Earlier in 2014 I made the decision to hire a Virtual Assistant to help me handle many of the day-to-day activities that are essential to running an online business. It has now been over 2 months since my assistant has started working for me, and I can honestly say that the decision to outsource a virtual assistant has been one of the BEST decisions I have ever made for my business.
Right now I am giving my assistant about 20 hours per week worth of activities to do, which equates to 80 hours per month of work that I couldn’t have possibly done all by myself. But judging by how things are going, I expect that she will be working for me full time in just a few months.
Finding the right assistant did take a little bit of time up front, but the process was well worth it. I strongly believe that every entrepreneur should have an assistant so they can focus their time on activities that have the biggest impact on their business.
I’m going to share the exact steps that I went through to hire my virtual assistant, and in doing so my hope is that I simplify the process for you so that you too can hire your own virtual assistant and take your business to the next level.
Here are 6 easy steps to hiring your virtual assistant:
1. Make a list of activities to delegate
The first step to hiring a virtual assistant is to identify the activities that you are currently doing but should not be doing. As an entrepreneur, this means distinguishing between your income generating activities and your non-income generating activities.
Non-income generating activities are the day-to-day activities that are necessary to keep your business running but do not have a direct impact on your income. For my business, those activities include things like formatting blog posts, editing and transcribing podcast interviews, promoting links on social media, etc. These are all activities that are necessary, but that I should no longer be doing myself. For nearly 2 years I did all of these myself, but now my time is better spent on activities such as strategic planning, writing, conducting interviews, networking, and creating new products (ie. income generating activities).
Erlend Bakke, entrepreneur and bestselling author of Never Work Again (whom I recently had the pleasure of interviewing for my podcast) suggests taking out a piece of paper and drawing columns. In one column, list the activities that you should not do, in the next column, list the activities you don’t want to do, and in the third column, list the activities you can’t do (you don’t know how).
Completing this exercises will give you a very clear idea of what activities you should outsource, leaving you with a few key activities that you enjoy doing and should be doing yourself.
2. Craft a formal job description
Once you have your list of activities you want to delegate to your virtual assistant, you can begin writing a formal job description. This description should include the job title (I chose “Virtual Marketing Assistant”), an overview of your business, a list of duties/tasks to be performed, and any experience or credentials the applicant requires.
If you’ve never written a job description before, you may want to take a look at a few job postings online for similar roles. Once you’ve seen a few descriptions, you should have a good idea of how to craft yours.
3. Post a job ad and collect resumes
With your list of activities to be outsourced and your formal job description in hand, there are 2 things you can do: you can get in touch with an agency that specializes in finding the right person for you, or you can find the right person yourself. The first option will typically require an up-front fee, but will save you from spending your time reviewing and screening applications, conducting interviews, etc. Virtual Staff Finder and Mr. Outsource are two very reputable agencies that can do this for you.
I chose the second option, mainly because I wanted to go through the process of finding and choosing the right person on my own at least once. I posted an ad titled “Virtual Marketing Assistant Needed” directly in the jobs category on Craigslist in Manila, Philippines. I left it there for about a week, and in that time collected about a dozen resumes.
That being said, Craigslist is just one option. There are other great sites that allow you to do the same thing including oDesk.com and Elance.com
4. Conduct video interviews via Skype
Once I received enough resumes, I began shortlisting the applications based on their skills and relevant experience. I narrowed it down to 3, and then sent each of them an email to arrange a video interview via Skype.
I highly recommend conducting video interviews with your applications, especially if you’re hiring a virtual assistant from another country. Conducting a video interview serves several purposes. Firstly, it confirms that your applicant is in fact a real person and that they have access to a computer with a reliable internet connection. It also reveals the strength of their oral communication and language skills, their personality, and generally gives you an opportunity to build (or fail to build) rapport.
If you plan on keeping your virtual assistant for a long time, it’s important you find one you like and would work well with.
In terms interview questions, here are some good ones to ask:
- What tasks did you do for the last person that employed you? Why are you no longer working for them?
- What skills do you possess related to this role?
- What hours and days are you available to work (consider time zone differences)
- How do you like to be trained? (email instructions, video tutorials, etc.)
- How long could you comfortably remain a virtual assistant (1 year.. 2 years.. 5 years.. etc.)
5. Make it official (put it in writing)
Once you’ve decided which applicant you want to give the job to, you should have a formal agreement prepared and signed by both parties (you and the assistant). Keep in mind I am not an attorney, and although you can find standard templates for agreements with virtual assistants by doing a simple Google search, you may want to have yours customized or reviewed by a professional depending on your unique circumstances and the nature of your business.
Here are some key points to outline in your agreement:
- Basic outline of services to be provided
- Compensation and method of payment (ie. PayPal)
- Nature of the relationship (ie. independent contractor vs. employee)
- Any specific restrictions, non-compete clauses, policies regarding confidentiality and proprietary information, etc.
- Termination procedures
6. Have a system in place for tracking and evaluating your assistant’s progress
The final step to ensure your experience with hiring and managing your Virtual Assistant is a smooth and enjoyable process to is establish a system for tracking and evaluating their activities.
I created a weekly activity template using Microsoft Excel, and at the end of each work week my assistant is required to complete this template and email it to me. Basically, it outlines the daily and weekly activities she completed, the total amount of time she spent on each, and any projects or activities that she is still working on. I also included a place for her to insert any questions or comments that she has for me.
So far this approach has worked well, and has enabled me to monitor her progress without spending more than a few minutes of my time each week.
As I’ve already mentioned, hiring a virtual assistant has been one of the best decisions I have made for my business. My only regret is that I didn’t do it sooner!
With the proper systems and support in place to handle all the necessary, day-to-day activities, I am able to focus on things that have a bigger impact on my audience, my income, and my life – things like conducting more interviews for my podcast, writing more articles for my blogs, creating new products, and building relationships with key players in business.
You can accomplish SO MUCH in short periods of time the moment you add some structure and systems in your life and business, get clear on your priorities, and especially when you hire help!