Often when people first begin to toy around with the idea of hiring an assistant their initial excitement is often cooled by an onset of analysis paralysis. They know they want to delegate tasks to a virtual assistant and save themselves countless hours of work and toil, but they don’t know exactly how to get the process started. This includes confusion on everything from hiring a quality virtual assistant to the types of tasks that can be assigned to their new VA afterwards.
Because of this I decided to create a cheat sheet for people interested in hiring a virtual assistant. This check list will not only help point you in the direction of where to find quality virtual assistants but will also get those creative juices flowing when it comes to what you can assign your VA and how you can get the most out of the relationship.
Virtual assistants come from all over the world and range in hourly prices, which mostly depends on their skill sets. I normally divide VA’s into two camps: virtual (outsourced) assistants and virtual (executive) assistants.
An outsourced VA can cost you anywhere from $3-8 an hour, will work while you sleep and often are more technically savvy than traditional assistants. On the other hand, a virtual executive assistant is from your country, speaks your native tongue perfectly and is available by phone and sometimes via plane if need be.
Just like there are two types of assistants there are also two ways of finding quality candidates. You can either do it yourself or you can have it done for you.
A good DIY approach is to scan job boards in foreign countries for quality VA’s who possess the skill sets you need. This can be a time intensive process but can produce good results if you clearly know what you’re looking for, have experience interviewing candidates and have some free time on your hands. In the past I’ve recommended Craigslist Manila.
My personal favorite (granted I’m a little biased) is to delegate even the task of finding a virtual assistant to a third party. It can often be difficult to find quality virtual assistants (either outsourced or executive) because there are so many people vying for jobs in our current economy but often many aren’t up to snuff. It’s also a time intensive project that can span weeks of interviewing, searching and filtering.
That’s where my company Zirtual comes in. We take the task of finding the “perfect” virtual assistant off your plate and do everything for you so you can sit back and relax. In addition we assign concierge reps who help you through the process of figuring out exactly what skill sets you need in a VA and give you lots of guidebooks and resources during the finding process to help you along the way.
Either way, DIY or concierge, it’s vital to start with a good virtual assistant off the bat. Otherwise your most valiant efforts at assigning the right tasks and monitoring properly will fail due to an incompetent VA.
Now that you have a virtual assistant you’ve got to figure out what you need them to do. I suggest taking a few days and writing down absolutely everything you do over that period of time.
Then look back over it and see what percentage of the things on your list could only be done by you (i.e. talking to your lawyer, presenting to a big client, hugging your kids) and notice what other things could have been handled by an assistant (i.e. tweaking your website, researching a project, scheduling meetings).
Everything that can be done by someone else, should be done by your virtual assistant. That’s the beauty of delegation it allows you to focus on the 20% of your day that matters the most while resting assured that the other 80% is taken care of by your virtual staff.
Once you have your VA and an initial list of tasks for them to do it’s important that you set up a system that allows you to quickly and efficiently assign tasks and check that they were done correctly. I like to use a combination of BasecampHQ, Evernote and Google docs when dealing with my virtual assistants, but the web offers many tools that can be used to help you get the most out of your virtual relationship.
I like to assign a long list of tasks on Monday that should cover most of the week, but being careful not to fill my virtual assistants time up completely since I know little things will come up as the week wears on that I may need her to take care of. This longer list is entered into BasecampHQ and then as my assistant completes tasks she just checks them off and confirms what was done for the day in a “daily report” email.
On Friday I do a spot check of all the work she’s done to make sure everything is on target. If I notice things are wrong or a pattern is emerging, I address it immediately the following Monday and course correct. This is essential to building a long and fruitful relationship with your assistant that will benefit both parties.
Working with a virtual assistant is just like working with any other employee or freelancer. It’s vital to set up expectations early on so people won’t go off track or get confused. It’s also important to praise your VA when they do things the way you like them so in the future they’ll adjust their efforts in a way that brings you the most reward.
If you find it hard to work with a virtual assistant, it’s probably not the right person for you. A good virtual assistant/employer relationship shouldn’t take tons of hand holding and should always make your life easier, not more difficult.
If you’re note sure about whether you’re ready to hire help or not, read this post on Why You’ve Got to Get Addicted to Delegation!