GUIDE

How to Hire a Virtual Assistant: A Complete Guide

By Michael Mata

Most

entrepreneurs and working professionals have busy schedules bursting with tasks. Ranging from the mundane (like ordering groceries online and paying bills) to the very critical (like submitting quarterly reports and closing new deals with clients), executives can quickly find themselves overloaded with things to do unless they know how to delegate tasks strategically.

"The key to boosting your productivity and making progress on your most important priorities is to delegate secondary and microtasks to trusted virtual assistants."

In fact, highly successful entrepreneurs, executives, and coaches have called virtual assistants their “secret weapon” to increasing their productivity and hitting their goals. 

But how do you find the right executive virtual assistant for your needs? In this comprehensive guide, we’ll give you actionable tips on how to find and hire the best virtual assistant to delegate work and personal tasks to.

But first, let’s define what virtual assistants are, examine some of their specialties, and go over some of the tasks that can be outsourced to them.

What are Virtual Assistants & What Can They Do?

Also known as remote executive assistants, virtual assistants (VAs) are highly skilled professionals who provide administrative, technical, and creative support to clients remotely. VAs tend to be either independent contractors or are employed by companies that provide virtual assistant services. 

Due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic—as well as the business need to cut costs while boosting productivity and profits—there has been a significant rise in the demand for virtual assistants globally. According to a recent report from NanoGlobals, the hiring of virtual assistants via offshore agencies rose by 41% from 2019 to 2020.  

Aside from performing standard admin tasks like scheduling appointments, managing work and personal calendars, and making travel arrangements, the latest breed of virtual assistants can perform a wider range of tasks and possess unique areas of expertise. 

There is a growing demand for virtual assistants who can manage social media and digital marketing campaigns, help Amazon and eCommerce businesses with customer support and other tasks, and augment HR departments. 

"Pretty much any task that can be handled remotely can be done by a virtual assistant. From project and travel management to specialized research and bookkeeping, virtual assistants can provide you with high-quality backend support at a fraction of the cost of hiring in-house assistants. ".

Virtual assistants can also provide personal assistant services to individuals and families, helping them manage their households and professional lives more efficiently. 

For more information on the benefits of hiring a virtual assistant for your team or business, check out our blog post.

7 Signs You Need to Delegate Tasks to An Executive Virtual Assistant

A stressed businessman

Your inability to delegate tasks to a dedicated VA may be compromising your productivity, as well as preventing you from experiencing work-life balance. 

Check this list to see if you could benefit from outsourcing tasks to a virtual assistant:

1. You're working long hours on a regular basis

Are you putting in more than the standard 40 hours of work per week? A study published in 2018 by the Harvard Business Review revealed that CEOs worked an average of 62.5 hours per week, with much of this work spilling over into weekends and holidays. 

While we all need to put in extra hours of work from time to time to beat a deadline or see a major project to completion, doing this on a regular basis is a recipe for burnout. Burnout has a negative effect on our mental and physical health and ultimately causes our work performance to suffer.  

For more information on the importance of delegating tasks to assistants and other team members, check out our blog post.

2. Your mental and physical health is starting to suffer

Overwork and chronic stress will negatively impact your mental and physical well-being. Physical health issues include fatigue; extreme stress; and the increased likelihood for heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and respiratory issues. Mental health issues include depression, anger, anxiety, and irritability.  

For more information on creating work-life balance in our interconnected world, please check out our blog post.

3. You’re ignoring your family and friends

If you’re spending too much time at work, your personal relationships are most likely suffering. If you cannot remember the last time you bonded with or even spoke to a family member or close friend, then you may want to reconsider your priorities. 

4. You’ve forgotten your passions

Life isn’t all about work and we all have interests and facets to our personality that go beyond our job description. If you have a hobby or personal passion that has taken a backseat to your day job, consider making room for these priorities in your life.

5. You can’t focus on your priorities and goals

An overloaded schedule will often rob you of your focus and productivity. If you’re a business owner, your main priorities will likely revolve around growing that business, refining your business strategy, and winning new clients. 

But if a large chunk of your day is spent filtering the messages in your inbox, processing invoices, or chasing leads for Zoom appointments, then your ability to focus on your main priorities is compromised. By outsourcing secondary and microtasks to a dedicated virtual assistant, you can make better use of your time.

6. You're losing clients because you can't respond to inquiries in a timely manner

If you’re running an eCom store or Amazon FBA business, you’ll need to respond to customer inquiries and provide customer support 24/7. Hiring an eCommerce virtual assistant will ensure that you’re providing customer support even when it’s no longer business hours in your time zone. 

eCommerce virtual assistants can also help you scale your online business more rapidly as they can assist you with product research, order processing, ad campaigns, and product listing and optimization, among other tasks.

7. Your schedule is a mess

If you’re having trouble keeping up with your meetings and appointments, or are spending way too much time trying to book meetings with team mates, clients, and vendors, then you could use the help of a dedicated virtual assistant.

Your VA can schedule all of your meetings, appointments, and events, as well as remind you of them. Your VA can also manage your inbox, book meeting and conference rooms, make reservations at restaurants and entertainment venues, and remind you of important events (e.g. birthdays and anniversaries).

Calculate How Many Hours You Can Save by Hiring a Virtual Assistant

To objectively determine if you’re using your work hours efficiently, as well as figure out how much time you can save by hiring a VA, you’ll need to track your daily tasks for at least a week. 

Use a time-tracking tool to track all of your work-related tasks everyday for a week to see how much time you’re spending on each task. For simple task- and project-based time tracking, consider using Toggl Track. This free tool allows you to track tasks and projects so you can see how much time is spent on each of them every day, week, or month.

At the end of the first week, you may realize that you’re spending up to two hours a day responding to customer inquiries in your inbox. That equates to at least 10 hours over a five-day workweek. If you’re able to identify other recurring secondary tasks that are taking up a great deal of your work hours each week, add these to a potential list of tasks that can be delegated to a virtual assistant. 

Pro tip: Once you begin tracking your tasks, avoid getting too granular. The main objective is to spot patterns so you can identify which secondary tasks are better off being delegated to a VA so you can focus on your primary business objectives. 

For example, while you may want to track tasks like “social media management” or “preparing weekly reports,” you may want to group admin tasks like “checking email” and “scheduling meetings” under a general “administration” category.

A busy executive virtual assistant

Decide Which Tasks Need to be Outsourced to a Virtual Assistant

Based on the findings from your time-tracking report, you should have a list of the secondary tasks you’d like to delegate to a virtual assistant. 

Here are some considerations to make when listing down potential tasks for delegation:

  • Are these tasks temporary (e.g. project-based tasks) or are they a permanent part of your job? 
  • Are these tasks seasonal or is demand consistent?

Does accomplishing these tasks make the best use of your time? It’s better to outsource clerical and secondary tasks to a dedicated VA so you can focus on the big picture.

Create a Job Description for Your Virtual Assistant 

Now that you have a list of tasks that you’d like to delegate to a virtual assistant, it’s time to draft a basic job description for your VA and list down some of your expectations. 

Here are some questions to help you get started:

  • What niche, industry, or role are you hiring for?
The job description for an eCommerce virtual assistant would be very different from that of a social media virtual assistant or remote office assistant. Drill down to the specific niche, industry, or role to create a targeted job description. 
  • What is your hourly/monthly budget?
Note that there is no standard rate for full-time and part-time virtual assistants. VAs will literally charge as low as $1 per hour to more than $300 per hour. The rates they charge will depend on their experience, the type of work being done, their skills, their speed, as well as the duration and scope of the project. 
  • Do they have to be native English speakers? Do they have to be proficient in other languages as well? 
  • Do you need a full-time or part-time virtual assistant?
  • Do you need your VA to work in your time zone and during business hours? 
  • How many years of experience should they have?
  • What additional training or qualifications should they have? 
  • What soft skills are preferred? (E.g. Solid organizational skills, excellent time management, highly responsive to internal communications.) 
  • What software and programs should they be proficient in? (E.g. Proficient in MS Office and project management tools, strong familiarity with VoIP and cloud services.)

For a sample job description for virtual assistants, check out this excellent example from Workable.

Where to Find and Hire a Virtual Assistant

There are three general routes you can take in your search for a world-class virtual personal assistant: word-of-mouth referrals, virtual assistant services, and freelance marketplaces. 

Word-of-mouth referrals

Ask your peers if they can recommend a high-caliber virtual personal assistant. VAs who come highly recommended by those you trust are more likely to have the skills and experience that you’re looking for. 

You could make a general post on LinkedIn or send select contacts a private message asking for recommendations. You could also make the same post on Slack, LinkedIn, or Facebook groups for professionals. 

Include your job description, the list of tasks to be delegated, and your business or profession. Be very specific with your requirements to get the best possible referrals from your contacts. 

Virtual assistant services

You can also contact virtual assistant services and hire a VA through them. The best virtual assistant services will provide you with a client success manager who will handle all of your concerns. The client success manager will also pair you with a VA that most closely matches your work style, your personality, and the tasks that need to be accomplished.

The best virtual assistant companies will closely vet and train their VAs, and will often hire VAs that fit very specific niches (e.g. social media VAs for influencers, real estate VAs for realtors, and eCommerce virtual assistants for dropshippers). 

Another great advantage to using a virtual assistant service is the fact that they have many workflow and task-related systems in place. You won’t have to worry about creating systems and workflows to use for task delegation. This will free up even more valuable time in your schedule.

If you’re concerned about security, the most reputable managed virtual assistant services safeguard their clients’ data with online security vault software. Here at Sigrid, for example, we rely on 1Password’s security management features to safeguard our clients and their sensitive information. In fact, we’re only willing to work with clients who consent to using online security vault software to exchange sensitive data with their dedicated virtual assistant.

For a list of some of the best virtual assistant companies, check out the reviews listed on Virtual Assistant Assistant.

Freelance marketplaces

General freelance marketplaces—like Upwork, Fiverr, Guru, and Freelancer—allow you to connect with freelance VAs from around the world. You can post the job role and tasks that need to be done and freelance VAs will respond with their information and rates. Other freelance marketplaces (like Fiverr) allow you to vet the freelance VAs listed in their database. 

While choosing this route allows you to connect with numerous contractors with diverse skill sets and years of experience, you’ll have to sift through countless applicants (many of them subpar). This can be both time-consuming and frustrating.

You’ll also be forced to course all payments and communications through the marketplace’s billing tools and messaging system (VAs who use third-party systems will be penalized). As a result, the rates charged by VAs are often higher than rates offered elsewhere since VAs will need to take the marketplace’s charges into account when pricing their services. 

Pro tip: When hiring a virtual assistant, consider partnering with a reputable VA service. You’re more likely to work with a highly competent VA since these companies have strict screening and hiring processes. Their VAs also receive continuous training and are managed by client success managers. 

Rates and packages are also very flexible, and you can upscale or downscale your hours/tasks depending on your business needs.

A team at work

Factors to Take into Consideration Before Hiring a Virtual Assistant

Standard operating procedures and templates

Consider creating standard operating procedures (SOPs) to make task delegation easier for you. While you could write down your SOPs in a document, it would be better to pair the written steps with screenshots. Consider using recording services like Loom, TechSmith, and Snagit to record step-by-step demonstrations for your SOPs.

Another great way to speed up the onboarding process is to create templates for your VA to use. Examples of templates include general reports, expense reports, contact lists, and product lists. 

Work hours

Take into consideration your VA’s work hours. Do you want your VA to provide 40 hours of support per week or should the support hours be more flexible? 

Does your VA have to work within your time zone and business hours or should they provide support outside your time zone and business hours? (This is a very important consideration to make if your VA is located in another part of the world.) 

Communicate

What is your preferred communication channel? Is it email, Slack, Microsoft Teams, WhatsApp, or some other channel? Do you prefer recording or quickly writing down your instructions? Or would you rather provide in-depth instructions? 

Make sure your VA is comfortable with your preferred communication channels and communication style.

Personality and work style

Hiring a VA with a compatible personality and work style can be tricky, but we all know how difficult it can be to work with someone with an incompatible personality. 

When interviewing prospective VAs, ask them questions about their interests, personality, and work style. Make it clear that you’re trying to gauge their compatibility and aren’t trying to make them uncomfortable. 

Trust your gut: if your prospective VA gave great responses, communicated well with you, and made you feel at ease, then this person might be the ideal candidate to hire. 

Management and reporting

Ideally, you’ll want to work with someone who doesn’t require you to micromanage them (you hired them to gain back some of your lost valuable time after all). During the initial interview, make it clear that you’ll expect them to be proactive when it comes to accomplishing their tasks, asking clarifying questions, and solving problems independently. 

Additionally, make it clear that you expect them to provide insightful and detailed reports on a regular basis. This will help you keep track of the progress they’ve made on projects, the challenges that were encountered, and areas that need improvement. 

Software, time tracking, and project management tools

Finally, make a list of the software and project management tools you’ll be using. Do you require your VA to be proficient in Asana, Monday.com, Clickup, or Trello? 

If your VA is required to handle your expense management and bookkeeping, should they be proficient in expense management, bookkeeping, and accounting software? 

How about time tracking? Should they use Time Doctor, Hubstaff, or Freshbooks? Ideally, you’ll want them to use a time tracking tool that makes it easier for them to invoice their work.

Give Your New Virtual Assistant a Trial Run

Once you’ve remotely interviewed prospective VAs and have chosen someone to work with, give them a trial run.

Since remote assistants are often hired month to month, you can use the first two months to gauge their competency. Give them their SOPs and templates, delegate their tasks, and provide them with additional instructions and deadlines.

While you can start by giving them smaller tasks, as your trust level builds up, you can gradually delegate more critical tasks to them and increase their workload. 

While it normally takes at least two months for a VA to familiarize themselves with your work style, their assigned tasks, and the tools and systems that you use, you should know within two weeks if your VA is right for you. If you notice multiple red flags (like missed deadlines and glaring mistakes that could jeopardize your business or profession), then you should call it a day and terminate the work arrangement. 

However, if they meet or even exceed your expectations, you can make the work arrangement permanent and even consider giving them a higher hourly rate and other perks. 

Here are some additional abilities and qualities your VA should demonstrate:

  • Has a strong understanding of your business or profession.
  • Is proactive about making suggestions, asking clarifying questions, and owning up to mistakes. 
  • Has strong critical, problem-solving, and multi-tasking skills.
  • Communicates clearly and in a timely manner.
  • Is eager to upskill, takes critical feedback well, and stays cool under pressure.
  • Provides detailed project updates and reports.
  • Is proficient in the software and tools that are needed to support you. 
  • Demonstrates empathy.

Get the Premium Support You Need from a Highly Qualified Sigrid Virtual Executive Assistant

While you could vet, interview, test, and hire a virtual executive assistant on your own, the process is time-consuming, fraught with much trial and error, and requires you to manage yet another employee once hired. 

A better route would be to hire a highly experienced Virtual Executive Assistant from Sigrid. We offer a range of virtual assistant packages that can accommodate the needs of solopreneurs, executives, and entire teams.  

Sigrid doesn’t just provide admin support to businesses, as we also provide busy households and families with child and family logistics, household management, bookings and reservations, and other services.

Partnering with Sigrid allows you to achieve greater work-life balance and frees up more hours in your day. You could use this time to focus on your work priorities, spend time with your loved ones, get some much-needed rest and relaxation, or engage in any activity that’s important to you. 

Here are some of the work-related tasks and personal to-dos that can be delegated to your Sigrid Virtual Executive Assistant:

Work Tasks 

  • Calendar Management & Meeting Scheduling
  • Travel Management
  • Project Management Assistance
  • Human Resources
  • Bookkeeping
  • Social Media Management
  • IT Support

Life Tasks 

  • Household Maintenance & Repairs
  • Child & Family Logistics
  • Personal & Family Agendas
  • Bookings at Pubs, Restaurants & Hotels
  • Activities & Entertainment
  • Birthdays & Holidays
  • Child Care & Schooling
  • Home, Car & Garden
  • Online Bills Payments
  • Health & Personal Care
  • Reminders About Important Dates & Events

To find out more about our services, book a consultation, call us now, or test run our services by getting a FREE 14-day trial.

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