A virtual assistant is someone who helps you with tasks for your online business, but who don’t reside in the same location as you. No one can run a business by themselves and sometimes you need a little help. Because the Internet puts you in touch with people from all over the world, VA’s are often hired from other countries. When looking for a VA, your first consideration is whether you’d like to hire locally or choose someone from another part of the world.
Home Country vs. Overseas
The advantage of hiring someone from your home country is that there is no language or culture barrier. It’s much easier to communicate with your fellow countryman (or woman). For many online business owners, it’s ideal to work with someone locally who you can call and even meet face to face.
However, the main reason we often hire virtual assistants from other countries is that they’re rates are cheap. In many countries, the dollar (or other Western currency) goes much farther and this means that you can pay little but still pay well. Even though it may seem risky to work with a person from another country, there are many high quality VA services operating from countries you wouldn’t expect. If the VA is experience and professional, it doesn’t matter how far away they are.
Characteristics to Look for
When choosing a VA, there are several key characteristics to look for. First of all, have an idea of what tasks you need done and make sure they have expertise performing them. It’s much easier if your VA already has experience so that you don’t have to spend the time training them.
Your VA should be reliable and trustworthy, but how do you know at first? The best way to measure this is to start with a small task as a test run. If they do it well and in a timely manner, gradually delegate further tasks to them. You can also get an idea of their reliability by asking for references.
Of course, price is a factor. But rather than simply looking for the lowest-cost service provider, decide beforehand about how much you’d like to pay and look for high quality services at this rate. Just remember that you usually get what you pay for, so the lower the rate the less experienced the person will tend to be.
Where to Find Help
The Internet puts you in touch with the worldwide workforce and there is no shortage of places to look for help. Social media is a good way to place an ad. Make an announcement on Facebook or Twitter, or use LinkedIn’s groups. LinkedIn is a great site to use because it’s designed for professional networking.
There are sites specifically designed for finding service providers such as ELance, Guru and Freelancer. You can post jobs on these sites and VA’s will respond. A great place to post an ad is on Craigslist if you want someone more local.
Finally, you can find websites for VA services and contact them directly. They’ll usually tell you on the site exactly which services they offer, making it easier for you to decide what you want to pay for.
The Right Time to Hire a VA
Hiring a virtual assistant is a big step for any online business. It’s something you should do once your business is making a profit and you’ve got the funds to spare. Many business owners set aside a portion of their profits each month just for reinvesting in their business in the form of outsourced help. The time will come when you realize that outsourcing daily routine tasks can free you up to focus on more important things.
A good virtual assistant is an amazing help to your online business and can be the difference between stagnant profits and huge growth. Most online businesses can’t survive without them. However, sometimes there are problems that need to be resolved in order for your VA to be the valuable asset you need. Here are a few common problems and what you can do about them.
Not Meeting Deadlines
What if your VA does great work but doesn’t meet deadlines? Stress to them the importance of getting the work done by the due date. If they’re inexpensive, you might consider giving them a little more as incentive. If it’s a challenge to get the work completed on time, pad your deadlines. Ask them to have it done Tuesday when you don’t need it until Thursday.
Another way to handle deadlines is to set up a regular amount of work per week. When you schedule tasks at set intervals, you both get into a routine. For them, it may be easier this way rather than setting a separate timeframe for each task.
Inconsistent or Poor Quality Work
If the work’s quality isn’t up to par, gently but firmly tell them they’re not doing it right. Show them exactly how you want the work done. A great way to do this is to make screenshot videos of you doing it yourself. Even better, share your computer screen through Skype or another VoIP program. Afterwards, ask for their confirmation to make sure they understand. If possible, have them perform the tasks on the screen-share so that you can watch and give feedback immediately.
A good preventative measure is to do a test run when you first hire them to see if they’re capable of following your instructions. Give them just a small portion of the job to do and see how it turns out. Tell them you just need a quick job done and don’t mention anything about long-term work until they’ve proven themselves. This gives you an easy way out.
If your virtual assistant isn’t communicating with you the way you want them to, try another channel of communication. For example, talk through chat instead of email. You might try asking them for a suggestion and being flexible with what they give you. It may help to schedule regular communication times.
Communication is also something that’s good to talk about in your initial contract phase. Tell your new VA that you’re most comfortable using, for example, Skype and ask if they can do that. Make it a condition of hiring them.
Know Your Virtual Assistant
The key to successful outsourcing is to understand your virtual assistants’ strengths and weaknesses. Few people can be good at everything. They may be a great writer but have trouble with project management. They might know how to submit articles to directories but they’re hopeless when it comes to researching blogs for guest posts. If you have a stable of virtual assistants and you know what they do best, you can delegate tasks effectively. You might even be able to give them new projects that you didn’t realize they were capable of when you hired them.
Even if you’re a solopreneur, that doesn’t mean you have to do everything yourself. That’s why most of us work with virtual assistants. Your VA takes over the tasks you don’t want to do so that you can get to the things that add the most value to your business. Managing your VA can take up a lot of your time if not done well, so here are a few best practices for efficient management.
Do It Yourself First
Whatever tasks you’re going to assign to your VA, do them yourself first. If it’s something you’re incapable of doing like web design or content creation, don’t worry about it. But if it’s a routine task that’s not complicated, make sure you know the drill. If you do it first, you’ll know how difficult it is, how long it takes, and how much you should pay to have it done. You’ll also know whether or not your VA is doing it right.
Don’t Overload Your VA
You may be lucky enough to come across a VA who’s skilled at all the things you need done, but don’t dump all of your work on them at once. Instead, give them tasks to do gradually. Some VA’s who are looking for work may take on an unrealistic amount. When you first start working with a VA, there will be problems to iron out and it’s much easier to recognize them when you’re dealing with a smaller workload.
Produce Your Own Tutorials
Take every routine task that you might outsource and make a video using Camtasia or another screen capture software. Even if it’s simple and fairly self-explanatory, show them all of the steps as if they don’t know anything at all, just so there’s no confusion.
You should also create text lists or flowcharts to show them all the steps they have to take for each task. They can refer to these if there’s any confusion later or if they just need to remind themselves of the steps.
Know Their Limitations
It’s very rare to find one person who can perform all the tasks you need to have done. Chances are that your VA will be better at some things than others. As their manager, it’s essential that you understand their strengths and weaknesses and work with these.
For example, your VA may be great at getting backlinks to your website, but they can’t write content for you. They may handle social media tasks quickly and efficiently but have trouble with site maintenance. If this is the case, hire multiple VA’s to handle various tasks, making use of the natural strengths of each. They don’t have to be full-time employees. Just hire them for the amount of time needed for each tasks.
The Lines of Communication
Keep the lines of communication open and make sure that you can reach your VAs quickly and easily when you need them. Build good rapport by being friendly and getting to know them on the personal level. The more you communicate with them, the more likely it is that you’ll understand each other when you discuss some new project.
Along with maintaining good communication, always give your VA immediate feedback and encouragement. When they’re not doing a task the right way, let them know in a friendly and professional manner so that they can do it correctly. When they’re doing things perfectly well with no problems, tell them periodically how much you appreciate their hard work. And it doesn’t hurt at all to give a bonus at the end of the year. Everyone appreciates that!
Training Virtual Assistant
When you first hire a virtual assistant, training them to do all of your myriad tasks seems like a full time job in itself. It takes some work and patience, but once things are running smoothly, your VA will be a life-saver. Since a majority of what goes wrong with outsourcing occurs in the training phase, here are the best practices to help you do it right the first time.
Do They Get It? – Training Virtual Assistant
Never assume that they ‘get it.’ There are always times when you think you’re both on the same page only to discover that you’re way off. Your VA may have their own website that lists all the services they offer and what you need done may be on that list, but always assume they need your training. Even if they’re SEO-savvy and smart, don’t assume. For every task, start at the very basic level and tell them exactly what needs to be done.
Make It Unnecessarily Detailed
When outlining tasks for your virtual assistant, make it more detailed than you think it needs to be. Explain each tiny step along the way, as well as the overall goal of each task. Ask them to confirm by reading or saying it back to you. After you write your email or document explaining the task to them, read it back to see if you’ve included absolutely everything.
Writing vs. Video
You should create your own materials to train your VA. These materials can be used again when you hire help in the future. Go step-by-step through each task. You can create your training either by making video tutorials or giving them text materials. The best approach is actually to do both. Video walks them through everything visually and skirts any communication barrier, while text provides reference materials they can look at when they get stuck.
Do a Trial Run – Training Virtual Assistant
For each job that you outsource, do a short trial run. For example, if you need a massive list of blogs that accept guest posts in your niche, ask them to find ten first. Check these blogs out to see if they’re what you wanted before you go ahead and hire them for the rest. Make sure they’re on the right track or it’ll be a huge waste of your time and money.
Give clear feedback immediately, especially for the first tasks your VAs do for you. Always give them at least one positive bit of feedback to tell them what they’re doing right along with one piece of constructive criticism. The positive feedback is just as important as the negative. There’s always something that a person is good at. Make sure your VA recognizes that you appreciate their work.
Take Responsibility – Training Virtual Assistant
Even when your VA messes up a task completely, take the responsibility upon yourself. Maybe you could have explained it more clearly or given better feedback. Give the other person the benefit of the doubt, because just as they need to adapt to working for you, you need to learn how to delegate and employ someone effectively.
When you venture into business for yourself, you don’t have the kind of support a traditional business office has like employees. Employees who can handle the day to day variety of tasks to help run the operation. For this reason, many online business owners hire Virtual assistants, also known as VA’s to assist them. In today’s post, I want to educate you on what is a Virtual Assistant and what they can do for you.
Virtual assistants are independent contractors who assist you from a remote location usually from their home office via the internet. They can be located in distant parts of the globe and often are available for a low price. You have the world’s workforce at your fingertips.
The Advantages and Disadvantages of Hiring a Virtual Assistant
The main advantage of having a virtual assistant is that you can get rid of the mundane tasks that eat away at your time. Your VA can handle items that are unpleasant or difficult for you. They can also take over certain aspects of your business when you go on vacation. Some VA services are highly skilled in areas like web design which you may not be good at yourself.
There are a few disadvantages as well. Training and managing your VA can sometimes be a job in and of itself. The technology for communicating over long distances can be temperamental and there may be language or cultural barriers to overcome. Finally, you may have to give out sensitive information about your business that requires a great deal of trust.
However, your virtual assistant can handle so many of the different routine tasks for your online business that the benefits usually outweigh any of the challenges.
Types of Tasks Your Virtual Assistant Can Do
Research and Finding Resources
A great job for your virtual assistant is to do research for you. You can assign them tasks to find specific information you need. Examples would be hiring your VA to research other bloggers in your niche to put on your blog roll, blogs that accept guest posts, or forums in your niche that let you include a link in the signature file.
There are many email tasks that your virtual assistant can take over for you. For example, they may write reminders to your clients that it’s time to pay their invoices or other routine communications. You can have them cut and paste these email messages so that all they have to do is send. You may hire a VA to clean out your email inbox or sort messages into appropriate folders.
Social Media Management
Many people with online businesses hire their virtual assistants to manage all of their daily social media tasks. They may update your social media site, set up profiles for you, find people to connect to, or research your target market using social media.
A great task for virtual assistants is getting backlinks to your site. They may submit your articles to directories, a task that eats up your precious time, or bookmark all of your content on social bookmarking sites.
Full SEO Packages
Some agencies hire out virtual assistants who are trained in all different aspects of SEO. They may offer SEO packages that include a number of the tasks mentioned above.
Finding the Right Virtual Assistant
Almost all online businesses need a virtual assistant at some point. It’s good to have a few picked out before you need them. That way, you can take the time to shop around for people that are skilled at the tasks you need done. Keep their contact info and then let them know when you need them.
In conclusion, hiring the right virtual assistant can do wonders for your business. Instead of getting bogged down with the mundane tasks, they can help get the job done while you focus on what you do best for your business!