The idea of having a personal assistant has stuck with me ever since I first heard about it back around 2010.
I mean, wouldn’t you love to have someone following you everywhere you go, with a calendar and pen in hand and handling all your “things” – so you wouldn’t have to worry about meetings, appointments, emails, any of that! Just so you could become the movie cliché CEO -type of person.
Yeah, I wanted that, but at the same time I knew I didn’t have $40k a year to spend on an actual person to follow me in real life, so I needed to find a cheaper solution … so I went online.
And this brings me to the whole idea of a
personal virtual assistant (VA).
But even though we’re not talking about $40k a year anymore, do you really need to spend your hard-earned cash to have a guy (or gal) taking care of what you can do perfectly well yourself?
There’s no one-size-fits-all answer here, so let’s look into some of the individual scenarios to find the right answer for you personally.
Freelancers and VAs – is the match any good?
Every freelance designer has a lot of things on their plate. I mean, there’s a huge difference between being a designer at a firm and being the firm.
As a designer, you “only” have to design. As a freelancer, the design is just one of the things you do.
It’s kind of intuitive that some of those other tasks can be delegated onto someone else, so you don’t have to worry about them and instead can focus on what you’re best at, plus you can focus on growing your business.
For instance, if you’re doing a lot of marketing and outreach in your business (or want to start doing a lot of it), a VA can handle all of the research for you. They can find new leads, new prospective clients, new partners, new blogs to guest post at, and so on.
However, let’s not get ahead of ourselves here.
When to hire
Or should I say “when not to hire.”
Not every freelance design scenario calls for a VA. Mainly, if you’re just starting out, you don’t need to be investing in a VA relationship.
Two reasons for that:
- If you’re just starting out then you most likely don’t know which exact tasks would be better off handed over to a VA – you don’t have the experience doing them yourself yet, and
- you don’t know how to prepare a script (or rules-of-engagement) for handling those tasks effectively – again, you don’t have that much experience doing the tasks yourself when you’re starting out.
The trick with VAs is that the whole idea of hiring them is very different from hiring a contractor, or finding someone to be your partner in crime.
Hiring a contractor is about working with someone who knows certain areas of business better than you. Working with a VA, on the other hand, is about teaching the VA what you already know, and letting them handle it within your existing processes.
It’s an apprentice-like relationship.
Taking all of the above into account, I’d say that the best moment to hire a VA is when you have your daily routine and your business processes mostly figured out, and also, when you have the funds to actually hire someone.
Here’s a cheat-sheet you can use to decide whether or not you should hire a VA:
- Do you have $400+ to spare a month on a VA (full-time) or $250+ (part-time)?
- Do you have specific tasks that you know someone could help you with, and you know exactly how they could help?
- Do you have specific tasks that you know you shouldn’t be doing yourself? Maybe they are not the best use for your time, or maybe you just don’t like doing them (by the way, if you don’t like cutting your PSDs into HTML, you know where to go).
- Is there some area of activity you’d really want to include in your business, but don’t have the time to do it yourself (like finding leads or specific marketing tasks)?
- Do you know how to do all of those tasks yourself?
If that’s a yes then go for it!
Where to hire
There are two paths you can follow here. If you want to hire someone from the US, UK, Canada, etc. then you need to be ready to spend $2000+ a month. That’s the expensive path.
The cost-effective path is to find someone in the Philippines (or India). This is what I did, and what I encourage you to do as well.
The former is a reverse job board where people create profiles and offer their services. The latter is an agency that works with you individually. They do the actual work finding the best person for you.
OnlineJobs.ph is a $49 a month membership, but let’s face it, you only need it for a month. Virtual Staff Finder is $395 one-time payment, so a bit pricey.
I have direct experience with both sites, and in spite of the extreme cost difference, Virtual Staff Finder takes the crown here. Right after your purchase, you get a personal customer service representative that will guide you through the process and bring you to the point of hiring your VA.
Of course, apart from the costs of hiring itself, you also need to factor in the salary that will follow shortly thereafter. So to find someone who’s skilled and ambitious, you need to be ready to pay them anything starting from $400 for a full-time effort.
How to hire
As I said, even if you’re working with an agency that will send some people your way, it’s still only your responsibility to pick the best candidate.
The people that will be suggested to you will have a lot of different skills, Photoshop, writing, blogging, WordPress, Excel, and whatnot. It’s good to browse through them and pick what seems the best for you.
There are two elements to focus on in your process:
- Testing. Yes, start with testing. Once you’ve found a person you’re considering, send them a test consisting of 2-3 tasks. Those tasks should be the exact mirror of what they will be doing if they get hired. You simply want to check how well they can cope with them right from the get-go.
- Interviewing. if you’re satisfied with the test, it’s time to interview the person. Nothing fancy here, just Skype. This is about checking if the vibe they’re sending is something you actually enjoy.
After that, if you like the person, there’s nothing else to do than hire them.
Or is there?
Mistakes and other things that will happen
There’s just a couple of things I want to guide your attention to:
- Make sure the person has a PayPal account. In 99 percent of the cases, this will be your payment method.
- Realize there’s no one-VA-for-everything. Hiring VAs is most effective when you need them for specific tasks. You almost certainly won’t be able to find one person that will be great at everything … blog posts, editing, marketing, outreach, accounting, and audio recording all at the same time.
- Don’t expect them to be better than you at the things you want them to do. It’s basically your task to teach them the fine details of your business. They won’t have that knowledge from the get-go.
- Be aware: some of the candidates won’t even respond to your test. That’s the unfortunate truth, but for some reason, people tend to disappear when you send them your test. Maybe they don’t feel confident about their results, or they simply don’t want to invest their time. Either way, it will happen.
Looking at my notes, I think that’s all I had to share about the hiring process itself. So what do you think about hiring a VA? Are you (and your freelance business) ready to give this a go?