Tips for Choosing and Using a Virtual Assistant

Good news: Your business is growing so quickly that it’s become difficult for you to stay on top of all of your emails and administrative tasks. But at the same time, perhaps you’re not profitable enough to hire a full-time assistant.

Luckily, there’s a happy medium available if you can’t afford to add a regular position to the payroll: a virtual assistant (VA). Virtual assistants can tackle nearly any business-related task that can be handled from afar, such as customer service, bookkeeping, schedule planning, research, or data entry. Rates vary tremendously based on the VA’s location and skill level, ranging anywhere from $7 to $75 an hour. If you think a VA might be a good fit for your business, here are some tips for choosing and making the most of your new virtual employee.

1)   Before hiring a VA, make sure you know and communicate what the role entails. Analyze which business tasks take up the most time, and decide whether they can be outsourced to someone without as much business knowledge. For instance, data entry or planning business travel may be ideal tasks to pass off, but you may decide that managing your company’s social networking accounts is a job best handled on your own. Whatever the case, draw up a list of potential chores and try to determine how much time they should take so you can budget for the job appropriately.

2)   Decide whether to hire your VA independently or through an agency. You’ll find advantages and disadvantages to each method: When using an agency, you’ll pay a higher rate to cover the agency’s overhead, but you may be able to use different assistants to handle different tasks without the confusion of paying vendors separately. Some agencies even offer money-back guarantees if you’re not happy with your first choice of VA.

3)   Decide whether or not you’ll hire internationally. Many VAs working for lower rates are based in countries with lower costs of living, such as India or the Philippines, whereas you’ll pay a premium to hire an American VA. Consider whether language and cultural fluency are essential to your tasks; if so, you’ll likely want to hire someone from your own country and will have to budget accordingly.

4)   Once you’ve hired your VA, set specific guidelines. When you have a job in mind for your VA, lay out your requests in step-by-step instructions with specific deadlines for each milestone. Be sure that your assistant understands her expected role, and discuss matters by phone if necessary. When you’re not dealing with a face-to-face assistant, it’s easy to make mistakes in communication.

Have you hired a virtual assistant? What have you learned from the experience?

About Kathryn Hawkins

Kathryn Hawkins is a principal at the content marketing agency Eucalypt Media. She's written about business, marketing, and entrepreneurship for publications including BNET, TheAtlantic.com, Inc.com, and owns and operates the positive news site Gimundo. Follow her on Twitter at @kathrynhawkins.
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5 comments
ArmieCabrera
ArmieCabrera

This is a very informative article about choosing and using a virtual assistant. Those who are considering to have one will surely find this post helpful. Thank you for sharing. 

Pudge87
Pudge87

I have to agree with you, Kathryn. Hiring a virtual assistant will save you so much time. If you're managing a growing business, then having a VA is a smart move you should take. However, I have to admit that it is also kind of tricky. You have to have a strategy to be able to hire a great VA with a pay as low as $4 per hour. You could try to look for a VA on staff.com or odesk.com preferably from some country like the Philippines. If you’re lucky enough to get to hire the best virtual assistant possible, they can do lots of stuff. Like booking travel, making appointments, answering emails, web researching, etc. One tip I could share with you is you should assign them a task that’s sort of a “busy work” thing, like promoting your site for your business. This is whenever they have down time; they still have something to do.

Find a Virtual Assistant
Find a Virtual Assistant

Thank you for a great article! There are even more benefits to outsourcing to a Virtual Assistant, that allows the entrepreneur more time to focus on their priority - growin the business.1) Using a Virtual Assistant allows you to reduce costs: While this shouldn't be the only factor, outsourcing to a professional Virtual Assistant firm converts Fixed Costs into Variable Costs and releases more cash flow into the business. 2) Hiring a Virtual Assistant is more efficient: By outsourcing tasks like Marketing and Administration to an outside firm, you are able to focus more on clients, which makes you a stronger competitor. 3) Ramp up projects faster: Virtual Assistant firms that have large teams have the resources and manpower to jumpstart projects quickly, working on tasks concurrently to get the project completed faster. 4) Finally, the best reason is to improve your business. When you have a Virtual Assistant firm, you can compete better with your competitors. The best Virtual Assistant teams will suggest improvements, help manage risk, etc.

VA_Cresilda
VA_Cresilda

To begin the process of hiring a VA (if you want a VA through an agency), you can call or email one of VA managers and provide them with a detailed description of your project and its requirements, including deadlines.The VA manager will then work with you to determine how long you will require the services of one of their VAs. They will then select a VA for you that have the experience and qualifications to meet your requirements.The more detailed your request, the better they can match up the most qualified VA to fit your needs.

Hilary
Hilary

Another way to help find a virtual assistant is to ask your colleagues for recommendations. Chances are someone you know on facebook, twitter, or other networking group is using (or has used) a virtual assistant that they are happy with. As owner of a virtual assistant company, many our of clients come from referrals.

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