Having the right Virtual Assistant (VA) is the key to a good partnership. I say partnership because as you work together to grow your business, it will start to feel like you have a partner, someone who wants to see your business succeed as much as you do.
With so many virtual assistants to choose from, finding the right one is not always easy. Many times, business owners wait until they are desperate before they start looking for help. They end up hiring the first virtual assistant they find. Some base their selection strictly on the VA’s skills, price or location. While selecting an assistant this way can work, it often leads to the business owner hopping from one assistant to the next and getting frustrated with the process.
There’s a better method to finding the right assistant and it simply requires a bit of forethought. Here are some things to consider before searching for a virtual assistant.
Type of Assistant
Before you begin your search, have an idea of what kind of assistant you need. Make a list of the tasks you will be assigning. What skills or knowledge should the VA have to complete those tasks? Do the tasks require special software or equipment?
In most cases, you will want the VA to have everything he or she needs to complete the work. I say most cases because there are times when it may be more beneficial to you to offer training or purchase the necessary software. For example, let’s say you already have an assistant handling your customer support. They are doing a great job, you get along well and they are dependable. But now you need help with managing your affiliate program.
Rather than start from scratch, teaching a new VA all about your business model and how you like things to be done, it might be more beneficial to train your current assistant on how to do a task they don’t already know. You might spend some time and money training your assistant but you will end up with someone who is familiar with the inner workings of your business and who can also manage your new project exactly how you like.
What characteristics would you like to see in your assistant? Which are most important to you? Here are a few to get you started:
- Forward Thinker – sees the whole picture and offers ideas to help you reach your goals
- Self-Motivated – a go-getter who doesn’t wait until the last minute to start a project
- Takes Initiative – sees something needs to be done and does it
- Resourceful – knows how to find answers and solutions when necessary
- Organized – being organized avoids frustration and potential mistakes
- Good Communicator – communication is key to reduce confusion and errors
- Professional – behaves in a professional, self-confident way
- Dependable – completes work as requested without having to be monitored
- Trustworthy – this should not be up for debate, it’s absolutely essential
You may not find someone who possesses every characteristic on your list, but if the most important ones are covered, you can work with the rest.
While thinking about characteristics, you may want to take it a step farther and consider the type of personality it takes to do the tasks you will be assigning. For instance, if your assistant will be handling your customer support, do you want them to be casual with your customers? Do you prefer them to be cut and dry or somewhere in between? Even if your customer support is handled by email, the tone a person uses can be felt in the way they reply. Also consider the type of customers you have. Are they tough customers who need a firm hand? If so, an assistant who is shy or timid may not be the right person for the job.
The thing to remember is that you aren’t looking for a mirror image of yourself, but someone who is easy to get along with and handles things in a similar way as you. While personality and characteristics may be difficult to determine when first contacting an assistant, as you start working together, keep these in mind while trying to determine if they are right for your long-term business needs.
Knowing what you can afford to pay will help you narrow your search for an assistant. Virtual Assistant rates can vary considerably, ranging from $30 to $80 per hour (in the U.S.) depending on their expertise. You can find both great and not-so-great VAs all across the pay scale, so price does not always reflect how qualified they are.
That being said, if you hire an assistant who has been in business a while, is highly experienced or has specialized skills, you can typically expect to pay a higher rate. If you have tasks that you cannot do yourself and you want to get them done as quickly as possible, hiring an experienced VA, even at a higher rate, may be the way to go.
Another way to help you decide which assistant is right for you is to ask questions before you hire them. Unless you use some form of video chat, you do not have the opportunity for a face-to-face interview. Therefore, the only way to get a feel for the person is to ask questions. If you are unsure of what questions to ask, here is a helpful list to get you started:
- What are your hours of operation?
- When would you be available to start?
- How do you prefer to communicate?
- How often do you check your email and reply?
- Are you available by phone?
- What is your policy for after-hours, weekend or rush jobs?
- What time zone are you in?
- How do you track your time?
- Do you offer status reports? If so, how and what is included in the report?
- When do you prefer I assign work to you? (weekly, monthly, on certain days of the week, etc.)
- Do you use a Project Management system where work can be assigned? (Asana, Teamwork, Basecamp, etc.)
- Will you require anything special from me? (software, training materials, etc.)
- Do you have a backup person for when you are sick or take time off?
- What are your rates? Is it a flat fee or hourly?
- Do you offer any discounts or special packages?
- When and how do you invoice?
- What type of payments do you accept?
- Do you require any deposits or payments up front?
- What kind of software do you own or recommend?
- What type of computer do you use (PC or Mac)?
- Are you willing to sign a non-disclosure agreement?
- Do you require a contract?
- Is there a minimum amount of time I have to contract with you?
- Can you provide references or show a portfolio of your work?
- What do you like to see in a Client/VA relationship?
- What are your pet peeves when it comes to work?
- Are there any tasks that you really dislike doing? What type of tasks do you prefer?
- Are there any holidays or blocks of time that you would be unavailable?
Whether your list is short or long does not matter. The important thing is that you get your questions answered.
As you contact virtual assistants, it’s a good idea to save a copy of their replies. You could print them out if you like or just save them to your computer. You may want to note when and how you contacted them, how long it took to receive a reply, whether their responses seemed well thought out or if it looked like they were in a hurry. Include any additional notes you feel are important to helping you make your decision.
This will come in handy after you have contacted several assistants and are ready to make a decision.
Where to Look
One way to find a good virtual assistant is to ask for recommendations from those you know and trust – colleagues, friends and even other assistants that you work with. Ask who they use, what tasks the VA is handling for them, and if they have they had any issues. Unless they contract with the assistant exclusively, people are usually happy to share this information with you. Word of mouth is the best referral resource for finding qualified VAs.
If you are a member of social media sites, online communities or other networking sites, you can view people’s profiles and talk to other members to see if they have any recommendations. LinkedIn and Facebook are especially a great social media resource for finding VAs.
You might try browsing through online VA Directories. Some are set up alphabetically and others categorized by services. The International Virtual Assistant Association has one such directory at IVAA.org. Another site you can use is VANetworking.com. They have a searchable directory, but you could also submit a Request for Proposal or an outline of the work you need help with. The information you submit is sent to their members. Those who are interested and have the required experience would contact you with their proposal.
Use the power of search engines. However, if you type “VA” into a search browser; you will most likely see information on Veteran Affairs or Virginia. Entering just “virtual assistant” isn’t much better as you could have over a million results to weed through. However, creating custom search terms will help you narrow the search engine’s focus. For instance, if you need help setting up a WordPress site, searching for “WordPress assistant” or “virtual assistant” + “WordPress services” will generate much better results.
Last, but not least, if you contact a virtual assistant and they cannot help you with your project, ask them if they can suggest someone else. They usually have a network of colleagues that they can refer you to.
Have you hired a VA in the past or are you looking to hire one in the near future? What skills and characteristics would you find of value in a virtual assistant? Please leave your thoughts and opinions in the comments below.
Hi and welcome to Virtually Done. I’m Leslie and it’s a pleasure to meet you! If you are an online entrepreneur or small business owner struggling to find enough time in your day to concentrate on the tasks you are passionate about, I can help you!
If you would like to learn more, please contact me. I’d love to hear from you!