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Many of you are just beginning to learn about the Virtual Assistant (VA) industry. Others have enjoyed the amazing talents of a Virtual Assistant for months or years! Whatever your exposure to the Virtual Assistant industry may be, I’d love the opportunity to share with you some key points to remember when you’re ready to hire you first Virtual Assistant, or make a change from your current VA.
Before we continue, a definition is in order. A Virtual Assistant is a home-based entreprenuer who provides a wide variety of services, including but not limited to:
With so many advances in technology – the Web, the Internet, e-mail and instant messaging to name a few — the tasks your VA can perform for you are innumerable.
Presented for your reading pleasure are a few of my tips when hiring your own Virtual Assistant.
Consideration #1: The Face-to-Face Factor
This is by far the biggest hurdle for some folks to overcome. I’ve interviewed a handful of potential clients who could not understand how I could assist them from my home office. You, dear business owner, must decide if you’re able to deal with the fact that your VA works from her home office.
To start, be honest about the type of person you are. If you must have your hands on every sheet of paper, if you must see your assistant’s face every day, hiring a VA is probably not a good idea for you.
Nine times out of 10, hiring a VA is a good fit for the typical business owner. If you comprise that 10% of business owners who simply must have an on-site assistant, well, that’s just fine. I’d prefer to work with someone who’s self-aware about their work style, than someone who’s attempting to make a VA-client relationship work, just for the sake of making it work.
Consideration #2: Your Personality Type
If you think personality type doesn’t play a role when choosing your VA, you are sorely mistaken my friend!
Example: If you’re Power Player Pete, classic Type A personality, working with Suzy Granola is not a good choice for you. Whereas Suzy may be extraordinarily laid back and calm, your on-the-edge and hyper personality may make for uncomfortable work situations.
Remember, your VA doesn’t necessarily have to mirror your personality. Instead, your personality and that of your Virtual Assistant should mesh very well.
Keep this in mind during the interview process, asking the VA questions about her personality, how she handles stress, etc. Be honest about who you are and the type of VA you need to be successful.
Consideration #3: The VA’s Work Hours
I have one thing to say about my work hours: my West Coast clients sure do love me!
All right folks, it’s nuts and bolts time. Your VA’s work hours and her availability must match your work hours, especially if your VA is to provide live telephone answering service. You also need to keep in mind the time zone difference, if any, between you and your Virtual Assistant.
Some VAs have set work hours while others, such as myself, are a bit looser with our time. While I do have “standard” hours of 9:00 – 6:00 (Eastern), I also provide “after-hours” support, especially to my West Coast clients. I know some VAs who, when the clock strikes 5, are off the clock — they don’t respond to e-mail messages, telephone calls, etc.
Your goal when hiring a VA is to ask very specific questions in regards to her work hours:
• Does she have standard Monday through Friday work hours? How about Saturday, Sunday?
• What is the VA’s policy for emergency and after-hours work?
• Does the VA recognize national holidays and if so, which ones?
Also, verify the VA’s time zone. Remember that some parts of the U. S. do not participate in the twice-yearly time change in April and October.
It’s critical you impart the hours you need your VA to be available; it’s even more important you confirm your Virtual Assistant’s availability.
Consideration #4: Services
Before you step into the VA world, sit down and make a list of tasks you need to off-load. Remember, the reason to hire a Virtual Assistant is to free up your valuable time so you can do what you do best: run your business and bring home the bacon!
Here are a few examples of the types of tasks to off-load to your Virtual Assistant:
**Voice Mail Management
**Website Design & Maintenance
Make that list and check it twice. As you VA shop, keep your list handy to see what types of tasks the Virtual Assistant can handle for you.
Consideration #5: Rates
What’s that &ldots; you think I do this for free? On the contrary, my dear business owner. Look, I’m a small business owner, just like you are. I work hard every day to earn it, just like you do. I expect to get paid for my valuable time and for the services I provide, just like you do.
Rates, rates, rates. Virtual Assistants charge different rates for different types of services. Some VAs charge overtime, after-hours and holiday rates. Typically, you should expect to pay anywhere from $20.00 – $60.00 (sometimes more, sometimes less) per hour. You should also ask the VA if she offers project-based rates.
Ask the VA if she charges overtime or after-hours rates. Ask her if she charges different rates for work performed on holidays, as well.
Consideration #6: Billing Policies
The work is complete and for your VA, it’s time to bill. When you interview VAs, ask how they bill, the frequency of billing and any billing policies they have in place, such as Net15, Payable Upon Receipt, etc. Does the VA offer PayPal as a payment option, or does she prefer to be paid via check?
Consideration #7: Do You LIKE This Person
My final tip? Ask yourself, “Do I like this person? Can I work with this person, day in and day out?” Life is too short and too precious to waste time in a business relationship which does not make you happy and which does not fulfill your needs.
Hiring a Virtual Assistant can be a lengthy process. Take the time you need to find the VA who’s just right for you and your business.