How to Hire a Virtual Assistant

It’s time for you to focus on the things that bring in the money.

You don’t need me to remind you that there aren’t enough hours in the day.  And you already know virtual assistants can do a wide variety of tasks and can fit almost any budget.  So I won’t waste any more of your time trying to convince you why you need a virtual assistant (or VA).

Best places to find Virtual Assistants: Elance and Virtual Staff Finder

Let’s get right to the point.  How can you find a qualified virtual assistant to help you focus on your core business?

Here’s my step-by-step approach to finding the right virtual assistant:

online virtual assistant1. Determine who you are really looking for

A. List out all the potential tasks you could have someone else do for you.  Here’s a few examples:

  • Blog maintenance, article writing, and managing your email list
  • Search engine optimization (SEO) and social network promotion
  • Web research
  • Scheduling appointments and administrative tasks
  • Lead generation
  • Finding airfares and booking travel
  • Bookkeeping

B. Based on those tasks, what qualifications do you need?
Do you need any specific qualifications like SEO expertise or QuickBooks experience?

After you’ve listed out your desired virtual assistant qualifications, think about what you must have and what are “nice to have’s”.  You may find that you just need someone with common sense, who follows through, and has good communications skills.
For example, do they really need to live in the US and have English as their first language?  Keep in mind American VA’s usually cost 3-4 times more than overseas resources.  You can expect to pay an offshore VA between $3-9/hour and a US or Canadian based VA $10-30/hour.  Virtual Staff Finder has a useful salary guide for using Philippino VAs.

If you need someone that’s generating leads and must talk to prospective clients, an American VA may be the way to go.  But if your tasks can all be completed via phone or email and a slight accent is ok, strongly consider overseas freelancers.

2. Create a Virtual Assistant Job Posting Online

Once you know the type of assistant you want, it’s time to cast a net and see who you can find.  Start out by creating a job posting on one any of these popular freelancing sites where you can find virtual assistants online:

Here is an example of a virtual assistant job post:

I’m looking for a virtual assistant to help me on a part time basis, approximately 20 hours/week.   Please review the tasks below and provide examples of when you have completed similar tasks along with your bid.

Required Skills: Experience with SEO and keyword analysis.

Site History: Feedback rating of at least a 4.0 with minimum 50 hours experience.

Communication:

–          Must be fluent in written English with basic verbal skills.

–          Strong email etiquette and grammar

–          Must be available to discuss tasks on the phone or over Skype once per day sometime between 8am-5pm EST.

Tasks will include:

–          Following up on email leads and setting appointments for me

–          Performing keyword analysis and basic on-page SEO for my website and blog

–          Moderating blog comments

–          Updating social networks: Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter

–          Researching low fares and booking air travel and hotels

–          Conducting web research

IMPORTANT: To prove you’ve read this assignment, please write I READ YOUR REQUIREMENTS in the first line of your bid.  I will eliminate all bids that do not start with this phrase since many people do not read requirements.

Notice that I asked for two specific tasks in this job posting.  At the start I asked for examples of previous work and at the end I asked for a “key phrase” in the heading of their bid.  This is a small test to help you find a virtual assistant who is detail oriented and reads your emails from start to finish.

3. Narrow Down Your Candidates

You should get a number of responses within 24 hours.  Immediately disqualify any that do not have your statement “I READ THE REQUIREMENTS…” at the top or a bid that does not include examples of related work experience.  Again, you don’t want a virtual assistant who is not thorough. 

You can track each of your candidates in this freelancer comparison worksheet I created.  It makes it easy to keep track and compare candidates across freelancing sites.  I’ve also added a section for “last action” so it’s easy for you to remember where each candidate is in the hiring process.

Look for virtual assistants with several positive reviews.  You don’t want to train someone how to be a virtual assistant for the first time.  And you also want to avoid VA’s with any type of negative feedback.

Search for your desired skills.  Just because someone places a bid doesn’t mean they have the right experience.  If you’re looking for someone with SEO experience, make sure they’ve listed SEO projects or completed SEO tests in their profile (there are tests for just about everything).  And this may seem obvious, but if you’re looking for someone to respond to emails, make sure both their bid and their profile are error free and grammatically correct.  If they don’t proofread now, they won’t while they’re working for you either.

Do not select a VA based solely on their hourly rate. You’ll get plenty of very low offers from virtual assistants and that’s great!  However, not all VA’s are created equal.  Be sure to consider quality in addition to price.  If you can find a VA that gets twice as much accomplished in an hour but costs 25% more than someone else, it probably makes sense to hire her.

One exception:  If you are hiring for simple, repeatable tasks that do not require much input, you can build an army of virtual assistants at super low rates.

One hiring technique worth considering is to create a small Test Assignment like you would when finding a freelance web programmer.  Hire multiple VA’s at the same time to complete the Test Assignment and then select the best performer for long term work.

4.  Interviewing a Virtual Assistant

Once you have a few applicants, you definitely want to talk with them and see who will make a good fit.  Here are some key points to ask about in an interview:

  • What’s the typical turn-around time for requests?
  • What other types of clients have they worked for?
  • What type of support can she provide? (as well as what she doesn’t)
  • Any particular areas of expertise?
  • Number of years experience as a VA?
  • How many hours are they available? Full or part-time?
  • How can you reach them? Email, chat, domestic phone number, or Skype calling?
  • Ask for 2 or 3 references.  And once you get these references call them!

When you find a virtual assistant that seems like a fit, give them a shot so you can start focusing on what’s important!

If you have more tips about finding or hiring virtual assistants online, please share them in the comments.

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