How to Hire a Virtual Assistant

Tired of working 80 hour weeks and feeling like you’re always working in your business as opposed to on your business? Maybe you’re super exhausted all the time and cranky with your loved ones because you’re spending way too much time trying to grow your business. If that’s the case, then it may be time for you to hire a virtual assistant.

Stick with me until the end of this article, because I’m going to outline a seven step process that you can take to hire your next virtual assistant.

Over the years, I’ve hired hundreds of virtual assistants and built up several dedicated teams of full time virtual assistants to help me run businesses as well as website projects. I save at least 50 hours every single week through the systems I’ve built, which allow me to work on my businesses as opposed to in my businesses.

When it comes to hiring virtual assistants, there are three key phases. HIRE, PREP, TRAIN.

STEP 1 – CONDUCT A TIME AUDIT FOR AT LEAST 3 DAYS

The first thing to do when you’re about to hire a virtual assistant is to complete a time audit. I want you to do this for at least three days. And what I want you to do is I want you to grab a piece of paper and a pen, or open up a word doc or a Google sheet. And then I want you to time block everything that you do over the next three days when you’re working. So in other words, list out every single hour that you’re working. For example, 12 to one, one to two, two to three, et cetera, and then outline specifically what you are spending your time on.

The reason why is because once you have this in place, you can ask yourself the question of whether or not this task is repeatable and trainable. The reality is that most things are actually very teachable with a little bit of experience and practice. And so what you can figure out quickly is what sort of tasks you could potentially outsource to a virtual assistant to help you out. By removing just two or three things in your day to open up another hour or two or three for you can be a huge way to start saving time with a virtual assistant.

The key question to ask yourself is how could you potentially outsource yourself? What sort of things do you consistently do that honestly could be trained to somebody else. Or if you have full time employees, what would you potentially give to those full time employees to help you out in your business?

I’ve outsourced things such as preparing posts in the backend of WordPress to schedule out all of my content for the month. I’ve also had, VA’s helped me in finding feature images that are royalty free, that I can publish with my blog posts. I’ve also had them do things such as creating the meta descriptions and the title tags and properly formatting the headers in my posts, all of these sorts of small things really do add up, especially when it’s in a situation, like my case, where I’m publishing a new piece often every single day. I need my VA’s to help me scale the team and scale the output of what we’re producing.

Alright, so coming out of this step, once you’ve completed your time audit, you should have some clear opportunities for yourself of repeatable and teachable tasks that you can potentially outsource to a virtual assistant.

STEP 2 – CREATE YOUR STANDARD OPERATING PROCEDURES

The second step when it comes to hiring a virtual assistant is to create your standard operating procedure. The purpose of this step is to hedge for any potential mistakes that your virtual assistant might make when they are first learning how to do this task. The easiest way to think about this is to ask yourself if I had to teach this to somebody or to myself all over again, how would I do so, so that I would cover 90 to 95% of the situations that I am trying to do in this particular task.

In my experiences, the easiest way to onboard a virtual assistant is to go to loom.com, download the free extension, and then create a screen capture of you doing the exact tasks that you would like your virtual assistant to help you out with.

As you’re doing the task, provide a voiceover explaining specifically why this task is important, how to do this task and questions that the VA should be asking as they complete this task. Then after you’ve recorded your video, I want you to go ahead and rewatch that video and then document the steps in a word document or in a Google doc that you can then share with your virtual assistant, as you begin onboarding them.

One of the most important steps to doing this step effectively is to make sure that you do the tasks that you’re trying to outsource to a virtual assistant, at least three or four times. The reason why is because it allows you to highlight potential nuances between different instances of doing this particular task. It gives them more exposure and a broader spectrum of experiences to then look through.

As you create your videos and accompanying instructions, I want you to think about how you could make this into a quick five to 15 minute test task. The reason why is because this will be super helpful as we start getting into the vetting process in the next step.

So the important thing to remember in this step is that we want to break things down. Like we were explaining it to a fifth grader so that we can hedge for the majority of cases, when a person is doing this particular task that you would like to be outsourced.

STEP 3 – CREATE AN RFP AND INVITE CANDIDATES

The third step when it comes to hiring a virtual assistant is to create your request for proposal or RFP, and then begin inviting candidates. For this step, I recommend two platforms, either using Upwork or onlinejobs.ph.

The reason why I don’t like to use Fiverr is because I find the freelancers that tend to list on Fiverr to be more of one off projects, as opposed to virtual assistants, that you can build longterm relationships with easily on the particular platform.

Let’s go over some of the pros and cons of both Upwork and onlinejobs.ph.

One of the biggest advantages of Upwork is that it is a massive marketplace for both freelancers, as well as clients. This means that it’s highly competitive and allows you to find talent pretty easily. I know there are benefits Upwork is that it’s really easy to use. You can create a free account and begin listing your request for proposals quite quickly. Upwork also comes with a complete communication suite in terms of chat that is also related to your email in the case that you’re not in the chat window. And so that makes it so that it’s really easy for you to talk back and forth with freelancers.

That being said, some of the cons to Upwork is that they charge exorbitant fees to the freelancers that are working for you in the first $500 of your contract value with them. Although it does go down over time, it is a significant fee for the freelancers. And so it’s not super friendly to freelancers and also it charges you a fee on the client side, even though it’s a couple of percentage points, it’s still a fee that is largely unnecessary. And actually a few years ago, they didn’t have.

Another con about Upwork is that there’s have been issues in the past in which it’s been super easy to create fake review profiles and so it can be sometimes difficult to vet through some of the freelancers that you are going to be talking to in your RFP. That being said, we’re going to help you out in this article in terms of what to look for. So don’t worry about that.

Now let’s jump into onlinejobs.ph. Onlinejobs.ph is a job bulletin posting site for specifically the Philippines. Onlinejobs.ph is a pay to list site for clients. And what that means is that if you’re looking to hire a virtual assistant on the site, you’ll need to pay either the $69 a month or $99 a month fee in order to get your listing up for that month.

That being said, you don’t need to keep that active every single month if you do your hiring within that first month. The reason why this is both a pro and a con, is that it’s a con in that you have to pay, or it’s a list, but it’s a pro because the second that you actually hire somebody on onlinejobs.ph you actually fully own the communication channel with them off of the platform.

So what that means is that you don’t have to deal with any potential fees that Upwork might have given you, and also you own the direct relationship and direct connect to that virtual assistant. So the easiest way to think about onlinejobs.ph is as you get more sophisticated in the way that you manage your virtual assistants, you might want to look to onlinejobs.ph for finding longterm VA’s that you can work with versus Upwork in which the VA’s might be more short term based projects.

That being said, I’ve had longterm working relationships with freelancers on both sites. And so it just really depends on the respective virtual assistant, who you’re working with, what they prefer as well as what you prefer.

I would recommend that you stick to Upwork if you are just starting out, when it comes to hiring for a virtual assistant. In case you want to learn more about freelance platforms and which ones to use, which ones to avoid, I’m going to do a follow on article later on as to where to hire a virtual assistant. But for now let’s focus on our RFP for step three here.

The next thing you’re going to want to do is you’re going to want to title your RFP. So this is where you’re going to want to describe the sort of work that you are looking to hire for. A good example, would be something along the lines of a blog editor for a WordPress site or something along the lines of virtual assistant to help with every day admin tasks. Whatever you want to put here, just make sure that it fully encapsulates the sorts of potential work that you are looking to hire for.

The second thing you’re going to want to do in your RFP is you’re going to want to outline what you are actually looking to get done. You’re going to want to detail the high level overview of what sort of work this virtual assistant is going to help you with. Maybe it’s doing the formatting for images in Canva, maybe it’s doing meta descriptions for your WordPress backend, maybe it’s doing keyword research.

Just list out everything that you’re looking to hire for as well as the desired experience and background expertise that you might want from your virtual assistant.

What I also recommend is that you create custom questions that your freelance proposals can then answer to show that they have actually read your listing and that they actually potentially have the skills that you are looking for.

Let’s say, for example, you are looking for a blog editor, then you might want to ask them a question like what past experiences have you had in editing WordPress blogs? What scale did that blog publication have, et cetera, or what tools are you used to using when you are editing blogs? And so on. You’re also going to want to include a secret word in your listing  and you’re going to want to ask them to state that secret word in their proposal to you.

I use words like Wolverine or tangerine, just random words that most people wouldn’t typically think of. And the reason why is because when freelancers are going through RFPs, they tend to just spam all the RFPs and not actually read what they’re applying to because they just want a job. And so you want to filter out the sorts of people that just spam things, and don’t actually read the listing.

The other thing you’re going to want to include is your budget for the task, or the hourly rate that you want to pay your virtual assistant. On Upwork there are two types of contracts. There’s either a fixed price contract, or there is an hourly contract. I personally tend to start with fixed rate contracts when first starting with virtual assistants. And the reason why is because I want to build up trust with this virtual assistant, that they can get the job done for what I want to get done. And so fixed price contracts are a good way to assure that for you as a client, because they have to do the work the way that you want it to be done before that payment is released.

After a while, you can always potentially change it to hourly once you’ve built that relationship up with that virtual assistant. A few other quick pointers here before we head into step number four. I personally love to hire from the Philippines when it comes to virtual assistants.

The reason why is because they are immensely loyal, they’re hardworking, they’re great English speakers, and just in general, they are good natured people that really want to see you succeed and are willing to work with you in the longterm, in your working relationships. In terms of hourly rate, it really depends on the task that you are looking to hire for. If you’re hiring from the Philippines, the hourly rates will typically range from three to $10 for entry level to intermediate level experience for hourly contracts. I typically start my relationships at four to $5 an hour, and then I give raises as I continue working with them.

And the reason why is because for this price point, you’re typically going to get a freelancer that has an intermediate level of experience that’s coachable and also competent. And so I like to get that as opposed to potentially a super advanced virtual assistant, or just starting out virtual assistant, where there’s going to be a lot of onboarding.

The last part about this step is make sure that you use your free invites as a free Upwork user. You’re going to get anywhere from 10 to 15 invites for each of the RFPs that you list. So make sure you use Upwork’s database of freelancers to look for people that potentially fit the profile of virtual assistant that you are looking for.

STEP 4 – SHORTLIST YOUR CANDIDATES and PICK 3.

The fourth step when it comes to hiring a virtual assistant is to shortlist your candidates. This is where you’re going to look at the 10 or so applications you receive and cut it down to the three or four people that are high potential candidates for your job.

When looking to form your shortlist, I recommend that you resist the urge of hiring the cheapest person that applies. The reason why is because you’re often going to find what cheaper virtual assistants that you’re going to need to train them a lot longer before they get fully ramped up into your system, and also they’re not going to have the mix of value and skills that you need to get you most of your tasks done.

Some people when you watch other YouTube videos or look up guides on how to hire virtual assistants are going to suggest that you conduct interviews with your virtual assistant candidates. I find this to be a waste of time. In over five years of managing tons of virtual assistants, I’ve never had to actually conduct a video interview.

I would recommend that you skip this step altogether and instead, what I want you to do is I want you to take that test task idea that I had you think about in step number two. And I want you to give that to two or three virtual assistants in your short list.

From there, you’re going to get a few different work samples and you can assess for yourself who potentially would be a better fit for your particular job. Most experienced virtual assistants are more than happy to do this test task, because it also allows them an opportunity to see what it’s like to work for you and see whether or not this working relationship could work.

Now that we’ve covered that. Let’s go ahead and jump into step number five.

STEP 5 – TEST – SHARE INSTRUCTIONS and NECESSARY CREDENTIALS.

The fifth task when it comes to hiring a virtual assistant is to conduct your test. So for this step, what you’re going to want to do is you’re going to want to share any relevant instructions or credentials that they’re going to need in order to complete the test test that you’ve set up.

When you do this, make sure you give a clear deadline so that you can test their ability to meet a deadline, which is super important when you’re working with somebody and also make sure that you leave the door open in case they have any questions for you about the potential test tasks.

Think about every single potential candidate that you’re running through this test task as a full time employee of yours. You wouldn’t leave a full time employee of yours out to dry when it comes to their training so don’t leave your potential VAs out to dry when they’re doing this test task for you.

STEP 6 – REVIEW WORK

The sixth step when it comes to hiring a virtual assistant is to review their work.

What I want you to do here is I want you to ask yourself, did they complete the task? Then I want you to ask yourself how well did they do the task? Especially in relationship to the original instruction set that you gave them.

Next, I want you to consider, with two or three rounds of feedback, do you feel like this VA could get the gist of the task and master it even more? In other words, are they coachable? If you think that they meet the mark on all three of these marks of doing the task, doing it well and being coachable, then you should absolutely hire them right now.

And the reason why is because by doing so, you would have already saved two hours if you gave them that test task, that was slated to take you two hours every single week.

STEP 7 – REPEAT and REWARD

The seventh and final step when it comes to hiring a virtual assistant is to repeat this process and reward. What I mean by that is I watched it go back to your time log that you started at the beginning of this process and look towards the next task that you can potentially create the next set of instructions for.

And from there, go through this entire hiring process again, to continue outsourcing different parts of things that take you time every single week. An aspirational goal of yours should be to outsource 80% of what you do today, if not aspire to a hundred percent of what you do. If your business can run without you, then you’ve built yourself a successful business. But if your business fails without you, then you’ve just built yourself a job. And it’s not actually a business.

I promise you that if you set a small goal for yourself to delegate 30 minutes of work that you do every single week to your virtual assistant, that you will love your life so much more. And the reason why is because you’re going to have more time to be working on your business, as opposed to just being in your business.

The second part of this step is to reward your VAs. Regularly check in with them, get their feedback as to what instructions are good and bad so that you continue refining your processes and your SOP and continue scaling your virtual assistant team. Remember to treat your VA as well. They are part of your team. And what that means is that you need to continue to build up their skill sets as they continue working with you and make them feel confident with the jobs that they are respectively doing.

Big Takeaways

There are two things that I want you to remember from this article:

  1. The first one is that you need to put your team and your company in a position to succeed. And what I mean by that is you need to stop being Batman and thinking that you are the only one on the planet that can possibly do X, Y, Z task.
  2. The second thing to remember is that if your virtual assistant messes up on something 95% of the time, it can be traced back to you. If you don’t give them clear enough instructions, if you don’t set them up for success, then you are ultimately responsible. And their inability to do that particular task is typically not a skill space issue. It’s actually a training based issue. Ultimately, you’re the leader of your business and you need to take full ownership of that as you’re setting up your virtual assistants for success. Followers are only as good as their leaders so do not blame your VA .Take full responsibility and continue to improve your processes.

If you liked this article, be sure to check out my YouTube channel to get new videos every single week. I’ll help take you from zero to self-starter as you grow your business, get more customers, and hone your business acumen. Also, feel free to share this with anybody that you think might benefit from learning how to hire a virtual assistant.

That’s it for this time. If you enjoyed this article, be sure to check out my next article on where to hire a virtual assistant.

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