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The Survival Guide to Hiring a Virtual Assistant

March 7, 2010

Many clients have come to me with their personal experiences of hiring a VA – Some good, some bad, and some pretty ugly …

So where are they going right, and where are they going wrong? There may be several reasons why one arrangement could have been considered as “couldn’t be better”, while another was simply “stress and aggravation”. It could be the VA and it could be the hirer, or the situation could be caused by both. If you are thinking of hiring your first VA, be sure to follow these basic rules of survival.


Rule # 1 – Evaluate your work. Start considering the bigger picture, and ask yourself, what can you outsource which keeps getting put to the bottom or your ‘To Do’ list? What causes you the most frustration? What tasks do you enjoy and what do you usually avoid? With every task you undertake, always ask yourself this question, “Could a VA be doing this instead of me?”

For example, if you are marketing your online business and submitting articles, this can be time consuming, and you are far better off outsourcing this job while personally working on something which only you are capable of completing. Other outsourced tasks may include networking, managing affiliates, research, web development, email marketing, bookkeeping and much more… Before hiring, make sure you are clear on what you would like to achieve. Perfect your rules and the processes of your work before introducing a VA into your business.

Money Saving Tip: While evaluating, it would be wise to consider not only what you can delegate, but also eliminate. Are all of your tasks essential? Could you potentially automate some of your work? A good VA should be able to assist you with automating your business. I know – as a VA myself, when dealing with several projects and clients simultaneously, a VA can soon perfect a multi-tasking state of mind!

Rule # 2 – Take the plunge and start hiring (we usually charge by the hour). If you have little or no experience with commanding a virtual worker – there’s no time like the present! Most VA’s work on a “pay as you go” hourly rate. Start by assigning menial or repetitive jobs which need doing, and test out at least a few VA’s before making any sort of commitment to one.

Rule # 3 – Know how to assign your tasks. Many VA’s will have their own systems and methods for working with their clients. Explore these methods in detail from the offset, and make sure their way of working fits in with your plans. If you are someone who likes to deal with your VA on the phone, and he or she prefers to deal with clients through email, then that VA is not the best match for you. Generally, when assigning any tasks to your VA, delegate only one task at a time, for example, send individual emails rather than 6 tasks on a single email. This way each task can be completed, responded to and closed.

A good task assignment should be made up of 3 things.

  1. A title or reference
  2. A project brief or task description.
  3. A timescale and deadline – e.g. spend a maximum of 2 hours, to be completed on dd/mm.

Try to set your deadlines in advance, and when using a solo VA, make this your golden rule – one person can only do so much. If you hire a VA who has a small support team, it’s more likely that they will have greater flexibility with meeting tighter deadlines. If assigning multiple tasks, always set an order of priority.

Rule # 4 – Common fears – and how to overcome them.

  • Confidentiality. All good VA’s will have a Privacy Policy and/or Confidentiality Agreement. When dealing with a VA, electronic business is the usual practice. Make sure your VA has sufficient security measures in place to keep your valuable information safe.

  • Finance. Never give your VA your debit card for online transactions. Credit card charges can more often than not be easily reversed, however debit cards work slightly differently, resulting in issues being much harder to resolve.

  • Passwords and Logins. If your VA will be accessing websites and online systems on your behalf, then wherever possible, create a unique login for your VA. Issues can be better identified and dealt with from knowing the exact user who was logged in. Also, if you’re one of those people who tends to use the same passwords for various applications, these passwords can remain undisclosed.

  • Leap of faith. More often than not, letting go is the hardest thing of all. You know how you like to do things, you have perfected your work ethic, and now you are going to just hand it over to someone else. There are only so many hours in the day, and unless you want to spend the entirety of every day working, outsourcing is the most cost effective way to stay productive while freeing up your time to do other things. Hiring a good VA who can understand your business, your work, and above all understand you, can be one of the most rewarding decisions you ever make.

About the Author: Michelle Dale is The Managing Director of Virtual Miss Friday, an experienced Virtual Assistant who assists businesses and individuals with achieving their professional goals. Want to find out more about these online business building success strategies? Get your absolutely FREE Digital Newsletter today! http://www.virtualmissfriday.co.uk/VMF/library

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