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.
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?
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.
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:
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.
How do you know whether a virtual assistant really has what it takes? There are a few key elements that you should consider:
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.
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:
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:
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:
Marketing and Social Media
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:
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.
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.
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?
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.