At the beginning of every entrepreneurial venture, there is typically one amazing ringleader running the entire show – you!
But the larger you scale, the larger the number of varying responsibilities that will require your attention. Being limited to only two hands at any given time, a virtual assistant might just be what you need to help take some of the more tedious tasks off your back.
What Is a Virtual Assistant?
I initially discovered the concept of a “Virtual Assistant” when I first started dropshipping about a year and a half ago. A virtual assistant (or VA) is “generally self-employed and provides professional administrative, technical, or creative (social) assistance to clients remotely from a home office. – Wikipedia”
At the very beginning of my journey, I was gifted a book from my friend and mentor, David Vu, entitled The 4-Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss, which outlined ideas, principles, and benefits of outsourcing repetitive or mundane tasks to free up more time to focus on things that mattered or required your immediate attention. I didn’t quite understand why he gave it to me at first, but after spending some time developing and growing my online store, it slowly started putting itself together.
I learned how the concept of 80/20, also known as the Pareto Principle (80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes), applied from reading this book and it was a no-brainer that a virtual assistant was the next step in scaling my business.
So, I enrolled in David’s Virtual Assistant course and prepared myself for the ride ahead.
After finishing the course and now on the quest for my very first VA, I contacted over 200 applicants, interviewed 50, selected 10, tested 3, and ended with 1 hire.
I repeated this process several times (my first 4 hires quit) until I found my golden VA, Ria, who aligned perfectly with my long term business goals.
If you think that a virtual assistant may be right for you, how would you find and manage an employee who isn’t in front of you, let alone on the other side of the world? The process of hiring/delegating and managing is a skill within itself that only truly comes with experience, but here are 5 of my top tips on each process to help you get started on the right track.
How To Find The Best Virtual Assistant
- Even before you begin looking to hire a virtual assistant, understand your goals for needing one in the first place.
Prior to you taking the final step to hire, always keep in mind and understand that the task you are assigning must be both cost and time effective. Think about everything you do on a day to day basis such as answering emails, processing orders, booking flights, adding new products online, ordering supplies, doing research, etc.Write down a list of these tasks based on order of importance and determine which ones can be delegated. By curating this list for a few days, finding the right individual becomes a lot easier using Tip # 2:
- Use an online service such as Upwork, Elance, or Onlinejobs.ph to locate potential hires that have traceable track records.
The great thing about using services like this is that they allow you to apply filters for specific skillsets, categories, geographic locations, costs per hour, and can even let you know if they are already working on any other projects. They also typically provide protection in case things go south with the VA.I use Upwork myself and have friends who have used the other two services mentioned, all with varying levels of success.
- When conducting your interviews, it is a must that you request for a VIDEO INTERVIEW.
Communication is KEY. Don’t waste your profits hiring someone you think is cheaper who you either can’t fully understand or is never available when you need them the most. By doing a video interview, you will force them to think and answer on their feet as well as show you any signs of nervousness, reactions, or emotion that help when deciding using your gut feeling (I rely on this alot!). Skype or Google Hangouts is a great tool for this..
Find someone who can speak English (or your native tongue) at a moderate to high level so you can communicate effectively. Also make sure they have an open line of communication with you, meaning either 24/7 access via Skype or setting certain “business hours” so you know when you each can be contacted.
Have pre-qualifying questions like, “what kind of experience do you have with (insert task here)?”, “how many hours a week do you have available?”, “do you have any other commitments I should be aware of?”, or “how much do you want to get paid?”, will give you a great start on knowing if the applicant is a right fit for your business. You will also filter out people that don’t align with your vision.
- Keep contact with backup hires in case your initial VA (or VA’s) decide to quit.
Your first hired virtual assistant will probably not be your last. Based on my experience, many will tell you that they are dedicated but will quit for any reason. I personally put my top 3 qualified choices through a 48 hour “test trial” before I make my final decision and let the other two applicants know that I will contact them as backups if I have additional work that needs to be done. Fun Fact: Ria was actually one of my backups!My first few hires that stuck with me for a bit were extremely creative and hard working initially, but as time went on their work started to degrade because I could tell they were unhappy or faced some type of challenge with the work they were given. After 90 days, if their work is still not up to par or you feel unsatisfied, it’s time to cut your losses and move on with another VA.
- And finally, DO NOT HIRE unless you are ready.
Taking on the daunting task of managing a VA is a huge responsibility, as you now have a human being that you must train, educate, and care for as if they were physically there working in front of you.Another human being’s income is now in your hands. I personally like to stick between 10%-20% of my total income dedicated to my VA’s, which provides me countless hours a week of freedom to do whatever lets me promote happiness at a minimal cost to my total profits. (You can read more about my story here).
If you are ready to move forward with your first hire, keep reading to see how to best manage your assistant. Congratulations!
Training Your Online Assistant
- When first starting out, constantly monitor your VA’s performance. You will want to constantly provide feedback to them on how to resolve issues with the tasks you have provided for them from the previous section. I monitored my VA for 90 days and would constantly communicate with her via Skype to make sure she understood what tasks needed to be done at all times.
- Be extremely specific and crystal clear in your instructions. Leaving open ended instructions can lead to disaster, especially when someone is learning your work style or business for the first time. Don’t assume that they know exactly everything you do. I learned this the hard way and it stunted my business growth by 6 months after I stopped leaving her feedback on my instructions. She had a hard time understanding where she made mistakes and what she could improve upon.The more concise you are with your VA, the better. I cannot stress this enough.
- Only assign one task at a time, but slowly have them pick up more responsibilities.
First, allow them to prove they are hardworking, punctual, and trustworthy. Then, keep them stimulated by providing new tasks each time they are ready to move on. DO NOT give them access to all of your accounts all at once as this causes more confusion than anything else.
- Cloud your work documents so they can be shared between eachother online. Simply using a service like Google Drive, Dropbox, or Evernote can save you the back and forth headache of having to constantly email or text documents back and forth.
- Your VA is your #1 asset and your LIFELINE to your business! Treat them as such!
They are the reason why you will have time freedom to pursue other ventures or focus on more important tasks, so it’s important to treat them like your family and build a relationship with them. Get to know their wants in life and what they like to do for fun, or if they have any kids, and just be a caring and loving person overall to them.I could not be more blessed and thankful for Ria. She allowed me to pursue my dream of working from home and spreading happiness. She made my dreams into a reality! (My Virtual Assistant lost her home due to Typhoon Lawin. Read what we did to help Ria here).
After working at my last job for over 9 years and being treated like just another cog on their wheel, I knew exactly what to do and what not to do for my own employee the day that I hired her. I hope that experience has carried over and I was able to share some of that insight with you.
Do you have any tips for hiring or managing a VA that you would like to share? Leave your comments below!