So you’ve heard about a Virtual Assistant (VA) and you are trying to work out if maybe you want one – but you’re not sure where to start.
We all know someone who has a VA and they are the bees’ knees. Many small business owners simply don’t have the superlatives to tell you how great their Virtual Assistant has been for their businesses and for their personal lives. They have freed up their time to tackle projects they always dreamed of and pick up their kids from school and spend quality time at home with their spouse instead of watching their lives go by from behind a laptop in their home office.
And we probably also all know someone who had a Virtual Assistant and it was not a great experience. But whose fault is that?
I was having dinner with a friend of mine last month and she was having a grumble about ditching her hopeless VA and I had to find out what this poor woman had done so wrong. Over a glass of wine Jane explained that whenever she came to do her credit control on a Friday morning, the incoming payments hadn’t been reconciled – so she didn’t actually know who had and hadn’t paid. “So if you have told her to do it by Friday morning why is she not getting it done?” I asked and then there was the sound of a penny dropping as it dawned on my lovely, wonderful, time poor friend that she had NEVER ACTUALLY TOLD her VA that she chased debtors on a Friday and therefore needed her account reconciled by Thursday to do this. She had just expected her to know….. by magic. Having caught up with Jane at the weekend she’s now raving about the same woman and how amazing she is because everything is up to date by Friday morning and Jane can chase her debtors before the kids finish kinde.
If you ask most people why it didn’t work out with their Virtual Assistant you’ll find unmet expectations would rank really high!
VAs are people too and we come in all different skills sets and prices – and sadly none of us are mind readers. People will often hire the cheapest Virtual Assistant without giving a thought as to whether they are the right person for the job. They didn’t check to see if they have the right skills or turnaround time for the job. They just picked them based on one element and then were horribly disappointed when it didn’t work out.
NEWSFLASH ! ! There is no element of luck in finding the right Virtual Assistant; you have to know what you are looking for.
How to find the perfect Virtual Assistant for you:
Before you can set about finding the perfect virtual assistant you need to know what you want them to do.
As I said before we aren’t mind readers so we will need you to tell us exactly what it is you want us to do. I normally ask for a brief and an objective – this means that I want to know exactly what you need me to do AND what we are trying to achieve. If you can provide context for the task it makes it easier to understand my part in it.
The more specific and detailed you can be with your requirements the easier it is for you to start looking at suitable VAs and for a VA to determine if they are suitable for you (Yes, it is a two way street!)
Things to include in your list would be
- Time spent with you ( daily, weekly, monthly)
- Tasks you expect them to carry out
- Turnaround time for tasks
- Required quality and quantity of output
It may seem obvious, but if you don’t know what you want your assistant to do – how will they?
When do you need your VA? If you want to work with someone during the day when you are in the office then make sure you find a VA who is in the same time zone as you.
Alternatively if you need all of your data processing after normal office hours then finding a VA who’s day starts a few hours later than yours may be the ideal solution.
Just be mindful of what tasks you need doing and what turnaround time you are expecting as there is nothing more frustrating than being out of sync.
Everyone loves a bargain and you don’t want to pay more than you have to. That being said, you also want to find the right person and skillset for your requirement.
Take the time to go online and thoroughly cost up what the going rate is for the service that you want. The rate for a VA fluctuates from around $5 to $100 an hour dependent on skills and services, so you really need to be specific.
Once you have worked out what the ball park figure is for the type of VA you want match that up with what you are willing to spend. You don’t want to pay more than you can afford.
Everybody who has had a great VA is willing to provide them a recommendation. So unless your Virtual Assistant is brand new to the business, they should have at least 3 clients who can vouch for how good they are.
If you are looking for a particular skill like bookkeeping then ask them for recommendations relating to this. Or if you often leave things to the last minute, look for someone whose skills include quick turnaround and praise for working long hours to meet deadlines.
Don’t be afraid to ask for samples of previous work the Virtual Assistant has produced. Especially if you have a very specific brief.
Whilst it is easy to terminate a contract with your VA, why waste your time and theirs by hiring someone who is not best suited to what you are wanting to do.
Whilst you can get some absolute bargains from contractors working in countries with a cheaper labour force you need to remember that It’s the results that matter most!
The whole point of a Virtual Assistant is that you have someone you can trust providing a high quality of output in a timely manner.
You do not save money paying someone to do a job that you have to micro manage and eventually redo yourself.
Your time is more valuable than that of a VA!
The whole point of having a Virtual Assistant is to get them to do the tasks that you are no longer doing, they are aiming to achieve the same results ( or better) than you would have.
It stands to reason that they should understand the industry that you are in.
If you hire a VA who doesn’t understand your business then you will have to be willing to take (and pay for) the time to train them so that they are. If not – make sure you select a VA who fits your bill!
Don’t expect your Virtual Assistant to be the Robin to your Batman on the first day. It will take a bit of time to develop your relationship.
The more time you spend working together the better your relationship will become.
When you first start remember – Rome wasn’t built in a day. Start by giving them small projects and tasks so they can learn about your business and how you work. Grow from there and in a few months’ time you will wonder how you ever survived without them !