Okay, so your mom, sister, brother, boyfriend, girlfriend, roommate is tired of being your go-to-guy or girl. That pet rock business you started is taking off and you’re too busy to answer your own phone, let alone your own email.
That’s the good news – you’re busy enough to hire someone now. Or, you’re too lazy or too clueless to do your own administrative work but have enough money to pay someone to do it.
Whatever your excuse, you’re seriously considering hiring a Virtual Assistant and you don’t know where to start. Well, as they say, “There’s not enough time to learn from your own mistakes, so learn from mine.”
Unless you’re a brick and mortar store you’re not hiring eye-candy so don’t get hung up on photos. Looks and age don’t matter, competence and skill set does.
Unless you’re hiring an assistant who will model for your website as well as answer your phone and keep up with your calendar, don’t worry about looks or age. Worry about skills, experience, dependability and phone voice and people skills.
You want the smartest, most dependable, most skilled Virtual Assistant you can find, oh – and afford. Unless lots of face-time with him or her with your customers is part of your business, focus on ability.
The good news is, with the economy in the toilet there are tons of experienced, skilled, dependable, brilliant assistants out there. Many of them are mature men and women with decades of experience working for corporate America. And now they want to work with you:
Photo Credit: Vaneeesa
Before You Hire:
Decide what it is you want your Virtual Assistant to do. Do you need someone to schedule your appointments? Answer your phone? Take customer orders? Make sales calls? Generate leads? Write letters? Answer your email? Take care of all the crap you just don’t want to think about? Maybe you can’t keep your checkbook balanced, let alone manage your business taxes.
Whatever it is, decide exactly what you need done. Then write it down in bulleted form before you go Virtual Assistant hunting.
Determine Your Budget
Virtual Assistants, the good ones anyway, will generally cost from $35 to $100 an hour. Most Virtual Assistant have a minimum hourly rate and minimum number of hours per week or month.
Figure on hiring someone at least two to four hours a week. Some Virtual Assistant won’t work full-time; some require a guaranteed number of hours per week or month.
Decide exactly what you want accomplished in the time you hire someone for.
Hourly versus Project Rates
Everything is negotiable. If you have projects or work that has a beginning and an end – such as inputting data, transcribing tapes, writing blog posts etc. consider finding a Virtual Assistant who will give you a project bid rather than an hourly rate. This way you don’t get nickel and dimed to death and you can manage your budget better.
It also means if the Virtual Assistant goes overtime they eat the difference. If they get it done faster and more efficiently, they make more money. If you’re paying for someone to answer the phone, you might be able to negotiate a lower base rate and a per call rate.
Either way you win if you can negotiate a project price.
If you want to see how professional a Virtual Assistant is, visit their website. Is it professional? Well-written? Does it answer your questions about the professional and what they do? Are there testimonials? A website is their store-front. Are you impressed? Disappointed? Appalled?
Call and set up a time for a consultation. Explain you’ve never hired a Virtual Assistant and ask them to explain the process. Are they able to explain what they do clearly? Do you feel comfortable talking with them? What’s your gut feeling? Any chemistry there?
Get a list of references. The more they’re charging, the more references they should have. Call all the references. Double-check the phone numbers against Google to ensure they’re a real business, not just a friend who’s going to rave about them.
Spend at least 15 minutes with each reference. Ask for specific examples of things the Virtual Assistant did that made them so great. Ask about pay. Ask about reliability, invoicing and other satisfaction. Ask why they aren’t using the Virtual Assistant anymore.
Don’t ask yes or no questions. Ask open ended questions like, “What did you like best about _______?” instead of “Did you like _______’s work?”.
Ask for referrals for other Virtual Assistant or about the references experience hiring Virtual Assistant Who knows – you may learn something.
Don’t worry too much about Virtual Assistant certifications. They’re a dime a dozen on the internet. Worry more about how your consultation and the consulting interview goes. Trust your gut. The way you are treated and your experience on the phone when you’re hiring is your best indication of how the rest of your relationship will go.
Know Who You’re Hiring
Virtual Assistants, the good ones anyway, consider themselves independent contractors.
Don’t ask them for a resume – it’s offensive. They’re not applying for a job – they’re partners. You hire them like you’d hire an attorney or financial professional, not a secretary. They’re not there to fetch your coffee or pick up your dry cleaning – unless they advertise themselves as personal assistants.
So make sure you know who you’re hiring. Not every Virtual Assistant can answer a phone, take a message, and respond to emails. Many assistants want to run errands and do girl/guy Friday stuff. So be very clear about what you expect, and what they offer. Treat them all with respect.
Don’t hire the cheapest assistant you can find. If they’re not charging a decent rate they’re not making a decent living as a Virtual Assistant, so chances are they’re
(1) not likely to be around long enough to be a great partner or
(2) they’re doing to take on more clients to make up the difference and end up not giving your project the attention it deserves.
You also want to hire someone who is already making a living as a Virtual Assistant. If they’re “trying it out,” or “making extra holiday money” they’re not going to be there for you or anyone else, for very long. About the time you think they’re trained, they’re onto something new and better paying, are going back to school, anything but helping you grow your business. Bite the bullet, hire a pro. You’ll be glad you did.
Some good advice here!
How about you? Do you hire a virtual assistant for your business?
If so, share your experiences.
Post your comments below.
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