#10) Find someone with a passion for learning.
It may not always be easy to find and hire a highly skilled VA with years of experience in your industry. In short, you may not always need one. In such cases, finding a less experienced assistant willing to learn while on the job becomes pivotal to your success.
With time, such an assistant will grasp a deeper understanding of your business processes, become an indispensable asset, and effectively contribute to your success.
Additionally, it costs far less to hire a less experienced assistant than a seasoned one. This can be beneficial to any small business.
#11) Seek someone who takes constructive criticism
Sometimes, your assistant may underperform on some administrative work, and you have to tell them where they went wrong and how they can improve or avoid such errors next time.
You want someone who can accept such talks without feeling hurt or overly defensive. That is a red flag if you’re afraid of speaking your views because they might hurt your virtual assistant’s feelings.
#12) Go for a virtual assistant who understands your audience.
If your VA handles your social media posts and digital marketing, they’re your voice online. So you want them to portray your business in a good light and understand who they are speaking to.
For example, if your target audience is a working mom, you would do better when you hire a virtual assistant who knows the daily lifestyle of such people.
Managing your virtual assistant
Many virtual assistants work independently in their own offices, so it’s hard to control their time. Some work VA jobs on weekends or work during traditional hours. A great VA should meet deadlines and keep up-to-date in all cases. Unless there is agreement on the job description and hours, this should not cause many problems. You can even use Time Tracking apps to track your hours for a more accurate time-management system.
FAQs: Things to know before you hire a virtual assistant
How do I find a good virtual assistant?
You can find VAs on a staffing agency, freelance platforms, and post virtual assistance jobs. It’s great to keep expectations high but ensure you find out the characteristics you want and request more information from each candidate. Keep clear communication, and choose suitable communication channels or approaches.
How much should I pay my virtual assistant?
Like with most other services, the rates of virtual assistants vary. While some freelance VAs base their fee on the type of job, most VA companies charge flat hourly rates monthly.
For instance, you can expect to pay about $15-25 per hour for small tasks like email management, answering phone calls, and scheduling appointments.
On the other hand, high-level tasks like project management, marketing, and content development may attract around $50 per hour.
The sweet spot generally ranges between $15 and $30 an hour in executive assistant services and between $30 and $75 an hour in a more specialized field.
Looking through virtual assistant companies and freelance platforms will also give you an idea of the average hourly rate you can expect to pay.
Pro tip: paying hourly rates is not always the best choice since you need to track time. It’s often better to settle on a project basis if you can help it. This ensures you pay the same rate for the same output level, whether or not the VA had wasted time on the job.
What makes a good VA?
You’ll often give your virtual assistant tasks to run with and trust that they’ll have them completed on time. If your virtual assistant struggles with initiative and deadlines, they’ll likely be a problem for you. Hence, independence, time management, and organizational skills are core qualities of a good VA.
Other must-have skills of a VA include:
- Excellent communication skills, especially in writing, because most of their interactions with clients will be in written form.
- Must be able to act independently. An assistant who can’t figure things out independently but relies entirely on you for guidance might give you just as much headache as when you have to handle the same administrative tasks yourself.
- They must be process and detail-oriented.
- An excellent virtual assistant must use collaboration systems and learn to create them over time.
Why hire a virtual assistant instead of a PA?
Virtual assistants are more or less the remote version of personal assistants. However, there are times when you’d be better off with a person who can collaborate with you physically in an office space.
Consider the following when choosing which one to hire.
- Type of task: Personal assistants are more suited for businesses requiring physical actions like taking shipments or running errands. But if you do remote work and all you need could be sorted digitally, such as travel arrangements and email marketing, a VA makes more sense.
- Cost: virtual assistants make more sense for small business owners with an eye on cost savings.
- Your preferred mode of communication: if you like interacting via texts and calls, a VA’s got you covered. You’re better off with a personal assistant if you require face-to-face interaction.
What won’t a virtual assistant do?
Virtual assistants are only limited by physical distance. So the only things virtual assistants can’t do are tasks that require them to be in physical proximity to you. Whatever can be sorted digitally or through phone calls, rest assured you can hire a virtual assistant to get it done.
How do you ensure your virtual assistant knows what to do?
It all comes down to the hiring process. If you want a virtual assistant that always knows what to do even without being told, you’re better off hiring one with considerable experience on the job and in your industry. Also, ensure you include an onboarding document that explicitly explains the job. And during the early stages of your collaboration, offer feedback as often as possible so that your VA will know what they’re doing right or wrong.
Hiring a VA is a huge commitment, but it can benefit you tremendously mentally and financially. You’d be able to make more time to focus on your high-value business areas.
However, getting the most out of your VA involves taking crucial steps during the hiring process to ensure they are the right fit. If you can follow the steps discussed above, rest assured that you’re already setting yourself up for success.
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