There are hundreds of thousands of virtual assistants hanging up their “Hire Me” sign. As a small business owner, you can choose individuals (or solopreneurs), companies that specialize in contracting out virtual assistants, and even freelance services that will connect you to a freelancer to handle your specific project. And because virtual assistants work from anywhere, the world is your oyster.
If you’re like any good small business owner, your business is important to you. The last thing you want is to turn over a portion of your business tasks to the wrong person. It can cost you time and money to pick a virtual assistant that is inefficient, unreliable, makes mistakes, or worse, is dishonest. It might seem like a daunting task to find the “right” virtual assistant, but it is worth the investment when you find your perfect match.
We’ve all heard the famous saying “You get what you pay for.” Well this is true with virtual assistants as well. I’ve used services like Fiverr where everything you ask for is $5. First of all, it’s rarely $5 because to get the full service you want, it costs extra. In my experience, the quality you receive is mediocre. But for some tasks, $5 or $10 may be all you are willing to pay.
However, if you are looking for a virtual assistant that you can depend on to do the very best for your business, cost should not be your primary focus. It’s important you take time to select the right person. Here are five questions to answer when choosing the best option for administrative help.
Is there a good personality and compatibility fit?
You know what it’s like to work for you better than anyone else. And you know the types of people you like to work with. Do you want your assistant to be serious and professional, or easygoing and fun? Flexible or structured? Some small business owners want someone who is similar to them, while others want someone different to help make up in areas they may be lacking.
Think about people you work well with. What about them do you like? Write these personality characteristics down on a piece of paper. Analyze your own personality. Do you tend to procrastinate? Would it help to have an assistant to help you stay on track? Are you organized and detail oriented? Would it drive you crazy if your assistant wasn’t?
You will be working with your virtual assistant on a regular basis so it is important you can get along, complement each other, and bring out the best for your business together. Choose someone you like, and someone that is in alignment with your business values and goals. You deserve a champion that will help you achieve the success you desire.
Does his/her skillset match what you are looking for?
No doubt there are certain skills you are a rock star at. And then there are other tasks that either you don’t have time for, or you prefer not to be bothered with. These are the skills you want your virtual assistant to be good at. Ideally, you can find one assistant that can handle everything for you. However, some small business owners will farm out tasks to multiple assistants depending on their specialty.
Not only should your virtual assistant be skilled at the specific tasks you need her to complete, but she should also have the soft skills that are important to you. Lei Han, a Stanford engineer and Wharton MBA published a great article that identifies 28 soft skills that are important for business. After reading through this list, gather all the hard and soft skills you are looking for in an assistant, and use this list as an interviewing guide.
Is he/she teachable and trainable?
The “right” virtual assistant may not know everything you need her to know. Although she might be familiar with your industry and business in general, she doesn’t know how you do business. That’s why it is incredibly important that your virtual assistant is coachable and trainable. Most skills can be taught, as long as there is a willingness to learn. For instance, I may not know every business software there is, but I am extremely comfortable with technology and I’m not afraid to learn new software. And because I’ve worked with so many different technology tools, new ones are easy for me to learn.
However, not everyone is willing to move out of their comfort zone to learn new things. And not all virtual assistants are capable of taking on tasks they have never done. Sometimes the learning curve is just too great to overcome. Ask your potential virtual assistant for examples when she had to learn something new or do something
What is their availability?
Because virtual assistants are freelancers or independent contractors, most have multiple clients. Before you begin interviewing, make sure you know roughly how many hours per month you need help. Whether you have a one-time project, or ongoing work for a virtual assistant, communicating the amount of time you need help is important.
It is equally important the virtual assistant knows her availability. You don’t want a virtual assistant that promises to take care of you in a timely manner, but then later tells you she was too busy to complete your projects. The more open you can be with one another about time commitments, the more successful your business relationship will be.
Are there references you can speak to?
The true sign of a good virtual assistant is her happy clients. Ask to speak with some of her clients. To get the best results from reference checking, ask open-ended questions. What do you like about your virtual assistant? What type of work does she do for you? How has your business changed since you hired your virtual assistant? Why would you recommend her? Most business owners will talk if they are happy. Listen to what they have to say, but also pay attention to what is not being said.
If you can see samples of a virtual assistant’s work, this can be a great source for evaluating quality. For instance, I recently designed a new website for a client at www.jcyounginc.com. If you are looking for a blog writer, ask for writing samples. Social media updates are easy to find as long as you know the assistant’s client list. Whatever you do, don’t skip checking references. Your instincts and first impressions may be good, but it’s always helpful to confirm your feelings, and/or solicit anything you may have missed.
Hiring the “right” virtual assistant for your small business will be one of the best decisions you will make. He or she will be a good partner for you, save you time, and help you grow your business. It’s worth it to choose wisely.
How to Choose the “Right” Virtual Assistant – 5 Questions Small Business Owners Should Ask
September 26, 2016