(This post is a guest contribution by Lillian De Jesus. Read more about her in the author bio below the post.)
Virtual assistants have become a high demand job for many industries, and it is only increasing. The cost of overhead of Executive Assistants or Administrative Assistants with offices, supplies, and benefits are exceeding the cost for business owners. The benefit of virtual assistants have become quite beneficial with no overhead, no benefits, and no taxes for business owners to worry about (virtual assistants are responsible for taking care of those expenses on their own). There’s no surprise that virtual assistants are the best help a business owner can get, even most affordable. Since the market is saturated with an array of different types of virtual assistants, I’d like to give you an overview of the types of virtual assistants there are and how you can know if it’s a good hire.
What is a Virtual Assistant specifically?
Virtual Assistant (VA) is a general term, but there are specialisations. Similar to any major profession, each Virtual Assistant, has a special skill that they’ve studied and enhanced for a period of time, they may not have a degree in that profession, but they may have the experience, certificates, and course work behind them. First, let’s break down virtual assistants into major categories of workload.
This person specialises in blog writing and will know how to do the link building process and help the site owner gain credibility on the blog topic, and write with Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). Ghostwriting would be for people who do not want people to know they have people blogging for them and would not have an author bio.
Has a robust knowledge of writing skills that can bring people in for sales. This person is usually called in for lead pages, sales pages, lead magnets, and ads.
Someone who does general clerical work like email management, calendar management, and research.
Social Media VA:
Set up social media accounts, create visual marketing materials for social media posts and covers, engage with followers, social media strategy (depends on the VA), social media analysis (depends on the VA), Facebook Ads (depends on the VA).
A Transcription VA can Provide transcription of speaking gigs from conferences, podcast shows, or any other content. Most VAs will take the transcription and post to the customer’s website or blog for them as needed.
As you can see, these are quite specialised and unique skills. Of course, there are more categories VAs can cover; these are the most common. Now understand that some VAs don’t call themselves VAs! They will title themselves as Consultants or something else. We won’t get into that subject, that’s a whole other topic.
What you have to understand is that Virtual Assistants are human beings and are self-employed. They are working from their home (most of the time – perhaps at a park or coffee shop) and are dedicated to their clients because they have families to feed and bills to pay.
They are not perfect and are not Artificial Intelligence (AI).
Now you know what a Virtual Assistant is. Let’s move on to how to hire one.
How to Hire a Virtual Assistant
The worst thing to see is an ad riddled with “I need a superstar VA that can do pretty much all of the things listed above in the categories listed above”. Talk about overwhelm!
The first thing to do is recognise when you need help. When you find yourself drowning every day with every day tasks, and you can’t seem to get much done with your to-do list, then it’s time to prioritise.
Before you hire anyone, you must prioritise your needs first. What is the item that is consuming all of your time throughout the day? Is it scheduling client calls? Is it reconciling your calendar? Is it straightening your email box?
Find out where most of your time is wasted. Once this is recognised, this is the area you need help with first. Understand in the long run you may need help with a variety of tasks later on in your business, however, when you first hire a VA it should be for a small project that can help you quickly.
As soon as you start feeling a bit overwhelmed with your to-do list, think about delegating a simple task that you really don’t like to do. Something that you can provide simple written instructions for in a Google doc or Word doc to have ready to tweak as you go as procedures. When you’re ready and feel confident to let this task go to another person then put the ad out into the world.
Put together a detailed ad that you can post to a variety of sites VAs visit or post your ad in a quality Facebook group like Virtual Assistant Tribe Job Board. Be ready to speak with them to ask them some questions. Most VAs are comfortable speaking over Skype or Zoom, and this provides video access to give a personable interview. This will help establish if you’re a good fit to work with. You may ask for references but please do not ask for a resume. A resume is for employment, and the VA is working as a contractor for you. Many VAs become offended by this. Think of a VA as a business partner, someone who wants to work with you, not for you.
Get to know them before you start to work with them. Remember if you have a bad feeling then maybe it’s not a good idea. Unfortunately, there are some bad people out there in the world who like to scam people, and I’ve heard many stories, so please take the time to get to know people. Don’t rush in to do business!
Here are some guidelines to set for your ad for your Virtual Assistant:
- Right to the Point Title (Social Media Virtual Assistant Needed)
- Tasks listed in bullets with clear descriptions (Set up Facebook account with cover image)
- Specific Timeframe (Start immediately – Deadline: End of Month)
- Contact Information (Email me)
This may seem very simple, but I have to say the many ads that I’ve seen that are jumbled with too many specifics or too little of nothing. They may say they need a Virtual Assistant but won’t say what kind or for what. The one description that always seems to jab me in the gut is their job description – “I need HELP!” Yikes… no kidding. Or the lovely ad that leaves you hanging with no contact information.
Business owners and entrepreneurs are busy trying to get things done, and virtual assistants are there to help, but the secret in hiring a virtual assistant is doing it in an orderly fashion.
How Much Does a Virtual Assistant Cost
When you find a Virtual Assistant that seems to be a good fit, you’ll want to ask them about how they charge. Every Virtual Assistant charge differently. Some charge hourly, by retainer package, or project packages. It depends on the type of services you’re inquiring. If you’re looking for general VA work, most will charge either hourly or retainer. For retainer work, they can give you a set number of hours to work each month and charge monthly. If those hours aren’t used, some may rollover the hours or some may forfeit those hours. It depends on how they set up their policies.
For example, if you’re looking to have a VA do email and calendar work on a monthly basis and you have them on retainer. They can charge $200/month for 20 hours of work. They may have used 17 hours to complete the work and the 3 hours remaining will be rolled over to the next month’s work hours.
Typically VAs who roll over hours, they tend to have a limit of rollover hours of 3 months. It can become costly to their business if they do not limit it otherwise.
For Social Media VAs, like myself, charge by project packages. With a set number of social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and LinkedIn including visual marketing materials such as social media graphics, strategy, and analysis are all one package. Some clients may just want one or two social media platforms with strategy and analysis, which would be a different package.
This would be part of your questioning as well to help you understand the tools they use and need to complete the tasks. For many Social Media VAs, they’ll be well-versed with social media schedulers, such as: Buffer, MeetEdgar, ViralTag, etc. They may create social media graphics with: Photoshop, Canva, Stencil, or other image tools. No matter what tools they use or prefer, check their references and portfolio. They most likely have a file of their social media graphics they have done or marketing materials they’ve created in the past for clients. This will help you with selecting your Virtual Assistant as well.
The cost varies depending on where the Virtual Assistant lives as well because they are all over the world. I can’t say if you’re hiring a VA from the Philippines for $5/hour will be a good hire because I know many wonderful VAs from the Philippines that charge $30/hour. I really can’t say what the best hourly rate to go for. What I can say is to hire a VA that is a good fit for your business, and that does good honest work that you can proudly work with. There is no price point on that. A good working relationship is beyond pennies.
Also, keep in mind a good VA will have a contract and invoice ready for you.
Are you ready to hire a Virtual Assistant?
There are a lot of points to think about when you’re an entrepreneur or small business owner. Many busy days and tasks to complete but there is help. A Virtual Assistant can help in many areas of business, but the key is to take it slow. Here are the key areas to think about:
- A Virtual Assistant has specialised skills
- Figure out what you need help with first before you hire
- Have written instructions for your task
- Create a detailed ad
- Speak with the potential VA via video
- Are you willing to spend money to gain time and do more for your business?
What are your thoughts on hiring a Virtual Assistant?
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