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.
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.
The idea of a virtual assistant is to take away the headaches that you may be having with your business. This may begin with some of the extra work that you have, and may even move into implementing website designs. If you want to make sure that you find the right virtual assistant, you will want to make sure that they have the qualities you need in order to function at their best.
Just like a job interview, you want to make sure that a virtual assistant is presentable and professional in what they do. Even if they are doing work behind the scenes, they are representing your business. Because of this, you should examine their manners and professionalism before you hire them. If you are unsure of how to begin, there are several practical things to look into.
A virtual assistant will begin their presentation virtually. This means that any virtual assistant will have a website. You will want to make sure the website is organized, presentable, and informational on who they are and what they do. The website is their first presentation, and often times reflect their personality.
From here, you will want to meet with the virtual assistant, or at least call them, to make sure that they are a good fit. By simply putting together some questions about what you need, you will be able to see if the virtual assistant will work for you. They should be able to consult with you at a professional level. Everything from answering the phone properly to providing you with quality answers is important. This includes everything from confidence to articulation in the conversation.
Of course, you will also want to make sure that your virtual assistant has the proper experience. This begins with education, but can also include a variety of other things. There are virtual assistant certifications that are available for serious businesses. Even if they are just starting out, this will help them to show they are professional. They should also have some knowledge or association with the Virtual Assistance Chamber of Commerce.
If you want to make sure that your virtual assistant will work well for you and present the company in a professional manner, then you will also want to make sure that they are confident, articulate and experienced with what they are doing. This will give you the ability to find someone who you know will work well with what you provide.
Just like a job interview, most business owners will want to examine the credibility of a virtual assistant before they decide to sign a contract with them. Just like a resume, most business owners will want to make sure that the credentials are available for the virtual assistant. This will help to define how good they will be for the work that you are asking them to do.
There are several ways to define the credibility of a virtual assistant. There are no set standards for an assistant, meaning that the number one credential should be in your confidence to have them do the work, and in their confidence to do the work effectively. Having the personality and understanding the vision should be one of the number one considerations for a virtual assistant.
Beyond this, there are a variety of possibilities for a virtual assistant. One of the growing credentials for an assistant is the certification for a virtual assistant. However, this is not a required credential. It will simply allow the virtual assistant to gain the knowledge that they need in order to expand their abilities. Some will, instead, have credibility related to schooling or certification from things such as computer programming. There is also the possibility that they belong to the Virtual Assistant Chamber of Commerce as a member, or the national and international associations. This will help you to define whether they are virtual assistants, and will help you to see their seriousness in their job.
One of the other determining options that you can look into is the years of experience that the virtual assistant has. You can expect that a smoother job is going to be done with someone who has at least five years of experience in what they are marketing. Unless you have worked with virtual assistants before and know that they can do the job by your standards without that much experience, it is best to make sure they have some experience.
If you want to make sure that your business has the best reputation, then you also want to make sure that you have the right person working for you on the pieces to the puzzle. Having a virtual assistant with the required credentials is one of the necessary parts to helping you put together the whole of your business.