August 25, 2022 • By The Zirtual Team
When you're starting out as a sole entrepreneur, you're doing it all: managing your social media, fulfilling orders, responding to business-critical emails, and so forth.
But while we set up a business for many reasons (think: earning six figures, sustainability, etc.), having less time in our lives is certainly not one of them.
That's why the first employee many "solopreneurs" hire is a freelance personal assistant: someone who can take on the daily processes and tasks essential to the running of your business, but only as a temporary team member.
A freelance virtual assistant is like having an extra set of hands without hiring an actual employee. If you're suffering from fatigue, burnout, stress, and other "good problems" that come with entrepreneurial success, it might be time to hire your virtual assistant and get back some of those hours in your workday.
In this guide, we walk you through the ins and outs of hiring a freelance personal assistant, where to find them, how to pick your top candidate for an admin assistant, which interview questions to ask, and a lot more!
It's pretty straightforward.
They are admin assistants that freelance and work with multiple clients at the same time.
A while back, personal assistants worked from the office and offered support from there.
But the real question is: how can an admin assistant work with multiple clients simultaneously? How can a freelance PA be in two places at the same time?
Well, this is why they are often referred to as virtual or executive assistants.
They are essentially remote professionals who provide their personal assistant services to diverse clients via the phone or the internet. It's also worth noting that they work via an independent contract.
But the fascinating thing about freelance PAs isn't just the fact that you don't have to make room in your already constricted office. It's that you can vet them, gauge their skills, and handpick the ideal candidate for your business.
Freelance PAs (aka virtual assistants) tend to take on a mix of duties. They could purely act as admin assistants, or they could be a "jack of all trades"—they could even boast prior experience in that specific field.
Social media management: Crafting content, replying to comments, etc.
Data entry: Bookkeeping or inputting data from different sources into an excel spreadsheet
Customer service: Answering calls and emails from clients
Research: Looking for a list of influencers/bloggers to get in touch with or curating stats you can use in a piece of content
Store management: Inventory management, order fulfillment, running sales for you (you can find PAs who have experience in a particular field of management)
Personal errands: Getting presents bought and delivered to your girlfriend on Valentine's
Cold calling: Sending pitches and scheduling Zoom meetings between you and prospective clients
The list goes on and on and on.
From the use cases above, you can see just how valuable freelance PAs can be.
But where can you find one of these virtual assistants in the first place?
At this point, it's pretty clear that having these temporary team members can of great help to your business.
They can grow your bottom line, take route tasks off your plate, manage your calendar —the list is endless.
Now let's get to the crux of the matter: How do you hire a freelance personal assistant?
What are the interview questions like?
This poses a unique challenge because, let's face it, you're never going to be one-on-one with them.
As they conduct their work remotely, there's always an element of risk associated with hiring them.
How will I know their work is up to par?
How do I ascertain their credibility?
Can they be trusted?
These are all valid questions. The only way to be sure is to hire freelance PAs from reputable sites like Zirtual. Your vetting process should also be rigorous to pluck out unsuitable candidates.
But let's start with where you can source these professionals.
Think of VA companies as online agencies for freelance personal assistant jobs.
You get in touch with these virtual assistant sites with your requirements, and they'll send you a VA that's a perfect fit for your business.
The good news is that you don't sift through applications on your own. These VA websites save you a ton of effort and time.
Moreover, as these assistants are coming from credible agencies, you can rest assured that there's a screening process involved—no guesswork!
When you hire VAs through virtual assistant companies, you don't pay for individual jobs. You typically buy virtual assistance plans.
They are time-based and can range from 12 to 50 hours or more per month. You'll enjoy a high level of support and flexibility along the way to make the most of your needs.
Additionally, some exclusive plans allow for more than one user, making it easy to help multiple people at your company.
The only downside to all this is that VA services tend to be pricey. But one thing is for sure—you'll get the best bang for the buck no matter the VA company or plan you choose.
If you want to hire a college-educated professional who fits your immediate business needs, Zirtual is your go-to site.
The company boasts that only 2% of their freelance personal assistant applicants are hired, and once they are, they're professionally supported. Zirtual admin assistants possess a diverse set of skills and are dexterous in Google, Microsoft, and other popular software suites.
Pricing: Packages start at $449 per month for 12 hours' worth of task work per month for a single user and go up to 50 hours per month for five users.
With a 98% client repetition rate, WoodBows is arguably the best VA website out there. They help entrepreneurs, real estate agents, and business owners to save time and money. The beauty of WoodBows is that they offer a 200% money-back guarantee if you aren't satisfied with the quality of their services.
Pricing: Plans range from $49.9 a week for 4 hours of task work to $99.9 per week for 10 hours of service.
Graphic & web design
Belay's pool of VAs are trained, vetted, and ready to rid you of any tedious admin tasks.
Rather than hunting for your freelance PA yourself, a handpicked "Client Success Consultant" from the Belay team does the vetting on your behalf, which means you skip the otherwise lengthy interviewing process. They simply learn the intricacies of your business then work their matchmaking magic!
Pricing: Packages vary depending on your requirements. These plans are based mainly on a month-to-month contract for which you can get up to 40 hours worth of task work per week. Fees range from $38-$43 per hour.
Proofreading and editing
Client and team coordination
Of course, there is a slew of other VA agencies out there, but the trick is to focus on the one that fits your bill.
Unless you have been living under a rock, you have most likely heard of the team "freelance economy"—which currently makes up 35% of the entire US economy. Freelance marketplaces are an integral part of this ecosystem.
Ever heard of the NBA draft? That's exactly how a freelance marketplace works. You have a slew of applicants, and you select one that fits your criteria. As easy as that. Here's a breakdown of it happens:
You post a job opening on a freelance marketplace of choice.
Freelancers can respond to that opening if the task description appeals to them.
You can then sift through all the responses to find the best candidate for the job.
Some challenges stand out, though.
It would help if you got the job description spot on. It's not unlikely for disagreements to happen over what the requirements were once it's payday.
Typically, there are hundreds (or even thousands) of responses to a single job posting. While this presents you with a huge talent pool to pick from, it's often way too much to sift through.
How do you avoid these common pitfalls? Easy—only focus on the more credible freelancing websites. Here is a couple of them:
As far as freelancing marketplaces go, Upwork is the pick of the bunch. What it does best is weed out all the sham applicants.
Additionally, freelancers can bid on admin assistant jobs for more money or for less than the outlined figure. This repels anyone who isn't committed to the course.
As a result, you'll have a smaller pool of more competent applicants to pick from.
Freelance My Way is another great marketplace to get talented personal assistants for content creation and admin work.
They have a top-notch screening process in place, so you can be sure that their VAs are nothing short of qualified.
The best part? They offer you the option of paying a virtual personal assistant only when certain milestones have been met. This is especially helpful as it gives the freelancer an incentive to do their admin work diligently.
Let's say you've found a prospective freelance PA- either on a freelance marketplace or via a VA agency. Or perhaps you've just crafted a list of a few top contenders.
Is there a way of knowing whether the listed candidate is indeed the right fit?
One of the best ways to avoid a sour experience is to ask the right virtual assistant questions. Not only does this allow you to assess the capability and experience of the prospects, but you also find out if your personalities are a good match.
Here are some of the most common interview questions:
Pretty much straightforward, right? If you want a freelance PA to do a task for you, say, design a website, common sense dictates that you choose an individual who knows the nitty-gritty of the job. Otherwise, you risk wasting a lot of bucks (and time) on the wrong person.
Keep in mind that even freelance admin assistants have an area of expertise—whether it's answering emails, social media, or correspondence. It's crucial to find a professional who specializes in the exact tasks you want to be done.
VAs stem from different backgrounds. Oftentimes, they bring valuable experience from positions they occupied prior to becoming virtual assistants. Moreover, asking prospects an open-ended question like this gives candidates an opportunity to elaborate—and you might come across something interesting.
If you want someone to perform simple tasks and only need to save money, it's fine to hire a candidate who has never worked as a VA in the past. However, if you're after quality and faster completion of jobs, several years of experience will come in handy.
This VA interview question gives you a clear picture of the values held by the candidate and how those values might impact his/her work.
For example, a candidate who replies with "I like to party, you only live once, right?" might not be diligent when it comes to meeting the set deadlines. Having a good time every once in a while is great, but it becomes an issue when it deters the person from doing their job. This question can help you pinpoint some red flags quickly.
On the flip side, someone who says, "I barely have enough time to sleep between house chores, work, and kids," isn't an ideal fit either. They might be regularly battling fatigue and, as a result, end up missing deadlines.
Experienced freelance personal assistants will have used diverse tools for things like graphic design, file sharing, time tracking, and scheduling. Finding out which of these tools your candidates love will give you a better sense of their working styles. Plus, if a prospect names many different tools, you'll know that you have found someone with a rich background.
Time zones are important in the world of remote work. Working with a virtual personal assistant, who is 10 hours ahead of you, can be a real headache, especially if you need to have a phone or video call. While time zones might not matter if the tasks you need the VA to complete are time-independent, it can become a challenge if these assignments are time-sensitive.
As we mentioned, top freelance PAs often have multiple clients. This means they're not always able to perform tasks, message, or answer calls immediately. If your tray has urgent tasks, it pays to find a PA with a flexible schedule.
It's worthwhile to find a VA whose communication style matches your own. If you like to chat over a Zoom call, you might not work well with someone who'd rather send text messages.
This question should give you some much-needed insight into the prospect's work ethic. Generally speaking, it's better to ask than to make costly mistakes. However, ideal candidates should also be proactive and independent enough that they try to solve many issues without getting in touch with you first.
This question aims to kill two birds with one stone—literally. Firstly, it helps you gauge the candidate's level of expertise. Secondly, it helps you gauge the candidate's critical thinking and problem-solving skills. After all, you want someone who is solution-oriented and one who goes out of their way to ensure the client is satisfied.
So you have scoured the internet for a suitable freelance PA, came up with a list of candidates for the job post, and even made a list of interview questions to ask during the vetting process. Now what?
Basically, the interview questions above should help you form a basis for choosing the right VA for your company.
Don't underestimate the cost of hiring a freelance PA. You can always go cheaper if you have to—but keep in mind that you're looking for the perfect fit, not the cheapest virtual assistant you can find.
No matter the length of time you'll work with your virtual assistant, you're going to work closely together, so it's important to pick one that you can actually get along with. If in doubt, take advantage of an extended trial period. This will help ensure that you're making the right choice.
Having a strong track record is something you want your freelance PA to have, so if you can't get a personal recommendation, make sure you settle for an assistant who has verifiable client testimonials.
Do you want someone who's going to take a lead role in the day-to-day running of your company and come up with suggestions (proactive)—or would you rather have a virtual assistant who just contemplates the tasks you assign them, no questions asked (reactive)? Again, the interview questions above should help you in this regard.
This isn't really essential, but it's a nice thing to have. A virtual assistant who knows your field of expertise will also know the nuances of it, as well as all the technical demands that might be involved. Be sure to nail this aspect of hiring right from the interviewing process.
Despite the frantic nature of freelance personal assistant jobs, your ideal candidate should be someone you can count on—every single time. Therefore, during the interview, make sure to convey all your requirements and the scope of the job to them so that you don't have to waste your precious time reminding them of their core duties.
So, by now you should know how to hire the best freelance personal assistant for your company.
We understand that a new hire is always a mind-boggling prospect.
Will it work out, or will it go haywire?
Will they offer the quality of work you hope?
How can I be sure that all this isn't just a waste of my hard-earned money?
If you're still skeptical about the best way to hire a personal assistant, look no further than Zirtual. Our team will match you with a US-based, college-educated virtual assistant whose existing skills will make the biggest impact on your bottom line. Solve your biggest time sucks, get stuff off your plate, and become more productive with Zirtual today!