How to Hire a Virtual
Assistant - Your 10-Step Guide to Finding the Perfect Fit
As a savvy solo or
small practice professional, you know you canít do everything yourself.
Whether you are capable or not, you understand that your time is most
intelligently focused on activities that grow your business and make you
outsourcing your administrative work to a Virtual Assistant (or VA)
makes it very easy to get just the amount of support you need without
the expense of costly in-house staff. But how do you find a highly
skilled, truly qualified Virtual Assistant? Below are some practical
points to consider and questions to ask as you go about the selection
Assistants operate virtually, itís important they have an online
presence. A website can yield critical clues as to the VA's competence
and professionalism. As you look through the website, ask yourself:
present a polished, credible business image?
Is there an
abundance of informative content?
Is the concept
organized well and easy to navigate?
can you glean from the writing?
well-written and coherent?
Is there a
solid command of grammar, spelling and punctuation?
If the VA's site
is littered with misspelling, improperly structured sentencing and
incorrect punctuation, donít expect that she is going to provide you
with any greater skill or attention to detail should you decide to work
And if it looks
like she put little thought, time or money into presenting her business
image, or had her 14 year old kid brother throw it together one Sunday,
chances are she isn't serious about her business, and is not going to
put any more care into the work she does for you.
You naturally want
to find a Virtual Assistant you can work with well, and whose
personality and style is compatible with yours. You also want to gain
some insight into whether this is a person offering the skills, service
and expertise you need.
Once you find a
site that instills confidence, have a conversation with that Virtual
Assistant. Most Virtual Assistants offer a complimentary consultation,
and all it takes is a simple email or phone call to schedule one.
initial contact, some things to note include:
respond to your inquiries in a timely manner?
answer the phone professionally?
Are there kids
and noise in the background?
Is she on time
for the call?
Does she seem
prepared or unexpectedly flustered?
follow-through exactly as promised?
How well the
Virtual Assistant guides you through the consultation process can tell
you a lot about what it will be like to work with her.
Not only do you
want a Virtual Assistant who can provide superior quality work, but you
also want someone who demonstrates excellent business sense, especially
since she will be instrumental in helping you in your business.
consultation, some things the Virtual Assistant should cover with you
overview of how she works with clients;
she provides (and doesn't provide); and
values and expectations are for working together.
4. Personal &
Listen for the
cues that tell you this is someone you can rely on and form an excellent
working relationship with.
How smartly the VA
handles her business is going to directly correlate with how well she
handles the work she does for you. Some things you should pay attention
Does she take
the lead in guiding you through the consultation?
Does she exude
Does she speak
with authority and demonstrate her role as the administrative
inspire feelings of trust?
Do you feel a
interrupt often or listen carefully when you speak?
exhibit interest and curiosity about your business?
Does she ask
smart, purposeful questions?
the single-most important qualification of a Virtual Assistant is
extensive administrative experience. From this level of experience, she
is expected to possess the superior skills, training and business
knowledge that are the hallmark of a truly qualified Virtual Assistant.
However, this is
an unregulated industry, and while the veterans of us work to promote
and maintain high standards, the Internet has nonetheless attracted a
certain segment of individuals who have little to no qualifications or
only entry-level skill sets that do not equip them to meet your very
real and important business needs.
prospective Virtual Assistant some of these questions will help you
discern the difference:
What was your
experience prior to opening your Virtual Assistant practice?
have you held?
How many years
administrative experience do you have?
How would you
rate your skill level (you might ask this in reference to certain
skills or software competencies relative to the services you need)?
How would you
characterize your level of understanding with regard to business
principles and operations?
Look for a Virtual
Assistant who has worked in upper-level positions such as administrative
assistant, executive assistant, office manager, legal secretary, legal
assistant, paralegal, supervisor, manager, etc.
whose only experience was in receptionist or clerical roles are not
commonly going to have high-level skills and competencies.
Keep in mind that
Virtual Assistants are independent professionals, not employees. Just as
you would not ask an accountant, attorney or any other service
professional for their resume, it is inappropriate to ask a Virtual
Assistant for theirs, and the request would be considered ill-mannered.
However, they should be prepared to discuss in a consultation with you
their skill levels and qualifications as described above.
6. Training & Certification
The highest form
of qualification, and what Virtual Assistants are expected to have
before entering the profession, is at least five years upper-level
administrative experience. Our training ground is the real (non-virtual)
If you are a
business owner needing competent support from someone who can hit the
ground running and take the reins as your administrative expert, you
should expect no less.
Don't put too much
stock in certification. Virtual Assistance does have a few legitimate
professional associations and training programs, but these are intended
for business--not skills--training.
certifications are offered, they can be somewhat subjective and
misleading, and many of the veteran Virtual Assistants who established
the profession and created the standards have been in business longer
than these programs have existed.
there has been a proliferation in recent years of disreputable and
unqualified opportunists willing to ďcertifyĒ anyone who will pay.
In this industry
right now, letters behind a Virtual Assistantís name mean very little.
7. The Business
countless clients and business people since 1997. What Iíve learned is
they want and are most happy with high-quality, skilled support from a
Virtual Assistant who:
her business solidly in place;
training or hand-holding;
Who is someone
they can place their trust in; and
be depended on for expert support and guidance in laying strong
If this describes
you, look for a Virtual Assistant who has been in business successfully
for at least three years. New VA's donít tend to have their systems,
processes and offerings honed, which often causes unnecessary headaches,
wasted time and an all-around unsatisfactory experience for clients.
I also recommend
that the Virtual Assistant is someone who is actually IN business
full-time. Iíve yet to see a Virtual Assistant operate a part-time
practice that was truly in a position to serve client needs and
facts to obtain include:
How long has
she been in business?
Is she in
full-time or part-time practice?
Does she view
her business as a chosen profession she is committed to for the
Or is it a
part-time side-job or hobby that might not be around long enough for
you to depend on?
Does she have
well-thought out policies and business standards that will support
you in working and communicating together effectively?
If the VA only
dabbles or works on the fly, her lack of commitment or focus can
definitely leave you holding the short end of the stick. This can
manifest in longer turn-around times, lack of continuity, poor
communication, conflicting commitments, interrupted work schedules, and
long or inconvenient periods of unavailability.
experienced Virtual Assistant will have plenty of testimonials on her
website from past and current clients.
She should also be
able to provide you with contact information of satisfied clients who
are willing to speak with you about their perceptions and experiences in
working with her.
9. The Owner
Assistants provide an "About the Owner" page in their website as a way
to share important aspects of themselves with prospective clients.
It's intended to
provide you with a view into their personal ethics, belief systems,
personality and goals. This information can be helpful in determining
whether you share similar values and want to talk with the VA further.
Since you will be
choosing each other, make an equal effort to get to know the VA by
reading that page.
rates average between $35 - $65 per hour. Virtual Assistance is
not the type of service you want to price shop. I know, I know. We all
want to get the best price and pay the least amount possible. But weíve
all heard the saying ďyou get what you pay forĒ and this is very true in
the Virtual Assistance industry as well.
Think about your
own profession. You know you arenít the cheapest, and you wouldnít want
to be. You know that expertise and quality comes at a price, but the
value of that caliber of service extends far beyond mere dollars, and,
in turn, saves your clients money.
You know this.
You will find
Virtual Assistants who charge very little--so little, in fact, that they
canít possibly be running a profitable, sustainable practice, one thatís
going to be around long enough for you to depend on.
low rates also signal a lack of business sense, which most often
translates to poor quality, and lack of skill and experience. The
consequence of hiring a Virtual Assistant who falls in this category is
that your investment in her is unstable and ever at risk.
who don't price their services profitably do not stay in business long.
In their last gasps, many end up taking on a side-job or more clients
than they can handle just to break even, becoming overwhelmed in the
process. For you, this means they are less available, and their service
and quality of work suffers.
You want ability.
You want someone you can work with well. You want great customer
service. And you want someone who's going to stick around.
So look for
quality and value--it's an investment that will literally put money back
in your pocket.
About the Author:
Danielle Keister is owner of The Relief, a successful Virtual Assistance
practice that has been delivering expert, personalized office support
services to the professional community since 1997. Visit her website at
http://www.therelief.com to get her FREE report, "Ramp Up Your
Billable Hours: 10 Easy Fixes You Can Make Right Now."
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