Having your own business is an attractive prospect for many reasons. No boss, working to your own schedule, keeping 100% of your profits, and so on. The downside is that, initially at least, you’re probably going to be very busy. When you have to do everything yourself, your precious time can feel like it is slipping down the drain rapidly.
There may come a time when you need some help; someone to take care of the more basic daily tasks so your time can be dedicated to more complex matters, or those that only you can handle. This is where a virtual assistant (VA) can step in to lighten your load.
What can a virtual assistant do for you?
A virtual assistant is a trained professional who offers services to business owners wishing to outsource tasks they don’t have the time or inclination to take care of. You can find a VA for almost any aspect of your business, from administrative, to technical or social support… and there are plenty who specialize.
For example, your VA might take care of correspondence, meetings, telephone calls, research, admin, or web development. Whatever you need help with, there will be a VA out there for you.
The point is that the VA doesn’t need to physically present in order to work with you. You can hire someone in a remote location and communicate with them over the internet or telephone. This gives you both space and freedom, obviously, but as you may not be able to get to know them in person, extra measures should be taken to hire the right person.
Here are six tips to help you hire the right VA for your business:
1. Go through your networks
You could save yourself a lot of time and perhaps advertising or agency fees if you first go through your own networks. You never know who your friends, family or colleagues might know of, so it’s worth asking around.
They may know someone directly or have an associate who does. Ideally, the VA will come recommended, but even if it’s a more distant connection, you’ll be able to assess them yourself.
You can also use social media networks to source your VA. Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter are good, as your networks will have plenty of reach on those platforms. LinkedIn is a good place to start, as you can search for a VA directly on there. You might also find someone through a Facebook group for VAs, for example.
2. Place an advert online
Even if your own networks are bringing back promising options, consider placing an advert online. This will broaden your chances of finding the right person for your particular business.
Classified advertising platforms like Gumtree or Craigslist are a good place to start. You may not even need to pay fees, but if so they’ll probably be minimal – cheaper than an agency fee, anyway.
Through these advertising platforms, you’re likely to lots of applications. It helps to specify your requirements for qualifications and experience in the form of bulleted questions somewhere at the start of the ad, to weed out those who aren’t going to be a good fit. This will save you a lot of time combing through unsuitable applications.
3. Place an ad on a freelancing platform
One way to save time, if you don’t mind paying some fees, is to sign up to a freelancing website. This way you’re heading straight to where the freelancers are advertising.
You can go through freelancers’ profiles and invite them directly to interview. You can also place a job listing through which VAs can apply directly. You should consider setting a budget so that only those prepared to work for that salary will apply. Otherwise, negotiate rates dependent on skills and experience.
Upwork is one of the best platforms, and there is also Fiverr. Fancy Hands is another. One benefit to this approach is that you’re searching on global platforms, so there is a much better chance of finding a perfect fit.
There are even a few sites tailored towards your exact needs: Virtual Assistant Finders. These might charge a higher fee than the general freelancer platforms, but this way you are likely to find highly qualified assistants quickly.
4. Vet your candidates
You will want to be sure that your candidates have the skills and experience to suit your particular position, so it’s important to look for the right things, ask the right questions and check their credentials. You should look (or ask) for the following:
- A professional website listing their services, fees, experience and some testimonials
- An up-to-date and informative LinkedIn profile
- A strong and clear CV
- Good references or recommendation letters
It’s a good idea to get candidates to complete a questionnaire, which will help you to filter for interview. It also indicates how well they will follow your instructions, and how serious they are about the possibility of working with you.
5. Construct your interviews carefully
When you’ve decided on your key candidates, arrange interviews with them. Ideally you’ll meet in person, but if that’s not possible, opt for a video call. At least this way you’ll be able to see who you’re going to be working with. It’s surprising how much you can pick up from mannerisms, and you’ll get an idea of their general demeanour.
Look out for professionalism, as they will be representing your business in some capacity. How are they dressed? How well do they communicate? What questions do they ask you, and do they listen or are they always in a rush to speak?
Devise your questions carefully. You should aim to uncover critical thinking skills and intelligence. Ask hypothetical questions to see if they can think on their feet, and try to get some examples of similar scenarios they’ve experienced. You’ll want to make sure you’re going to get along, as you could be communicating on a daily basis. If your chat flows well, this is a good sign.
6. Check their references
Some people are great at interview. Perhaps they have good communication skills and are good at selling themselves. These things are great, but they’re not the full story. They may have weaknesses in other areas, and you’re not going to uncover them in a CV – maybe not even at interview stage.
It’s sensible to check the references your candidates have given you before you make an official offer. Contact these references and check on the most important details.
If you take the time to carry out these steps, there is a good chance you’ll weed out incompetent or non-serious applicants. It’s worth it… when you hire the right VA, your days should run much more smoothly, your business should grow, and you should have time for other important other activities. Good luck!
Daniel Ross is part of the marketing team at Roubler.com/au — a scheduling and payroll software platform founded in Australia. Their mission is to change the way the world manages its workforces.