If you’re wasting hours of your time on tasks that aren’t in your field of expertise, aren’t enjoyable, and don’t add much value to your core business offering, it might be time to hire a virtual assistant.
Tasks that are crucial for the functioning of your business, but aren’t a part of your core activities, such as billing, planning your schedule, and handling customer emails, can be overwhelming, especially if you’re also trying to grow your business and have more time with your family.
A virtual assistant can help you concentrate on what matters most: the tasks and activities you’re specialized in, that you enjoy doing, and that directly impact your revenue. They can take the administrative, mundane, repetitive tasks off your shoulders, which will free up time and help you focus on growing your business.
- What is a virtual assistant?
- How do you hire a virtual assistant?
- Define the scope of work
- Define a budget
- Write a VA job description
- Post your job
- Screen applications
- Test their skills
- Hire them and start delegating work
- What skills should you look for when hiring a virtual assistant?
- Increase your productivity with a virtual assistant
What is a virtual assistant?
A virtual assistant (VA) is a worker you can hire to help you with all kinds of tasks—as long as they’re transferable. Individuals, small businesses, and bigger companies alike might decide to hire a VA if they notice they’re wasting lots of time on repetitive tasks.
What do virtual assistants do?
It depends on their profile and specialization, and your needs. First, let’s look at the most common types of tasks that VAs can help with:
- Administrative tasks. Often, virtual assistants help with general admin tasks, help you sort your invoices, do some bookkeeping tasks, or help you organize your schedule.
- Customer support and sales. VAs can help with customer support, sorting emails, answering your customers, or even doubling as a sales representative (in which case you might actually want to consider hiring a sales rep).
- Social media. Some VAs specialize in social media management and can help boost your (or your company’s) social media presence by posting content on your behalf and interacting with your followers. This might include writing posts, creating designs in Canva, researching popular trends, keeping an eye on competitors’ accounts, and more.
- Project management and organization. Some VAs specialize in project management and help you and your team plan your work and stay on track.
- Personal assistance. Personal assistants might help you research, plan and book your next vacation, send a gift to your sister for her birthday, or book appointments for you.
In short, a virtual assistant can help you with plenty of different things—and it’s up to you whether you want a generalist or someone who specializes in one thing (and does it really well).
How do you hire a virtual assistant?
In this part, we’ll outline the steps and explain what you need to do to hire the right VA for you.
Define the scope of work
Do you want a generalist or someone who is highly specialized?
If you have a narrow set of tasks you’d like to delegate, say, financial planning, working with a highly specialized VA can help you achieve better results. Additionally, they could give you tips and ideas on optimizing your processes based on their experi. Still, you won’t be able to give them all the miscellaneous admin tasks you might have later on, and they might also be more expensive.
If you have lots of diverse tasks you want to outsource, you might need a generalist who would help you get organized, keep up with different deadlines, and stay on track.
In both cases, you need to be strategic about defining the scope of work. List the tasks you need help with and prioritize them. Identify the things that are taking you the most time to complete and that you can document easily, as well as mundane, repetitive tasks.
Define a budget
Before you post your job offer, you need to define your budget and consider different billing structures and decide what would work best for you. For example, if you need help with specific, repetitive tasks with fixed deliverables, you can hire someone that bills per project.
If, on the other hand, there are lots of different things you’d like to delegate, and there isn’t a common structure or fixed monthly or weekly deliverables, hourly billing might be the way to go.
You can set a monthly budget and take it from there. Consider also working with a monthly retainer where you define the deliverables or the number of hours. This allows both of you to have better visibility and define your expectations.
So, how much does a virtual assistant cost?
It depends. It’s not uncommon for highly specialized VAs to charge between $50 and $80, sometimes more, especially if you’re looking to delegate marketing or high-level operational tasks to them. On the low range, you could find VAs who charge $3-$10/hour. All things considered, a good generalist VA with a solid skillset and a few years of experience will probably cost you between $15-$40/hour, depending on your requirements, the location (yours and theirs), and the tasks you’re looking to outsource.
Write a VA job description
Based on the scope of work you’ve defined, write a detailed job description.
So, how do you write a good VA job description? Overall, the same rules as for standard job descriptions apply:
- Write a clear title
- Give a high-level summary of the role
- Describe the scope of work and list the specific tasks by order of importance
- State your requirements and budget or budget range
- Briefly explain the selection process
Of course, if you’re only looking to outsource one key task, you don’t need to write a lengthy job description.
It might also be important to include information about time zones. For example, if you need someone who will be available during your working hours (at least partially), specify that in the job ad and include your time zone. However, if you need to delegate basic tasks, such as data entry or sorting invoices, or have a VA to prepare and schedule all your social media posts for the next month, for example, this might not be necessary.
Include information on whether you plan to provide additional training or whether you expect them to work independently right off the bat.
Post your job
You can sign up at an online freelancing platform such as Upwork, Fiverr, or People Per Hour and post your ad there. There is an abundance of online freelancing platforms you can choose from, and you’ll probably receive many applications.
You might also decide to post your ad on LinkedIn, on your company page, and specify that you’re looking for a part-time contractor. Alternatively, you can use your own network to find a virtual assistant by simply asking around.
Some companies specialize in providing virtual assistance services, as well: in most cases, they train their virtual assistants themselves and assign one to work with you. This approach has the added benefit of having a clear and predictable hiring process that you don’t need to manage.
Now it’s time to screen the applications and select 2-3 VAs you’d like to test.
If you’re hiring through an online platform, check their previous experience and reviews from other clients. Make sure the reviews are relevant to what you’re looking for and that they have the right skill set. Of course, you can provide additional training, but it’s important to be on the same page regarding requirements and skills.
Besides that, analyze their communication style and skills to see if they’ll be a good fit. Often, you’ll be communicating with them over email or chat, so it’s important to be confident in their writing skills, as well.
Test their skills
Now comes the selection process. How can you test a virtual assistant? What skills should you test for?
If you plan to delegate more and more tasks in the future, you might consider a more in-depth evaluation. But if you want to outsource one task, then simply checking to see if they can complete the task is enough.
Alternatively, you can have them complete a paid test project, similar to those you plan to delegate to them.
Hire them and start delegating work
The final step is to make a formal offer and to set up a contract. Now you can start delegating tasks!
Schedule a few hours in which you define your standard operating procedures (SOPs) and transfer knowledge to your virtual assistant. They need to get to know your business, work style, objectives, and requirements to do a good job. Vocal and visual communication is also important—schedule video calls from time to time to stay connected and make sure you’re both on track.
Define the main communication channel, such as Slack, MS Teams, or email. You can use a productivity platform, such as Asana, Notion, Trello, or Basecamp to delegate tasks and have sufficient visibility of their progress on each task.
What skills should you look for when hiring a virtual assistant?
When hiring a VA, you need to look for someone who is:
- Highly organized. This is essential, as one of the primary responsibilities of a VA is to help you be more organized and use your time better. So time management is a crucial skill, as well as their ability to prioritize and multitask when necessary.
- An excellent communicator. Communication skills are key for any VA. They need to understand your requirements, ask for additional clarifications whenever necessary, communicate clearly and follow up regularly if needed. Verbal reasoning is another skill to test for a more in-depth evaluation of their communication skills.
- Independent and proactive. If you hire someone who knows how to look for solutions proactively, you’ll be able to delegate more complex tasks, as well. Experienced VAs will be able to suggest process optimizations or even set up automation systems.
- Reliable and trustworthy. This goes without saying: you need to build a relationship of trust, and for this, you need a highly dependable VA.
These are the high-level skills you should be looking for in a virtual assistant. You can test for some of them, while others are more nuanced. Besides that, based on the specific tasks, you can also evaluate additional skills. For example, you could administer a sales skills test or test for numerical reasoning for a VA specialized in bookkeeping tasks or social media management skills.
Increase your productivity with a virtual assistant
A good VA can help your business grow by allowing you to concentrate on what you do best instead of losing hours each week to do mundane tasks. Outsourcing repetitive tasks will help you have more time to plan and execute quarterly and yearly growth strategies and focus on high-level objectives.
Additionally, a virtual assistant can keep you accountable and help you stay on track. If you’re constantly adding new tasks, though, and booking more hours, it might be worth considering hiring a full-time assistant.