Tips for Choosing and Using a Virtual Assistant
Good news: Your business is growing so quickly that it’s become difficult for you to stay on top of all of your emails and administrative tasks. But at the same time, perhaps you’re not profitable enough to hire a full-time assistant.
Luckily, there’s a happy medium available if you can't afford to add a regular position to the payroll: a virtual assistant (VA). Virtual assistants can tackle nearly any business-related task that can be handled from afar, such as customer service, bookkeeping, schedule planning, research, or data entry. Rates vary tremendously based on the VA’s location and skill level, ranging anywhere from $7 to $75 an hour. If you think a VA might be a good fit for your business, here are some tips for choosing and making the most of your new virtual employee.
1) Before hiring a VA, make sure you know and communicate what the role entails. Analyze which business tasks take up the most time, and decide whether they can be outsourced to someone without as much business knowledge. For instance, data entry or planning business travel may be ideal tasks to pass off, but you may decide that managing your company’s social networking accounts is a job best handled on your own. Whatever the case, draw up a list of potential chores and try to determine how much time they should take so you can budget for the job appropriately.
2) Decide whether to hire your VA independently or through an agency. You’ll find advantages and disadvantages to each method: When using an agency, you’ll pay a higher rate to cover the agency’s overhead, but you may be able to use different assistants to handle different tasks without the confusion of paying vendors separately. Some agencies even offer money-back guarantees if you’re not happy with your first choice of VA.
3) Decide whether or not you’ll hire internationally. Many VAs working for lower rates are based in countries with lower costs of living, such as India or the Philippines, whereas you’ll pay a premium to hire an American VA. Consider whether language and cultural fluency are essential to your tasks; if so, you’ll likely want to hire someone from your own country and will have to budget accordingly.
4) Once you’ve hired your VA, set specific guidelines. When you have a job in mind for your VA, lay out your requests in step-by-step instructions with specific deadlines for each milestone. Be sure that your assistant understands her expected role, and discuss matters by phone if necessary. When you’re not dealing with a face-to-face assistant, it’s easy to make mistakes in communication.
Have you hired a virtual assistant? What have you learned from the experience?
Kathryn Hawkins is a business writer for Intuit and is passionate about solving small business problems.