June 18, 2018

What is a Virtual Assistant? Know When You’re Ready to Hire

Could you use a little help from a virtual assistant in your business?

We all reach a point where doing the “doing” is not the best use of our time anymore. It’s time to hire someone, but who is it that you really need onboard? A virtual assistant can be a great option. But you must know your own true needs, whether that matches up with their skills, and be ready to hire them.

Here’s What You Need To Know Before Hiring A Virtual Assistant:

  • The sort of help you need
  • Your preparedness in relinquishing control
  • Be prepared to make yourself available

What is a virtual assistant?

Put quite simply, a virtual assistant is someone who provides support services to your business from a remote location. They may be self-employed, or they may work through a VA company (such as The Virtual Hub).

Virtual assistants come in all stripes and might perform a range of tasks for your business. 

virtual assistant

You’ll find that some specialize in certain areas, while others have a general level of administrative expertise. In any case, a good VA keeps your business ticking by ensuring that important tasks get done. Those tasks are things that lend themselves well to being done in a remote environment. A virtual assistant isn’t sitting in an office greeting clients as they come in!

For example, The Virtual Hub virtual assistants might: 

  • Manage bookings and calendars
  • Handle research in any capacity
  • Schedule content and social media
  • Manage digital marketing activities such as landing page or webinar setup
  • Manage websites, CRM tools, customer service, and a number of tasks in-between.

In short, a VA can be the “secret sauce” a company needs to ensure that vital activities happen, leading to business growth. They allow business owners or other team members to free up time they otherwise would spend on those activities, and put more focus into strategy and goal achievement.

Are you ready to hire a virtual assistant?

Is hiring a virtual assistant the answer for your business? First, we’d recommend that you take some time to assess and determine whether you’re actually ready to hire one. Why do we suggest this?

virtual assistant

Well, sometimes people dive right in, sure that hiring a virtual assistant will be the magic solution to their business issues. If they don’t get the results they were expecting, they end up disappointed.

This is often less about the VA and more about the preparedness of the company to actually hire one. You can’t go in with a vague notion of “the virtual assistant will help me and things will get better.” You need an actual plan.

Here Are Some Things To Consider:

What sort of help do you need?

One thing that we’ve heard often from successful business owners is that their first foray into hiring a team member didn’t go so well. The classic story is that they found themselves to be too busy “doing stuff” and knew that they needed extra help to ensure they could focus on the right things.

With this realization, the business owner thinks “I know, I’ll hire a virtual assistant,” gets one onboard and finds things for them to do.

The problem is, they then discover that:

  • They’re spending a lot of their day finding tasks for the virtual assistant to do, and/or;
  • There are tasks which they really need taken care of but they can’t give them to the virtual assistant.
virtual assistant

Assessing the business first and having a good understanding of what you really need help with is crucial. You need a plan, almost like a business roadmap which spells out where you need help and who you need to hire to get it.

For example, there is often confusion over the differences between a virtual assistant and a personal assistant - people often think they’re  the same. Another common confusion is thinking that a virtual assistant is the answer, when perhaps the set of skills you’re looking for is  more suited to a project manager.

Here’s a quick rundown of what each role does:

  • Virtual assistants - Take specific tasks off your plate that are suited to a virtual environment. Tasks are typically administrative and systemized in nature - they are recurring, so easy to put a process around.
  • Personal assistants - The key difference is that personal assistants take care of tasks that need to be done in-person. For example, they might be the person who greets clients as they walk in your door, answers your phone, or runs errands.
  • Project manager - A project manager oversees key projects and completes or delegates tasks as necessary. They have specialist skills in managing deliverables and the people responsible for delivering them. Most can create and manage systems as well, particularly for tracking and keeping projects on-schedule. PMs usually have a higher level of responsibility, sometimes involving managing budgets too.

Which set of skills resonates with your own business? If you hire a virtual assistant without knowing exactly how you’ll use them, or you expect them to be a project manager, you could set them up to fail. On the other hand, your relationship with a virtual assistant is off to a great start when you have already clearly defined your needs.

Are you prepared to relinquish “control?”

This is where we talk about the mindset for a bit. Many entrepreneurs see their business as their “baby,” which is great for making decisions to nurture the business, but often not so great when it comes to relinquishing control over tasks.

You oversee a virtual assistant, but the point is that you must let them get on with the job. If you have a tendency to micromanage, you’re not going to get the efficiency benefits of hiring a virtual assistant. Additionally, no one enjoys being micromanaged, so it doesn’t create the best work environment!

It can be difficult to overcome thoughts such as “if you want something done right, do it yourself,” but no business has scaled up that way. There’s a subtle shift between the mindset of a solopreneur and that of an owner/manager. Adopting a manager mindset means that you take a more strategic view. You know that being involved in the “doing” isn’t always the best use of your time and you accept that, if you’ve hired the right person, they’re quite capable of doing the tasks well.

virtual assistant

Here are some tips if you struggle with relinquishing control:

  1. Have a clear plan and know the tasks you need help with.
  2. Hire the right virtual assistant who is competent with the tasks you need to be done. You might go through a hiring process, looking at their past experience and qualifications yourself, or go through a virtual assistant company that has already vetted candidates.
  3. Have robust systems and processes in place. So, you like something done in a certain way? That’s fine - document the process! Having clear processes not only helps your virtual assistant to understand your requirements, but it gives you confidence that you can let things go. Additionally, documented processes help you to scale - you can avoid repeating yourself because there is a resource available to team members.
  4. Think about all the important things you can now get done if you’ve delegated those tasks! Keep your eye on the overall goals of hiring a virtual assistant - what tasks will you now be spending more time on that generate value for your business?

Are you prepared to make yourself available? 

On the opposite end from the business owner who struggles to relinquish control, we find the business owner who wants to remain completely “hands off.” They think to themselves that by hiring virtual assistant services, everything should now be taken care of, leaving them free to remain in the creative zone.

The thing is, while you can rely on a good virtual assistant to follow your processes and get on with the job, getting successful results from the relationship takes more than that. Context plays a huge role in guiding the virtual assistant so that they can serve you as best as they can. This is where you come in.

Being ready to offer feedback is another key part of ensuring that you successfully manage a virtual assistant. Check in with them and be constructive so that the virtual assistant is better able to understand your needs. When you think about it, have you ever been hired for a job where someone just said: “here you go, now you can get started?” If you have, the chances are it probably didn’t go so well! 

Think of yourself and your virtual assistant as a team - the team will operate much more efficiently when working together.

Before you decide “I need a virtual assistant,” give careful consideration to what you need help with and how that will be facilitated in a virtual environment. Do you need a virtual assistant? Or, do you really need someone with some highly specialized skills to target a certain area of your business?   Virtual assistants are great at managing the repetitive tasks that must be done to keep your business running in good order. You’ll set yourself up for a successful relationship with your virtual assistant if you have made sure that you’re ready to hire one first.

Do know exactly what you want them to do? Do you have robust systems and processes in place? Are you mentally prepared to let tasks go? Equally, are you prepared to be available and give feedback? A virtual assistant can be the “secret sauce” to a business that hums. Our Ultimate Guide to Virtual Assistants will teach you how YOU can make the most out of your virtual assistant and all the tips and tricks that you need to know about having one. And if you're looking to hire a virtual assistant, you can find out how The Virtual Hub can help you here.


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