Double Your Productivity – How to Hire the Right Virtual Assistant

hire a virtual assistantI had made a big mistake.

I could justify why I had made the decision, but I had to face the fact that it was a mistake.

My assistant was supposed to handle client calls, yet it was obvious that she hated using the telephone. She did everything – including sending a letter in the mail – to avoid actually picking up the phone to call someone back!

She was supposed to be in charge of client services! Clearly I had not hired the right person.

I can put some blame on her for accepting a job that had tasks she clearly was not willing to do, but most of the fault was with me. I tried to solve two different problems with one person. I needed help with managing my website and I wanted someone to help with the admin tasks around client communications.

These are two different skill sets. Just because I had done these things myself didn’t mean there were good people easily available in the marketplace that could do both as well.

It was a tough lesson to learn but I had to let her go and hire two different people – a web person and an admin assistant. Because it was going to be a big expense to do that locally, I decided to hire virtual assistants from the Philipines. For less than $2,000 I hired a full time virtual assistant to help with my client communications and a part time web administrator.

And… it’s not just hiring the wrong person that can go wrong. There are a few other things to think about before you hire someone virtually. Here’s a quick video with three important considerations before you hire a virtual assistant:

Now, if you’re still thinking a virtual assistant could be the right fit for you, here’s how to ensure you get the right person.

5 Steps to Hire a Great Virtual Assistant:

1.     Determine what category of help your work falls under:

First, ask yourself if the work you want help with can actually be completed by someone who is not in your office.

I just held a two day workshop in Toronto. I had to go to Staples to get all the materials printed and then I put the binders together myself because my VA in India can’t help me with that. I also have to file my own documents. If you need someone who can be face to face with clients, handle your paperwork and filing, or physically take parcels to the post for you, then you have to consider carefully if a virtual assistant is the right solution for you.

The next thing to think about is what tasks you need help with. Make a list of ongoing duties as well as project work that can be done by someone virtually. Often you think there is a lot for someone to do but until you actually write down your list, you may find there just isn’t enough ongoing work to justify hiring someone else. You may just be best to hire someone for a specific project versus ongoing support.

If you find you have some tasks that are ongoing that you really want support with, you need to determine what category of help you most need someone from. Are you looking for a writer? An admin assistant? A website developer? A graphics designer? Each of these are different skills and would be a different category on a drop down box. Which one is the most important you’re looking for from your virtual assistant?

Consider breaking the tasks into categories and estimate what percentage of their time will be devoted to that category (e.g., client liaison via skype, phone, in person could be one category. Email, sending thank you cards, writing letters could be another category and updating CRM or data entry could be another category). Some assistants are great speaking with clients while others are super efficient (and would prefer) non-verbal more data management oriented tasks.

2. Create a Weekly Task List

To help you with hiring and managing your assistant, create a weekly task list outlining what will be done weekly and monthly. Make a note of important skills someone will need to be able to complete tasks. When I did this I realized that I needed someone with excellent English skills for speaking and writing – communicating with my clients is fundamental to her job. I also wanted someone who could complete basis tasks on WordPress and be comfortable with Word and Excel. With the weekly task list, it becomes clear what skills are necessary and what ones would be nice to have.

Again, you also may discover that certain tasks are better suited to hiring someone on a project basis (which just means you would hire someone to work for you for a set task or a set time until a certain goal is achieved. This is really common for creating websites, setting up membership sites or even getting a CRM system up and running. You just need the work done once).

3. How much can you afford to pay?

Obviously the more you can spend, the greater your options will be for who you hire, but you need to have an idea of your top end before you start posting jobs on websites or asking for referrals.

Working with people in the Philippines, who tend to be the VA of choice because they often have really good English, you can expect to pay anywhere from $500 – $1,500/month for help depending on the skills.

If you want someone who is a good content writer, a skilled website developer or the absolute best possible general administrator you will pay on the top end. If you need data entry or lower skilled work you will pay on the lower end.

The more you pay and the better you treat your VA, I believe the more loyal they will be to you. This is not always the case, but if you find a good one, why wouldn’t you pay them a little more? I’m currently paying $8/hr US for my virtual assistant. When she started with me, I was paying $6/hr but I’ve steadily increased what she makes because she continues to make my clients happy and do a great job.

Think about how many hours you’ll need in a month and what skill level you need. What is that worth to you? Keep in mind, when you have free time, how much more business can you generate? That’s the real value in hiring a virtual assistant.

You can also reach out to organizations like www.virtualstafffinder.com from Chris Ducker and the one I use, http://vaintl.net/ to get more information on what you can expect to pay.

4.     What questions do you need to ask to ensure you’re hiring the right person?

IMG_3836My assistant Krish helped me compile this list. Many of her friends are VA’s and she sees a lot of issues when employers hire someone without realizing some of the challenges that can arise with the different hours, different cultures and the fact that you will rarely ever meet your VA in person. (I actually did meet Krish in Las Vegas in 2014. I took her to see David Copperfield ==>>)

  • What hours do you want to work? (Krish works for me from 6am – 10am PST and then again from 4pm – 8pm PST. My website assistant works North American hours which means he works the night-shift at home. When I am at my desk he’s available. He likes that shift because then he can take his kids to school, go to bed, and wake up to be with his kids after school. My admin assistant eats dinner with her husband and then works for me for four hours, goes to sleep for 6-7 hours and then works another four hours. She then has all day free. As she starts a family we’ll probably have to make some adjustments but I don’t need her to work normal hours because a lot of my client contact comes in the evening).
  • How do you prefer to communicate (email, skype, phone)?
  • Do you have kids? If yes, who takes care of them during the day?
  • What is your favourite work task?
  • What training have you had?
  • What blogs do you read?
  • What is the most recent book you’ve read? What movies have you watched lately? (There are cultural differences so the more North American material your VA consumes the more you and your clients will be able to relate to them).
  • You have a deadline and your computer suddenly crashes, what will you do?
  • Your internet connection is down, how do you get your work done?
  • If we have an angry client who feels we have done something wrong and I’m not around and you can’t get in touch with me, what will you do?
  • Do you have any other obligations outside of your family and this job I should know about?
  • If I need you on the weekend, are you available?

Think about the answers you want and then, when you interview your potential assistant, you’ll be prepared to quickly decide who is a good fit for you, or not.

5.     Create and Post Your Job Listing

Your job posting should be like any other job posting you’d write. It should outline the key skills you’re looking for, what the weekly tasks will include, and the kind of hours you’re looking for your VA to work.

The trickier part is where do you find your VA? I have hired virtual assistants through Elance, O-desk, Kijiji ads and through referrals from friends. Some were ongoig and others were project work. It was really hit and miss until I was referred to a company that specializes in finding virtual assistants in the Philippines called Virtual Assistants International (http://vaintl.net/). That’s how I found Krish and we’ve been working together ever since.

Organizations like Virtual Assistants International are basically like a temp agency .. they act like your HR department. They pre-screen candidates before you interview them. They handle any personnel issues that may arise (I’ve had some issues where my Web guy vanishes for days on end … they help me find him and improve communications), they invoice me, and then pay my assistants. The draw back, of course, is that I could hire someone for less outside of their organization because they keep a portion of what I pay my assistant. However, the service and quality of assistant you get makes it worth it for me, and it might be worth it for you too.

If you’re not hiring via an organization that does screening for you, my assistant Krish advises setting up an interview via Skype “to ensure they are a real person”. And, if communication is important in the skills, you’ll definitely want to see and chat with them to make sure you have rapport and your clients will get along with them too.

It’s not always easy to hire the right person the first time whether they are virtual or physically in the office. I worked with three different assistants before I found a great one. Spending time up front to consider what you need help with and who would be the right person can improve your chances of success with the first hire, but know that it’s like any other part of business, sometimes you don’t really know until you just try! When you get the right person, you’ll quickly find that you’re doubling your productivity without working more, and your VA has quickly become a vital part of your team. You just might even wonder why you waited so long to hire one.

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Julie’s an Amazon #1 Best Selling Author and International Book Award winner, recipient of the Top 20 under 40 award for Vancouver Island (2014), a successful entrepreneur, recognized real estate investor and a popular speaker and workshop trainer. Subscribe to her Broad Thoughts newsletter to learn powerful tips to help you build a brand that has more impact & helps you make more money.

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