So you’re finally considering a virtual assistant, but you’re not sure how or where to start.
Almost everybody has been raving about how convenient it is to hire virtual assistants (VA).
Many business owners run out of words to describe how much VA’s have helped them with their daily load.
What you should not read into this is that a virtual assistant is a cure-all; VA’s have different skill levels and they operate on different specializations or niches.
In fact, there are negative comments about VA’s now and then.
Some people say they did not receive the level of assistance they expected. But is it always the virtual assistant’s fault?
Breaking news: It is not always the Virtual Assistant’s fault.
Collaboration between two or more people can fail if any one member fails to do his or her part.
As they say, the chain is only as strong as its weakest link. If you read about the most common reasons for partnership failures, unmet expectations would rank high up there.
That’s also true for work relationships like the one between a boss and an assistant.
So all virtual assistants are the same, but we must also accept that clients come in different stripes.
I remember the first time I hired a VA, and uh, it was a mess! I got pretty frustrated because I thought I was finally getting some help.
But that was my fault. I wasn’t clear with what I wanted and I went for the cheapest one without really asking specific questions and checking the contractor’s expertise. I just used his reviews as a based on whether to hire him or not.
And that’s a big NO, NO.
You need to find an assistant who ‘fits the bill’ as he personally describes it.
Finding an “excellent” virtual assistant to lighten your load does not just happen by mere coincidence – in most cases it is the result of due diligence.
Here are some tips on hiring the ideal virtual assistant:
Tip #1: Be specific with your requirements
Your requirement for a virtual assistant would depend heavily on the nature of the project you are involved in.
Virtual assistants can do many things for you, but don’t expect them to be psychic.
Don’t leave them guessing what it is you want them to do, when you want it done, or exactly how you want the work to turn out.
The more specifically you list down your requirements, the easier it is for a potential virtual assistant to determine how suitable he or she is for the position.
This saves you and your assistant valuable time.
A list of your needs would ideally include the amount of time you expect the VA to spend on your project on a daily, weekly or monthly basis, tasks which you expect him to do, deadline for completion of each of the tasks, required quality and quantity of output.
Setting times when the contractor should be available for work and/or communication with you is very important as well.
Think of it this way; if you don’t know what kind of assistance you want, how can you expect a virtual assistant to?
Tip #2: Be mindful of time zones
Communication and coordination are two of the most essential attributes of a successful work relationship.
If your virtual assistant works in a different time zone, you need to ensure that there is a time when both of you are sufficiently awake for coordination and communication purposes.
Under normal circumstances, it is better to work with a VA who lives in a time zone which does not differ much from yours – unless one of you is a night owl, in which case an exception can be made.
Tip #3: You get what you pay for
Everyone wants to obtain the services of a VA at reasonable rates.
But few ever try to do the small bit of research required to establish what the term ‘reasonable rates’ means.
Usually a few minutes of browsing through the internet is sufficient to give you an idea what you need to pay, unless you need someone with an unusually high level of skill or educational background.
Once you have established the going rate for the type of VA you need, it is the minimum you need to indicate in your help wanted advertisement.
That should weed out those who think they are worth more than you can afford.
Tip #4: Ask for Recommendations
People do not hesitate to provide recommendations to virtual assistants who have served them well.
Unless they are inexperienced, any potential VA who cannot produce recommendations from previous clients may not be worth your time vetting.
Read through the recommendations to help you determine which potential VA provides the best fit.
If you are particular about punctuality, look for a candidate whose recommendation contains kudos about on time delivery.
If you require unexpected work over the weekend from time to time, find someone whose recommendation contains praise for working long hours to meet workload requirements.
Tip #5: Ask for a portfolio or request samples
Asking for work samples is a very important step, especially in cases where the type of assistance required is very specialized.
If you need a VA who can write advertising copy, for example, you definitely need to see work samples.
Lots of people can write emails and articles but only a few are capable of producing compelling copy.
While it is true that you can always easily end a work contract with a VA, why should you waste your time on someone untested?
Tip #6: Cheapest is not always best
We all know that contractors like virtual assistants compete for available online jobs; a few offer rates significantly lower than the norm or going rate for the service they offer.
While it is true you can get bargains as some of those contractors may work in countries with a lower standard of living, what matters most is the results.
On time delivery of quality work should always trump rates at decision time.
You do not save hiring at the cheapest rate only to receive work that you have to redo before it is fit for use.
Your time is far more valuable than that of any VA.
Tip #7: Make sure they understand the industry you are in
The VA you hire should have exposure in the kind of business you are in.
After all he would be doing things on your behalf; it follows that he should be aiming for the same results.
If you happen to hire a VA without the necessary exposure to your business, you would have train him to do things ‘your way’ and that would just use up your time and money.
If your business is involves unexpected workload, odd hours, special talent, or just a special way of doing things – make sure your VA is fits the bill.
Tip #8: Start with baby steps
Even under the most ideal circumstances, collaboration between two people takes time to develop; more so when people only interact with each other online.
And, truth be told, it does not always work out.
When working with a new VA, take baby steps.
Get him involved in a small project and feel his potential for greater responsibility.
Allow time for you and your assistant to get familiar with how each other operates.