Written by contributing writer Kathy Soulsby
There are thousands of Virtual Assistants (VA) out there. So, how do you find the one that is right for you and your business? In this article, I hope to set you on the right path of getting the perfect VA for you.
Know what you are looking for
Before you start to look for a VA, you need to have a clear idea of what it is you want them to do. What may feel like a lot of work for you may not be enough of a role to warrant a VA. Or, you may have so many varied tasks that you might be better off having two (or more) VAs supporting you. Not all VAs do all kinds of tasks, so if you have lots of different tasks, you may need to split the role over several resources.
Most VAs will charge by time, so it is helpful to have a sense of how much time you think this will take. We usually work in hours per week or month rather than days. And normally VAs won’t specify when they are working for you – it’ll be 20 hours a month rather than every Wednesday for four hours. Some VAs offer retainer packages to reserve hours for you; others work purely on a pay-as-you-go basis and will record time through the month and send an invoice at the end.
List down everything you do in your day for a week or so in detail. The aim of having a VA is to outsource everything but your brilliance. You need to focus on the work you are paid to do and that only you can do. Everything else is a distraction from this, even if you are perfectly capable of doing it.
Once you have that list of tasks, look at what could be done by someone else and estimate how much time that might take.
Hint: we VAs work very efficiently and usually work “on the clock” like lawyers, so typically, I find people overestimate how much time things will take. But if it’s entering three expense receipts into a spreadsheet and booking one lunch, that isn’t enough. Some VAs have a minimum number of hours that they’ll work for a client. We find that if you don’t have enough work, we won’t be able to get under the skin of your business and add any value.
The working relationship
As well as the ability and skills to do the tasks you’ve listed, what kind of person do you want and what kind of relationship? If you only want someone to format Word documents once a month and send them back, then you only need a transactional relationship, and personality is less important. However, having a partner in your business who is going to be your “second brain”, helping your business grow, being your sounding board and cheerleader (as an experienced VA absolutely can be), is going to need a different kind of relationship. If you are a detailed person, you’ll want someone that works in that way and will give you full updates. If you’re dire at spelling, you should make sure your VA is very good at it so they can check things. Have a think about the kind of person you could work well with.
Starting to look
When looking for a VA, the thing not to do is to ask a huge group of people for recommendations. You’ll get too many, and they’ll send over details of an amazing marketing VA when you need a diary manager and organizer. My suggestion is to handpick people you know and ask them if they know anyone they could recommend a VA that can do X and Y. If that doesn’t give you enough to go on, try a group of people like you – that might be a podcast group or a coaching alumni group. Other VAs may also be able to point you in the right direction. Be as specific as you can on what you need.
Remember that you’re not employing someone; you are bringing in a service, so you won’t be asking them for a CV or telling them the rate. They’ll be showcasing their experience and quoting you their rates. As with every area in life, you get what you pay for. You won’t get an amazing VA if you only pay bargain basement rates. If you want skills and experience, then you need to pay the industry standard, or more, in the country that you work in.
You’ll want to ensure that your VA is professionally set up. You’re trusting your business, your IP, your reputation, and your clients to this person; just as you wouldn’t send your child to a random daycare set up by someone you met on the street, you shouldn’t let a fly-by-night VA into your business!
That may include checking professional indemnity insurance, data security methodology, that they have paid for anti-virus and a secure network and that they are working on a device that isn’t shared. I’d always get two references from past clients as well.
Other things you’ll want to check:
Working with a skilled VA can be a game changer for businesses. The key to making it work is investing the time in it upfront. Just as a cleaner can’t make you tidy and your personal trainer can’t make you thin, a VA can’t make you organized! You have to work with them, be guided by them, answer their questions, and give them the knowledge about the business they need to be amazing at supporting you.
Great communication on both sides is vital to ensuring everyone has what they need to deliver excellent work. Agree with you on how best to communicate for different levels of urgency and respect their boundaries. VAs might be remote, but we aren’t Siri, in your phone and therefore available 24/7!
Bringing a VA into your business can be a huge step-change in your work and life. Taking some time to get it right really pays off in the long run.
About the author:
Kathy Soulsby is the founder of Personally Virtual Personally Virtual and the author of How To Work With a Virtual Assistant. Since founding Personally Virtual in 2014, the team now comprises over thirty VAs, supporting businesses great and small with expert diary ninja and operational support. Prior to setting up Personally Virtual, Kathy was an EA for fifteen years. Her new book How To Work With A Virtual Assistant explores why people should seek to outsource everything but their own brilliance and how a Virtual Assistant can practically support them in doing that.