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Finding the Best Virtual Assistant for Your Business

by Guest Contributor on June 21, 2011

Helping Hand Entrepreneurs tend to multitask. If you’re bootstrapping a new venture, you’re reluctant to hire anyone, as you’re afraid it will use up your capital and/or eat up all your profit.

But instead of saving money, you will actually lose more because you’re so absorbed in the nitty-gritty of your business – from responding to emails to sending an invoice.

You don’t have the time and energy to focus on tasks that will bring in revenue – like pitching to warm clients or writing a sales letter.

And this is just the “business” side of it. We women entrepreneurs may have high ambitions for our business, but we also don’t want to neglect our personal commitments. This is especially true among working moms who have to manage a business while raising children and being a supportive spouse.

One important thing I learned when I set up my copy writing business on the side is that time is a valuable resource. I have accepted the fact that since this is a new venture, I have to keep my fulltime job  (at least for a while) while nurturing my “side hustle” (a delightful term coined by Pam Slim). The thing is, I can only have 24 hours in a day.

So I decided to “buy back” my time by hiring part-time virtual assistants. And thanks to them I managed to have a job, a side hustle and a time to have coffee with family and friends.

Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to hire a VA to help you grow your business and still have a life.

1. Write down a to-do list for the VA

List down all the tasks that you want the VA to do and all the qualities and qualifications that you are looking for. For example, if you like the VA to do the bookkeeping, then write down all tasks related to bookkeeping – i.e. the VA will issue the invoice, follow up payment with clients, prepare your income statement, etc. You will also look for someone who has an accounting background (perhaps someone with a business degree?) and who has experience working for other entrepreneurs.

2. Set aside a budget for the VA

How much are you willing to spend for VA?  If you are busy entrepreneur who has a thriving business, I suggest that you hire someone on a full time basis so as not to disturb your workflow.

But if you are a newbie entrepreneur with a small budget, then hire someone who can work 10 to 20 hours a week. Another option is to hire someone on a per project basis.

3. Sign up for online job auction sites

There are so many online job auction sites out there (the popular ones are Odesk and Elance) that it’s easy for you to pick and choose. In my case, since I’m a Filipina, I’m comfortable looking for virtual assistants in these sites because there are a lot of  Filipina applicants in these sites. If you’re not confident working with VAs from India or the Philippines, don’t worry, you can also find American and European workers in these sites.

Aside from job auction sites, there are also some upscale sites where you can hire virtual assistants from the  U.S. and Europe. But unlike Filipina and Indian virtual assistants, you can’t hire these VAs for five U.S. dollars an hour.

4. Craft a detailed want ad

If you are posting an ad in a job auction site, your ad must include a brief description of your business, a list of all the tasks that you want your VA to do, all the qualities that you are looking for a VA and even references from previous enployers. Be specific as to how much time you are requiring from the VA and how much you’re willing to pay.

You have to be specific and clear with what you want to get the most qualified applicants.

5. Set up a qualification exam

After you have sifted though a bunch of applications, you will get a few people who have all the qualities that you are looking for. You can separate the chaff from the grain by testing your applicants before hiring them. You can either set up an interview or give them an exam to test their abilities.

Let’s say you’re looking for an someone who will research for you. You can “test” the applicant by asking them to produce a two-page report on a certain topic, written in English, quoting sources that they got from the Internet and send them to you within 24 hours. The report that they will hand out to you will reveal if they’re resourceful, can work fast, knows how to do online research and proficient in the English language.

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Image: jenni from the block via Flickr, Creative Commons

Prime Sarmiento  writes on business and career tools for women for the online tutorial company Ahead Interactive. As a freelance business blogger, she helps globally-focused entrepreneurs communicate with their clients. You can get in touch with her via www.primesarmiento.com or Twitter.

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