In this article, I’m going to be digging into five mistakes that I find people often make when it comes to hiring virtual assistants. By the end of this article, you’ll hopefully be able to avoid making these mistakes yourself in the case where you are starting to scale up your virtual assistant team.
Mistake #1: They treat virtual assistants as fireable
The very first thing that I find people make the mistake of is they treat virtual assistants like they are fireable. What I mean by this is that even before the virtual assistant has truly started on their work, the business owner will often make the mistake of thinking that if things just don’t work out, then they can just fire the virtual assistant. And I think that’s the wrong mindset when you’re thinking about how to hire and scale a successful virtual assistant team.
Because if you’re not thinking about how to set yourself up and your team up for success, then ultimately that’s exactly what’s going to happen. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy in which, you know, you thought that they weren’t going to work out, and naturally, they don’t work out. So thinking about virtual assistants as fireable in the first place can be a big mistake in general tendency that I’ve seen from folks in which they’re just ready to churn and burn through different folks until they get somebody that’s right for them.
And I think that this is a mistake overall because it means that the person is often not investing enough time in documenting the sorts of things that they want the virtual assistant to help with.
Mistake #2: Setting unrealistic expectations
The second big mistake that I think people make when it comes to virtual assistance is they set unrealistic expectations. When you are hiring a virtual assistant, especially for the first time on your team, you are going to find that you may have to do some more handholding in the first few weeks of working with that virtual assistant. That’s supernatural because if you think about it, they have to understand your work style and you need to understand their work style.
And so it’s not uncommon to go through this sort of calibration period when you’re first starting out. However, sometimes people have really unrealistic expectations where they’re hoping that the virtual assistant, they hire already knows half the things that they want them to do within the second day. And that’s just simply not realistic.
And so, to combat that, what I would recommend you do is actually take a step back and just start to phase in tasks over time. You don’t have to hand over all the keys to the castle, so to speak on your first day of working with your new virtual assistant. Instead just chunk things in terms of a couple of tasks at a time, that way you’re not overwhelming them, and that way they can also prove to you that they are competent in the sorts of tasks that you want them to do.
If you’re ever unsure as to whether or not you have unrealistic expectations, it can be useful just to simply ask your virtual assistant, ask them how things are going based off the task that you’ve shared with them, or ask them just in general, if there’s anything you can help them with or anything that you’ve given them in terms of their task list, that they don’t feel completely comfortable handling.
Sometimes virtual assistants are really great at one task and then really bad at another task. For example, they might be really good at super basic admin tasks like scraping data but then really bad at graphic design and that’s to be expected.
There are all sorts of different virtual assistants out there for different skill sets. And so positioning people to their strains can be really useful for everybody involved. Just for me, for example, at work, I have two different virtual assistants in which one of them is really great, a just basic operational admin task, whereas the other one is better for critical thinking projects that require a little bit more creativity. And so if I’m ever in a situation where I need to come up with something like a new process, I will hand that off to the second virtual assistant, as opposed to the first virtual assistant. The reason why is because I’ve already tested the first virtual assistant before to see whether or not they can actually take that on and they’re not really comfortable doing that.
And so it’s always really important to think about who is the team that you have on staff and how you can position them to their strengths.
Mistake #3: Paying the lowest possible wages
The third mistake that I find people often make when it comes to hiring their virtual assistants is that they pay the lowest possible wages. I see this all the time when going through Upwork proposals for people that are seeking virtual assistance, they are consistently paying just pennies if even just a couple of dollars per hour. And what I would say is that if you’re in a situation where you can afford to pay a little bit more than you should, it’s not only beneficial for you, but it’s also beneficial for your virtual assistant.
Ultimately, I know where this mindset comes from because I, myself, years ago, didn’t have the budget to necessarily pay the highest rates out there. I had to pay lower rates. And if you’re in that situation, I can completely empathize with you as to why you would want to post that listing in that sort of way.
But what I would really encourage you to do is take a step back and think about what that is signaling as well in terms of the sort of virtual assistant that you’re attracting to your job listing too. Over time, what I realized as I hired hundreds of different virtual assistants is that the lowest wage ones often had the highest failure rates as well sometimes for some of the tasks that I had to be done. And the reason why is simply because they didn’t have the skill sets needed. And in order to get those skill sets, I needed to be willing to pay more and invest more in my virtual assistant team.
And so in the case where you’ve maybe been paying the lowest wages, and you’ve been finding yourself having to correct a ton of work that your VAs are doing, what I would ask you to do is just try to put a pit listing out there where you maybe double your budget, or even just increase it by 50% and see what talent pool comes into the door. And in the case where you don’t find any difference, then maybe you were right in your budget in the first place, but you’ll never really know if you don’t push that upper envelope in terms of your budget.
In my personal experience, I’ve found over time that just paying a fair wage has been a big game changer in terms of making sure that my team is happy as well as that I’m getting the quality at level of work that I’m expecting of my team as well.
Mistake #4: Profit over people
The fourth mistake that I’d say that people often make when it comes to hiring virtual assistants is that they prioritize profit over people. This kind of feeds back from the third one that I just mentioned, but essentially what this is referring to is when you are given the opportunity to treat your virtual assistants well, you don’t take the opportunity to do so. In other words, the business owner is just taking all the profits or all the wins that the virtual assistant team might have worked really hard to help him or her achieve.
And that’s something that I think is a mistake. And over the years, this is something that I’m even still cultivating today in terms of just changing my mindset over time as my different side projects and businesses have become more successful. Some of the things that I like to do to treat my virtual assistant team is at random points in the year, whether that’s every quarter or every half year, I try to work in many bonuses for people that I know that have been working really hard for me or in the case where I know that they haven’t taken a few days off.
What I’ll do is I’ll tell them that I’d really like them to consider taking a few days off and then pay for their days off and treat them to a self-care day. By taking these sorts of initiatives, to just think about the other person that’s working for you in this situation, you build a whole new level of trust that really makes everybody want to work harder for you as well.
And so, ultimately you win as the business owner as well because people know that you’ll take care of them and therefore they’re gonna take care of you too. It’s a very reciprocal nature of just human nature. When someone does something nice for us, we want to do something nice for them too. And so in the case where you are in a fortunate situation where maybe your business has been super successful lately, I would encourage you to take a step back and ask yourself if you’re taking care of your team as well as you possibly could.
In the past, I’ve talked about different ways that you can treat your team and whatnot, especially in the remote world case, but something that my own company does that I really appreciate is that whenever we hit a big milestone, essentially our company will send out some personalized gifts to everybody that, you know, really commemorate that milestone. And then we’ll all hop into a remote meeting together and celebrate that milestone.
So think about the different ways that you could do this. It could be something like giving gift cards. It could be something like self-care days, paid time off, or just in general writing a nice note to your virtual system every now and then telling them exactly what they’ve done really well, that caught your attention.
Mistake #5: They don’t really self-reflect on what is not working out
And then the fifth mistake that I find people make when it comes to hiring their virtual assistants is that they don’t really self-reflect on what is not working out. If you’re ever having a churn problem in your virtual assistant team, in which people are leaving you, it probably is because you’re kind of hard to work with, or there’s something that’s clearly not being met in terms of what virtual assistant want out of the work relationship with you that is causing people to leave.
And so what I often find is that people that come to me and ask me, like, why is it that my virtual assistants are always leaving me after a month or so? Well, it’s probably because you are a violator of one of the four things that I mentioned before this fifth one, or it’s something in which you’re just not reflecting on what you could be doing better yourself.
Something that I think is really cool about entrepreneurship is that it’s a personal journey for everybody. It’s something in which your own experience is different than everybody else’s. My experience is going to be inherently different to your experience. And so what I would recommend you’d be doing is constantly self-reflect on where you’re at right now as an entrepreneur, as a leader, as a manager, as a business owner, and ask yourself whether or not you’ve been improving yourself.
Because in the case where you haven’t, then maybe that’s why you’re dealing with some of the issues that you are facing. Actively cultivating your mindset and the way that you’re approaching building your businesses is ultimately one of the hardest skills as an entrepreneur. And I can say that because I’ve been one for over a decade at this point. It’s something I still have to work on and actively work to master. It’s something which I turn to mentors and advisors to help me when I feel stuck. And it’s something that I would recommend you also do as well, especially in the context of virtual assistants.
For me, once I find a virtual assistant I really like working with, I try to keep them as long as possible, just as a general benchmark reference for you on my team I have several virtual assistants that have worked for me for multiple years, some of them close to a decade at this point. And so it’s something in which they will actively want to work with you if you just take care of them. And if you actively are hearing about what their needs are and making sure that you can align your business needs with their personal needs as well.
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