hiring a virtual assistant

Hiring a virtual assistant or VA for short can be a pain, I know.

Having read previous week's article, on why you need to hire a virtual assistant, you have finally decided it's high time to hire your first virtual assistant. Marvelous!

But how do I start? You might ask.

There is a ton of tasks I can outsource, there is a ton of places I can hire a virtual assistant. Besides these, how can I tell the good ones from the bad ones?

Right, that's why you read this post folks, to get a better understanding of this whole process. Believe me after reaching the comments section (which you should use you know), hiring a virtual assistant will be a far clearer idea.

One of the biggest advantages of reading a quality blog (like this one) is that you get the distilled experience in a single post, avoiding mistakes, mishaps, delays, over-payments etc.

So take this post as a nice guide to have, whenever you need to hire a new virtual assistant.

Through this guide, you will learn:

  1. To determine which tasks you need to outsource
  2. Why you need a solid system before hiring your virtual assistant
  3. Which is the ideal platform to use
  4. How to do you research on similar job listings
  5. How to put together your great job posting
  6. Discarding the bad candidates and shortlist the good professionals
  7. How to perform a thorough interview
  8. How to run a test assignment
  9. And eventually how to make your hire

OK, if you are ready as I am, let's go.

Step #1: Determine which tasks you need to outsource

First things first, before you hire anyone, you need to tell which tasks you need to outsource. This is important because not every task has exactly the same process, or pros and cons.

Technically wise, it's a different process if you want to hire a virtual accountant than a virtual graphic designer. There might be some common elements, which will be made clear in this post, but when it comes to the details you need to be very specific on what you ask and where you can find it.

hiring a virtual assistant

Moreover, not all jobs/tasks can be outsourced. Imagine trying to virtual assembly the bicycles you want to manufacture for your business. You most probably will end up with a virtual bike, and not a real one (the kind you can sell - right?)

In general, virtual assistants are good for a variety of tasks like:

  • graphic designs
  • accounting or bookkeeping
  • web development
  • Internet/market research
  • marketing needs
  • on-line presentations
  • data entry
  • content creation
  • etc.

I have used a virtual assistant for many of the aforementioned tasks with great success in the past.

So let's say that you have decided on the task/job you need to hire a VA for. You are ready to hire your new virtual graphic designer.

What comes next?

Step #2: Create a solid system first

After you have decided on the job to outsourcing, you need to ask yourselves: is the job I want to outsource based on a solid system?

This is very crucial. Like when people used to buy a new horse to pull their crop mower, they already knew what they want the horse to do. They had the crop field and the mower and they knew what to do with them.

hiring a virtual assistant
Such simpler times...

So before you decide on hiring your first VA, make sure you have the system in place and all you need is the person who will be responsible for these specific tasks of that job.

This is even more important when we hire a VA because, contrary to a good old fashion employee, trying to explain all the specific tasks and going back and forth due to errors in the process, can be a royal pain in the ass when in a remote environment.

So continuing from the example before, let's say you know exactly what you expect from your new virtual assistant to do and you have a pretty analytic job description, involving the following:

  • creating a new logo for your company
  • creating some brochures and fliers to give away to potential customers
  • design your new business card
  • redesign some parts of your old website

Having a good plan and be very specific will make a huge difference. Depending on the above tasks you need to accomplish, and the budget you have in mind, you might need to look for a:

  • generic graphics designer (low budget solution)
  • logo/brand designer (more expensive solution)
  • specialized web designer (high budget solution)

So, due to your limited budget at this point, you have decided to invest in hiring a generic graphics designer to make the above redesigns.

Where are you heading to?

Step #3: Decide on the ideal platform to use

Fortunately, today there is a great variety of such platforms to choose from. Given not all are equally good or helpful. Again, mainly depending on your specific job and budget you will narrow down to a few hiring platforms for your new virtual assistant. Some of the options you have at this point are:

The first time you will need to hire a VA, there will be a bit of overhead finding the ideal platform for your job. But after you go through this process a few times, it will become easier and easier to find the right platform for your task.

It might be worth at this point to spend a few minutes navigating around on every platform to make yourself comfortable with the main services and procedures each one has to offer.

I promise this won't take long, but it will give you a very helpful overview like job listings, freelancing tips, payment methods etc.

Right, so after you have done your quick market research you have decided to use Upwork as your platform.

What comes next?

Step #4: Make a research for similar job listings

The main point after you find the platform you are going to use, is to make a nice job posting that will attract many applicants to it. The larger the number of applications, the better your chances to hire a quality freelancer for your job.

Unfortunately at this point you are not that experienced on writing enticing job postings (how could you after all, it's your first time). So what you need to do is look at other similar job posting with yours.

On the graphics designer example again. This is how you will look for other postings similar to yours.

First of all go up next to the logo where it says Find Freelancers, click on that and it will change the option to Find Jobs.

hiring a virtual assistant

Now you are set to look for jobs, similar to yours. Type in the field "graphics designer".

Usually many results will return. Look at the ones that look more appealing and relevant to your job.

Another good idea might be to sort jobs according to Client Rating, usually clients with better rating write better job postings.

hiring a virtual assistant

Make notes from the job postings you liked the most. Try to see patterns on what these postings have in common, like clear objectives, emotion etc. and move ahead onto the next step.

Write your actual job posting.

Step #5: Put together your great job posting

After you skim through the first results, pick up some job postings that you like and try to combine the best parts of each one to write a high profile posting for your business.

Click where it says Post a Job

hiring a virtual assistant

What you need to remember here is that, practically what you do is a "sales pitch". With your posting, you need to convince freelancers that you are an ideal boss for them.

Your posting should always be based on the following principles.

An intriguing title

Who likes to read boring titles that look like dull copycats of just another average job posting. This is your first and probably only chance to stand out. Learning to write good headlines, is an art of its own, but until you master this art, try to do your best here.

A very comprehensive description

People are lazy. And because of that, most of the times won't make the extra effort to ask for further clarifications, unless they are super interested in a specific job. This is where you need to be as analytical as possible in order to:

  • save yourself and the freelancer some time, by avoiding going back and forth with the various questions that might arise on what his/her exact tasks will be
  • demonstrate a professional profile by being sure of what you ask for (employees in general always like that - a lot)
  • it will be easier for the freelancer to judge if he is a good applicant for your job beforehand, so he won't waste your time with useless questions

Remember the horse from before, you need to give precise instructions on what you need it to do.

Ask them why

Inside your description, always make sure to ask why the potential assistant should take this job, what they like the best about your job proposal and how he will try to accomplish it. While the answer its self might not be that important, this will give you a better image of the level of professionalism of each applicant.

If someone takes the time to answer these screening questions in depth, it is a positive indicator that he is really interested in this job and possibly he will make the extra effort to accomplish the task.

Be precise about the qualifications you ask for

This will greatly vary depending on the freelancer you look for, but you might want to ask for:

  • xx many years of experience
  • be a native English speaker
  • have xx completed works in the same niche
  • etc.

State all the benefits of your job

Inside your description, make sure to describe why YOUR job posting is better than all the others. Always have in mind that freelancers are not the only ones competing with each other. You also compete with other people coming to find a good virtual assistant.

The freelancer will need to know what are the benefits he gets by choosing your job.

hiring a virtual assistant

Let them know your proposed budget and/or deadline

Whether this is a one-time task or a continuous cooperation, make sure to let your future employee know what you are willing to pay in advance. This will make it a lot easier for both of you to establish a better ground of communication.

You simply don't need them to ask you, what the proposed budget is and waste your time every single time.

Be specific. Be Fair. And if you find quality. Be generous.

Be specific. Be Fair. And if you find quality. Be generous. Click To Tweet

Moreover, if you have a specific deadline in mind, let the applicant know beforehand. This will give the applicant the opportunity to tell if the time frame will do or not. It might work for you, but not for him.

After you post your job, all you have to do is sit back and wait. In a couple of hours/days, some applications will arrive in your inbox.

Step #6: Discard the bad, shortlist the good

Good, some days have now passed and you start collecting your first applications.

Supposedly you did everything right up to now, you will have a great amount of future candidates to choose from. Some platforms might recommend some applicants stating their stats.

Depending on the platform you have chosen, this step might take some time to complete, but it is very crucial. So be patient and do everything right.

Check each application, thoroughly and read every detail. Again we don't want to waste our time or theirs. Time is of the essence. See how each applicant answered to your questions and what he has to offer.

Evaluate if he spent any time trying to convince you that, he is the perfect candidate for you, or he just threw some canned answers/descriptions to your requests.

hiring a virtual assistant

A lot can be derived from his application. The level of competence, language, willingness to work and cooperate etc.

After you have a first round, it's time to completely discard applications that are not what you look for, and put the rest of them in a short-list. Whether this is done with each platform's built-in system or on a spreadsheet of yours, it's ok.

Next step will have to do with the actual interview each candidate will have to pass through.

Step #7: A thorough interview is all you need

Although this part seems "heavy" and time consuming, it is a vital step that you cannot discount. It's your money and time you are investing after all, remember?

Now that you have your short-list, it's time to get into the specifics. Reach out to your applicants and try to learn as much as possible, asking specific questions like:

  • if he/she has done similar projects before
  • what was the experience like
  • whether they have more questions or clarifications, you can help them with
  • always ask for samples of previous work (this is major)

It is way better to spend more time at this stage, trying to iron out any miscommunication issues, rather than later (after spending your time and money on a VA that doesn't fit).

hiring a virtual assistant

Try to be as proactive as possible, a mistake at this point costs way less. Always keep that in mind.

If this is about a project that you can use more than one virtual assistant, then it would be wise to choose all of the applicants that will pass your interview and ask them for a pilot project.

Step #8: Always ask for the "pilot"

Again, the earlier you do a mistake the better it is.

If you are anything like me, I guess you ask for quality on whatever you do. The final test you can put up here is a test pilot job. In this case, let's assume, you will ask for a simple yet indicative graphic assignment.

hiring a virtual assistant
Not that pilot...

This will give you a lot of inside info about:

  • the skillset of your applicant
  • the level of quality on the deliverables
  • his ability on keeping deadlines
  • how persistent he is in making any changes/revisions
  • his competence in communication
  • his overall availability

Don't pay unless you are 100% satisfied with the deliverables. Asking for some revisions is not unfair or unethical. It's their job to perform according to your needs and you should not feel bad about it.

After you have all the final versions of your pilots, come up with a scoring system for each category, like giving a review, and rank all applicants according to this.

The rest is simple. Better man (men) gets the job.

Step #9: Welcome aboard

Apart from that, there is not much more you can do in order to choose the best virtual assistant for your business.

If the test pilot goes well, you pretty much have a good understanding of the overall value of this specific freelancer.

After the pilot assignment, you can start assigning regular tasks, while you keep monitoring the quality metrics I mentioned before regularly. Even if the pilot goes well, that doesn't mean this guy is 100% the right person.

hiring a virtual assistant

All you have to do now is stay calm and try to keep a balanced and well-oiled cooperation with your new virtual assistant.

There are methods to train them and streamline the whole process of such a cooperation, but this will be the topic of another article.

Conclusion

Hiring a virtual assistant or freelancer is not rocket science. For some of you, it might look like a big deal but it really is not. If you are careful during the whole procedure, you will be able to find some excellent help, without any difficulty.

More importantly you will have trained yourself into a new very powerful skill - hiring an employee online - that will for sure help you expand and scale your business easier.

Just pay attention to the details. Be very specific on what you are asking for and try to think of any feature you might need in advance. Errors cost a lot less in the beginning of every process rather than in the end.

After you have hired your first or second virtual employee, you will feel a lot more confident with the whole process. You will minimize mistakes and save a lot of money.

Just give it a try and let me know how it went with a comment below. Moreover, if you think this post can help others, feel free to share it.

  • Michael Adams

    This article is step by step guide! This guide helped me to understand the faults of the past when I tried to hire a Virtual assistant and couldn’t find qualified partners! If you are new at this area and you are thinking to hire n Virtual assistant, DO NOT miss this guide. It is 100% accurate and you will save time from inventing the wheel!

  • Michael Adams

    This article is α step by step guide! This guide helped me to understand the faults of the past when I tried to hire a Virtual assistant and couldn’t find qualified partners!

    If you are new at this area and you are thinking to hire a Virtual assistant, DO NOT miss this guide. It is 100% accurate and you will save time from inventing the wheel!

    • Roberto Zanon

      Hi, Michael, thanks for you kind words, let me know in case you need anything more 🙂

  • Nicolas Zanone

    I just read your article and I am speechless! I am already logged in at Upwork and I am looking the descriptions of other jobs.

    Now I can understand what you meant. Some of those jobs looking very boring and some other very interesting!

    Would you recommend a book to read about how to make better pitches?

  • Nicolas Zanone

    I just read your article and I am speechless! I am already logged in at Upwork and I am looking the descriptions of other jobs.

    Now I can understand what you meant. Some of those jobs looking very boring and some other very interesting!

    Would you recommend a book to read about how to make better pitches or how to influence people?

    • Roberto Zanon

      Hi Nicolas, I hope you found the article useful. Have you faced any challenges with Upwork up to now?

  • Pamela Iordanou

    Wow! I am at the corporate environment and I thought I am very productive!

    I didn’t use my Facebook account at my work neither looking for shopping. I was dedicated at my tasks (yes, multitasking…), and I thought, I was the most productive person at the company.

    Instead of that, all my other colleagues had promotions except me. Now I can realize the reasons!

    Already I free 3hours of my day and I am focusing at a business venture which I cancelled at the past too many times because I didn’t have time.

    Also, could you inform me why you are so negative with meditation? One of my friends who tried
    it, he found it better than the afternoon nap.

  • Pamela Iordanou

    This guide is very helpful and practical. You can even create a checklist for posting a job and you can see if you missed any step!

    Already, I hire a Virtual Assistant after I read your previous post http://projectbebest.com/virtual-employee/.

    I feel very relaxed and the amazing thing is that, now I can have 2 more hours for me and
    my family!

    This was one thought, which I would never have if there were not you and your article!

    I also found some VA at Fiverr.com.Do you believe the gigs there are valuable?

    Could I use the same process there?

    • Roberto Zanon

      Hi, Pamela

      Fiverr has some very quality professionals as well. Not that highly specialized for complicated tasks but they sure can do the job pretty well.

      Let me know how it went.

      Thanks a lot 🙂