The Benefit of Virtual Assistants for Indy Workers

By Erin Ollila, Contributor, on March 6, 2017

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You’re swamped. This is the third night this week you’ve skipped family dinner. You basically live out of your home office, and you’re worried your children will forget who you are if this continues. Being a solopreneur feels different from what you imagined, but you can utilize the benefit of virtual assistants (VAs) to grow your business.

Your dreams of dominating your industry can’t come to fruition, because you’re swamped with what feels like mundane tasks all the time, or you can barely find the time to treat your business like your client. A VA can move you forward. Here’s what you need to know about hiring one:

Identify Your Needs

Before you search for a virtual assistant, be clear about how you want to use one. Depending on your needs, you might find one who can do it all, or you may decide to hire multiple people. The best benefit of virtual assistants? There’s a wide range of skill and specialty to the trade. One might solely focus on social media marketing, while another transcribes and a third completes data entry.

The first step to identify your needs is to audit your business. What do you spend most of your time doing? Is there a task you put off all the time, because you truly don’t enjoy it? Are systems broken in any way? These are the areas where you can off-load some of your work if you hire wisely.

Implement Systems

Even though you’re clear on what you need help with now, there’s still more you need to do before you think about searching for a VA. If you want your investment to prove successful, you should implement systems or tweak your processes, so you can train someone on how to complete the work for you. Set it and forget it.

Julienne DesJardins, a virtual assistant who specializes in digital marketing services, says, “The best way to ensure your VA will be successful is to be as clear as possible. This will take some work — before you’ve ever onboarded them. List out your expectations for things like turnaround time, communication methods and chain of command.”

DesJardins says you may also want to consider compiling standard operating procedures or checklists for the multistep, repetitive tasks you’ll assign to your VA. “Compile all this information in a central location, so they can refer to it whenever they need it. A rigorous commitment to clarity now will really save a lot of time later.”

When Abby Herman, a copywriter and content coach, decided to hire a virtual assistant, she put a system in place to onboard her new hire, but it was also recorded. That way, it was always available if the individual didn’t work out or she needed to find someone new.

“I created a whole work flow for her to follow (tested by me first), which included a step-by-step process in Asana. Then, I made a video walking her through each step and actually going through the process,” she explains. “I specifically hired her to post my blogs for me, so during the training video, I used my blog template to post the blog and create the graphic. Not only can she watch the video over and over again if she needs guidance, but if things don’t work out, I have the training already done!”

Design Your Perfect VA

I bet you thought it was time to hire. Patience, young grasshopper. Before you can cull a list of candidates, you want to know what qualities, skills or even commitments you’ll need in or from a virtual assistant.

Of course, you want a good communicator who works hard and takes initiative. But, what does that mean? Be precise. Is it important that your VA is available for immediate contact during set hours? Maybe you’re looking for someone who can work independently with little to no interaction with you.

Only you know what your needs are, so be introspective and honest with your shortcomings. A good virtual assistant will fill any void, as long as you’re aware of the skills you need.

Hire Wisely

There are many places to look for VAs, but your best bet is to connect via a recommendation from someone you’ve done business with before. If you don’t know anyone who’s worked with a virtual assistant, look to entrepreneurial Facebook groups or search Twitter or Instagram for possible candidates.

Ask anyone who seems like a good fit to interview over video chat and prepare a list of questions. Even if you click with a candidate, ask for the contact information of previous clients or other references, so you can follow up for an honest recommendation. Then, when you’re ready to commit, make sure your retainer contract includes a trial period of 30 to 90 days. Alternatively, you can hire on a month-to-month basis.

Communicate Regularly

Communication is the key to all relationships, especially in business. Naturally, there’s an awkward transition period, but as long as you’re both asking questions and updating each other, you’ll be good to go. You’ll also need to put new systems in place to process work flow. Whether you work with a project management system, such as Trello, or a messaging system, like Slack, make sure there’s an easy way to connect.

Following this general rule of thumb will lead you to success when it comes to relying on virtual assistants. Just remember, you don’t need to shoulder all the menial tasks on your own — there are always avenues of help you can explore, especially as a freelancer.

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