The term Virtual Assistant (VA) was coined sometime in the 1990’s. I first heard the term used by Thomas Leonard, founder of Coach U. The first VA I knew, Staci Brice attended Coach U with me in the 1990’s. And like me, she worked for Thomas Leonard. Staci started the first VA school, Assist U, now one of the many VA schools in existence today.
The VA profession was to online businesses what executive assistants or personal assistants were to corporate America. And since its inception, the industry has grown to keep up with all the home-based business models.
If I had to describe a VA, I would say it was like having your own executive assistant in the outer office, except you don’t have an outer office! It may be best described as a consultant who could perform administrative, accounting, and marketing tasks away from a clients’ offices.
It’s not surprising that the VA industry has grown to be so encompassing. Home business owners of all sizes, from solo to micro-businesses to small businesses making millions of dollars out of their second bedrooms, can use help, daily.
Hire a VA to do the work you don’t enjoy doing, don’t have time to do right, and whatever work that’s holding you back from doing what you love to do the most.
In most cases (check your state and federal government guidelines on employees) a VA is not your employee instead they are a consultant you hire to work “x” number of hours a month or on a project. They become part of your virtual team. Remember: consultants can be fired without the HR headaches of an if the relationship doesn’t work out
If you live in a town or city where the residential codes won’t allow you to have employees, you CAN hire a VA! On the other hand, you can also choose to hire a VA who lives in your community so that she/he can do tasks at your office when needed, too, like filing, or getting you ready for a speaking engagement or updating your database with business card information.
Each VA has a different skill-set to provide you and like every hiring, it’s imperative to create a job description. Also consider creating a wish list of tasks you want your VA to do now or in the future is extremely important in creating your Virtual Team.
You purchase a VA’s time on a retainer basis, hiring them for a certain amount of hours a month. Most VAs will allow you to test drive them for a short time of 1-3 hours.
There are some VAs that profess to do it all. And like other business owners, if they are doing it all, without their own staff, well, you know the saying, no-one can do it all really well. Nor does every VA like everything they do.
For VAs working on their own, there are just so many clients they can handle. I’ve seen VAs that took on too many clients and couldn’t keep up with their work load. On the other end of the scale, I’ve worked with a few VAs that lost their one and only client and were left out in the cold.
Some VA’s work individually and others may be part of a VA company. VA companies work differently. Sometimes the company owner “manages the project” by dishing out the work, then checking it before it’s sent to you. Other times the owner will have, you work with different VAs in their pool. You need to determine your boundaries and do what you feel is best for your company.p>
VAs are people too, and you may not get along with every VA. Try to find a VA who understands you and how you like to work. It’s not only OK to shop around you should shop around.
12 Things to Consider When Hiring a VA
Below is a list of things to consider when hiring a VA:
1. Write a job description of all the tasks you really want the person to do; even if you only give them one or two to start. Create interview questions and ask each VA you interview the same questions.
2. Determine if you want to hire a VA who lives near you — or not. Sometimes having a VA who leaves near you and who can help you administrativly “in the office” is helpful — or you can hire a VA experienced in your industry and local people, too. You have lots of choices.
3. A VA will work with you when you need extra help even though you might not know how long you need that help. Expect to pay more for “per-hour” hires, than you would pay them on a retainer basis. Rush fees will also cost you but you’ll have the job done right.
4. A VA might be the missing link in your business, and can be your eyes or ears on the Internet, even doing that time-consuming social networking for your company.
5. They can coordinate your workflow, and your schedule.
6. A VA is an independent contractor, consultant, and a business owner, too. Most likely you’ll need a W-9 form from them, and will be sending them a 1099 at year end.
7. While doing tasks for you, expect to be billed for work done that will cost more than their hourly rate — international calls, postage for mailings, software, supplies, stamps etc.
8. Expect to sign a written agreement with your VA on the tasks they’ll perform and time they’ll spend on your work. Have the document updated as you give your VA more work to perform.
9. Some VAs specialize in certain areas and they can preform other tasks. They could be former accountants, web designers, coaches, executive assistants, personal assistants or they may specialize in the type of client, preferring to work for financial advisors, accountants, attorneys, speakers, etc.
10. You can hire VAs to do personal work for you, too. Sometimes that’s as helpful as hiring them to do business work!
11. A VA’s hourly rates range from a minimum of $35 to $175 per hour, depending on the services they are hired to perform, level of expertise, training, and length in business. That may sound expensive, but remember, you are only paying for the time worked on a specific job. You are not paying for vacation time, sick leave, or employee taxes.
12. If you hired the wrong person, fire them as soon as possible. Not everyone is a “right fit” for every business owner.
Hire a VA to be on your Virtual Team today and start focusing on the rest of your business. Don’t committ too too many hours, if you don’t know their referances personally. Instead, try each other out until you and your VA see how you best work together (or not). As in all businesses, while there are VAs who are excellent in their jobs, there are some ugly ducklings out there. I know … I have found who are on both sides of the pond during my career)
(c)2001, revised 2009 Maria Marsala, Elevating Your Business. www.ElevatingYourBusiness.com