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Virtual Assistants- Everything You Need to Know

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Apr 09

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If you’ve spent any time reading about online entrepreneurship, you’ve undoubtedly come across a myriad of references to Virtual Assistants (VA’s). You’ve read about how great they are, and you’ve seen claims like …

“Forget slaving away every day, all you need to do is hire a Virtual Assistant! You’ll soon be making a million dollars every twelve minutes! Outsource your entire life and work only 48 seconds a day, just long enough to tell your VA’s what to do! In fact, you can even outsource your thinking so you can work even less than 48 seconds!”

Well hell yea! That sounds pretty good doesn’t it? While the above claim may be a bit far fetched, it’s quite true that hiring a virtual staff can make your life a lot easier. The big question is HOW do you do it? Plenty of people will overload you with the benefits of VA’s and WHY you should get one, but when it comes to specifics, good information is hard to find.

So we’ve created this guide to shed some light on the VA world for you. In this article we’ll detail the key steps to take when hiring your first Virtual Assistant, and we’ll lay out the benefits and potential drawbacks so that you can make an informed decision.

Among other things, you’ll learn…

  • The Benefits of Virtual Assistants
  • Where to find good VA’s
  • How to hire your first VA
  • VA Security
  • Some useful tips & tricks
  • How to pay your VA

Benefits- What can a Virtual Assistant Do For You?

  • Save you time. A huge benefit of having a VA or a team of VA’s is that it will save you time. As entrepreneurs, our days can get so full that we don’t even realize how much we are leaving undone. A VA can help lighten your mental load, leaving you with more precious brain power to devote to the really important stuff.
  • Get instant access to skills you don’t have. As a business owner, I spent years taking on every task that came my way. I felt like I had to learn how to do everything. VA’s make it possible to outsource the parts of your business that someone else can do better, and faster.
  • Get more done in less time. You will be amazed at how much more gets done when you have some help. Remember, every hour your VA spends doing something is an hour that you don’t have to!
  • Foster exponential growthJust think how much faster you’ll be able to grow your business when you have someone handling the web design, someone taking calls, and someone editing/creating content/whatever. The benefits of a VA can far outweigh the nominal costs.
  • They can be Cheap! Not all of course. VA’s in Western countries will fetch rates similar to their non-virtual counterparts. But abroad is a different story. For example, in the Philippines it is easy to obtain a full time VA for 10,000-15,000 pesos a month. Thats only 225 to 336 USD! And no, you are not ripping them off. This is simply price disparity in action. This amount of money works out to be a good living in the Philippines.

 

Where do you find good VA’s?

First off, where to not find good VA’s. I don’t suggest using sites like Elance, Fiverr, or RentaCoder. Not that there’s anything wrong with these sites, I have had good experiences will all of them, but there are better options out there.

The big problem with sites like these is that it’s hard and time consuming to find what you need. You’ll be presented with 1,000’s of candidates that you must then individually sift through. We don’t have time for that! Not only can all that sifting leave you suffering from overwhelm and decision fatigue, but you might even wind up with someone who turns out to not be legit, after you’ve wasted all that time procuring them.

I’ve been there, and trust me, it is no fun. Do yourself a favor, and start out with the places I suggest below

Bestjobs.ph I love the Philippines! When it comes to virtual assistants, I have found greater success working with people in the Philippines than anywhere else. As a general rule, they speak good English and their culture is more similar to Western culture than that of India, Pakistan, etc.

Due to lack of job opportunities in their home country, many of these people must search outside their borders, thus the abundance of VA work there. This is good for you, because many Filipino assistants will already have a bachelors degree.

This site provides prospective employers with a ton of search filters so you can really narrow down your results. The database is updated daily, and you will undoubtedly find people offering whatever services you require.

virtualassistantboard.com

This site claims to be “the best place to find quality virtual assistant jobs.” Unlike the site above, this site has candidates from all over the world, giving you a bigger pond to fish from. The site also has a “how it works” section with some useful info and FAQ. They offer the ability to search jobs by category, and provide quite a few filters for narrowing down your search.

Virtual Staff Finder

Too busy to go through the process of finding, interviewing, and hiring a VA for yourself? No worries, you can outsource that work to Virtual Staff Finder. This site is basically an employment agency for VA’s. You provide them with what you’re looking for, and they go and do the dirty work of locating the perfect person for you, all for a fee, of course.

This company was founded by Chris Ducker, author of “Virtual Freedom“, if you haven’t read his book, I strongly recommend it. It’s absolutely packed with good information and tactics..

How Do You Actually “Hire” a Virtual Assistant?

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Although it seems complicated at first, as they’re halfway across the world and you will probably never meet face to face, hiring a VA is much like hiring anybody else. Easier really.

  1. Find them- as discussed in detail above.
  2. Interview them- I suggest you do this via Skype, with camera and mic. This enables you to check out their English, and ensure they they’re a real person. Ask for samples of their work and request their resume.
  3. If satisfied so far, negotiate job description and payment. Many VA’s are very negotiable with their rates. I like to offer tiered payment, for example 10,000 pesos (225 USD) for the first month, upgraded to 15,000 pesos (336 USD) after that, if they perform well.
  4. Happy? Then send your contract. Always use a contract. This is simply a contract between you and them outlining mutual expectations, the nature of their job, the price agreed upon, and work hours per week. Feel free to add as you see fit, but do not take away, the point listed are the bare minimum. I also suggest throwing a nondisclosure agreement in there, just in case.
  5. All done? Good. Now hire them for a PAID three week trial period. Don’t ask them to work for free. They’re inexpensive, don’t be a tightwad.

That’s it! See, not so hard after all! If, after the trial period ends all parties are happy with the arrangement, you are then free to ride off into the sunset on your diamond plated camel while sipping Mai Tai’s and counting your money.

How Do Payments Work

No need to make this complicated. I use PayPal, exclusively. I have automated payments set up to pay my virtual assistants their lump-sum monthly salary on the first of each month.

  • Always pay on time!- Big one here, nothing deflates morale faster than not being paid on time. Keep your team happy!
  • If you have more than one VA, don’t stagger payments. It’s just more to remember. Make it easy on yourself and pay them all at the same time.

Full Time, Part Time, or Freelance?

If you’re hesitant to jump onboard the virtual bandwagon, I suggest dipping your toe in the water by hiring a VA for a one-off freelance job. This will give you a little experience of how the process works and help you get over any fears you may have of virtual authority.

After that, you can move on to hiring a full or part time worker using the instructions in this article. I suggest transitioning away from one-off hires as soon as possible and begin building relationships. When you rely on someone day in and day out it’s important that you get to know each other a bit. I try to keep my VA’s, even in slower times, rather than having to find new ones to replace them later.

Over time your VA will learn your style, likes, dislikes, etc. and that makes all processes go much smoother. Over time, your Executive VA can be in charge of finding and hiring other people you need to bring on board. If he/she knows you well than they can select new team members that jive with the existing team, as well as yourself.

SECURITY

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“BUT WAIT! You’re telling me I’m supposed to give them access to my accounts?! What if my VA turns out to be an evil shapeshifting monster that uses my accounts to assume my identity after they suck my brain out through my earbuds during a Skype chat!?!?!?!”

Hold on there Shirley. Don’t get your tighty whities in a twist just yet.

Is it possible that your VA could go renegade with your personal info and cause your business harm? YES

Is it probable? NO WAY

If you follow the steps in this article and do your proper due diligence, then the chances of a bad experience are no greater than those of hiring a physical assistant. Or an accountant, for that matter. Most of the people you find doing VA work will be honest, hard working people that you can rely on and grow your business with.

Remember, if they don’t work out, you can always fire them.

I do suggest creating separate accounts for your VA’s, and limiting their access to things not directly necessary for them to do their jobs. For example, if you have a web designer VA doing some work on a site for you, create a separate “web developer” account for your site. You can then change the passwords or delete the extra accounts if you ever need to.

Many people even have their VA’s handle their bank accounts, bills, income, etc. I haven’t made that leap yet, but I have heard no negative reports from those who have. I would suggest, however, that you wait to let them have access to your money until they have proven themselves to be dependable, and you have developed a mutual trust.

I have all of my Virtual Assistants submit a “daily accountability report.” This doesn’t have to be overly detailed and complicated, and it’s really more for them than for you. Mine has the following questions…

  1. What did you do today?
  2. What problems did you run into?
  3. What can I help you with to make your life easier?

That’s it. I don’t read them every day, but I make sure they send them every day.

TIPS & TRICKS

Lacking a particular place to put these, we’ve included this section to help answer any remaining questions you may have.

  • Set time limits on tasks– Because no one should spend 15 hours looking for the perfect GIF of a jellyfish.
  • Set expectations that they need to report back to you
  • Give Respect- Get it back- Remember, your VA’s are people too. Treat them just like you would in an office setting.
  • Pay Them Well- Take good care of your VA’s and they’ll take good care of you. Don’t freak out if they miss a few days because they get sick or have a death in the family.
  • Set Expectations Right from the Beginning- Everyone should know what’s expected of them from the get go, this includes you just as much as them.
  • Issue Challenges- Have a few of these, with no particular deadline, that way your VA has something to work on if she finds herself with down time.
  • Use a project management platform– I use ASANA almost exclusively.
  • Have a backup plan in place– Know how you would handle the situation if something happened to your VA or if they quit.

CONCLUSION

Letting go of the reigns is hard! Most of us struggle, at one time or another, with “Superhero Syndrome.” I used to think that it was my job to tackle and destroy any obstacle that came my way.

I thought I had to learn how to do EVERYTHING! That I was the conduit through which all information flowed… the almighty authority of my company… that nothing could function without my constant attention and presence.

I used to think I could work 16 hour days, 7 days a week forever. I practiced polyphasic sleep, pounded endless cups of coffee, and even convinced myself for several years that, unlike mere mortals, I only needed 4 hours of sleep a night!

What a dumb ass.

When I was finally hit with reality, I realized that I didn’t really own a business. I owned a job! I was such a micro-manager that no one could get anything done. It was a self imposed prison of work-for-works-sake.

So, I took the leap and began outsourcing some of my duties. I started small at first, but soon progressed to letting other people handle the majority of the things that I used to believe “only I” could do.

These days I leave the stuff I don’t understand to the pros. I focus my brainpower on growing my businesses and being creative. How sweet it is to realize that my business can do just fine, better in fact, without me constantly staring at it through a microscope.

Burnout does not discriminate. I learned the hard way that I am not a special snowflake, impervious to the basic needs of man. And you, my friend, probably aren’t either.


 

Are you headed for burnout? Or have you already wised up? What impact have VA’s had on your life?

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