From “What is a Virtual Assistant?” to “My VA is a Rock Star!”

As an entrepreneur, your day is likely full of both small and large tasks that compete for your attention and drag you one way or another in an endless tug-of-war. There always seems to be things that keep you from the areas that are directly income generating. This is where a virtual assistant can come in.

A virtual assistant (aka VA) is a business owner who works from their home to manage the administrative area of your business and take tasks off your plate so that you can do what only you can do. If done right, hiring a virtual assistant could be the most important thing you do for your business.

Virtual assistance is not a one-stop shop, jack of all trades sort of business. Each VA will have their own strengths and weaknesses. Some are great at technical areas, some are experts in marketing, others specialise in grant proposal writing and nearly any area you can think of. The majority are administrative assistants who can relieve you of the more general admin tasks.

The tasks that a VA can help you with are as endless and varied as the businesses they work with. Some of those tasks could include:

The best way to determine if you need the assistance of a VA is to spend some time thinking about what your work days look like. Some questions you could ask yourself are:

Many of these tasks you can delegate to a VA. If you aren’t sure if your tasks are in the realm of what a VA does, that is a question you can ask when you consult with a VA you are interested in working with. They will tell you if they have the skills for it, or direct you to someone who might be better able to help you.

Being busy itself is not necessarily an indication that you need the services of a VA. It’s the quality of the time you are spending on tasks that is more relevant. If you are spending the majority of your time on client work, technical aspects that only you can do or business meetings, a VA might not be as necessary. If you are so bogged down by office work and admin tasks that you are having to push income-generating work down your To Do list, then a VA could be of great assistance to your business and your time.

How to Prepare For Hiring a VA

The most important thing you need to remember when hiring a virtual assistant is that you are not hiring an employee. You are hiring a business owner, a freelancer who is there to enhance and streamline your business. While a Virtual Assistant strives to offer time-efficient productivity, please bear in mind that they are not an exclusive employee and are often under multiple contracts simultaneously. You must remember that you are not interviewing an employee, you are consulting with an independent contractor.

The best way to prepare for a consultation with a VA is to write down all of the tasks you do in a day or week and approximately how long it takes for you to do each one. This will allow you to get a clear idea of what you do. Once you do that, cross out those tasks that you cannot outsource. This will leave you with all of the tasks that you can outsource. At that point, you can cross out any tasks that you would prefer to keep with you. Ta da! You have your list of tasks you want your VA to do.

The more planning you do in advance of contacting a VA, the easier it will be for you to determine who you want to work with, what you want them to do for you, how it will be done and what your budget for your VA will be. It will also save you time in the long run because you won’t have to scramble to figure out how to utilise your new VA best. Some of the questions you want to answer before even starting your search are:

Hiring a VA

Once you figure out what you want to outsource, the next question is: How do you find your rock star VA? This is a question that keeps many entrepreneurs from hiring a VA. They simply don’t know how to go about it. There are many ways, including agencies, online websites, Google search. All of these methods have their pros and cons. The best way, in my opinion, to find a VA you can trust is to ask your friends, family and business associates if they know anyone that they would be willing to recommend. A personal recommendation goes a long way to alleviating uneasiness about hiring an unknown factor.

Once you have found some VAs to speak with, you should set up a consultation. This will not only allow you to determine what they can do, but it will allow you both to gauge the personal fit. A virtual assistant is someone you will potentially be spending a lot of time with for a long time. It’s important that your working styles, personality and values mesh, as well as that your needs match their niche. You will want to discuss your expectations of your working relationship – this is something you should know clearly before your consultation (as answered above). A consultation will allow you both to interview each other to see if you want to work with each other. Spending time now finding the right fit for a VA will save you time, frustration and money in the future.

You’ve Hired a VA – Now What?

Once you’ve hired your VA – Congratulations! – the next steps can be overwhelming to many entrepreneurs. First, take a deep breath. You’ve just taken the first steps to freeing up a good chunk of your time. Many VAs, myself included, will have some sort of kick-off meeting where you will discuss the detailed breakdown of the tasks you have outsourced to your VA. In this meeting, you will want to go over the specifics of each task, as well as any pertinent access information. You will also want to outline how often you will have status meetings.

A very useful idea for keeping both you and your VA on the same page is for you to take the time to create an “Assistant’s Manual”. This will take a bit of time, but it will be worth it as it will outline exactly how you want tasks done and will be used for any VA in the future. You could have your VA add to it as they go along, as they will likely find new or more efficient ways of doing tasks.

What does it cost to hire a VA?

Many entrepreneurs expect the pay rate for a VA to be on the same level as that of a traditional assistant. This is an incorrect way of thinking, because a VA is not a traditional assistant. With a traditional assistant, as an employer you have the salary, plus benefits, training, holiday pay, sick leave, vacation, taxes and other “unseen” costs. You will also still have to pay your assistant for those times that there is no work for them. With a VA, these costs are eliminated. Instead, they are now costs that must be calculated by the VA. As a business owner, they must take into account their own overhead, sick time, vacation time, taxes and slow times. You pay only for the time that the VA spent on your tasks. The hourly rate might seem higher than for an employee, but the money you are saving by not paying the other associated costs of an employee, and because it frees you up to generate more income, balances out the higher cost of a VA.

Aside from the direct cost, you are paying for the value that a VA brings to your business. Their many skills and talents are being used to the benefit of your business. This is infinitely worth the cost!

There are many ways that a VA can structure their payments and packages, but the most common is retainer hours. With this method you pay up front for a set of hours to be used in that month. This has many benefits for the client. You are guaranteed that these hours will be available to you, which means your tasks will be a priority for the VA, and you know exactly how much your budget will be each month.

Do’s and Don’ts – Working with a VA

Now that you know everything you need to about hiring a VA who will be a great asset to your team – get out there and find your rock star!

If you have any questions or would like some clarification, I would love to hear from you!

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