When I first started my company, I felt like I had to do everything and had no budget to hire help. Feeling completely, overwhelmed I decided to look for help I could afford, which meant an hourly rate of about $3 hour. Hiring a virtual assistant (VA) is an easy way to get tasks off your plate so you can focus on hands-on activities that need your expertise and human touch.

The use of virtual assistants is not a new phenomenon. Over the past few years, there’s been a growing trend of business executives and entrepreneurs hiring VAs to perform routine tasks. VAs are a particularly popular option for entrepreneurs who find themselves trying to wear too many hats for their business. Once I found the right team of VAs for my business, it was life changing. I had more time for personal and professional development and was able to outsource tasks that did not require my expertise. If you’ve been thinking about hiring a VA, read these 10 tips to finding the right one and get your life back.

Determine Tasks to Delegate

There are many professionals and entrepreneurs who have the mindset that they must do everything. What they often fail to realize is how powerful delegation can be as a strategy to grow their business. Delegating tasks opens up time to plan, strategize, manage, and develop your employees.

To help you determine tasks you can delegate to a VA, start by keeping track of how you spend your time each day. You can use paper and pen or  time tracking apps.

Once you have a good understanding of your tasks’ time spread, label each task with “must do” or “can do.” Must do tasks should be ones that require your high level of expertise, your signature, or your presence. Can do tasks are anything you do but don’t necessarily need to.

Be ruthless when you label these tasks. The more you can get off your plate, the better.

Confirm if you need a Generalized Vs. Specialized VA

After mapping out daily tasks, many professionals find that they spend most of their time on general administrative tasks like scheduling meetings (internally and externally), following up with clients, managing a calendar, and booking travel. All these tasks are items a general VA could manage.

But what about tasks that require special skills? These might include social media management, email marketing, web development, and SEO. If you have several tasks falling into each of these buckets, consider hiring a couple of specialized VAs to manage them.

Get Over Your Fear of Delegating

It’s easy for a rational person to understand why it’s important to delegate. However, many have a hard time letting go of tasks to someone else.

Typical excuses for not delegating include:

  • “I don’t have the time to find and train a VA”
  • “They can’t-do the tasks as well as I can”
  • “What if my VA messes up?”

Ultimately, these excuses come down to a person’s tendency to be a perfectionist, micromanager, distrusting, or overwhelmed. The way around most of these problems is to take the first step to trusting a VA. As your VA builds confidence in his/her tasks, you’ll build confidence in him/her. An important step in building trust and getting over your fear of delegation is to start your VA off with small tasks then build on those. It may take a few times to find the right fit for you; however, once you do, it will be life-changing.

Write the Position Description & Advertise

A key mistake many people make when looking for a VA is they don’t take the job description seriously. They think “well this person will only work a couple hours each day, it’s not that important.” But, it’s still a job you’re hiring someone to do.

When you write the VA job description, explain any special features about the job:

  • What timezone does the VA need to be in?
  • Are there language requirements?
  • How many hours is the VA expected to work?
  • What tasks are involved?

The more details you can provide up front, the better.

Next, you need to advertise your job posting. There are tons of freelance job boards out there like Upwork and flexjob.com that attract VAs in different countries at lower price points. You can also post on traditional job boards like Indeed and LinkedIn if you need someone in the United States.  

Interview Candidates

Once you’ve collected enough resumes, it’s time to start interviewing. I cannot stress enough how important it is to have a Skype or phone conversation with potential VAs when you interview them. Speaking to candidates live will tell you a lot about how they communicate and their professionalism.

During your interview, you’ll want to ask about the VA’s previous experience performing the kinds of tasks you’re looking for and other relevant VA experience. If you’re looking for a specialized VA, you’ll want to ask about their previous experience in those fields and any measurable metrics they can share.

Also, know what kinds of personality traits you’re looking for in a VA. Do you want someone who will put their nose down and do the work or someone who you can be a bit more collaborative with?

Give Finalists a Test

When you’ve narrowed down your list of candidates to 2 or 3, give each a test to see how they perform. Make the test similar to a typical task you’d have them do on any given day and give them a 1-5 hour timeframe to complete it.

An easy way to come up with a test is to give the candidates a brief of a task you do on a daily basis. Let them know their time constraints and that you’re available for questions as they do it. When they’re done, you can compare the VAs’ results with yours.

 Train Your VA

One mistake professionals consistently make when hiring a VA is not training him/her. Your new VA isn’t going to enter your life and magically know exactly how you like everything to be done. And the last thing you want is to fire a VA because you didn’t train them the way you wanted things to be done.

To train your VA, lay out clear expectations for each task he/she will complete. Also, explain how you will evaluate the tasks and the VA’s overall performance.

You should also leave a clear invitation for questions whenever your VA gets stuck. Checking in regularly with your VA until he/she feels comfortable with your tasks is another great way to build trust.

Communicate Often

Communicating often will be the foundation of your relationship with your VA. Try setting up a weekly check-in with your VA to align tasks and priorities. That way you both have clear expectations for what should be done at the end of the day.

Also use this line of communication to give specific feedback on tasks, especially during training.

Finally, congratulate your VA on his/her good work. Being a VA can sometimes be a thankless job, especially if your VA works from home. They will appreciate your gratitude and will work harder for you in the future.  The more time I had to spend working strategically on my Company, the faster it grew. I now have a great team of people that come to the office, but I also still have my VA to help me organize my life and keep me from doing any simple but time consuming tasks.