The thought of hiring my own VA (virtual assistant) made my stomach flip.
It was 10 years ago, when I was still working my 9-5 corporate job.
I didn’t feel at all ready to relinquish control of certain tasks to a virtual assistant. In fact, I suffered from a severe case of what Chris Ducker calls “Superhero Syndrome,” where I felt the need to do everything myself. (Any other control freaks in the house?)
I didn’t know the first thing about the world of hiring online, how to find the “right” person or how much to pay them, or even that it was possible to hire a virtual assistant from other countries around the world.
The only thing I was sure about was that I was going to totally embarrass myself.
After all, aren’t the only people who have VA’s the uber successful, the uber confident, or the Tim Ferriss-wannabes chasing a 4 hour workweek?
Freelancing is the new normal
Gig-based and part-time work is skyrocketing in popularity. Which makes sense, because for many people it’s a much better lifestyle choice that allows them to have flexibility with the hours and location from which they work.
Check out these stats:
- 57.3 million people freelance in the U.S. It’s estimated that by 2027 there will be 86.5 million freelancers. (Upwork)
- 36% of U.S. workers participate in the gig economy through either their primary or secondary jobs. (Gallup)
- For 44% of gig workers, their work in the gig economy is their primary source of income. (Edison Research)
Putting my control freak tendencies aside and with a nudge from my husband Demir, I decided to jump on the bandwagon and hire my first virtual assistant.
A few months later, thanks to the work my virtual assistant was doing on my behalf, I landed my dream job in Los Angeles (with a $50k raise to boot).
That was just the start. My freelancers have been instrumental in the growth of our productivity coaching company, Lifehack Method, which I founded with Demir after deciding corporate wasn’t for me.
Virtual assistants helped us grow our business to the high 6-figures, without ever working more than 40 hours a week.
Virtual assistants helped us travel around the world, living in 33 countries and learning foreign languages.
Virtual assistants helped me take a full 6 months completely off work for maternity leave when I had our baby girl, Genevieve.
And so much more.
Why you shouldn’t wait until you feel “ready”
Here’s the secret I later found out about hiring online:
You’ll never feel “ready.”
So if you wait to feel completely prepared, you’ll never end up hiring an assistant!
As Demir and I build and scale Lifehack Method, we’ve had the opportunity to work with many freelancers from all over the world.
I’ve hired and trained scores of online consultants from virtual assistants and customer service reps to accountants, video editors, ghost writers, and more.
It’s something I love showing others how to do because I’ve experienced firsthand the huge difference it can make.
Some of those freelancers have become a permanent member of our team, and many others we worked with for just a few months or less.
From the outside looking in, it may appear that we have a big team and a lot of support in order to run our business.
That isn’t the case.
In fact, we operate with a skeleton team and we prefer it that way. It keeps our managerial responsibilities light and our overheads low.
We’ve become experts in leveraging freelancers to fill in the gaps on our team when needed, which means we need to know how to hire freelancers quickly and how to work efficiently with them.
Along the way, we’ve become big fans of this group of workers and we feel privileged to be able to tap into such a talented and diverse community.
Whether you own a company or not, all of us can do with some relief from the endless stream of tasks.
If you do it right, you’ll experience a massive sense of relief and power when you realize you can outsource many tasks on your list to other people.
It’s not for everyone though
Not everyone is ready for outsourced help and in fact, it can be a drain on your productivity if you aren’t ready.
Delegation is a real skill, as is leading a team, and when you outsource work it tends to magnify whatever systems or productivity you currently have in place.
If you’re super organized, with your systems carefully documented in SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures) outsourcing will magnify that efficiency.
But if your organizational style can best be described as “I like to keep everything in my head,” or “I like to wing it,” it might feel more overwhelming to have someone else you have to manage in addition to all your other responsibilities.
If this is the case, focus first on organizing yourself and creating systems so that when you hire someone, you’re magnifying your efficiencies not inefficiencies.
Ok, so…how do I know if it will be worth it to hire a VA?
Here’s how to think about it: ask yourself how many hours you think you could save, and then ask what you would be able to do with those hours.
Could you go out and make more money, open up new lines of business? Or if you are a salaried professional, could you get a raise because you finally have time to work on your Deep Work?
Or would the extra time mean you could have the time for your health and your family that you’ve always wanted?
Even if your hire doesn’t result in more money made, they might enable you to make more or contribute to a significant personal goal of yours. (I find that this type of contribution is often far more rewarding.)
Answer these questions to determine if you should hire a VA:
- Do you have too much to do?
- Would it be nice if you could free up your time from busy work, so that you could get back to doing work you love?
- Could you use that extra time to make more revenue, get a raise, or improve your quality of life?
If you said “yes” to all three of these questions…CONGRATULATIONS! It’s time for you to hire a virtual assistant.
What kinds of tasks a virtual assistant can do
Virtual assistants can do a wide variety of tasks, ranging from very simple tasks with limited decision making (these are the easiest types of tasks to outsource) all the way up to complex tasks with advanced decisions (these are harder to delegate).
The longer you work with your virtual assistant, the more complex tasks they’ll be able to do simply because they’ll learn more about your preferences and your tasks. You can speed up this process by writing detailed instructions for each task, which is called an SOP (Standard Operating Procedure).
Here’s a few tasks I’ve recently had my virtual assistants do:
- Watch the replay of a training we did for our clients, take notes and timestamps, and upload the replay to our course platform
- Process a refund and cancel the subscription of a client
- Plan, coordinate, and buy decorations for my 30th birthday party
The very best place to get started is by reviewing your monthly priorities and your list of tasks.
Look for tasks that are:
1) Recurring Tasks – these are tasks that happen every day, week, or month. The more often they recur, the more worthwhile it is to outsource them.
For example, we run a live webinar every week. My assistant schedules the webinar in our calendar system and in our CRM so that people can register for it, and schedules the reminder emails to go out on time to the registrants. This would take me about 1 hour to do on my own, and since the process is exactly the same each time, it’s a prime task to outsource.
2) Time consuming tasks that don’t require special skills, for example data entry, basic research, or sending out a batch of emails.
For example, we occasionally need to send an email to our large database of current clients. These emails have to be customized slightly for each person, but it is easy to do using a template. This is something that would take me 5 hours to do on my own, but is easy to outsource because it’s relatively simple for someone else to learn how to do.
3) Time consuming tasks that require a special skill that you DON’T have, for example video editing or accounting.
These are tasks that would take you quite a while to do, because you don’t have the special skill set needed. I love outsourcing these types of tasks so that I can enjoy the final output without getting too far out of my zone of genius.
Remember, your personal tasks aren’t off the table. This is about saving you time, so they can be tasks from anywhere in your life.
How to get the most value from your virtual assistant
Wouldn’t it be great if you could simply press the “hire” button on a VA, and magically everything got done perfectly?
Unfortunately, there are still a multitude of ways to turn a great hire into a dumpster fire.
But doing these three things can give you the best shot at creating an incredible working relationship with your virtual assistant.
FIRST: Make great SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures)
If you only did one thing to make your hire a success, it should be this one. A great SOP is a written document that describes exactly how to do the task, accompanied by a video screencast of you doing the task yourself.
If you take the time to make a proper SOP up front, you’ll find that you get back work that is done 100% correctly – with minimal training, questions, or false starts. This is a huge win-win for both you and your virtual assistant!
I describe how to make “unscrewupable” SOPs in my course, How To Hire Your First VA.
SECOND: Take the time to onboard your virtual assistant properly
When I say “onboard,” I’m not talking about training your VA. If you have great SOP’s, you’ll find that you don’t have to spend hardly any time at all training your hire.
I’m talking about setting expectations for performance, communication, and getting your hire excited about working with you.
This can be done through Zoom! Schedule an hour-long chat during which you’ll go over everything they need to know to hit the ground running.
In my course How To Hire Your First VA, I teach you exactly how to conduct this onboarding call! Including an “expectations checklist” template, a communication policy template, and more.
THIRD: Treat the first month as a “trial” month, and have a 1 month review meeting at the end.
This meeting is so crucial because you and your virtual assistant will have the option to part ways gracefully if it just isn’t the right fit.
The worst thing to do is try to justify their shortcomings as a VA, or hope that it will improve as time passes.
Hard truth: it rarely does.
It’s much better for all involved to cut ties early, because you both deserve to work with people you absolutely love working with.
The best virtual assistant services
Here’s a list of some of our favorite VA services:
- Freeeup.net and get $25 off with code LifehackBootcamp25
I’m a huge fan of all the sites listed above. I encourage you to check out various options and see which one fits your needs the best.
How to hire a virtual assistant
Once you’ve chosen the perfect hiring platform for you, it’s time to create a listing and get some candidates.
(I go over this step in much greater detail in my course How To Hire Your First VA.)
First, it’s imperative that you get radically clear on what you want from your VA. You need to know “I want a video editor” or “I want a graphics designer” before getting started.
You want your job listing to really stand out, because there are thousands of jobs being posted per day that freelancers need to sift through to find ones that suit them. (Hint: your listing needs to have a rich title, awesome description, and 1-3 screening questions.)
Once you’ve got freelancers applying for gigs, it’s time to interview! This is great as an initial screening of candidates who look promising, to gauge how they’d fit with your company, and to learn more about them and their availability.
And once you’ve interviewed a few promising candidates, give them a paid test assignment! This is a great way to understand their style, quality of work, and communication style in action. You want the assignment to be something simple (hint: something that takes you 30 minutes might take someone new 2 hours), but it should test all of the important skills you’re hiring for.
Do’s and don’ts for managing a virtual assistant
It’s one thing to be a manager. But it’s a whole other beast to be the manager of a remote team!
If this is your first time managing someone remotely, or you feel like you’re struggling to get your mind around how to work with a remote team, then keep reading.
You should expect that your workflow and mindset will change in several fundamental ways when you run a remote team.
Here are the 5 principles I think about every month to help manage my team smoothly, in the least amount of time possible, at the highest level.
#1 – Work your trusted system
Once you have a library of SOP’s, you have a task management platform, and you have a communication policy — the basic elements of a productivity workflow — make sure to USE these tools. Every day.
This is what powers your productivity. Once you start slacking on working your system, your freelancers will too — and then it’ll be a lot more work to get everyone back on the program.
#2 – Create a culture of anti-distraction
Compared to an office environment, remote teams have a unique opportunity to enjoy distraction free workdays.
But you have to stand by this as the manager.
You cannot (and should not) expect your employees to reply to your messages immediately. Build buffer time into your deadlines instead of assigning last minute work. And make it clear that you are not on call 24/7 to reply to your employees either.
#3 – Embrace being asynchronous
Another great thing about remote teams is that you don’t have to be stuck in meetings all day. Instead, use screencasts and voice notes as a way to communicate asynchronously with your team.
This means you can communicate on your time, as your schedule allows — and so can they — instead of everyone spending half their time coordinating and attending meetings.
#4 – Reward your team based on results, not face time
In traditional offices, most workers are recognized as “productive” the more they’re seen around the office. Dropping by and chatting, asking questions, staying late – these are all signs that someone is doing a good job.
But that has very little to do with productivity. With a remote team, you have the opportunity to recognize your employees based on the work they do.
They might go weeks without even messaging you, yet they’re doing everything they’re supposed to. In my book, that’s awesome!
#5 – Stand for your freelancer’s lifestyle design
This ties into the previous principle. When I worked in corporate, I was encouraged to spend as much time at my desk as possible which meant that I was discouraged from taking vacations or spending time at home.
Freedom and flexibility are two huge benefits of remote work. Your team can be anywhere, traveling, doing anything they want with their free time.
As long as the work is getting done, who cares where or how they’re doing it? Stand for your team’s lifestyle design and do what you can to celebrate and accommodate it.
Ready, set, hire!
Hiring your first VA can feel extremely daunting — but you got this.
Do you have a question about hiring your first Virtual Assistant? Drop it in the comments below.