How to Find and Work with a Virtual Assistant

Posted on 3rd June 2019



Firstly, it's important to recognise that there's a big difference between engaging an employee and hiring a Virtual Assistant.  A VA is an admin specialist who runs his/her own business, so you will want to set out on a harmonious partnership from the very beginning.

Grab a cuppa and read on!
 

The Benefits of Hiring a Virtual Assistant

An employee will usually cost more as you will have to factor in:

Desk space / office rental
NI contributions
Pension (minimum 3% employer contribution from April 2019)
Supply of computer equipment, software, subscriptions, line rental, heating, lighting, internet usage etc.
'Downtime' such as coffee and loo breaks, set-up time, printer jams and chats over the water cooler. 

Your VA will charge you purely for the time actually worked.

You can see therefore that 10 hours billed by a VA might equate to 20 hours or more of an on-site employee.
 
It might even be that your work levels fluctuate.  You can hire a VA only when needed, without the overhead during quieter periods.
A UK-based Virtual Assistant will cost £25-£30 per hour on average and for this you get an experienced professional administrator with a vested interest in the success of your business ... provided you do your research and choose a VA who's the best fit for you!
 

How to Get Started

Have a think about which tasks you will benefit most from outsourcing.  These might be repetitive or recurring tasks - admin tasks which are essential to the running of your business but which, in themselves, don't bring the money in. However, they are still necessary to 'keep the wheels turning!' 

They might be specialist admin or organisational skills - anything you don't feel confident about doing yourself, or they take a long time to complete due to lack of experience or expertise in this area.  These tend to be the tasks that are very business-specific i.e. the nature of your business/industry will largely dictate what these tasks are.
 
All these tasks are ideal to outsource to a VA.
Bear in mind though, you can have more than one VA.  VAs all have different skillsets and there's nothing to say you will find everything you need in the same person.  As you're paying by the hour, it won't cost any more to hire a different VA for a specific job.
 
My top tip would be to hire your VA when you're able to set aside a little time.
This way you can devote some time to the selection and onboarding process.

You should allow time to properly brief your VA on what you'd like them to do. 

Maybe next time you carry out the task yourself document what you do and time yourself.  This way you'll be able to provide a thorough handover and gain a rough idea of the time needed to perform the task.

You'll then be able to check that your Virtual Assistant is competant in following your instructions and performing the task.  You never know, they may even be able to suggest a better way of working!
 

Tips for Hiring a VA

Security
Check what security your prospective VA has in place.  They should be running professional anti-virus software, encrypt their hard drive, have appropriate IT support, an off-site back up and their own domain email.  They should be aware of all the latest compliance issues and registered with the ICO.

Remember they will often have access to business-sensitive information.
 
Insurance
Check your prospective Virtual Assistant has professional indemnity insurance - ask to see a copy of their policy. 
 
Turnaround Time
Ask your prospective Virtual Assistant whether they have the capacity to carry out your work within the timescales you need.  Some VAs will work alone and others as part of a team. 

There's advantages and disadvantages to both.

The solo-worker needs back up in case of any potential sickness but you get the consistency and continuity of the same person completing your tasks, which you may not get if your VA is part of a team.

You should expect emails or phone calls to be answered by the next working day at the latest or to have an autoresponder advising of their return date.
 
  Rates
Most UK-based VAs charge between £25-£30 per hour spent on your work, although you can find both higher and lower than this. 

It's sometimes not easy to judge how long a specific task will take to complete but most VAs will be happy to undertake a sample (e.g. one hour) to give you a better idea.  You should expect to pay for this hour at their standard rate.  Audio typing generally takes 3-6 times the length of the recording, depending on the qualtiy of the recording, the number of speakers, accents, technical terms etc.
 

How to Work with your Virtual Assistant

To my mind, organisation and communication are the key.
 
Organisation
Before handing over a task or project, make sure you have provided all the information needed - templates, passwords, data etc. ... and deadline required!  You can then let your VA do their stuff whilst you get on with your own - uninterrupted!
 
Communication
You should expect your VA to keep in touch with regular updates, particularly for larger projects.

However, don't be tempted to micro-manage. Remember, you've done your research and hired a professional.  Allow them to work uninterrupted as far as possible.
 
Pay your VA on time!
No one likes having to chase for payment.  Not only is it non-productive time, but it doesn't help create a harmonious partnership.

You can typically expect to be asked to pay partially upfront for a larger project and sometimes when a new client too. However, going forward standard payment terms are usually 7-14 days. 
 

Next Steps?

If you'd like to discuss any of the above in greater detail I offer a free of charge, one-hour, no obligation consultation.  Please feel free to contact me; I'd be happy to hear from you
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