Feeling overwhelmed with an ever-growing to-do list in your business? Consider hiring a virtual assistant (VA).
As a business owner, you have a lot on your plate: answering customers’ questions, filing orders, marketing, performing day-to-day tasks, etc. And that’s all on top of the higher-level development of business processes and goals. You don’t want to be stuck doing those day-to-day tasks that someone else could be doing.
Hiring a Virtual Assistant can save up to 78% on operating costs compared to hiring a traditional in-house employee.
A virtual assistant (VA) is like having an extra set of hands without the commitment of hiring a full-time employee. Imagine having a few extra hours in your day to focus on the things that really matter. And as cliche as this might sound, time is money. This is why so many businesses are now focusing on hiring virtual assistants.
In this article, we’ll discuss what a virtual assistant is, what you need to know for effective virtual assistant hiring, and the mistakes you should avoid in this process. We’ll also share actionable tips on how to hire a virtual assistant for your business with the least amount of effort and time on your end.
Hiring a Virtual Assistant: An Overview
What is a Virtual Assistant?
A virtual assistant is a remote contractor who offers administrative support to clients without physically being present in their office. They typically work from their home office/place of choice and use digital tools to access clients’ documents and schedules.
They are efficient generalists who manage various actions. Virtual assistance tasks include responding to emails, scheduling social media content, entering data, etc. VAs can perform these tasks for a fixed hourly rate or on a retainer for a set number of monthly hours.
One of the best things about virtual assistants is that they can operate as digital nomads worldwide and manage multiple clients simultaneously. This is just one of the many reasons for hiring VAs.
Hiring a virtual assistant for your business can bring peace of mind, knowing that essential tasks are being handled by someone who is both reliable and skilled. Plus, you’ll have more time to focus on growing your business.
What Tasks Can Virtual Assistants Perform?
Virtual assistants won’t take on an entire function of your business; instead, they can help you manage specific processes or tasks. Here are some common virtual assistance tasks:
- Community management tasks such as moderating comments on your Facebook ads or monitoring Twitter for engagement opportunities
- Remote-friendly personal errands such as ordering flowers or online gifts
- Answering customer emails, social media comments, and phone calls
- Building blogger/influencer outreach lists based on specific criteria
- Researching statistics and examples for upcoming content
- Processing orders and returns from customers
- Making sales calls when provided with a script and guidelines on how to respond to common questions
- Performing bookkeeping duties or data entry from different sources into a single spreadsheet
- Scheduling meetings or booking appointments.
When is the Right Time to hire a Virtual Assistant?
Virtual assistants (VAs) offer an affordable way to get ongoing help running your business. You might consider hiring a virtual assistant if:
- You find yourself working on mundane administrative tasks that an organized and capable person could handle. Remember: you should focus on working on your business rather than working in your business.
- You’re willing to spend $200 to $4,000+ per month to buy back your time. The rate depends on the hours, time zone, and skills you need for a dedicated VA.
- You already know the recurring tasks and processes you want to outsource, such as customer service or bookkeeping.
- Your most significant weaknesses are organization and administration, and VAs are known for being organized and efficient. That makes them great accountability partners for solopreneurs.
- You feel overwhelmed by the growth of your business, have a busy personal life, or work a 9-to-5 and are building your business on the side.
Hiring a VA can help you delegate the tasks you don’t enjoy and free up mental space and time for the work you enjoy. You can focus on what you should be doing: scaling your business.
When Not to Hire a Virtual Assistant
Hiring a virtual assistant doesn’t mean you can kick back and relax while someone else takes over your business. Before bringing on a VA, it’s essential to understand the steps needed to perform the task or process you want to outsource.
If you effectively train your VA, you can trust them to represent your brand, talk to customers, and even make payments on your behalf. A VA’s job is to execute within the systems you’ve set up for them, not to set up the systems for you.
Hiring a virtual assistant may not be the best move for you if:
- You haven’t prepared clear guidelines, standard operating procedures (SOPs), and step-by-step instructions: Without these, a VA might cost you more time than they save you because you’ll need to micromanage their work.
- You need specialized support: A virtual assistant may be familiar with various tasks and contexts but may not have specialized expertise in your field. If you’re looking for someone with deep knowledge and experience in your industry, hire a specialized freelancer. (For example, at Scaling With Systems, we’ve trained and placed thousands of VAs with tailored skills according to our client’s needs.)
- No infrastructure for training & feedback: If you hire the best virtual assistant, they’ll require less oversight over time. That said, no matter how much experience they have, they’re starting a new job and will require onboarding.
- You didn’t consider automation first: If the process you want to outsource can be expressed by the statement, “If this specific scenario happens, do that,” you should consider built-in software automation and integrations. (Zapier, for example).
For more information on how to use Zapier, read this article.
How Much Does a Virtual Assistant Cost?
When hiring a virtual assistant, it’s essential to remember that pricing can vary greatly. You can expect to pay anywhere from $10 to over $60 per hour. The rate depends on the skills and location of the virtual assistant.
Virtual assistants based in the US with specialized skills tend to be more expensive than those based overseas focused on administrative tasks.
Some virtual assistants charge by the hour, while others may charge a monthly retainer for a set number of hours. The monthly retainer can range from $400 to $5,000 or more.
Plus, some virtual assistant services offer the option to pay per task or project, with rates starting as low as $50 per month.
If you’re a busy and established entrepreneur who’s looking for an extra level of support, consider hiring an executive assistant. These virtual assistants are equipped to act as your right-hand person and provide a wide range of business and personal support.
They can take on various tasks on your behalf. Also, they can be an excellent option for entrepreneurs willing to pay a higher rate for added convenience.
Save Money By Hiring A Virtual Assistant
To be a successful entrepreneur, you must figure out how much your time is worth. To be more precise, how much does one hour of your time cost?
Knowing the answer to this question helps you achieve your financial goals. Understanding your value per hour allows you to delegate and outsource properly. You’ll spend more time on projects and tasks that grow your business.
To do that, you’ll need to calculate your effective hourly rate (EHR). The formula for EHR is as follows:
EHR = Monthly Earnings / Hours Worked Per Month
Say your EHR turns out to be $100/hr, you work 40 hours/week, 50 weeks/year, and your financial goal is to earn $1 million. Here’s how the calculation would go:
That means it would take five years to reach that goal at your current EHR. How could you shorten that span? Delegation is the key!
Say you write content for your blog yourself. Hiring the best virtual assistant to churn out excellent website content would cost you around $40/hour. By writing your own content, you probably think you are saving $40/hour. You are throwing $60/hour in the trash can.
Hiring a virtual assistant would save you those $60/hour. You’ll also have enough time to make crucial decisions to help your income grow. As a result, you’ll reach your financial goals quicker than you would otherwise.
Benefits Of Hiring A Virtual Assistant
If you’re still not convinced that hiring a virtual assistant is for you, then read on to learn some specific benefits of hiring a virtual assistant for your business:
Don’t Need a Physical Office
Renting a physical office can be pretty costly, especially in a premium location. Hiring a virtual assistant can be a manageable way to keep expenses low while you are building a team for your business.
With communication and management tools, virtual staff can efficiently do their job at a lower cost, primarily limited to their hourly rate. This makes virtual assistants a cost-effective solution for expanding your team.
Virtual Assistants are Inexpensive
Businesses can reap the benefits of cost savings by choosing a virtual assistant over traditional employees.
Virtual assistants, as independent contractors, often charge lower hourly rates owing to their lower cost of living in comparison. This presents a favorable scenario for businesses looking to reduce expenses while obtaining the necessary support and expertise.
Not Limited to the Local Talent
Your local talent pool might be limited, which makes finding a candidate with a specific skill set challenging. Hiring a virtual assistant will remove that limitation, as they can work anywhere in the world, provided that they have a seamless internet facility.
This can significantly increase the chances of hiring a high-value team member.
Don’t Burn Out, Delegate!
Delegating specific tasks and responsibilities to others is a crucial strategy for avoiding burnout. However, many entrepreneurs mistakenly think they have to do everything themselves.
That leads to long workdays, scattered focus, overwhelming feelings, and little time for other aspects of life, such as exercise, hobbies, and family.
It’s important to remember that delegation is not a sign of weakness but rather strength and good management. By recognizing that you can’t do everything alone, you’re taking a proactive step to avoid burnout and improve your overall well-being.
When businesses realize that hiring virtual assistants is an investment in being more effective in their role as business owners, they often see it as a no-brainer.
How to Hire a Virtual Assistant
When hiring a virtual assistant, remember that they are not all right fit for you; you’ll need to try to find the best fit.
Like any other employee, you’ll need to interview and evaluate them. That starts with creating a clear job description that outlines your specific needs.
To help your new virtual assistant hit the ground running, have all the necessary onboarding resources and materials prepared. A mistake businesses make when hiring virtual assistants is not being organized before interviewing and hiring. This makes the onboarding process long and confusing for your VA.
You want to spend the least time managing assistants in your business. Do this by having clear and actionable goals and processes for them to follow.
Get Organized Before You Delegate: Document Your Process
Hiring a virtual assistant (VA) isn’t as simple as just telling them what you want over the phone and hoping they do it right. You need to be super clear about what your goals are, what tasks need to be managed, and the qualifying system you’ll set for hiring.
This means listing out what you are looking for, what interview questions will be asked to find out whether that person qualifies as a great fit for the company, and how you will train your VA to ensure success.
Many VAs, like most other employees, when they are hired, are put through a trial period. Hiring virtual assistants shouldn’t be super different from hiring a full-time employee. They need to be considered mindfully and integrated into the team and culture of the business.
To ensure that tasks are completed correctly, it’s essential to document the entire process and create guidelines for them to follow.
Not only does this make it easier to onboard a new VA, but it also helps you think through every step you need to communicate to them.
Also, for tasks such as customer service and social media management, creating scripts or replies for common scenarios is beneficial. These are all quality control measures that ensure that your VA is managing tasks aligned with the business’s other workflows, as well as the overall company culture.
Hire the Right Fit: The Perfect Job Description for Your Virtual Assistant
Write a clear and detailed job description that outlines the skills and qualifications you’re looking for to hire a virtual assistant.
This will act as a filter for finding the right person. Always get your needs down on paper.
The job description should include the following:
- The scope of your business
- Any past experience
- Language priorities
- Specific tasks you want your VA to do
- Required and optional skills
- Resources you will provide
Also, consider the tools and platforms you use, and mention any experience you require. (Zendesk, Hootsuite, and Facebook, for example). That makes it easier to find a VA with experience with your tools.
Hiring & Onboarding Your Virtual Assistant
When hiring a virtual assistant, business owners often make the mistake of posting on traditional job boards or social networks. Consider using platforms explicitly designed for hiring contractors, like freelance marketplaces or virtual assistant service providers.
This can help you find the right fit for your business. During the interview process, conduct interviews over Zoom or Google hangouts, and ask for references from past clients to gauge their past performance.
Once you’ve hired your VA, ease them into your business gradually so you can learn their strengths while making them understand your business better.
Secure Your Business: Protect Your Information & Accounts
After hiring a virtual assistant, you’ll have to give them limited access to your socials or any other tools they have to use to do their job.
For your own security, leverage LastPass, which allows you to share each password with another user.
Most tools you already employ also offer limited permission access for your teammates.
- Facebook’s Page Manager allows you to assign specific roles for virtual assistants to post content.
- With most customer service tools, you can add new users with permission to respond to support tickets.
- Using a PayPal business account, you can specify user permissions so virtual assistants can make payments without providing a credit card.
- Gmail has an email delegation feature so your VA can see and reply to emails on your behalf.
Getting your virtual assistant to sign a non-disclosure agreement is an excellent idea to protect your business.
If they work with multiple clients and sometimes with competitors in the same niche, it becomes compulsory to sign an NDA.
Optimize Your Virtual Assistant’s Role: Track Progress & Improve Over Time
It can be challenging to determine the pace at which your virtual assistant should work or how much work they should complete per hour. This is where time-tracking comes in handy.
Many VAs have systems to track their time and report it on invoices. If your VA doesn’t have a system in place, there are time-tracking tools like Toggl that you can explore.
Your VA may offer better ways of completing tasks or suggest improvements as they become familiar with your business. Once your VA is comfortable with their tasks, consider expanding their role. That way, you can outsource more processes or hire an additional VA to manage other aspects of your business.
Mistakes To Avoid When Hiring A Virtual Assistant
At Scaling With Systems, we’ve interviewed, trained, and placed thousands of virtual assistants worldwide with our clients.
Through trial and error, we have identified the top three mistakes to avoid when hiring a Virtual Assistant:
1. Is Your Business Ready?
Most entrepreneurs just like the idea of hiring a virtual assistant, or any employee, as it feels like they are doing something to grow their business. While it is an exciting time to hire new people, it doesn’t automatically mean that hiring VAs leads to success.
Without clarity on what tasks they need to delegate and how VAs can free up other employee’s time, you could be wasting money on hiring a VA.
Many businesses don’t have clear systems in place. These business owners think of VAs as a silver bullet who would magically know what to do once hired. When, in reality, they don’t know what outcomes they want from the virtual assistant.
The solution is to have SOPs, documents, or training manuals in place before you hire a virtual assistant for a smooth transition. That way, they’ll be clear about the following:
- What are the expectations?
- What are they supposed to be doing?
- What results do they need to deliver?
- How can they deliver those results?
2. Hiring for Hard Skills Instead of Soft Skills
Another mistake business owners make is not hiring for soft skills. Hard skills include scraping emails, sending messages, running Facebook ads, etc. In contrast, soft skills include relatability, understanding, cultural fit, willingness to learn, etc.
Most candidates you’ll find when hiring a virtual assistant will say things like, “I have six months of experience in data scraping, and I know how to scrape emails.” Entrepreneurs make the grave mistake of instantly hiring them based on just that.
They don’t bother to ask important questions like the following:
- What’s their background?
- What are their work ethics?
- Why are they applying for the specific job?
- What are their goals?
- What kind of experience do they want to gain from the job?
- What kind of company do they want to work for?
- What are their problem-solving techniques?
As a result, the VAs don’t have a great relationship with the business owner; there’s no real work culture. They are not excited to show up to work every day and don’t give their 100% to the business.
These VAs don’t get along with their team leaders or business owners. Consequently, they have no synergy with your business model. If you see them as a one-off tool, you’ll not get the most out of them.
Asking the questions mentioned above will help you assess their soft skills. Once hired, you can then train them for the hard skills. That’s easy to do with a VA that’s an excellent fit for your business based on soft skills.
2. They Don’t Work with an Agency
Another mistake entrepreneurs make when hiring a virtual assistant is that they try to do it all on their own (they don’t work with an agency).
At Scaling With Systems, we help our clients hire virtual assistants that will make a difference to their company, with lifetime guarantees for the VAs we place with our clients. We thoroughly train them on the tasks our clients want them to do and place them with the systems needed for the ideal client acquisition strategy.
In essence, your VAs are trained to have all tasks carried out that would ultimately lead to your business getting more sign-ups and purchases.
Problems you’ll face when hiring a virtual assistant yourself:
- Not knowing how to qualify VAs – how do you know if they are good at what they do? If you’ve never hired a VA, it can be hard to know how to hire a VA effectively (what interview questions to ask, etc).
- If anything happens to the VA and they can’t work anymore, you’ll have to go through the hiring process all over again. Working with an agency like ours, you’ll have a lifetime guarantee on their placement.
- VAs will have multiple other clients to work for when you hire from a freelancer website. That means they don’t have a real stake in your business; they are contractors. When hiring virtual assistants, you need to consider many different potential risks and issues that could arise. We’ve learned a lot through our experience of hiring VAs for our clients years.
Hiring The Best Virtual Assistant: FAQs
When should I hire a virtual assistant?
Indications that you may need a virtual assistant include you having the experience of:
- Sleep deprivation from late nights spent working
- Feeling of being overwhelmed
- Difficulty in handling all the responsibilities of your business alone
- No time to make important decisions or perform important tasks to help your business grow.
How do I find a virtual assistant?
The most effective way to find a suitable virtual assistant is to seek referrals from your network. Recommendations from people you trust increase the likelihood of finding a virtual assistant with the skills and qualifications you need.
If you don’t have connections to fix you up with a VA, consider hiring an agency like Scaling With Systems. Virtual assistant hiring shouldn’t be an added stress to your already busy workflow.
How much does a VA cost per hour?
VAs cost anywhere from $10 to over $60 per hour, depending on their location and skill sets. For more information on what you need to know when hiring virtual assistants, check out the article above on hiring tips for VAs.
Wrapping Up: Hire a Virtual Assistant
Many entrepreneurs, like yourself, work long hours and feel overwhelmed. Often because they still have to figure out how to make the most of their time and pass on tasks to others.
The true goal of being an entrepreneur shouldn’t just be to own a business. Instead, you should eventually hand over some responsibilities to capable individuals; automate the business to scale it to the next level.
Hiring a virtual assistant can help you prioritize essential things like scaling your business or quality time with your loved ones.
At Scaling With Systems, we build profitable client acquisition systems that can be automated and delegated. You’ll have more time to focus on the decisions that matter the most for growing your business while freeing up more time for you as a business owner.
If you want to see your business grow, book a free consultation call, and one of our advisors will reach you.