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7 Things to Consider Before Hiring a Virtual Assistant

7 Things to Consider Before Hiring a Virtual AssistantThe Virtual Assistant industry has grown so much in the past 10 years that it’s easy to understand that clients might get confused about where to find a Virtual Assistant and how to know if they’ve got a good one.

There are some things you can do to put your mind at ease.

Firstly, did you find them online or have they been referred to you? This will make a difference as to how you might feel about the working relationship. Receiving a recommendation or referral from someone you trust will help you over the first hurdle and give you more confidence in the person you will be working with.

What do you need to know about the Virtual Assistant?

How long have they been providing the type of support they are offering you?

Generally many VAs come into the industry having a background of previous office or admin support of some sort, with at least 5 years’ experience. So, even if they are a brand new VA, the fact is that they will have experience in what they’re doing to support you.

What kind of services are they offering?

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that VAs can do anything and everything. They can’t. Many specialise in niche offerings such as transcription, data entry, social media support, research, word-processing, editing and proofreading, etc. It is rare to get someone who can do everything you want and the reality is you may need to engage 2 or 3 VAs to carry out all the work you have available. You can either engage them direct or get one main VA and have them manage your projects and help you engage the others as needed.

What time do they have available?

Some clients need someone 5, 10 or more hours a week, some only need them 5, 10 or more hours a month. And others on an ad-hoc basis. Be upfront with what your needs could be and if you don’t know, let them know but explain what’s required as much as possible.

How much contact do you want with your VA?

Remember that VAs are not employees and do not need micro-managing. They are self-employed independent business owner/operators who are used to using their initiative and organisational skills to get the work done. They won’t need you to be checking up on them every single day but you will need to let them know of your time needs and what you expect of them in reporting back and completion of the work.

How do you wish to communicate?

Some people (clients) prefer phone, some Skype, some email, some face-to-face. It’s important to be clear about how you like to communicate and discuss this with your VA. I have a couple of clients who have regular (once-a-week) phone meetings with me and the rest of the time instructions are emailed. I say ‘phone meetings’ because that’s what they are. Meetings that last 30 mins to an hour or more and the time is charged for. Occasional calls generally aren’t, but then it depends on how often that might take place and how much time is involved.

Are you happy for your VA to sub-contract or outsource your needs if they’re unable to fulfill a request?

Once you are happy with your VA you will probably go to him or her for things that you know they don’t do, but in the hope they can do it for you or find someone who can. I’ve frequently sourced other service providers on behalf of my clients because they’ve been with me for quite sometime and they trust that I understand and know their needs.

How long will you want to have a VA?

That can be a question that’s not answerable. However, it’s worth thinking about. Some clients have projects that have a lifespan of only a few months or a year or two. Other clients have long-term plans for their business and want someone who’s going to be around for the long-term. My own longest-term clients have been with me for 12 years or more and many others between 2 and 7 years.

There may be other things you want to know, i.e. how do they protect your material, do they shred, delete, destroy?

Do they have a backup system in place?

Will they require you to sign a contract or will they simply invoice you on completion of work or on a regular basis, say monthly?

Finally, you’ll need to consider how you feel about the contact you’ve had with your potential VA, whether by voice or email. Do you feel that you connect with them? Did you communicate with each other easily or were there constant miscommunications? You need to feel comfortable with the VA you are going to work with – did they instil confidence for you? Checking their website or LinkedIn profile or whatever they have online will help a great deal.

Kathie M. Thomas - Professional Virtual AssistantAbout the author: Kathie M. Thomas pioneered the Virtual Assistant industry in Australia and established the first VA network in the southern hemisphere. Through a desire to work at home and be present for her family of 5 daughters, she registered her business in March 1994 and took it online in January 1996. Kathie has written many articles online and has been published in books and magazines. Visit Kathie’s blog: Virtual Assistant – The Blog.

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The Virtual Assistant Information blog provides free information for small businesses, entrepreneurs, startups, executives and individuals interested in learning more about hiring and working with a virtual assistant. We’re part of Virtual Assistantville, a premium virtual assistant directory where you can find and hire a professional virtual assistant to help support your business.

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Francis - a couple of years ago

I like your list. It gives much food for thought before getting involved with virtual assistants. Let me add a few thoughts of my own to it.

Regarding virtual assistants not being able to do every service, I believe that’s a given. No one can be an expert on everything.

However, especially if you hire virtual assistants from virtual assistant service platforms, many will put more skills in their cover letter than they are specialized in. In other words, just to increase their chances, some virtual assistants will tell you that they are able to handle anything.

From my point of view, it makes more sense to hire someone and let them do something very small just to see what sort of attitude that person brings to the workplace. When they prove themselves to you and you would like to work with them, gradually increase the tasks to more and more difficult tasks.

Another thought I had regarding virtual assistants being proactive that in my opinion this aspect of proactivity is what sets apart a normal virtual assistant from a great one. You will find many and very different virtual assistants out there. But a virtual assistant that, without asking, gets the problem solved or at least have a few solutions presented is really the good stuff. That’s also what makes a virtual assistant a professional one.

Thanks for writing this article.

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