Hiring a virtual assistant is like hiring any employee, but for many small business owners, this might be their first hire as they grow. It’s understandable to be a little nervous about bringing someone new into your business. After all, your company is your baby – you thought of it, you wanted it, you built and grew it, and you love it! It’s tough to entrust aspects of it to others (It’s tough for me too…I get it).
The reality is you could use some help. A leader must delegate responsibility if he/she wants to grow. Although we’ve done it on our own until now, that business model doesn’t provide long-term stability (unless of course, you’re a robot who plans never to sleep or enjoy your family). But, these are things you’re already coming to terms with; hence, you’re checking into a virtual assistant. Here are questions you’ll want to ask prospects and some of Wider Horizons‘ italicized responses to each (because we like to think we set the bar pretty high).
What to Ask When Hiring a Virtual Assistant
Tell me about yourself, your company, and your career background.
This is an easy question (okay, prompting statement, but you get the point) to begin with. It’s casual and lets everyone talk about what they know best – themselves. This question puts the interviewer and interviewee at ease.
WH: Originally a high school math teacher for several years, I wanted a career change after having my second child. I longed for flexibility, but also a change for career growth (something not available as a teacher, unless you want to be a principal…no thank you). After becoming a virtual assistant to a digital marketing consultant and growing my skill set, I started my own company where I could service multiple entrepreneurs and small businesses like you.
What type of clients do you typically work with?
You want your VA to be a good fit for your company. This work relationship should benefit you both, and it’s important to make sure your VA is prepared for your business model.
WH: Wider Horizons works with both LLC’s and small to medium businesses. We work with most of our clients on a regular basis by handling weekly and monthly projects, but we do have a few clients who contact us on a project by project basis (such as with a website build).
What type of work do you typically do for clients?
You probably have some idea of what you need help with and what you’d like a virtual assistant to take off of your plate. However, asking this question might spur ideas in you for ways to use a VA that you had not already thought of. There may be tasks you’re paying a bigger company to do for you (web updates, site changes, social media content calendars, invoicing, etc) that can be reassigned to a qualified and experienced VA at a lesser rate. Who doesn’t love efficiency and cost-savings?
WH: Our experience grows with each new client because each unique company has a unique set of needs. For some clients we handle invoicing, expense reporting, and tax document preparations for your accountant. Others entrust their social-media presence to us for consistent, relevant, engaging content. We’ve built and revamped WordPress websites for clients and run backups/updates on sites to prevent hacking. For others, we do their content writing for their blogs and email campaigns. Some require research. Some need calls made to clients. Some bring us in for project management. But ALL need a willing, able, and trusted VA they don’t have to micromanage or continually train. We provide that!
If you don’t hear a task describing what you specifically need, but you like the other offerings, follow up with, “Are you willing to learn new things?” The answer to that question should always be a resounding, “Yes!”
What is your bandwidth for work and are you expecting a minimal amount of hours?
As one of my wise clients says, “It’s easier to have tough conversations than to have tough situations.” Ask your potential VA to be up front on their capacity for work at this time. It may be they are in the middle of a few projects and will be more available in a few weeks. It may be they are between projects and can take you on full time. Always be clear about expectations. If you only have 5 hours a week or 5 hours a month of work for your VA, let him/her know.
WH: Since most of our clients work with us on an ongoing basis, we have a fairly developed and regular routine and know how many additional workweek hours we have available for new clients. Just like you want the VA to be a good fit for your business, the VA should only accept clients that fit their particular availability. Meaning, if you’re looking for a VA to go 15 hours a week, but I only have room in the schedule for 10, then I’m going to be honest about that. Is there something I can get done quicker than you anticipated? Are there 10 hours of tasks I can take on and outsource the other 5 hours to a trusted colleague? These are all questions and answers that require you and the VA to know our businesses and schedules well and these quantities may be fluid.
Ask about rates and payment processes.
You and the VA are both business owners, so don’t be afraid to have business conversations about rates: Does the VA charge hourly or by project? Will you pay a retainer of hours at the beginning of the month or will the VA bill you at the end of each month? You’re entering into a business contract, so be clear with one another on these items before any work begins. Remember that your VA is a business owner with overhead and taxes also, so their rates may reflect this. At least you don’t have to offer insurance or benefits!
WH: When we take on a client, we commit to service all of your needs, so we tackle multiple types of projects for our clients. Therefore, we charge a set hourly rate. You won’t have to worry about breaking down separate tasks into separate prices. I’ve found an average, fair and competitive rate and we stick to it for all of your service needs. So lay the task load on us and enjoy some business freedom!
How do we get started?
If you like what you hear and decide to hire the virtual assistant, you’ll want to know your next steps. Is there a contract to put in place? Do you require a completed W4 so you can issue a 1099-MISC at tax time?
WH: When the business owner and I both feel I’m a good fit for their company and my skills can benefit them, some clients and I have a contract in place and others take it month by month based on need. Some require a W4 and others are responsible for keeping their own books for taxes. When all necessary paperwork is in place and we’re ready to begin, I start by learning your business.
This is when the VA should be asking YOU the questions now:
- Why are you so passionate about this business?
- Who is your target audience?
- What tasks do you do regularly?
- What tasks are hindering you from working with clients?
- What tasks do you need to be doing but just don’t have time?
- What are the tasks you cannot stand doing?
Then we prioritize your projects, agree on a time line, and I began tackling these either one at a time or in chunks until I’ve taken over each project.
Lastly, ask yourself if the VA’s personality & work ethic match your needs.
This is especially important if the virtual assistant will have interaction with your clients. As you listen to the VA’s answers to the preceding questions, hear more than just their words. Listen to their personality.
- Are they a confident, clear, communicator?
- Will they be easy to give instructions or delegate tasks to?
- Are they going to be able to service your target audience?
- Are they on board with your mission?
A good VA will be invested in your company, so your business’ success = their success.
Looking for your own VA and think Wider Horizons is the right fit for your business? Contact us today to set up a complimentary call and ask us these important questions.