The Ultimate Guide to Hiring a Freelance Virtual Assistant

by | August 13, 2020


If your schedule is so packed that you barely have time to breathe, then it may be time for you to hire a freelance virtual assistant to lighten the load. This guide to hiring a freelance virtual assistant will give you the information you need to start looking for that perfect fit. However, let’s first review the definition of a virtual assistant.

What do freelance virtual assistants do?

A virtual assistant (or VA), also referred to as a “personal office assistant,” is someone who provides administrative assistance to clients from home. We’re not talking about remote work in general, such as virtual call center agents; rather, VAs perform a wide variety of tasks (data entry, email management, scheduling, etc.) for the direct benefit of the client. Freelance virtual assistants, whether hired directly or sourced from an agency, can work as much or as little as you need.

What are the top places to hire a freelance virtual assistant?

Since “virtual” is in the job description, it only makes sense that the Internet is the primary source for freelance VAs. While some freelancers advertise their services apart from any online company, many more use freelancer sites to find clients that need their specific skills and expertise. On such sites, clients can post details about the type of tasks they need the VA to perform; and VAs can upload their resume and portfolio of work to attract new clients.

Of course, as with all business transactions, both sides can ensure a smoother professional relationship by being very specific in their descriptions: the client should provide detailed instructions as to which tasks need to be done, and how, whereas the VA should give accurate information as to his or her work history, training, and skill level.

Some of the more popular sites for hiring a freelance virtual assistant include:

  • Fiverr. This is a good site for sourcing talent for “one-off” tasks or projects.
  • Upwork. This forum enables clients to easily find VAs with specialized skills.
  • FreeUp. This is a great place to connect with pre-vetted professionals from different industries.
  • OnlineJobs. This job board is a good source to fill ongoing positions (either part-time or full-time).
  • Zirtual. This company excels at matching skilled VAs to clients that need their assistance.

How can you determine the number of hours you need from a VA per week or month?

It takes some thought to pinpoint exactly how many hours you’ll need from your freelance virtual assistant. Here is a simple process that can help you decide:

  • Draw up a list of everything you do (on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis) and how long it takes.
  • Ask yourself which tasks you can delegate, and which ones you need to keep for yourself.
  • From your list of tasks that you could delegate, determine how much time you would save on each one if it were outsourced to a VA.
  • Prioritize your list of tasks according to the amount of time saved.
  • Write up a detailed description for each task, including the experience and skills required, the regularity of the task, and how it fits into the overall operation of your business.

How can you choose a freelance virtual assistant?

Now that you have an idea about which tasks require the services of a freelance VA, you need to look for a suitable assistant. To start your search, ask yourself the following preliminary questions:

  • Am I willing to let go of control of some details?
  • What would I be spending my freed-up time on?
  • What is my budget for hiring a VA?

Once you’ve answered those questions to your satisfaction, it’s time to dig into the details of what you’re looking for. Here are 3 factors to consider when making your choice:

1. Which qualities are you looking for in a virtual assistant?

While VAs are not employees per se, you still need to approach the hiring process in a similar way to recruiting employees. You want to make sure that your assistant is qualified for the job.

One way to determine if a potential VA has the qualities needed to make their work a success is to incorporate the STAR method in your interview process. This is an approach to asking behavior-oriented questions that focuses on Situation, Task, Action, and Result. Asking STAR questions can help you to not only determine the VA’s level of experience, but also how he or she reacted to a variety of situations in the past.

2. Which skills do you need?

For some tasks, your virtual assistant may need to have a highly specialized skill set. Just a few examples include bookkeeping duties that require accounting experience; social media content creation that calls for marketing experience; or Internet research tasks that demand familiarity with browser and web engine navigation. While qualities are important, you may not have the time or energy to train your new VA from scratch. That’s why you need to guarantee that your assistant has those necessary skills before coming onboard. In this regard, VAs with industry experience are always a plus.

3. How will you communicate with your VA, and how often?

Since you will be delegating key tasks to your virtual assistant, communication is absolutely vital. You need to determine the best way to interact with your VA, and how often to touch base.

Your communication method should work for you. For instance, if you’re comfortable using Zoom or Skype to meet with your VA then set that expectation at the outset. In addition, make it clear that you expect regular updates from your freelance assistant. These could be in the form of daily calls or emails, or a weekly status report.

Which tasks should you outsource first?

The answer to that question depends on your specific needs and circumstances. However, here are 3 of the top tasks that clients delegate to freelance virtual assistants before anything else:

  • Email management. The inbox on your email client can get cluttered very quickly. At times, it may seem like you’re spending more time sifting through and responding to messages than getting actual work done! Fortunately, virtual assistants can help you with your email management. For instance, they can identify your most important emails and forward them on to you, while responding to low priority messages on your behalf. Of course, you’ll need to provide them with some guidance so that they can distinguish the important emails from the trivial!

  • Calender/scheduling management. There is a multitude of scheduling tools available online that virtual assistants can leverage to your benefit. Your VA, operating within the parameters you’ve given him or her, can accept or decline meeting invitations on your behalf, schedule appointments with clients, help plan gatherings or conferences, and remind you of upcoming events.

  • Social tasks. Freelance virtual assistants can also take care of tasks involving social etiquette, such as writing thank-you notes or sending cards to clients or colleagues on special occasions. The beauty of such an arrangement is that you can outsource routine social responses to your VA, but keep those special replies for yourself.

How can you decide what tasks to outsource next?

Again, it all depends on what you need done, and what will really save you time. Some other commonly outsourced tasks include:

  • Bookkeeping/accounting. This may be one of the more popular tasks for virtual assistants among small business owners that already have a lot on their plate. Many companies share their bookkeeping systems with VAs, who then are able to follow up on tasks such as unpaid bills or outstanding invoices. While this task does involve the sharing of sensitive information, with proper vetting you should have no worries about bringing on an assistant to handle such duties.

  • Internet research. This encompasses a wide range of activities, from finding specific information on corporate websites to performing competitive market analysis to screening potential employees or business contacts. If you don’t want to get “stuck in the weeds” of Internet research, then outsourcing this task to a qualified VA is a great idea.

  • Data entry. Another common task that VAs handle is data entry and management. This may include updating a spreadsheet of business leads, indexing product lines or blog posts, or compiling a list of competitors in a certain sector or geographic region. Freelance virtual assistants are often a perfect match for these time-consuming but necessary activities.

How can you train your new virtual assistant?

Even if your virtual assistant is highly skilled and experienced in the work you need done, you’ll still need to provide a measure of training so that he or she will perform the tasks according to your standards. Of course, many VAs are generalists, which means even more training will be required. Here’s how you can effectively train your new virtual assistant:

  • Record each step involved in a given task, no matter how small.

  • Never assume that a step in a task is common knowledge; play it safe, and spell it out.

  • Once you’ve written down the steps to a certain task, review your process and edit for clarity and brevity. (Sometimes you may include too many steps in your process; then again, some of your explanations may be vague or wordy.)

  • Don’t just give the what of an action — give the why behind it as well. For instance, if your VA knows that an ignored email could mean the loss of revenue, then he or she will be more motivated to carefully following your directions related to inbox management.

Save time and energy by delegating to freelance virtual assistants!

If your plate is full and your burden is heavy, consider sharing the load with a virtual assistant. If you implement the suggestions mentioned above, you’ll no doubt find a qualified, skilled, and conscientious VA to help you take back control of your life without sacrificing the success of your business.