Our guide to hiring a virtual assistant

By Lizzie Davey

29 May 2020

Our guide to hiring a virtual assistant

A virtual assistant can free up the time you spend doing menial tasks for your business so you can focus on your bigger goals. Handing over activities you don’t enjoy or that take up too much time can give you the space you need to take your business to the next level.

This article covers

What is a virtual assistant?

A virtual assistant is generally a self-employed professional that remotely provides administrative, technical, or creative services to a business. They can be anywhere in the world, which means you can hire someone with a specific expertise that you might not be able to find locally.

Hiring a virtual assistant can free up your time and allow you to become more productive. It can also be far more cost effective than employing a full-time assistant and is a useful solution if you work from home without physical offices to bring staff into.

Virtual assistant services

So, what can a virtual assistant do? The answer is pretty much anything you want.

Most will help with admin tasks, like scheduling appointments, checking and responding to emails, booking travel, hotels, and restaurants, managing events, and social media management.

You can also find virtual assistants that can do more specialised tasks, such as conducting research into products and services, competitor analysis, and content writing, such as blog posts and ebooks.

How to hire a virtual assistant

Step 1: Figure out what tasks you need help with

Before you hire a virtual assistant, you need to know what you’re going to hand over to them.

Start by writing a list of every task you do for your business. One good way to track this is to spend a week noting down everything you do on a daily basis. Track how much time you’re spending on each task and determine which ones you can pass over to a virtual assistant to give you back some time.

Step 2: Choose your budget

Hiring a virtual assistant is a business expense well worth investing in, but it’s important that you have the funds. Think about how much you have to set aside - it’s helpful to think about the returns you’ll get, too. For example, if you can free up time on one task, can you increase revenue with another?

Virtual assistants tend to charge by the hour, so it’s good to start by determining how many hours of help you might need each month. From there, you can figure out a rough hourly rate that you’re willing to pay.

It’s worth bearing in mind that the cost of a virtual assistant can vary dramatically. Those in the UK and other native English-speaking countries will charge higher rates than virtual assistants in places like the Philippines (where there are lots of VAs).

Because virtual assistants work remotely, it might be worth looking further afield for the perfect assistant within your price range. However, remember to think about time zones and language barriers if you decide to go down this route.

Step 3: Find your virtual assistant

There are tons of virtual assistants out there and multiple different ways to find them. Here are some good places to start:

Network referrals

One of the best ways to find a reliable virtual assistant is by getting a referral from someone who can vouch for them. Try posting on LinkedIn or Facebook to see if anyone in your network can make a recommendation.

A marketplace for virtual workers

Sites like UpWork, Freelancer.com, and PeoplePerHour are full of virtual assistants. Simply search for “virtual assistant” and browse your options. You can narrow down your search by adding a task you need doing as a qualifier - e.g. “admin virtual assistant”.

Run a Google search

Google has a wealth of options for you. Search “virtual assistant” and see what your options are - again, you can use a specific task you need doing as a qualifier to narrow down the results.

Use a specialist company

There are a number of companies that specialise in providing virtual assistants and their services, like Timeetc and Virtalent. These companies have a selection of virtual assistants on their books that you can choose from, each with a different set of skills and experience. They typically charge around £25 per hour.

The Society of Virtual Assistants

Check out the free online database of virtual assistants from The Society of Virtual Assistants. You can see a short description of each assistant’s experience, as well as a list of their top skills so you can make an educated choice on the right assistant for you.

Step 4: Onboard your virtual assistant

A good place to start is a video or a phone call. This will help you get to know your virtual assistant and decide whether working together will be a good fit.

Once you’ve got your introductions out of the way, make sure you set up official documents, like insurance and contracts - for the latter, make sure it contains confidentiality clauses so that the work you do with your virtual assistant is kept private.

Then, your virtual assistant needs to get to know your business. Provide them with any passwords they might need and grant them access to tools you use. If you don’t have any systems in place, be open to suggestions from your virtual assistant as they might know about tools and workflows that you haven’t thought about.

Finding the right virtual assistant is important. This is why starting with a paid trial run can be a good way to suss out whether the virtual assistant you’ve chosen is the right fit. It also helps you to see how you both work together on projects. Start with a small collection of tasks and then, as time goes on, you can add to their workload rather than overwhelming them from the start.

Step 5: Establish a working relationship

There might be some growing pains when you first hire a virtual assistant as you both get used to working together.

Establishing a good relationship is essential if you want to get the best results. Try using a project management tool you can both access to delegate tasks, set deadlines, and create a workload for your virtual assistant.

Remember to schedule regular check-ins too, so that everyone is on the same page at the same time.

A virtual assistant might be the time-saving solution you need

Hiring a virtual assistant will get you back lost time spent on mundane and repetitive tasks. Once you’ve chosen the right assistant for you and successfully onboarded them, you’ll find you have far more time and energy to spend on the real growth activities in your business.