Getting Started with Your Virtual Assistant
For many entrepreneurs, C-level executives, freelancers, and more, the first hire isn’t a full-time team member. It’s a virtual assistant. And because of that fact, it can feel a bit intimidating to hire something as simple as a virtual assistant. After all, aren’t VAs supposed to handle all of that stuff? Isn’t hiring them supposed to be low-cost, low-commitment, and easy?
Well, a VA can be all of those great things. But that doesn’t mean hiring your first VA will feel like you’ve been there before, either. Fortunately, we’ve put together some essential tips and resources for you to learn how to vet, select, and ultimately onboard a VA in a way that doesn’t feel like you’re making it up as you go along. Here’s what you’ll need to know.
This Article is Part of Our Resource Series: Time, Productivity & Virtual Assistants
- Time Management Skills
- What Should I Delegate
- Do I Need a Virtual Assistant
- Virtual Assistant Cost Calculator
- Getting Started with Your Virtual Assistant (you are here)
Why You Should Hire a Virtual Assistant
Are you working in your business or working on your business?
That’s one of the questions posed by author Michael E. Gerber of The E-Myth fame. And while it’s only the difference that represents one letter, this shift can represent a completely new way of understanding what your day looks like.
For many entrepreneurs or executives, it’s a common problem associated with growth: you’re no longer in the “bootstrap” stage, but now generating consistent enough business that time, not money, becomes your major concern. That’s why you need to hire a virtual assistant: you need an extra pair of hands.
But hiring a virtual assistant doesn’t have to mean that you’re hiring someone to replace you, either. You’ll still have the executive power when it comes to running things your way. You’ll still get final approval. You’ll still be able to schedule the work day and assign tasks to your VA.
How can you know that it’s time to hire a virtual assistant?
- When you find there simply aren’t enough hours in the day. Even though many entrepreneurs glorify the typical process of working 10 hour days and hoping for maximum success thanks to nothing but work ethic, you’ll come to a point where it’s no longer logical to work harder than you have to. A VA can help with that part of the process.
- When you find there are skills in which you’re lacking. What if you’re happy to do data entry, but you don’t know your way around an Excel spreadsheet? Is it really more efficient to do it all yourself when someone who’s experienced at data entry can do it in half the time?
That’s why it’s important to hire a VA when you know that there are lots of smaller, repetitive, or monotonous tasks to which you can no longer profitably devote your attention. If you put a dollar tag on your time—say, $100 an hour—then outsourcing some basic office tasks to a virtual assistant who makes far less than that is a profitable move. And it’s the right move.
How to Gauge the Right VA Hire for You
The first step might sound superfluous, but as the process goes on, you’ll discover that it’s essential. This is the stage at which you want to whittle down your priorities so you don’t have to wonder if the VAs you encounter later on are the right ones for you. Do this step right, and the rest of the process will unfold naturally.
It starts with getting a critical understanding of what kinds of tasks you’ll typically need someone to handle. You might have an idea of that already, but you might also find that the idea of “getting more time in your day” is far more vague than you’d ever considered. But chances are that you’re not being specific enough.
Let’s whittle down some of the more popular “categories” of VAs. See if you can identify your primary needs here:
- Administrative VAs who handle office administration, scheduling tasks, email management, travel arrangements, and other business logistics.
- Marketing VAs who can handle content management, content calendars, management of marketing software and sales funnels, and customer relationship management.
- Social media VAs who might have specific experience with one or more platforms. These VAs typically have a lot of experience with marketing on these platforms, managing posts, and reaching out to others while also responding to customers.
- Industry-specific VAs who might have experience with real estate, for example, or in working with consultants or life coaches who need to make sure that each of their clients always has a point of contact.
- Writer VAs can be essential to the process; VAs can help perform the research necessary to get the writing done. And since VAs are great at removing distractions common to running a business, writers will be more free to focus on the actual hard creative work that makes their business go.
- eCommerce VAs who are experienced with platforms like Shopify or Amazon and can help you handle the ins and outs of maintaining an online store with these platforms.
- Technical VAs who excel at issues like data entry, data management, IT, IT security, and more. A technical VA can be great because they’ll bring in a new perspective on how you can achieve things at your business, rather than simply relying on doing the tasks you already do. Make sure to engage a technical VA to see if there are more efficient ways of doing things at your business.
- Small business VAs can have a wide range of experience in helping small businesses grow, and can use that experience to help you understand where some of your most important areas of future growth may be.
As you might imagine, this is just a broad look at the typical VA tasks. There may be overlap between some skills; for example, a social media VA with experience may also have marketing experience while also being able to handle administrative duties around the office.
But the key is in looking at these skills and determining which ones you’ll require most often. What skills will the VA repeat? What will they be expected to do on a regular basis?
That means going through your current schedule and asking what takes up most of your time—and how you can uncouple yourself from that process.
Vetting Potential Virtual Assistants: What You Should Know
How do you know whether a virtual assistant really has what it takes? There are a few key elements that you should consider:
- Training. A virtual assistant should have training in many of the key areas that you want them to handle. For example, let’s say that you want to hire someone to help you with your Pinterest shop. Can they point to that experience and training in the past, or would this be their first time dealing with it?
- Accreditations/qualifications. It never hurts to look at the education and qualifications someone possesses; this shows you that not only do they have some background in what you want to do, but the VA has taken it upon themselves to make it a priority for their future work.
- Their experience. Direct, relevant experience is as good a predictor of future success as you’ll find when hiring someone. Anyone who’s hired a lot of people knows that this isn’t the only way to vet someone, of course. But if a virtual assistant can demonstrate that they’ve already done similar tasks in a different capacity, you’ll know that they’ll have some solid footing from which to work.
- Your experience. Ultimately, it will come down to your experience with the VA. We’ll touch on the feedback process in a later section, but keep this in mind: if you try out a VA for one month and you find that they have a “knack” for something that you didn’t anticipate, there’s no reason to discount their abilities simply because this skill wasn’t highlighted on their resume.
Vetting a virtual assistant can be a highly personal thing. There’s no “right way” or “wrong way” to do it. You, after all, are going to be in charge of what happens once the VA works for you. You’re the one who knows what your expectations are going to be. But it’s important to make sure that you know those expectations and that you align them with your hire.
Creating Your Onboarding Document
One of the most powerful ways to bring a virtual assistant onboard is to create an “onboarding” document that contains all of the most important information you’ll need to get across. Not only is this document a great way to get yourself organized, but it will help ensure that the VA can turn to a single document when they need to know their next steps.
Did you know that according to Process St, an onboarding document can improve employee retention by 25%? Onboarding someone effectively ensures that you set clear expectations for what they’re about to do. It also reduces the learning curve and gets the employee on the same page as soon as possible.
No wonder about 15% of employees who quit mentioned that the lack of a solid onboarding process is what aided in their decision. As Jon Levy noted in a piece for Inc.com, most people should figure that about 80% of their job can be put into onboarding form and taken over by a VA.
In other words, the onboarding document can be the difference between a VA who wants to quit and a VA who feels like there’s a future in this gig.
Here are some of the things your onboarding document should contain:
- A list of the accounts that they’ll use. While it’s fine to give a virtual assistant the access they’ll need to handle things, one of the most effective ways to ensure that your VA can be “plugged” into your system is to create new user accounts with the software you use most frequently. This especially helps if you’re onboarding a VA to help with administering something, like a team on Slack.
- Instructions for repeatable tasks. Is the VA going to be expected to handle a specific task every day, such as clearing out your email inbox? Then create a specific section for this to detail what the task includes, what they’ll need to know to complete it, and what needs to be done after the task is completed to ensure everything ends up where it needs to go.
- List all of the relevant contact information necessary to do their job. Your email, your phone number, the website address, and the contact information of anyone else who may have to be contacted in the duties of this particular VA—it all matters. Make sure that they don’t have to keep turning to you to answer their questions. Answer as many of these details in the onboarding document.
- Expectations. One of the reasons some people grow dissatisfied with their work is that they weren’t given reasonable expectations from the outset. It’s your responsibility to let someone know what kinds of expectations they’ll face while they work for your business. Mention any opportunities to grow with the position, how you plan on providing feedback, and what you expect within the first few weeks.
Suggestions for Getting Started with Your VA
Still a little lost when it comes to giving your VA something to do on the first day? Don’t worry; you’re not the first. It can be a surprisingly frustrating part of the experience. After all, you’ve had all of this extra work to handle for so long, you should be happy to hand it over to a VA, right?
But you’d be surprised. Many people who hire a VA for the first time often have to get past their initial misgivings, including:
- Delegating something that you think you’re good at. Let’s say you’re a freelancer who has been managing your own sales pipeline for years. You’ve built a steady stable of clients; you must know what you’re doing, right? And a VA is never going to touch on the subtleties that make you so good at it? Well, if you hire a VA with experience in sales, cold emails, and CRM, you might be surprised to find out that you weren’t all that good at it in the first place. Be willing to delegate these tasks.
- Letting someone do something without supervision. When you first hire a VA, it may be tempting to “look over their virtual shoulder.” Fight this temptation. Try to evaluate your VA in terms of the results they create. That’s when it’s time to provide feedback.
With these two rules of thumb in mind, let’s take a look at a big list of the tasks you can outsource to a virtual assistant:
- Scheduling and calendar maintenance
- Email inbox management and communication follow-ups
- Handling phones
- Making appointments
- Managing traveling logistics; making travel arrangements
- Handling food logistics for meetings
- Managing a remote team
- Managing contacts lists
- Data entry
- Office minutes
Marketing and Social Media
- Handling a social media calendar
- Managing social media replies
- Handling outreach via social media
- Creating a content calendar
- Managing social media advertisements
- Responding to customer queries
- Interacting and networking with industry professionals
- Handling cold email outreach
- Managing CRM software
- Search engine optimization
- Keyword research
- Updating CRM software
- Writing/drafting new blog posts
- Handling graphic design for projects
- Graphic design for marketing materials
- Creating press kits, etc.
- Editing blog posts and business content
- Assembling slide presentations
- Assisting in the creation of information products
- Creative feedback on projects
- Interviewing and research for writing projects
- Data entry and data management
- IT security
- Password updates
- Security compliance
- Repairing/fixing software bug issues
- Dealing with customer support externally
- Web analytics
- Online eCommerce reporting
- Online eCommerce analytics
Picking Your Initial Tasks
Whew. That was a lot. Still with us?
Fortunately, you don’t have to assign each of those tasks right away. Make sure that you work your VA slowly at first, starting with a few key jobs. Here’s how to select yours:
- Start with your routine tasks. Maybe you don’t always need someone to run analytics every day, or to write a speech, but maybe you do need someone handling phones consistently. If that’s the case, start your assignments with the routine tasks they need to learn as soon as possible.
- Create a trial period for feedback. Sure, you could tell a VA to look at the list above and get to work. But they’re going to have more questions than answers. It’s important that you create an “onboarding” period in which you engage with your VA, provide answers to their questions, and evaluate how they’re performing.
On that last point, it helps to know the right way to approach feedback. Once you’ve selected a few tasks for the first period, it’s time to learn how to interact with your VA as they begin.
Giving Your Virtual Assistant Feedback
Of course, any onboarding document that covers a lot of ground is a great way to get started. But there’s no way to anticipate every question that a VA might have for you.
That’s why we recommend that you start out with a trial period. For example, let’s say you were to hire a VA for one month. In that month, you should give the VA leeway to figure out how you like to do things.
What’s important here is that you open it up to feedback. Be willing to take the VA’s suggestions for how they might optimize their performance—or how you might optimize your own strategies. Part of the pleasure of hiring someone who has specific experience in what you need is that they can introduce ideas that you might not have considered.
For example, you might have a relatively loose sales funnel. A virtual assistant who has been using a specific form of CRM software might not only suggest that you use a more organized method of managing client relationships, but may help you implement a new system that makes your entire sales process more efficient.
Welcome this feedback. It’s a part of every business’s growth process to get rid of the old ways of doing things. Inviting someone to take on administrative tasks is a great way to outsource your least-favorite items on the to-do list. Use that opportunity to let a VA handle the to-do list in the way they see fit. They just might surprise you.
Make sure that you also provide your VA with feedback. They need to know if they’re doing their job the right way. Don’t give them a one-month trial period and then fire them when you’re not happy with their work. Instead, tell them what they can improve. Test their ability to adapt.
Building a Business Relationship with Your Virtual Assistant for the Long Term
In this resource, we’ve guided you through several stages. If we were to liken it to a flight, then we’ve talked about your pre-flight checklist and how to get your plane in the air. But what about the flight itself? How can you set you and your VA on a course toward a successful long-term business relationship?
- Set clear expectations from the outset. This is one reason we think an onboarding document is critical, and why we included a section on setting expectations. If you constantly change what the VA’s job is, it can sometimes be jarring. It’s better to open up the process and be honest about what can change, what likely won’t change, and what you expect.
- Get into a routine. For your VA, there’s nothing wrong with a little routine. They work from home and they often appreciate having a steady source of income. Having the ability to plan their days is great for them; and as they practice this routine with your business, they can also become more efficient at it.
- Provide an outlet for long-term feedback. It’s commonplace to give performance reviews to full-time employees; why not VAs? The process makes sense for each of the parties involved and helps you make “course adjustments” over a longer period of time.
- Once you get comfortable with your initial tasks, look for what else you can delegate to continue to unlock your own time. As you grow a relationship with your VA, you’ll have increasing trust for their abilities. That means uncoupling yourself from your own business--often to the point where you may not feel the need to come into your own office. You can even have your VA assist in management duties so they learn how to help you grow the business without your presence being required. As is true in any business relationship, the possibilities are endless.
Hiring a Virtual Assistant with Delegated
Let’s say that you’ve got an onboarding document, a clear idea of who you want to hire, and a basic list of tasks that you know that you need help with when it comes to virtual assistants. What’s your next step? Your next step is to find a place that’s as dedicated to landing you the VA of your dreams as you are.
Delegated helps C-level executives, freelancers, entrepreneurs, and businesses outsource more of their tasks by matching them with the precise virtual assistant who’s right for their way of doing business. We tap into a network of virtual assistants and assign a customer success manager at the outset to remove some of the obstacles you might have come across in this resource.
Rather than guessing your way forward, we’ll help you match with the virtual assistant who’s right for you.
With your first virtual assistant hire, you shouldn’t have to feel like you’re playing a guessing game. You should instead follow a step-by-step plan for creating immediate success with your first hire. This will help eliminate guesswork, promote clear communication, and ensure that you have the VA that can help your business grow.