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he saying goes, "It takes a village to raise a child." But this adage can also apply to running a business. After all, your business is your baby. Sure, there are some tasks you can handle on your own. But as a busy small business owner, your other tasks—keeping an eye on your email inbox, making and returning phone calls, scheduling meetings, etc.—may be better delegated.
If you haven’t already, consider hiring a virtual assistant. In this article, we'll break down all a virtual assistant (VA) has to offer, where to find them, and how to hire the right one for your business.
What is a virtual assistant, and why do I need one?
While assistants traditionally work at a business's physical location, virtual assistants do not. Instead, this person—usually a self-employed contractor—carries out administrative responsibilities remotely.
However, a virtual assistant's specific duties vary on a case-by-case basis. Some companies need strictly administrative work, while others might want someone who can do all this and more, like social media management, graphic design, or bookkeeping.
Advantages of hiring virtual assistants
More time for other tasks
Most of the time, people hire virtual assistants to take on administrative tasks. While those are crucial parts of running a business, those tasks take away from more pressing issues, like product development, interacting with clients, or overseeing marketing campaigns.
With a virtual assistant onboard to do the time-consuming, repetitive work of making phone calls, data entry, scheduling meetings, and responding to emails, you're free to focus your energy and attention on the bigger-picture items on your to-do list.
Reduced operating costs
You can also hire virtual assistants as needed, paying them on a project-by-project basis.
Identifying your virtual assistant needs
Before hiring a virtual assistant, you must decide what responsibilities to assign this person. A virtual assistant's duties might include the following:
- Answering and making phone calls
- Scheduling appointments
- Managing email accounts
- Booking travel
- Creating presentations
You'll need to figure out exactly what tasks you need your virtual assistant to do before listing the position. Then, determine your ideal virtual assistant candidate's qualifications to perform said tasks. Knowing the job description and the qualifications required will help you communicate your needs more clearly and, ultimately, ensure you find the right person for the job.
Finding virtual assistant providers
Below are three resources business owners and managers can use to find a virtual assistant.
One of the best methods to find a virtual assistant is simply asking for recommendations. Ask your colleagues if they know of any independent contractors looking for more work.
Prospective VAs often pitch their services on sites like Fiverr. According to the Small Business Blog, the site works by allowing the more than 830,000 freelancers on the site to post listings outlining their abilities. Then, business owners can search the listings until they find a freelancer who can fill their open position. Comparable sites—Upwork, for instance—operate similarly.
You can find independent contractors on traditional job posting websites, too. Posting a description of your vacant position on one of these platforms can help connect you to eager, passionate VA candidates.
Some of the top job posting sites include:
Evaluating virtual assistant candidates
Finding the perfect virtual assistant might seem daunting, but following the tips below will make interviewing VA candidates a lot less difficult.
Ask the right questions
Asking thoughtful questions helps you find the best fit for the job. Brady Morgan, CEO and Founder of a virtual assistant staffing agency, shared with Forbes a helpful list of questions when getting to know a virtual assistant candidate, including:
- What is your availability?
- Do you have any experience with the tools/software our company uses?
- What experience do you have in similar administrative roles?
- How do you handle complex tasks?
- Does your experience extend to scheduling responsibilities?
Define the role clearly
Refer to your list of tasks and qualifications you made before you posted the job. Make sure your expectations are clear to anyone you interview.
As you get to know your potential new hire, gauge their abilities to do the tasks you're asking of them. Certain technical skills may be required for the position you're looking to fill, so comparing your list of requirements to the candidates' list of abilities and qualifications will prove helpful. You should also evaluate them for their ability and willingness to learn new skills or platforms.
Consider their communication skills
Depending on project timelines and the nature of the work, you may need to communicate with your virtual assistant frequently. So, consider their communication skills since you'll rarely, if ever, be interacting with them in person.
Make sure you're both on the same page about preferred methods of communication and response times, set availability expectations, and decide how the two of you will keep in touch about assignments and deadlines.
Use job-related assignments to test candidates' abilities
Send potential candidates a test assignment to complete to see how competent a prospective VA is. Pick a task similar to what they'd be doing if you hired them. Then, see how well they perform said task. If the task is particularly time-consuming, be prepared to pay a fee for their time, even if you don't end up hiring them. You'll get better work and a better idea of someone's ability to meet deadlines and expectations when they know they're being paid for their work.
Ask for references or samples of previous work
Have your VA candidates provide a list of references, including their previous employer. A trustworthy reference can give valuable insight into a potential new hire's personality and work ethic. You can use this information to gauge whether or not they'll fit into your team. If they will be handling any of your company's sensitive information, determine if a background check is appropriate.
Don't forget to look at candidates' portfolios, especially if you plan to use a VA for social media or graphic design work. Seeing what they've done lets you glimpse their style and talents, helping you decide if they're the person you're looking for.
Onboarding and managing virtual assistants
After hiring a VA, you need to dedicate the next few weeks to a smooth onboarding process, including:
- Setting clear expectations and communication channels. Make sure your VA knows what you expect from them—how many hours you need them to work, how to track progress on assignments, etc. Deciding which channels you'll use to communicate (perhaps via a task management system like Asana, email correspondence, or phone calls) should also be part of the conversation. Don't forget to discuss the frequency of your check-ins with your VA.
- Establishing performance metrics and evaluation criteria. Be prepared to give your new hire feedback. After all, feedback keeps workers engaged. Set specific expectations or goals for each week, month, or quarter, and use those to measure your virtual assistant's effectiveness. Then, use those to evaluate their performance. Make sure you're both on the same page about what success in their role looks like, and give clear, constructive criticism when necessary. Don't forget to offer praise or rewards when your VA meets the mark or goes above and beyond.
- Managing remote work dynamics and collaboration tools. Create remote team management policies that work for all involved parties, like setting time for employee-employer interaction and establishing productivity goals. You should also make sure to give your virtual assistant access to any tools, platforms, or programs needed for the job. If they'll be handling scheduling, be sure they can access your calendar. If financial matters are part of their responsibilities, ensure they can access your financial platforms. If you don't yet use a fintech, consider Novo. Novo offers integrations with platforms you already use, like Square or PayPal, letting you keep all of your financial information in one place.
You don't get second chances at first impressions, so make yours—the onboarding process—count. After all, this sets the tone for the working relationship between you and your new VA.
Explore the perks of hiring a virtual assistant
You might be able to handle all of your business's operations on your own, but why should you, especially if having a VA to lighten your load is an option?
Bringing someone into this position and letting them handle administrative responsibilities frees you up to handle aspects of your business that require your specific expertise. So, figure out which tasks you could entrust to a virtual assistant, use job posting or freelancer marketplace sites to find a few candidates to interview, and bring on a VA to streamline your business operations.
Novo Platform Inc. strives to provide accurate information but cannot guarantee that this content is correct, complete, or up-to-date. This page is for informational purposes only and is not financial or legal advice nor an endorsement of any third-party products or services. All products and services are presented without warranty. Novo Platform Inc. does not provide any financial or legal advice, and you should consult your own financial, legal, or tax advisors.
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