Hiring a Virtual Assistant: 4 Critical Areas to Assess to Make the Right Hire
Guest Post by Yuwanda Black of Inkwell Editorial
In December (2017), I hired a Virtual Assistant. My freelance business has grown to the point where I can’t manage it alone anymore – not and be effective. So after years of going it alone, I hired help again (I used to have a full-time Executive Assistant).
Hiring a Virtual Assistant can really propel your business to the next level, as I’m sure Laura can attest. The first month I hired my VA, she more than paid for herself.
I got one to two months ahead in content creation, freed up at least two to three hours each day, and just felt more in control. Once I hired her, I finally felt like I was working ON my business, instead of in it, ie, like a hamster on a never-ending wheel just trying to keep up.
Why Hiring a Virtual Assistant Became a MUST Instead of a “Nice to Have”
My freelance writing business is split into three distinct areas:
- Blogging/affiliate marketing
- Ecourse creation/development/teaching
Just a few of my regular duties include:
- Blogging and newsletter creation (I put up a new post and/or send out a newsletter one to two times a week)
- Sourcing and creating graphics (which can be hella time-consuming!)
- Social media marketing (another time-consuming task, even when automated)
- Facebook group creation/monitoring
- Answering queries from students in my ecourses/classes and those who purchase my books, and responding to questions from blog readers
- Updating/deleting old posts on blog (content auditing)
- Creating lead magnets and content upgrades
Running a full-fledged writing business is no joke. Some days, I swear, I log on and wonder where the time went because I haven’t done a lick of actual writing!
Hence, in order to get more writing done – as opposed to all the duties around writing – I hired help.
4 Things You Want to Know before Hiring a VA
If you’re thinking of doing so, the following are four critical areas to assess that can make it less likely that you’ll hire the wrong person.
1. Charge/Fee Structure
This is obvious, but I want to give you a piece of advice here. It’s better, in my opinion, to pay someone for a monthly block of time than to pay by the hour.
When I hired my VA, I paid her an hourly rate for 10 hours per month for a clearly defined set of duties. This way of paying is fair for you and your VA.
In fact, it can actually work out better for them because if they can complete the duties in under 10 hours, then it actually means they’re earning more per hour. For example, when I hired my VA, here’s what I asked her to do:
- Proofread/edit 2-3 blog posts per week
- Upload them to WordPress (my blog)
- Create graphics for said posts.
Now while this may not sound like a lot, it saved me hours because my posts tend to be long (1,000 to 2,500+ words). Also, sourcing and creating graphics can take forever.
By outsourcing the above duties, all I had to do was give the uploaded posts a once-over and schedule them to be published. This gave me hours of my day/week back because it allowed me to focus on just the writing of the posts.
2. Do You Have Your Act Together?
When I knew I was going to hire a VA, one of the first things I did was to create a Virtual Assistant’s Manual. By doing this, I alleviated all possible miscommunication about the gig. It outlined all the important things the job entailed, i.e.:
- Duties I wanted completed
- How to do them (I even went so far as to include graphics showing how to do everything)
- The timeframe I expected them to be completed in
- Payment time/method
Not only did I outline duties, but I outlined what the VA could expect from me as a client. For example, my job was to submit all blog posts for a given week by 5 pm U.S. EST on a Sunday, and the deadline for the VA to complete them – i.e., proofread, edit, create graphics for and upload -- was the next Sunday (5 pm U.S. EST).
You see, when you hire someone, you have an obligation to them just as much as they have an obligation to you – if you want your freelance business to operate smoothly. And, isn’t this the whole point of hiring help?
If I was getting posts to my Virtual Assistant willy-nilly without a clearly defined deadline, it would have defeated the purpose of hiring someone – which is to grow my business to the next level, not get bogged down in more chaos and quite possibly regress growth.
So just know, your VA will only be as effective as you are as a client.
3. Clearly Define “Cut Ties” Parameters
If someone is not working out, you want to nip it in the bud as quickly as possible so that you can move on to finding someone who will work out.
As a recruiter, I’ve hired and fired more than my share of freelancers – for my company, as well as companies on whose behalf I recruited. It’s never easy, but it is something you should get comfortable with – especially if you plan to continue to grow your business.
Pay attention early on to milestones missed, e.g., a deadline here, a request that took too long to answer there, etc.
As you grow, this will only get worse if you let it slide. To help make this less likely to happen, be very frank with anyone you’re thinking of hiring.
For example, I let potential VA’s know that I’m a Type-A personality who tends to be a bit too hands-on, especially in the beginning. So I tell them to let me know when to back off, e.g., “Ms. Black, I got this. I completed that task – as you requested – two days ago. You needn’t worry.”
By encouraging this kind of frank talk, you make it easy for them to come to you with something they’re not comfortable with, and let them know you expect to be able to do the same.
Then, let them know that this is your business and if it’s not working out, you’ll let them know, pay them for all duties completed and let them go so that they can find a better fit (and you can too). Stress that it’s not personal; that it’s just business.
I’m not very good at beating around the bush, so when I hire people, I relay this information so it doesn’t come off as harsh if it ever gets to the point where I do have to part ways with them.
You must trust your VA, because they’re likely going to have access to a lot of accounts that are central to the running of your freelance business, e.g.:
- List management company
- Payment account
- Social media accounts
One easy way to do this is to hire from known/reputable sources. Even then, be sure to ask for references – and check them.
One thing I like about being an online business is that there are tons of groups online (on FB for example) where you can get great references for this kind of help.
This way, you’re not just “winging it.” And please, don’t wing it in this area. I had a bad experience once. A vendor I was doing some email list management work with deleted all the subscribers from my AWeber account.
Luckily, AWeber was able to restore my database, but not before the vendor did some foul crap. So just be careful hiring help. Take all the precautions you can.
Hiring a Virtual Assistant can be one of the best investments you make in your freelance business – if it’s the right hire. These tips can help to ensure that it is.
About the Author: Yuwanda Black is the publisher of InkwellEditorial.com, a site that teaches you how to make money writing … for yourself (e.g., self-publishing), or for others (e.g., as a freelance writer). To date, she’s written over 40 romance novellas, with more on the way. Her writing courses can be found at InkwellEditorial.Teachable.com, which includes the highly popular free romance writing ecourse.