Nowadays, as a way of saving on budget and resources, businesses hire a virtual assistant (VA) or two to handle different tasks for them. Hiring VAs became popular through business process outsourcing (BPO). Businesses would hire third-party companies to set up VAs for their outsourced tasks. Then online marketplaces like FreeeUp became popular, and businesses could hire VAs without the help of BPO companies. This allowed them to manage hires more directly, and cut costs by eliminating the middle man.
Outsourced virtual assistants usually deal with administrative tasks such as bookkeeping, marketing, social media moderation, and event coordination. Businesses find a virtual assistant more efficient on labor costs than hiring an in-house one. With the growth of the gig economy, however, hiring a virtual assistant to handle more specialized tasks is now possible.
Hiring a Virtual Assistant for the First Time
Even with the freelance economy boom, not everyone has an instant success story the first time they hire a VA. If it’s your first time hiring a virtual assistant, you might experience communication difficulties, especially with overseas VAs. Time zone differences and language barriers pose a challenge, aside from the usual communication difficulties you might face with tasks. Even FreeeUp founders Nathan and Connor have hiring horror stories.
As a first-timer, you might also be wondering if the tasks you give to VAs are enough for them to achieve your objectives. As a result, you might even find their work dissatisfying or half-done. Instead of saving, you might be spending more with the continuous effort of hiring replacements, hoping to find one who fits your needs.
Tips for Hiring a Virtual Assistant
To avoid this kind of situation, you must plan properly and determine whether hiring a virtual assistant is right for you. These tips can help you do that, which can save you time and effort in the future.
1. Determine your readiness
When hiring a virtual assistant for the first time, ask yourself first if you’re ready to hire. Why are you hiring? Do you have repetitive tasks you need to delegate? What are you looking for in a VA? Do you already have tasks lined up for them to do? How do you want them to deliver these tasks? Have you set aside enough time to properly onboard them?
One of the biggest mistakes businesses make when hiring a virtual assistant is a lack of readiness for hiring and assigning tasks. This results in VAs not having anything to do, or not doing tasks as you expect them to be done.
Leaving a VA idle doesn’t just cost your business money, but prevents them from growing and improving as well. No one will be happy with the situation, and productivity will fall or stop altogether.
2. Don’t expect too much from a VA
At the same time, though a bit of challenge is good for growth, don’t set the bar too high for a VA. Don’t give them a workload that’s too heavy or too difficult for their skill level. You wouldn’t expect a general administrative VA to do complex marketing tasks right away. You can’t give them a week’s work to accomplish in just a span of two days, either.
Remember that they’re VAs, not superhumans. Some VAs get overwhelmed with tasks and underperform not because they’re just VAs but because they don’t have a clue how to finish their work on time or if they can finish it at all.
3. Create a solid system first
When you’ve determined what tasks you will assign to VAs, create a solid system for how you want them done. Take note of how you set appointments or do paperwork. Determine the points they need to know and what applications they should use. Create an onboarding manual to share with hires. In this way, VAs will know how you want them to deliver assigned tasks.
Moreover, if one day a VA decides to leave, turnover will be easier since you already have a solid process that the next VA can follow.
4. Set a standard means of communication
How do you want to communicate with VAs? Do you plan to have regular meetings with them? What if they live in a different country with a different time zone? How will you exchange files they need to do their tasks?
Clearing out roles and establishing a means of communication can be very helpful to both you and the VA you hire. Know how and when to communicate with them, using cloud apps to share files, and tracking their checklists through project management apps.
Once you have a communication system set up, add it to your onboarding document so future VAs have a concrete reference for the tools they will use for work.
5. Know how you want to track their performance
How do you ensure that VAs are doing their work well? How will you know they’re following the instructions you gave them?
First, note the expected duration of each task in your onboarding document. Then choose a rating scale against which you will evaluate their performance.
Most businesses prefer to use screen monitoring to keep track of VA productivity. You may also consider including this in your agreement terms to properly track their work activities. In this way, you can check the total hours they work on a task, get notified when they are away from their computers, and take screenshots of their desktops. You will also be able to see the websites they visit and the software they use. With this, you can increase the productivity of a VA by encouraging accountability.
6. Determine their commitment to the business
How involved should a VA be in your business? Do you accept that they might have clients other than you? Will they get involved in longer-term projects or just short-term ones? These questions can help you determine whether or not you should be hiring a virtual assistant who can commit to you over the long term.
If you just want to try out hiring a virtual assistant, you can engage the services of a BPO company that offers the option of hiring a virtual assistant with shared services. You can also hire a freelancer through an online platform such as FreeeUp, which does not require a minimum number of hours. This way you can determine if hiring a virtual assistant fits your needs.
7. Set your budget accordingly
Remember that you should also consider how much you can and should pay a VA. Are you hiring a virtual assistant through an agency or a freelance marketplace? What are the going rates for the tasks you need outsourced? What level of expertise can you afford to hire for each task? Would you consider hiring internationally or do you want a local VA?
You can hire VAs with lower rates overseas, particularly in Asian countries like India and the Philippines. This is because of the lower cost of living there compared to the West. Hiring a virtual assistant from your local area can help you minimize the difficulties mentioned above, but will require a significantly bigger budget.
8. Hire a Virtual Assistant the same way you hire in-house
The VA you hire will play an important role in your company, just as an in-house hire would. With them, your workload is lessened and you can focus on the core management strategies you need to take action on.
Think of hiring a web developer, for example. You set and check qualifications for the task, then interview them to verify if they fit the role and the business, and maybe give them a test project. You don’t just do a call and hire them on the spot.
Then you prepare for onboarding, give them room for learning and improvement, and recognize them when work is done well. That way, they won’t feel disconnected from the business and likely be more committed.
The only difference is that a VA is not an employee. VAs are freelancers or independent contractors. As such, if you are not hiring a virtual assistant to work for you full time, then you cannot control their hours or demand that they be available for you outside of your agreed working hours.
Whether you choose to hire a virtual assistant from an outsourcing company or a freelance website, these tips will help you make better decisions. Plan for the hire ahead of time to check your readiness to take on someone new so you can make good use of them. Don’t expect too much from them, especially if your hiring budget is on the thin end. Develop a system for workflow and communications that they can follow, and a means of measuring performance. Then hire the best fit who shows commitment to the business, even if you’re just hiring for a few hours a week.