A Complete Guide for How to Find a Virtual Assistant
For many businesses, hiring a virtual assistant is the first step to creating an efficient, scalable business. Down the line, you will probably want to add more people to your team. But hiring a VA is definitely something you will want to consider doing early on. It can help free up your time, so you can focus on the things that matter most to your business.
Good business owners don’t try to do everything on their own. Instead, they build systems. They hire people who can get things done for them. And this is the key to creating a business that has the potential for growth. Burning the candle at both ends just isn’t efficient enough for success.
The hours you spend checking emails, making phones, and updating databases are hours you could better spend on high level business strategies that could actually make a difference to your bottom line. Plus, the more you add to your plate, the less attention each task gets. This can result in a huge drop in quality.
In this guide, you’ll get all the information you need to hire your first virtual assistant. We’ll help you identify what tasks to delegate, how to find virtual assistants to hire, and how to manage your remote staff effectively.
What Exactly Is a Virtual Assistant?
Virtual assistants (VAs) are remote workers. They can work full-time, part-time, or on a per-project basis. Most VAs will work with multiple clients at a time.
You can hire a virtual assistant to do pretty much any task, as long as it can be done remotely. Note that this doesn’t mean you can hire one person to take on every task for your business. There are different kinds of virtual assistants, and you need to choose the kind that is best suited for your needs.
The General VA
This is the most common type of virtual assistant.
Everevery virtual assistant job is a little bit different, of course, but there are some general components to expect.
A General VA is someone who can take on the daily tasks and processes
The tasks that you would delegate to a General VA tend to be technical and repetitive in nature, generally taking charge of administrative tasks to help a client focus on the other aspects of their jobs (or personal lives)
Most virtual assistants provide support to their employer or clients in the form of:
- Document transcription
- Letter and statement writing
- File organization
- Social media management
- Professional profile maintenance
- Record maintenance
- Travel arrangements
- Scheduling and coordinating
- Invoicing and bookkeeping
- Email writing
- Phone calls
- Data entry
The Specialized VA
A Specialized Virtual Assistant is someone that has a very specific skill set and is better suited for owning and/or overseeing a very specific process in your business. They tend to be more expensive than General VAs because they already have a specialized skill set and will require minimal additional training from you.
Tasks such as customer service, bookkeeping, web development, video editing, and project management, for example, are better suited for a Specialized VA.
Outsourcing tasks vs. outcomes
With a General VA, it’s best to outsource specific tasks and processes, and you should provide them with training on how to do those tasks and processes properly.
With a Specialized VA, it’s best to outsource specific outcomes. A Specialized VA should be more skilled than you are (that’s why you hire them!) at the specific tasks and processes that are a part of their role. Since you’re counting on their knowledge and expertise, it’s best to tell them what to do, not how to do it.
Increasing Twitter followers by 10% per month, for example, is an outcome. Importing a blog post from Google Drive to WordPress, for example, is a task. See the difference?
Benefits of hiring virtual staff
Whether you hire a single Virtual Assistant or you build an entire team of virtual staff, outsourcing to remote team members can have a significant impact on your productivity and the growth of your business.
Hiring a Virtual Assistant is one of the first, yet most important hires that you can make as an entrepreneur.
Here are some of the main benefits of hiring a Virtual Assistant:
You don’t need a physical office
Depending on where you live, renting a physical office space can be quite expensive. Hiring a Virtual Assistant enables you to start building your team while keeping your expenses low. With the exception of a few software tools for communicating with and managing your virtual staff, the primary cost of hiring virtual staff is the amount you pay for their time.
Virtual Assistants are inexpensive
Virtual Assistants are an affordable alternative to hiring regular employees. Most Virtual Assistants operate as independent contractors and depending on where they live, their hourly rate may be significantly lower than what a local employee would cost you. A Virtual Assistant in the Philippines, for example, will typically cost less than half of what a Virtual Assistant in North America costs for the same tasks and responsibilities.
You’re not limited by local talent (hire the best of the best)
Not every entrepreneur has access to a local talent pool of qualified candidates for a specific role. A Virtual Assistant can technically work from anywhere in the world as long as they have an internet connection. Not having to hire someone locally increases your number of potential candidates for specific roles significantly.
Virtual Assistants are not the only people that use ConvertKit (an email marketing software company), for example, currently have 34 highly skilled team members spread across 26 different cities.
Delegation helps prevent burnout
Delegating specific tasks and responsibilities to other people is a huge step towards preventing burnout. Unfortunately, there are a lot of entrepreneurs that think they need to do everything themselves, and that’s exactly what they end up doing. This leads to very long work days, lack of focus, feeling overwhelmed, and having little time for other areas of their life such as exercise, hobbies, and family.
Spend more time in your areas of strength
You can’t be a master of everything, nor should you try to be. For every task and process that is required to run your business (including the ones you don’t like or are terrible at doing!), there are other people who specialize in those tasks and actually enjoy them. Hiring people to delegate tasks to frees up your time to focus on activities that you enjoy and you’re good at.
Focus on high-value and income generating activities
Lastly, when you hire a Virtual Assistant, you free up more time to focus on activities that add significantly more value to your business than the ones you delegated to your Virtual Assistant. In other words, you free up more time to focus on activities that have a direct impact on your income.
Examples of Companies That Hire Virtual Assistants
According to the FlexJobs database, the companies below have frequently hired for virtual assistant jobs during the last six months.
There are many other companies that commonly hire for virtual assistants, too. When it comes to job titles, be on the lookout for job titles like virtual assistant, virtual administrative assistant, administrative coordinator, personal assistant, executive assistant, and similar titles.
How to Know If You Need a Virtual Assistant
It can be tough to identify the tipping point for when to hire a virtual assistant, but there are a few common signs that it’s time to start delegating:
- You’re working long hours on a regular basis. Especially if a lot of your time is spent doing repetitive or tedious tasks like replying to social media comments or customer service emails, you might want to think about delegating to a VA. We’re talking about more than one bad week here or there—look for patterns of these long, tedious hours happening for several weeks in a row.
- You’re losing customers or clients because you can’t respond to emails in a timely manner. Once you start losing money because you can’t keep up with your email, you absolutely need help. Losing clients isn’t an option for a growing business.
- You’re spending your time on lower-value tasks. This is your company, and you should be spending your time adding value to the company in a way only you can.
- Administrative work is a specific skillset, but it’s one that you can delegate. Your brain? That’s non-transferable.
- You’re doing work you don’t like. If you enjoy some of those tedious tasks, then by all means stick with them. They might energize you or spark ideas that you otherwise wouldn’t have. But make sure you like your work. Doing tasks that you dislike can lead to burnout, which will have a negative effect on your productivity—and your business.
Unless you immediately hired a team as soon as you launched your business, you’re probably assuming the responsibility for many different roles. In other words, you’re wearing many different hats, and consequently, your time is spread across many different tasks and responsibilities.
To become the CEO of your business, and to spend your time only on activities that a CEO should spend their time on, you need to delegate specific tasks and responsibilities to others.
It comes down to simple math.
If your goal is to generate over $100,000 in annual revenue, for example, you can’t expect to accomplish this goal by spending your time on tasks that are worth $20 per hour. Unless you can work 5,000 hours in a 12 month period (unlikely), the math just doesn’t add up. You need to spend your time on activities that have a higher hourly rate.
One of the reasons why entrepreneurs resist hiring help is because they view hiring other people as an expense and not as an investment. If you’ve ever felt this way about hiring, the following exercise should be helpful for you.
Your mental health is the most important factor here, but you are running a business, so you need to take a look at the bottom line and weigh that against any impending burnout. When it comes down to it, you need to be sure that your assistant will save you more money than they’ll cost.
Running the numbers
Start by tracking your time. That’s something you should be doing anyway: It’s an easy way to spot inefficiencies and see exactly where your time is going—compared to where you think it’s going. Check out our list of the best time-tracking tools to get started and find the best choice for you. Once you know how much time you’re spending on each task, it’s time to do some math.
When setting up a time-tracking solution, you don’t want to get too granular with your tasks, but just enough to see patterns. For example, you might track things like “social media” or “press and PR,” but you’ll also want a general “administrative” category for things like scheduling appointments or calling suppliers.
You spend six to eight hours/week dealing with customer questions via phone and email. At $22/hr, that would cost you $132-176/week to outsource to a virtual assistant. In that same six hours, you could be doing something else (billable client work, increasing marketing efforts on Instagram, whatever makes sense for your business) that would make you $300-400. In this case, the numbers show that getting a VA makes financial sense for you.
You spend three hours/week dealing with a higher-level administrative task that requires some background knowledge of both the industry and your business/product (e.g., talking to manufacturers). You’d have to find a VA that has the same level of background knowledge you do (and pay higher rates accordingly—say, $30-35/hour), and you don’t have an immediately profitable task you could be doing with the time you’d save. In this case, hiring a VA isn’t worth it for you—yet. Once you have enough other tasks to delegate, you can hand this off, but for now it makes the most financial sense to keep trucking along yourself.
You’ve analyzed your timelogs and found that you’re spending five to seven hours/week on administrative work. You have around two to three hours of profitable work you could be doing in that amount of time, so you would more or less be breaking even by hiring an assistant. This is often the trickiest position to be in, since there’s no immediate monetary gain to be had. If you hate the admin work and just want it off your plate, hiring an assistant is worth it—if just for your peace of mind and to avoid burnout. It might also be a good idea to hire an assistant now if you have a busy season coming up in three months: By the time that busy season hits, you’ll have your VA fully onboarded. If, however, you enjoy using those administrative tasks to wind down at the end of a work day, then the delegating pressure is off.
If the math doesn’t work out how you’d hoped, there are other ways to get started. Take a look below at our section on automation to get started.
Calculate your Target Hourly Rate:
Your Target Hourly Rate is the rate that your time, as the CEO of your business, needs to be worth in order for you to achieve your income goals.
To calculate your Target Hourly Rate, take your monthly (or annual) income goal and divide it by the number of hours you intend to work during that period of time.
For example: $250,000 (annual income goal) divided by 2,000 (# of work hours) equals $125 per hour
Every task in your business has an approximate dollar value
As an entrepreneur, it’s your job to identify activities that contribute the most value to your business, and spend the majority of your time on those activities. Any tasks or activities that fall below your Target Hourly Rate should be delegated to someone else.
If you’re not achieving your income goals, and I can almost guarantee that it’s because you’re not spending enough time on high-value activities.
Low-value tasks are tasks that are necessary to running your business but do not directly contribute to increasing revenue. Examples of low-value tasks are bookkeeping, customer support, project management, graphic design, editing, etc.
High-value tasks are tasks that directly contribute to increasing revenue. Examples of high-value tasks are marketing and lead generation, selling, launching new products or services, and creating strategic partnerships and joint ventures.
The quickest way to increase your income as an entrepreneur is to delegate more low-value tasks to others and fill your calendar with as many high-value tasks as possible. Use the income that you generate from high-value tasks to pay for the outsourcing of the low-value tasks.
Virtual assistant vs. in-person assistant
If you’ve determined you need help, it’s still worth deciding: Is a virtual assistant the way to go? Sometimes, an in-person assistant might be what you’re looking for. Here are a few things to consider when making that decision:
Types of tasks:
If your business involves a lot of packing up items for shipment or running local errands, then you’ll need an in-person assistant.
Your preferred form of communication:
If you’re totally comfortable communicating via text message, email, Slack, and the occasional phone or video call, then a remote VA will do the trick. If you find that you thrive with face-to-face communication, you might have trouble managing a virtual assistant.
Availability and cost of talent:
Depending on where you live, you may not be able to find a local assistant with the skillset you require. Alternatively, you might not be able to afford a local assistant with the skillset you require. That would be a good time to turn to a VA.
What you can expect to pay for a virtual assistant
As with most professions, rates for VAs are all over the map. Here are a few things to keep in mind while you’re looking at virtual assistants and their rates:
PayScale shows a wide range of pay for virtual assistants, depending on their skill level, years of experience, industry, and clientele.
The range is $15,387 to $65,379 per year, with the median annual rate at $36,272. Hourly, virtual assistant pay ranges from $10.16 to $29.49, with a median hourly rate of about $16.
If you need a medical virtual assistant, At Go Lean Flat-Rate Pricing
$8.50 per hour
No Contracts. No Minimums. No Setup Fees.
Type of work
If you’re looking at entry-level administrative work (email management, basic customer service, etc.), you’ll probably be paying $15-25/hour. If you’re looking for higher-level tasks (project management, content strategy, etc.), you could be looking at $50/hour or more. Upwork has posted their average rates for various tasks, which can help you get a better estimate.
Keep in mind when looking at hourly rates that some people work faster than others. Someone who charges $50/hour might complete a project three times faster—and with the same quality—as someone who charges $25/hour, making it more financially beneficial for you. Don’t be fooled by ultra-low hourly rates.
Paying hourly can be dicey. If possible, we suggest paying per completed project. Quick workers will benefit, and you will know exactly what it’s going to cost you before you start.
Take into account the VA’s experience level. It might be tempting to go for the cheapest option you find, but extensive experience can be the difference between quality work and work that you end up having to redo yourself.
Look at client testimonials on the VA’s website and/or their LinkedIn recommendations, and ask for a few client references to reach out to via email. If someone isn’t able to put you in touch with at least two or three people who they’ve worked for before, it might mean that they know they wouldn’t receive any glowing recommendations.
Many cost-conscious business owners work with international assistants—through marketplaces like Virtual Valley and outsourced, largely because the hourly rates tend to be cheaper. The decision is up to you, but keep in mind that major time zone differences and any language barriers can slow down the process and cost you more than the cheaper price is saving you to begin with.
Getting ready to delegate
Before your new VA starts, you should be prepared with two types of documentation that will make the onboarding and delegating process easier.
Standard Operating Procedures
Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) are essentially how-to manuals for the tasks you’ll be asking the assistant to tackle. They should give the assistant all the information they need to be able to get the job done.
You could, of course, write it up in a document, but we’d suggest starting with a screencast. If you record yourself as you’re completing the task, you can ensure that there won’t be any missed steps in the documentation. If you’re writing something out from memory, it’s easy to miss the small details.
- Jing is free and quick to set up. Once you record your screencast, you can upload it to their server and get a screencast.com link to send to your assistant—or you can download it as a file. Jing has a five-minute time limit, but if you mostly want to make quick screencasts—and don’t want to pay for the service—it’s your best choice.
- Snagit gives you the option to add annotations to your videos for extra clarity. If you have complicated tasks that will take more than a few minutes to explain, or you want to be able to highlight specific parts of the screen or add on-screen cues, this is a good option. Pricing: $49.95 with no screencasting time limit.
Once you’ve made the screencast, you can choose to transcribe the instructions if you’d like to have it in writing too. (It’s worth asking your assistant if that would be beneficial for them.) Don’t forget to put links to all of the screencasts in a Google Drive folder or Evernote notebook and share that with the assistant, so that they can easily search.
If you don’t already have templates for your work, you’ll want to get that documentation process started. You should also provide your new assistant with examples of completed templates so they can better understand your communication style when interfacing with external parties.
Creating SOPs and templates will do a lot to speed up the onboarding process for a new assistant, but it’s important to have realistic expectations. Even if you’re working with a competent professional, it often can take about a month (or longer, depending on the complexity of your business and the tasks at hand) for someone to get up to speed. Unless there are serious red flags—like multiple missed deadlines or a failure to communicate—give it a month or two before you start looking for another assistant.
How to hire a Virtual Assistant:
Hiring virtual staff for specific roles on your team is different from hiring freelancers for specific projects.
When you hire a freelancer for a specific project, that project has a start date and an end date. And since most freelancers have multiple clients, you won’t always be their first priority.
When you hire a Virtual Assistant, you are hiring a team member. Ideally, you will be their only employer, and even though the tasks you delegate to them may change over time, they will still occupy a specific role on your team.
Here are 6 steps you can follow to hire a Virtual Assistant:
Step 1: Document the tasks you want to outsource
Start by making a list of all the tasks and processes that you plan to delegate to your Virtual Assistant. Assuming these are tasks that you’re already doing yourself, create training documents (aka Standard Operating Procedures) for these tasks. To learn how to write effective Standard Operating Procedures, check out this guide.
If you’re hiring a Specialized Virtual Assistant, document the outcomes you want them to accomplish instead of specific tasks or procedures.
How to choose what tasks and processes to outsource
Every business has a long list of tasks and processes that are involved in running that business. To help you decide which ones to outsource and which ones you should keep doing, start by categorizing these tasks and processes.
Every task and process in your business belongs in 1 of 4 categories:
- Tasks that you should do: high-value tasks that you enjoy doing and you’re actually good at.
- Tasks that you should not do: low-value tasks that are not the best use of your time, even if you’re good at them or you enjoy doing them. (These are the hardest ones to outsource!)
- Tasks that you don’t want to do: tasks that you don’t like doing, but that someone else will.
- Tasks that you can’t do: tasks that you lack the necessary knowledge and skills to do properly.
Examples of tasks you might delegate to a VA:
- Social media management (usually not strategy, but things like posting content that you’ve created or creating basic graphics to go along with tweets)
- Answering frequently asked questions via email
- Scheduling appointments
- Getting quotes from a supplier or other contractors
- Scheduling blog posts (and social shares for said blog posts)
- Organizing virtual files in cloud storage for easy access
- Updating inventory in your online store
This list is by no means exhaustive, but it should give you an idea of the variety of tasks that a VA can take on.
Step 2: Create a job description
Once you have your list of tasks to delegate, you’ll need to create a job description for the role that will be responsible for these tasks.
Tasks that require specialized skills should not be included in the job description for a General Virtual Assistant. All of the tasks that you delegate to a General Virtual Assistant should share a similar skill level and hourly rate.
Your job description should include:
- Background information about your business (your industry, what you sell, and who your clients/customers are)
- Level of education, experience, and/or skills required
- List of duties and responsibilities
- List of any apps, tools, or software they will be using
Step 3: Post your job description online
Once you have your job description ready, your next step is to post it online and start accepting applications. One option is to post your job description directly on Craigslist (post in the city/country you want to hire in). Another option is to use a Virtual Assistant hiring service or directory.
Here are some popular websites and directories you can use to find Virtual Assistants:
You know you need a VA and you have a pretty good idea of what kind of work they should be doing for you. The next step: finding someone. Finding, hiring, and onboarding a contractor is an in-depth process, but here are some guidelines to get you started.
The best way to find a virtual assistant is to ask your network for referrals. Just as with any position, people who come with a recommendation are much more likely to have what you’re looking for. Start by posting on LinkedIn, as well as any Slack or Facebook groups for business owners. Make sure to include the sorts of tasks that you’re looking for help with and what kind of business you’re running. The more specific you are, the better quality of referrals people can send you.
If you’re not able to hire through referrals, here are some other options:
There’s content to be edited and updates to be made to your website. You’ve missed two meetings and can’t remember who the contacts are to reschedule them. And your inbox count looks like the GDP of a small country.
There’s a lot to be said about optimizing your own daily routine to get the most out of your days, but that can only take you so far. While you may have aspirations of a tremendously profitable quarter, it’s probably time to compose yourself and admit that you’re not going to be able to do it all alone. You can’t continue growing a business if you’re tethered to your desk.
Traditional hiring processes take far too long when you need someone immediately who can take the load off your shoulders. Ideally, you want someone who can materialize, quickly get up to speed on what’s happening, handle the workload, and disappear until needed again.
I’m referring to a VA (virtual assistant).
This is where a lot of entrepreneurs will cringe. Sure, it’s hard to give up control, and you may find it a challenge to find someone who is reliable and whom you can trust with private company intel. But those someones are out there: You just have to know where to look.
Here are seven surprising places to start your search.
- Virtual Staff Finder
- Fancy Hands
- VaVa Virtual
I am absolutely advocating that you search social media to find a stranger to trust with your business. Start talking about the need for a virtual assistant on Twitter, and you’ll be surprised just how fast VA businesses will respond and start following you. Some of the best VA companies have listening posts set up with alerts to find people just like you.
The best part is that if you’ve got a social-savvy VA, Twitter is just one more task he or she can help you with.
2. Your network
If your contact list includes other business owners, mentors, influencers, professionals or any combination thereof, then it’s time to make calls and let them know you need help. Chances are, they know someone, or can recommend a service they may have used in the past. Don’t ever forget about the power of referrals and word of mouth.
Inspired by Tim Ferriss’ The 4-Hour Workweek, New York Times bestselling author Michael Hyatt decided it was time to pick up a virtual assistant when he began to focus on his writing and saw his blog traffic (and workload) spike. He has had the same virtual assistant for years now, and swears by her.
If you’ve never worked with a virtual assistant and you came up short on referrals, VANetworking is a good place to start. VAs often network and come together here as a means of finding work, as well as solutions. Not only do they provide information for clients who want to work with a virtual assistant, they also have a hiring section where you can post in search of a VA.
This one might be as surprising as Twitter. While the go-to classifieds site has its share of scammers, it’s very possible to find a top-notch virtual assistant on Craigslist. You can also look on Craigslist sites elsewhere in the world and choose your desired location, though the local aspect can be a huge benefit. Even though your assistant will be working remotely, you’ll have the advantage of setting up a face-to-face interview as if you were hiring an in-house employee.
Just make sure you do your legwork, like verifying work history and checking references.
Zirtual is a great choice for startups and entrepreneurs as the site specializes in providing dedicated virtual assistants to entrepreneurs, professionals and small teams. One of the biggest perks is that it works only with college-educated VAs who are based in the United States, so you don’t need to worry about the vetting process. Zirtual boasts that fewer than 2 percent of applicants get hired on to their service.
Pat Flynn, founder of Smart Passive Income, often shares the benefits of working with virtual assistants on his podcast. In his tutorial on delegation, he writes, “I know just how valuable my time is and where my time should be invested to give me the most return.”
6. Workshops and events
Hopefully, you’re consciously aware that you’ll need help down the road and that you have time to be on the lookout. If that’s the case, then always keep the VA search in the back of your mind as you travel to industry events, workshops and lectures. Those are great places for industry professionals to gather. If you find a VA at an event like this, you know he or she already has at least one foot inside the door of your industry.
7. College campuses
A local college, or any college for that matter, can be a great place to locate a VA. Talk with career counselors or professors, or post hiring ads on campus job boards to try to locate a student studying in your industry. You may find a student chomping at the bit for a paid internship, willing to act as a virtual assistant as a means of learning the industry and gaining experience in his or her chosen career track.
Use a virtual assistant service.
Virtual assistant services are basically online agencies for virtual assistants. That means you don’t have to source the assistant yourself, which can save you some time. The downside, of course, is that you’re less likely to get someone specialized in your specific type of business model or industry.
- Zirtual is targeted specifically toward entrepreneurs and professionals. Plans start at $398/month for 12 hours of tasks from a U.S.-based, college-educated assistant.
- UAssistMe is more affordable but has more of a focus on strictly administrative work (e.g., bookkeeping, customer service, transcriptions, and email management). Plans start at $299/month for 20 hours of tasks.
Use a general freelance marketplace.
Freelance marketplaces allow contractors to essentially pitch their work to you. You can post the tasks you need done, and people will respond with their information and rates. Using a marketplace can open you up to a lot of qualified contractors, but that comes with a downside: You’ll have to sift through a huge number of applications, many of them not so great. (Popular posts will get anywhere from 25 to 100 bids, and sometimes more). You’re also forced to go through the company’s messaging system and billing tools because contractors are penalized for moving outside of the built-in system. The fact that contractors have to account for the fees that the marketplace charges them often means you can get better rates elsewhere.
- Guru has over three million contractors worldwide, covering a wide range of skillsets. Guru’s payment options include paying by task, by milestone, or hourly; or you can pay on a recurring schedule, which could work well for an ongoing contractor arrangement.
- Task Pigeon‘s virtual assistant marketplace is an offshoot of its general task marketplace. While this isn’t the primary business of Task Pigeon, you get the reliability of a trusted task management team vetting the assistants. For payment, you pre-purchase hours and then specify what your needs are.
- PeoplePerHour allows you to post a job or browse existing freelancers, and the talent pool covers a wide range of professional services, from design to web development to administrative work. Pricing is either hourly or fixed, depending on the project.
- Freelancer is a little more geared toward specialized freelancers (think designers, copywriters, etc.), so it’s a great place to go if you’re looking for someone with a specific background. Payment options include milestone payments or upon-completion payments.
Editor’s note: While VAs are usually used by entrepreneurs, professionals, and small teams, you can use one for both your professional and personal life. Apps like FancyHands and TaskRabbit cover both professional and personal tasks.
If you’re in a field that requires specific skills and qualifications, take that into consideration. For example, those in the medical profession need VAs that comply with HIPAA policies. If that sounds like your business then you might want to consider scheduling a consultation with a VA agency that specializes in medical virtual assistants.
Step 4: Review applications & schedule interviews
Review the applications that come through and schedule interviews with the top 5-10 candidates. I recommend conducting video interviews with your top candidates. A video interview is the next best thing to interviewing someone in person. You can figure out pretty quickly if you like someone and communicate well with them on a video call. If someone isn’t willing to do a video interview with you, this is a red flag and you shouldn’t hire them.
As you interview each candidate, don’t just ask them about their work experience and skills. Ask them about their goals, their hobbies, how they like to work, how they like to be managed. Perhaps most importantly, ask them about their values (conflicting values can become a source of conflict in a relationship). You could even ask your candidate to complete a free personality test. This will help you to further understand their values, strengths, and how they work.
Step 5: Give your top candidates a test
Before you commit to hiring a specific candidate, give your top 3 candidates a task to complete as a test. Pick a type of task that would be a part of their regular responsibilities anyway, and see how well they perform this task. Often, people that look great on paper are not so great in real life. Asking your candidates to complete a real task will help you determine who the top candidate really is.
Step 6: Give the best candidate a trial period
Choose the best candidate for the job, and start them off on a trial period (30, 60 or 90 days, for example). A trial period gives your Virtual Assistant additional incentive to do a great job for you, knowing that it will lead to a permanent role on your team. Have them sign a formal Service Agreement to avoid any discrepancies in the future.
What Qualifications Should A Virtual Assistant Have?
So, you’ve finally decided to take the plunge and hire a virtual assistant. That’s a great move if you’re looking for someone to help complete those mundane tasks that just can’t be automated. Not to mention, hiring a virtual assistant is affordable and will save you big in terms of opportunity cost.
Now that you have decided to hire a virtual assistant, you may be wondering where to start. In other words, with all the options on the market (and there are plenty), how do you know when you’ve found a great virtual assistant to hire?
This article will present all the things you should look for when hiring a virtual assistant. If, during your interview process, your candidate meets the following qualifications and possesses the following skills, you’ll know you’re making a great choice.
If you’re looking for an easy way to see which tasks your virtual assistants are working on, then check out Time Doctor free for 14 days. You’ll see what tasks they’re working on right now, how long each task takes to complete, and see which apps and websites they’re visiting right now.
Before diving into the skills a virtual assistant should have, let’s talk about qualifications. If a virtual assistant doesn’t meet the following qualifications, it doesn’t matter how skilled they are, they won’t be a great fit.
Great virtual assistant job candidates possess skills like phenomenal written and verbal communication and open and transparent communication practices where they are viewed as a reliable, reachable partner by their clients. Time management and organizational skills are a must, as is a natural ability to take charge of a situation and organize it for the benefit of a client.
Also, experience with or knowledge of cloud-based communication technologies like file sharing, password managers, and phone and video conferencing is important.
You may already have some of these skills without realizing how valuable they are. To give them the proper context, these should be detailed on your virtual assistant cover letter. If you need to brush up on some areas, skills and certifications can be obtained through self-study or taking online courses to learn best practices.
Finally, people who hire virtual assistants are looking to lessen the stress and disorganization in their lives. Don’t wait to be asked to do specific tasks—if you see a client is struggling, offer to help them with something you aren’t currently doing. This gives you more work to do and lets them rely even more heavily on you.
Virtual assistants do a lot of work that may require handling sensitive information. This can include anything from email addresses of your top clients to credit card numbers for booking hotel rooms and flights.
When hiring someone online to be your virtual assistant, it’s important they demonstrate the importance of honesty during the interview process. Ask them how they handle sensitive information and call references to properly vet them before making a hire.
Even though you are hiring a virtual assistant to handle mundane tasks, those mundane tasks are important. Hiring someone reliable will ensure you don’t have to ever worry about tasks getting completed on time, correctly, and the way you ask for the task to be completed.
If you don’t hire someone reliable, you’ll end up doing extra work yourself and having a virtual assistant may be more of a headache than it’s worth.
Attention to Detail
A great virtual assistant will have an astute attention to detail. Virtual assistants often interact with clients, handle important booking tasks, and answer emails. You want someone who takes the extra time to look for and correct mistakes, and someone who goes the extra mile to make sure every detail is sorted out and right.
Of course, every human makes little mistakes here and there, but when you hire someone who is accurate with the details, you won’t have to go back and recheck work.
Virtual assistants typically get paid by the hour. As such, you want someone who is well trained, experienced, and knows how to work quickly. The more experience your virtual assistant has, the quicker they will be able to complete tasks. This will help you maximize your time and get more bang for your buck out of your virtual assistant.
When hiring a virtual assistant, look for someone who is resourceful. Someone who can overcome problems with innovation and creativity will be a great addition to your team.
Additionally, a resourceful virtual assistant will meet problems head on, solve them, and then keep the information at bay in case that problem arises again. Out of all the qualities of a virtual assistant, resourcefulness is a must.
If your clients are interacting with your virtual assistant, it’s vital the virtual assistant is kind. In a way, your virtual assistant is kind of like your “storefront,” or the first perception your client gets of your company. If your virtual assistant is rude, it is a poor reflection on you and your brand. Find someone who prioritizes people and knows how to navigate conflicts with kindness.
Ability to Multitask
There are several professions where multitasking is not a great idea. However, virtual assistant is not one of them. Virtual assistants need to be able to schedule, handle clients, organize tasks, and manage multiple clients often at the same time. The ability to multitask will help a virtual assistant keep the ball rolling and the company moving forward.
An added bonus is a virtual assistant that knows how to use productivity tools, task management, and time management software in their work. This will increase rates of productivity, eliminate errors, and keep things running smoothly.
Handles Challenges Well
The ability to work well under pressure is another positive quality of a good virtual assistant. Clients typically only think about their individual problems, rather than all of the tasks a virtual assistant is juggling. A virtual assistant that can keep their cool, treat that one client like they really are their only priority, and accomplish difficult tasks under pressure is a keeper.
You need to be able to count on your virtual assistant to follow through and follow up on tasks you assign them and with clients. If they aren’t dependable, then they will make mistakes, clients will feel neglected, and/or you may end up doing the work yourself. When hiring a virtual assistant, ask questions that give you insight into how dependable they are.
Full of Ideas
A virtual assistant that gets things done is great and just what you need. However, how much better would it be if you hired someone who is always bringing new ideas on how to increase productivity?
Maybe they offer insight into a better tool to manage tasks. Perhaps they have an idea about how to handle a specific client situation. Maybe they have ideas on how to grow your business. A virtual assistant that brings new ideas to the table is someone you want to have around forever.
Good at Time Management
As mentioned before, virtual assistants have a lot of work on their plate. As such, it’s vital a virtual assistant is good at time management. They need to be able to juggle several tasks and ensure they get done day-in and day-out.
A good virtual assistant will naturally be good with time management, but a better virtual assistant will be open to using a time management software. They will also review time management reporting tools to see how they can increase productivity overall.
What Skills Should a Virtual Assistant Possess?
Now that we have discussed what qualifications a virtual assistant should have, let’s talk about the necessary skills a virtual assistant should possess. If you’ve found someone who meets all of your qualifications, the next step is to make sure they have the right skills.
Top-Notch Communication Skills
Virtual assistants are required to communicate with you and your clients on the daily. This means, they must have great natural communication skills. This includes knowing how to talk to people as well as being able to communicate a message via phone call, text, chat, or email. When hiring a virtual assistant, make sure they can communicate well using all these various formats.
Communication also extends to presenting ideas on how to stay in touch. This may include a weekly phone call, updates every Monday, or any unique ideas they have that help you touch base.
Since you are hiring an assistant to work virtually, they must have great computer skills. This includes the ability to type well. A virtual assistant should be able to at least type 30 WPM in English.
They should also be good at navigating the internet and familiar with top project management and task management software programs. They should also be familiar with top scheduling calendars, email programs, video conferencing and chat tools, and any programs that are specific to your industry.
Because so much of a virtual assistant’s job is done through a computer, excellent typing skills and being highly comfortable using different computer programs are a must.
Basic Accounting Skills
A virtual assistant doesn’t need to be an accountant. However, they do need to have basic accounting skills. This can include anything from knowing how to use simple accounting software, being aware of what clients pay their bills on time and which clients they have to nag for payments, and how to handle and monitor expenses.
Again, you’ll want to hire an accountant to handle things like taxes and budgets, but a virtual assistant with basic accounting skills will provide valuable in ways you could never have imagined.
Internet Research Skills
A virtual assistant that knows how to navigate the internet is worth their weight in gold. Many virtual assistants have the tools they know how to use, but an awesome virtual assistant will branch out and find the best tools, the best deals, and new approaches to completing work.
When hiring a virtual assistant, ask about their internet research skills and for an example of how they have saved a previous client money or time by finding a new resource on the internet.
Not only should a virtual assistant be able to type at least 30 WPM, but they should also have great writing skills. They will be interacting with clients via chat and email and often in charge of writing documents or typing up memos. To accomplish these tasks, they need to have a good command of language, a large English vocabulary, and a decent understanding of English grammar.
If a virtual assistant isn’t a decent writer, don’t hire them.
Hiring virtual assistants from India, the Philippines, or other countries is growing in popularity, and it’s with good reason. It’s much more affordable to hire a virtual assistant out of one of these countries. In fact, you can often get a good virtual assistant to handle mundane tasks for you for next to nothing.
However, even if you can hire someone for dirt cheap, it’s not valuable if they don’t have a high level of English proficiency. After all, you’ll need to be able to communicate with them on the phone, via video chat, via email, and more. Not to mention, your clients will need to interact with your virtual assistant.
Before hiring them, ask them to take an online English proficiency exam and conduct an interview over the phone. This way, you can ensure you find a good match, that you understand each other well, and that they have great communication skills in English.
Familiarity With Top Project Management Tools
If you want to run your business operations smoothly, then you’ll use a top project management program. You may use something like Asana, Basecamp, Trello, or CoSchedule, for example. A great virtual assistant will have excellent proficiency in some of these tools or at least the ability to navigate and quickly learn whichever project management tool your firm uses.
When you interview your potential virtual assistant, ask them what project management tools they already know how to use, which ones they are familiar with on a basic level, and how they go about learning to navigate a new system.
Planning and Scheduling Skills
One of the most important tasks of a virtual assistant is planning and managing tasks and schedules. You’ll need a virtual assistant who just knows how to make things work and can maximize your time to fit more work into an already tight schedule.
A good virtual assistant will do this quickly and efficiently. They will also be able to use top tools, set automated schedule notifications, and reorganize your schedule at the drop of a hat.
Basic Social Media Skills
Chances are, you’ll hire a social media manager to handle your social media accounts, but the time may come when your virtual assistant may need to pop into your Twitter account and fix something or spruce up your LinkedIn account. As such, your virtual assistant should know the basics of the top social media platform you use. Again, this isn’t an absolute must, but it is an added bonus.
Tips for managing your Virtual Assistant:
Hiring a Virtual Assistant is just the beginning. Once you’ve added someone to your team, part of your job as a leader is to help maintain a productive, professional, and mutually beneficial relationship with your staff.
Here are some tips to help you manage your Virtual Assistant:
Above all else, you should be judging the success of your Virtual Assistant based on their performance. To do this, make sure you have clear expectations and/or key performance indicators (KPIs) in place. If they’re meeting your expectations, do you really care how many coffee breaks they take throughout the day?
If you set clear expectations with your Virtual Assistant and you evaluate them based on how well they meet those expectations, there should be no need to micromanage them. Yes, there are programs that allow you to “spy” on your virtual assistant’s computer screen or track the time they spend working. These things are unnecessary when you have trust and clear expectations with your Virtual Assistant. If you wouldn’t like being managed the way that you manage your Virtual Assistant, you’re probably doing something wrong.
Schedule daily check-ins
Use a communication tool such as Skype or Slack to conduct quick daily check-ins (ideally, at the beginning of their workday) with your Virtual Assistant. Use this time to make sure they know what they’re working on and that there isn’t anything or anyone (including you!) blocking them from completing their tasks for the day.
Require weekly reports
At the end of each week, have your Virtual Assistant send you a report of what they did that week. Provide them with a template to use to send you their reports. Here are some questions we recommend requiring your Virtual Assistant to answer in their weekly reports, along with any specific metrics or KPIs that they are responsible for tracking.
- What tasks or projects did they complete?
- How much time did they spend on each task or project?
- What are they still working on?
- Did they run into any problems or challenges?
- Do they have any feedback, questions, or ideas for you?
- Do they need any additional training?
- Create a culture of feedback
Create a culture with your Virtual Assistant (and anyone else you work with) of trust and open communication. Encourage them to share ideas, ask questions, and provide feedback on a regular basis. Doing so will help you learn to be a better leader and manager, which will help to create mutually beneficial relationships with your team members.
Top tools for outsourcing and managing virtual staff
While the concept of hiring someone that you may never actually meet in person may seem strange, with the right tools, you can build and maintain productive and enjoyable relationships with your virtual staff.
The main categories of tools required to work effectively with Virtual Assistants and remote team members are communication, project management, file sharing and security (password protection). I’ve listed some of our favorite tools for each category below.
If you want to learn about even more programs and tools to help you run your business, check out our list of the top 40+ online business tools used by entrepreneurs.
Project Management Tools:
File Sharing & Security
Using Automation as Your VA
After careful consideration, you may decide that you’re not quite ready to hire a virtual assistant, either because it doesn’t make financial sense or because you don’t have quite enough to delegate. Or maybe you need to take some work off your plate immediately while you look for an assistant. Either way, automating your processes is a good place to start.
Zapier can automate almost any process, but here are a few ready-made suggestions for tasks that you might otherwise hand off to a VA.
- Automatically add your blog posts to social media.
- Streamline your new client onboarding process.
- Update inventory without the manual data entry.
Hiring a virtual assistant is a big commitment, but it can pay off in spades, both financially and mentally. If you do your research, hire well, and lay the groundwork, you’ll be set up for success. And once your new VA is up and running, you’ll have more time and energy to spend on the things that matter most to you and your business
Hiring a virtual assistant is a great way to increase your productivity and focus on the work that really matters. There are several virtual assistants available and they range in skill and qualifications. To make sure you hire a good fit, review the skills and qualifications mentioned above, determine which ones are a priority for you, and then make sure the virtual assistant you hire possesses the skills and qualifications that you find necessary.