Hiring a virtual assistant is an effective way to improve your bottom line while increasing productivity. Research shows that a virtual assistant can reduce operating costs by nearly 78%. Virtual assistants can provide their service to a wide variety of professionals as well. They can provide support to entrepreneurs, executives, small business owners, or others, helping to revolutionize your efficiency while keeping you more organized.
Of course, having a virtual assistant only works if you pick the right person for the role. It’s critical that you select a virtual assistant with the right skills and right attitude based on what you need. So how do you go about doing this?
In this comprehensive guide, we’ll look at the various aspects of hiring a virtual assistant. Following the best practices outlined below will help you identify the right candidate, gain a better understanding of your own individual needs, and prepare the candidate to thrive in their role as your new virtual assistant.
What do freelance virtual assistants do?
The specific tasks of a virtual assistant will vary depending on the person they work for. Generally speaking, virtual assistants are asked to handle any kind of task that doesn’t require an in-person presence. This can include:
- Managing your calendar
- Data entry
- Customer service
- Internet research
- Tracking expenses and invoicing
- Travel accommodations
- Content marketing
- Answering emails and/or voicemails
- Filing and/or documentation
- Updating social media
- Writing meeting summaries
- Making phone calls or cold calling
- Updating and managing your contact list
- Facilitating your conference calls
- Taking notes as you brainstorm ideas
This isn’t a comprehensive list. What your virtual assistant handles for you specifically will be based on their skill set, your needs, and your working relationship with them.
Freelance virtual assistants typically require a PC or laptop, a working internet connection, and a phone. The Harvard Business Review conducted a study that found that virtual call center employees 13.5% more calls than their counterparts in an office. In short, virtual assistants are more productive than a secretary or assistant situated in an office.
Top places to hire a freelance virtual assistant
There are a seemingly overwhelming number of options online for finding virtual assistants. You can certainly navigate to job boards such as LinkedIn, Indeed, or Glassdoor and find candidates there. There are also various sites that cater to freelancers. The problem with many of these sites is that they’re not specifically geared toward virtual assistants. It can be hard to filter out the high-quality candidates from the sea of job seekers present on these boards.
To get the most out of your search it helps to go with a platform that targets virtual assistants specifically. This streamlines your search by partnering with a provider that understands the requirements of the position as well as the qualities to look for in a candidate. Zirtual is one of the top platforms for hiring professional, capable virtual assistants well-versed in a wide variety of administrative disciplines.
How to decide how many hours per week you need
Deciding how much time you need from your virtual assistant can be tricky. Estimate too high and you can run over budget. Guess too low, and they may not have time to complete all the tasks they need to.
The best way to determine how many hours you need from a virtual assistant is to take stock of how much time it takes you to complete the tasks you intend to delegate each week. This allows you to set a baseline that you can later adjust if more effort is needed. Remember that you’ll likely have a harder time cutting hours than you will increasing level of effort, so factor that into your initial estimate.
How to choose a freelance virtual assistant
Choosing the right freelance virtual assistant is critical if you want to get the most out of your workday. Whether you’re a small business owner, business executive, or entrepreneur, the right virtual assistant can help supercharge your own personal productivity. That’s why the selection process is so important. If you prepare and do your homework prior to hiring the individual, you’ll ensure you come up with the right person for the job.
First, you’ll want to look for someone with the skillset needed to perform the job duties. That means they’ll need to be comfortable with computers. They should also have proficiency in a suite of computer applications such as Microsoft Office. There are other application suites available, but Office is the most commonly used.
Second, you’ll want to see if they have any prior experience as a virtual assistant. Having the skills required is more important than experience, as a good candidate can be trained on the job. But everything else being equal, someone with experience will have an advantage over someone who does not.
As noted above, your candidate should have reliable internet access and a computer. They should also be able to effectively communicate with you and with others. That includes possessing basic verbal and written communication skills. Look first for candidates with a college degree, as this shows they have a certain level of education and aptitude.
Finally, you’ll want to choose someone whose availability matches your schedule. For example, if you’re on the west coast and you hire someone on the east coast, make sure they’re available to work at the same time as you are. This is why pairing with a U.S. based virtual assistant is best — there’s a greater chance they’ll be available to work with your schedule.
Once you’ve identified a potential candidate, schedule a video interview with them. This is where they can expand on their resume and give you an idea of what it’s like to work with them. You can also make your expectations clear and answer any questions or concerns they may have. You can get a feel for what kind of working arrangement they’ll be comfortable with and paint a clear picture of your needs.
Top tasks to outsource first
The first steps in working with your virtual assistant include outsourcing initial tasks. You’ll want to outsource some of the easiest tasks first from a logistical standpoint. These tasks require skill and effort, but they’re relatively easy to master compared to other potential asks your virtual assistant may handle for you.
That’s why the first places you’ll look toward for tasks are your calendar and your email inbox. Asking your virtual assistant to manage your calendar is a great place for them to get started. They can schedule your appointments and send you reminders about upcoming meetings. Giving them access to your email inbox allows them to answer your emails and escalate messages that require urgent attention.
Starting your virtual assistant on your calendar and email has the added bonus of getting them into the rhythm of your daily schedule. They’ll also get to know the major players in your contacts as well as who is reaching out to you on a regular basis. It can help them establish a working relationship with those individuals if appropriate.
How to decide what tasks to outsource next
Once you’ve given your virtual assistant some starting tasks and they’ve shown proficiency in handling them, you may want to increase their workload. The specific kinds of tasks you assign to them obviously depend on your role and what you do, but there’s one way to determine what to assign them.
Categorize all the tasks that go into your job into two broad buckets: operational and strategic. The operational bucket includes tasks that incorporate office skills: managing your calendar, responding to emails, updating your contact list, taking notes in meetings. Your strategic tasks are a bit more forward-thinking and involve planning ahead. This can include brainstorming for product development, coming up with your brand identity, or developing outreach campaigns.
You’ll want to focus on the strategic tasks. Your virtual assistant should be handling operational ones. Before you hire your virtual assistant, make a list of all your tasks. Put each one into either the operational or strategic bucket. As you look for more tasks to outsource to your virtual assistant, take tasks from the operational pile and add that to their list of responsibilities.
How to train your new virtual assistant
Training your virtual assistant involves knowing what type of duties and job responsibilities they’ll be performing. You’ll want to schedule a virtual session to help walk them through your expectations for performance as well as how to perform in the role. You can brief them on important points of contact both inside and outside your greater organization (if you work for a company).
You’ll also want to compile a “how-to” guide for your virtual assistant, giving them the vital information they’ll need to do their job. This should include step-by-step processes, your daily schedule, and contact information. Having this at their fingertips will cut down on the number of times they reach out to you with questions. It provides them with detailed instructions on the various components of the position.
Training can be a cumbersome process — but you can actually avoid it if you work with a virtual assistant provider who can match you with candidates that have the skills and training needed.
Hiring the right virtual assistant
In summary, hiring the right virtual assistant comes down to one word: trust. Can you identify a dependable and high-performing candidate who responds quickly while producing quality work on a consistent basis? Leaving the task of finding a person like this to yourself can prove time-consuming and costly. That’s why you’ll want to pair with a provider who can deliver this candidate right to your virtual front door.
Zirtual has a network of US-based, college-educated virtual assistants able to support numerous prospective tasks. Each Zirtual Assistant has a specialty at which they are an expert. We work with you to identify your specific professional needs and then assign the right person to perform the right task. If your assistant can’t handle a specific task, we have a deep bench of specialists ready to step in and assist them.
So act now. With the right virtual assistant, you can focus more on doing what you do best and leave the administrative operations to the experts. For more on how Zirtual can help, request a consultation today.