Virtual Assistant Companies vs. Freelancers: What’s a Better Experience?
Virtual Assistant Companies vs. Freelancers: What’s a Better Experience?
Hiring a virtual assistant has become not only a trend, but absolutely necessary for busy entrepreneurs to optimise how they work.
You’ve probably heard people talking about it, discussing how they haven’t looked back since making the decision to hire some help, but where do these rockstar VAs come from?
Making the decision to hire a virtual assistant is just the first step. You also have to go through the whole process of actually finding one who will be a good fit for your company. This bit isn’t easy. While there are many stories of how the best virtual assistant came along and helped to save a founder’s bacon, there are just as many horror tales of hiring the wrong person.
Finding a virtual assistant
If we examine the outsourcing experience in logical progression, first you’ll have to figure out where to hire a virtual assistant.
You might decide to find a freelancer, so perhaps you ask around among entrepreneur friends (none of whom want to give up their own “rockstar!”), or you start your search online. If you Google “virtual assistant for hire,” you are assailed with options. You might end up scrolling for hours through a marketplace like Upwork, or you find some individual websites or freelance VAs and line them up to compare.
One thing inherent to the nature of the online world is that you could also turn up a number of poor quality candidates in your search. How will you know that the freelancer actually has experience in the tasks you need doing? How will you confirm that they’re actually good at those tasks? You spend a lot of time digging into individuals, trying to figure out if they are trustworthy and reliable, and whether they can actually do the job.
In short, finding a probable list of freelance virtual assistant candidates takes hours and hours of your time.
On the other hand, a reputable Virtual Assistant Services company can cut that search time right down. A company who sources and hires out virtual assistants will work hard to ensure that they’ve got good people available for their clients – it’s in the best interests of their business too. Virtual Assistant Services companies (if they’re any good), will have already screened their VAs and ensured that they have the required competencies and characteristics to work well for remote-based clients.
In return for taking care of that part of the job, you can expect that you’re paying some kind of premium to the company, which some people may view as a downside, but consider how much your time is really worth. If you’re able to get some positive growth work done in your business instead of taking time out to search for help, you’ve probably already made a decent ROI.
Hiring a virtual assistant
Okay, so the next steps after finding some possible virtual assistant candidates is to go through the screening and hiring processes. For all the tales of woe out there of virtual administrative assistants that didn’t work out, there’s a good chance that either the hiring process was lacking, or the Virtual Assistant companies didn’t put processes in place first that allowed the seamless transition to using a VA.
Once you have a shortlist of possible VAs, if you’re doing the hiring process right, you’ll be going through a process of screening them to see who is going to be suitable. This might include:
- Checking out their work samples.
- Confirming that they’re able to take on the tasks you need doing.
- Following up with their references.
- Doing a research to see if anything comes up about their background.
- Interviewing them.
- Possibly initiating a trial period.
Again, how much time is all of this going to take you? A proper screening process takes quite some time per candidate, so you’re spending literally hours on something that is vital, but doesn’t actually add anything to your business at this stage. On the plus side, this is a good opportunity to get to know someone fairly well before you work with them.
If we look at the experience you’d get with Virtual Assistant companies, all of those tasks that go into the hiring process are taken care of by the company. Background checks can be tedious and time-consuming so again, with these done for you, your time can be spent elsewhere.
Another pro associated with using Virtual Assistant companies is that they have the experience to know what they’re looking for and work efficiently to eliminate anyone who won’t be suitable. The hiring process is probably not something you do every day, right? For this reason, many people get caught up, trying to take care of it themselves but with fairly inefficient processes as they feel their way.
A possible con? The company is not you – only you really know who you enjoy working with and people who hire for themselves tend to weed people out during the recruitment process based on how well they think they can work with them. Good Virtual Assistant companies will do their best to match VAs to clients based on personality, skill set and strengths though.
Training a virtual assistant
One comment we have heard repeatedly is that “I hired a virtual assistant, but I really wasn’t able to move forward as I would have liked due to the VA’s lack of expertise.” Once you’ve hired a VA, your next step would usually be to induct them into your company and conduct any necessary training that they’re going to need in order to work with you.
All of this again takes time, but it also takes organisation. How will you ensure that a VA is trained properly and that everything they’re going to need to succeed is covered or made available to them? What if training is not your forte?
A pitfall that many business owners find is that they can get some tasks set up, but the VA ends up finishing quickly and asking for more work to do. The entrepreneur is then spending time thinking about what they want them to do, then devising training on tools or systems to get the work done. No wonder they feel that they’re not moving forward!
When you hire through virtual assistant companies, training is part of the deal. This tends to give the companies the opportunity to assess the quality of the VA’s work and their processes for getting things done so that they come to the client as an efficient operator. (Note: Not all Virtual Assistant companies provide this service, but it is part of what we offer at The Virtual Hub).
Performance management of a virtual assistant
For many entrepreneurs, a virtual administrative assistant might be their first hire. They might not have ever managed team members before, or they’re so busy that any thought of performance reviews, giving feedback, or generally looking after the HR side of managing a team member gets pushed into the background.
The problem is that if this happens, you risk that you’re not encouraging the best you can possibly get from the VA. You also risk that the VA doesn’t feel valued as a team member – they’re human, not machines!
According to the Office of Personnel Management:
“Some people mistakenly assume that performance management is concerned only with following regulatory requirements to appraise and rate performance. Actually, assigning ratings of record is only one part of the overall process (and perhaps the least important part).
Performance management is the systematic process of:
- planning work and setting expectations,
- continually monitoring performance,
- developing the capacity to perform,
- periodically rating performance in a summary fashion, and
- rewarding good performance.”
These are best practices that certainly all managers should be aware of, but busy entrepreneurs often don’t have the capacity to commit to these themselves, at least not as regularly as they should be done.
Virtual Assistant companies can be the answer to helping out with performance management and other HR issues. For example, a VA who comes to you via The Virtual Hub is an employee of our company, hired to serve yours. The entire HR side including quality assurance and performance is managed by our company.
Keeping your virtual assistant
This issue is another big deal that is commonly heard from entrepreneurs; “I hired a great VA, trained them and worked with them for a while, but then they left because they got a job offer with better rates.”
Let’s examine that for a minute:
“When freelance first came into English in the early 1800s, it was used to refer to a medieval mercenary who would fight for whichever nation or person paid them the most.” Merriam-Webster
These days, while many people embark on a freelance career out of necessity in an uncertain world of work, many still work under the assumptions of this old definition. They pick and choose clients based on who they want to work with, the type of work they want to do and how much they’re getting paid. For the true lover of the freelance lifestyle, they’re always on the hunt, looking out for the next best opportunity. They’re possibly a risk-taker who doesn’t mind going out on a limb to find the best gigs, not unlike entrepreneurs out there.
Don’t get us wrong, there are amazing freelancers out there with well-established businesses who are certainly not fly-by-nighters. However, they’re also hard to get!
On the other hand, there is a distinct group of people who enjoy the remote-work lifestyle, but would prefer more security in their work. Perhaps they have commitments that must be met and they can’t afford to risk the freelance “here today, gone tomorrow” life.
This group of people is more likely to be found working for agencies, including Virtual Assistant companies. Hiring a virtual assistant through a company can have the added benefit of connecting with a VA who will stick around for the long-term, particularly if they are offered favorable terms and conditions. (Tip: Look for Virtual Assistant companies that enjoy positive reviews from the VAs they hire!)
If you’re working with a VA and feel that their performance does deserve a raise, that’s something that The Virtual Hub can work with you over. Everyone wins when the VA feels that their hard work is valued and rewarded!
Freelancer or company hire?
Your final choice will of course come down to your own preferences – do you enjoy the recruitment, training, and managing part, or would you rather have someone else take care of it?
There are some amazing freelancers out there, but sometimes they’re difficult to find and you don’t have endless hours to do the searching. Virtual Assistant companies do because that’s their business. This gives them certain advantages such as having streamlined processes in place to quickly identify, hire, and train the right candidates.
Which do you choose?
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