WHO ARE VIRTUAL ASSISTANTS AND WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF HIRING THEM?
Virtual assistants are remote workers who offer their help in executing your day-to-day operations to let you focus on more complex, creative, or fundamental tasks. They normally work for multiple clients and are often based outside of the USA.
Virtual assistants are particularly useful for online entrepreneurs who need to outsource a number of projects when it’s more cost efficient than hiring one or more full-time employees.
What sets VAs apart from freelancers and traditional employees is that VAs are flexible and resourceful multi-taskers. They have multiple specialized skill sets, ranging from database management and handling emails to writing product descriptions and publishing web content.
Hiring a virtual assistant (or using a VA agency) is often a more cost-efficient option than keeping an in-house team member doing the same work. This way, you are getting the same workload handled, but without having expenses such as financing employee benefits and paying taxes for them.
As VAs are considered independent contractors in relation to your business, you are able to have the price of their services deducted from your taxable income amount. Most US-based companies hire VAs from Asian, Eastern European or Latin American countries, where VAs can afford to set more competitive prices for their services, because living expenses in their countries are lower than in the USA.
Virtual assistants are not as skillful as qualified specialists, such as IT developers, content writers, or designers. Unlike a team of aforementioned professionals, a VA agency will not be able to create a website for you. But they will handle publishing content to hundreds of your web pages, gathering contact data of your prospects for massive outreach campaigns, and performing similar time-consuming and tedious tasks.
As an example, at ODMsoft, we use virtual assistants’ to help us provide our SEO services and PPC advertising services: VAs assist us with keyword research. They even help in creating custom website designs for our clients by finding stock images, according to our designers’ instructions, that are used as temporary dummy pictures in the working process.
Besides giving you more time to work on more strategic aspects of your business, hiring skilled VAs helps you develop strong leadership traits. It compels you to practice delegating tasks rather than doing everything yourself, manage timelines, deadlines, and budgets.
HOW TO UNDERSTAND WHEN YOU NEED TO HIRE A VA
Here are a few signs that help you understand that it’s the right time to start outsourcing your tasks.
- You are wasting too many precious hours performing tasks that consist of repetitive operations. You may be constantly postponing more complex and fundamental tasks because you’re spending days or even weeks writing short product descriptions on your online store or sending templated responses to clients’ emails. If so, then it’s time to start delegating this to a VA. Look for tasks you handle that only require executing a sequence of simple operations rather than creative thinking and problem solving skills.
- If, on the contrary, you’re starting to lose prospects, customers, and money because you don’t have time to reply to their inquiries. If so, you need to hire a VA to handle the communication. Or, if your conversations with clients must carry a more personalized tone, look for other “templated” tasks you can outsource to free up time for you to handle clients personally.
- If you don’t have time to grow your business. Even if you have time to handle all of your current processes, but there is nothing left for developing or executing a new strategy to widen the scope of your business, you may need to free up time for that.
- You’re suffering from burnout because you get overwhelmed with doing work that you don’t enjoy. Getting a skilled VA to handle simple but boring and tedious tasks will free up time for generating new ideas that will help your business get ahead of the game.
HOW TO HIRE A VIRTUAL ASSISTANT
#1 START WITH A SMALL TASK
Don’t outsource a large amount of work from the start. Figure out one or two simple tasks that you can delegate to a remote worker. The tasks should not require any creative thinking. Some examples include:
- uploading videos to YouTube and optimizing them
- looking for websites of potential clients or partners and gathering their information in a spreadsheet
- publishing web content to your site or social media pages
- responding to emails by using pre-written templates, and others.
#2 CREATE DETAILED INSTRUCTIONS
To make the remote relationship work, you and your virtual assistant should be on the same page when it comes to how you want everything to be done.
Give very clear and detailed instructions on the tasks you want your VAs to perform. Create step-by-step guidelines, if applicable. Add screenshots. Sometimes it’s more effective to create an instructional video that shows the process from the beginning to the end.
Make sure that you update the manual every time new questions or mistakes arise. This way you will not have the same misunderstandings with a new VA taking on the same project.
#3 FIGURE OUT HOW MUCH TIME THE TASKS WILL TAKE
Since VAs normally work with many clients, they prefer to know in advance how much time they’ll need to work on the tasks that you’ll be assigning them, so they can manage their schedules accordingly. Another option for you is to hire a virtual assistant by project or as needed.
You can get a good estimate of how long it takes to get things done for those tasks that you have been doing yourself. This will help you more accurately budget the costs of hiring a virtual assistant.
As you train your VA and build a strong working relationship, you’ll get a better understanding of how much time it takes for them to accomplish tasks, so you will learn to adjust your timelines better.
#4 ASK FOR RECOMMENDATIONS AND CHECK REVIEWS
Outsourcing tasks to a remote worker involves a certain risk of losing time and money if the work isn’t done appropriately. So, you’ll need to find someone who is reliable, hardworking, skillful and whom you can trust.
The best way to do that is to ask for recommendations from your peers in your business network. You can also recruit VAs through freelance platforms such as Upwork or Fiverr and learn more about their productivity and professionalism from their previous clients by reading their reviews.
#5 TEST THEM FOR A SHORTER PERIOD FIRST
Some virtual assistants may look great on paper but turn out to be a bad fit for you and your business goals. You never know about the outcome in advance if you are hiring someone for a considerable project long term right away. That’s why you should first test the waters with a trial run.
Start it off with a probationary period so you can check how well they perform on a given task. This may take anywhere between two weeks or two months. The important thing is to give you and your VA enough time to figure out if the relationship works or not. And if it doesn’t, you can easily stop it.
Virtual assistants set hourly or monthly fees, or charge on a retainer basis. The latter option usually gives you the lowest per hour cost. However, contracts in this case normally require a several months commitment.
Try working with an assistant at least for a month, paying them per hour or a monthly rate. If you are happy with the results, consider recruiting the VA on a retainer basis.
To start, you might want to go with a per hour or one month rate. If that goes well, look at taking on a virtual assistant on a retainer basis.