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How To Hire a Virtual Assistant

Congrats! You’ve decided to hire a VA to help out with your blossoming business. Now what?

I’m assuming you’ve read my previous two posts (Is It Time to Hire a VA? and 50+ Things You Can Outsource to a Virtual Assistant) and now have a good idea of what tasks you want to delegate. This is important, because the next step is to write a job description describing exactly what your VA will be doing.

1 – Write the job description

Start with a brief, two-sentence description of your business and why your hiring. Then jump right into what you need your VA to do. Don’t be afraid to include as much detail as you can think of.

Clearly articulate what needs to be done, how many hours per week or month are required to start (you can always increase this), the deliverables, and what criteria you will use to measure success. If your VA’s tasks need to be performed during specific hours of the day, mention this, too.  If you are hiring for a specific project, include the start date and deadline for completion, as well as any milestones that need to be met.

When I hired my first assistant, I made an excel spreadsheet with 3 columns: Things I FOR SURE need help with, things I may need help with, and things I’d like to maybe have help with in the future.

I sent this to potential VAs before I spoke with them on the phone so they could tell me which tasks they have experience with and which tasks they were willing to learn. If a VA had a lot of experience with stuff I would maybe want help with in the future, but not the ones I need right now, then I could tell they weren’t the best fit for me to start.

I also shared with them my 90-day plan. This is basically a list of the main things I need to focus on and tasks I need to complete to reach my goals for the next 3 months. All of the VAs I contacted mentioned how much they appreciated seeing this to get an overall idea of my business and what I could potentially need them for to know if they’re a good fit and excited about being a part of my plans.

2 – Broadcast it

Now with your super explicit job description in hand, it’s time to post it where your future VA will see it.

Here are some of the channels to check out:

Freelance sites such as Odesk and Elance are quite popular because they have taken most of the risk out of outsourcing to freelancers. They have a system for evaluating candidates that includes monitoring hirees experience, client satisfaction and if hirees are truthful when reporting on hours worked. Payment is quick and straightforward: you pay via credit card or PayPal to the freelance site at onset of the project. They pay the freelancer, taking between 8-10% as their commission, when the job is completed. You’ll find that US-based VAs start at around $15/hour but some foreign VAs do great work for much less. Both sites offer excellent instruction on how to get started for newbies like yourself.

I didn’t hire an on-going VA through one of these sites but I have hired out lots of small projects here to quickly take a task off my plate.

Online classifieds are also places you may want to post. Craigs List is free. Posting jobs on LinkedIn costs money but you can search for VAs and connect with any that you think might be a good fit for you.

International Virtual Assistants Association directory (IVAA) has an extensive list of VAs from all over the world and you can submit a RFP (request for proposal) on the site for free.

Your personal network is an excellent resource as well. Let your friends on Facebook and Twitter know you’re looking for a VA. They may know someone who knows someone, who knows someone. . . .

Post to the Freelance to Freedom tribe. We’ve got a ton of great VAs in our private Facebook community. If you are not already part of our community, sign up here (it’s free!) and come on over and post what you’re looking for.

Your newsletter list may be full of VAs that are already fans and followers of your business. This is great because they already have an idea of what you do and how you do it.

Twitter can be a great place to look as well. I made a private list on twitter that I added to anytime I stumbled across a VA on Twitter. This is fun because you can follow their feed and connect with them to get an idea of what they are like on social before letting them know you’re looking to hire.

3 – Choose the best fit

By this time you should have at least a dozen serious candidates. I suggest narrowing your list down to no more than five and then contacting these people, initially via email to set up a phone or Skype session.

Never hire someone before actually speaking with them. A one-on-one conversation allows you to make first impressions and to recruit your intuition to help with the decision making.

Here are some things to look out for during the conversation:

  • Do they fully understand what you require? Are they asking intelligent questions if they don’t? Are you impressed that they have the experience and skills to carry out the job? (If you haven’t already received them, ask for references and samples of work.)
  • Pay attention to their command of English; even native English speakers may not have the level of English you’d expect from someone working online as a VA.
  • Evaluate personal hygiene and what’s going on in the room they are calling from. Is it an office? Is it tidy? Do they have a dedicated work space? This is why I highly recommend doing a Skype call.
  • Were they ready for the call at the scheduled time? This could be an indicator as to their being able to deliver on time.
  • Do they follow up with you after the call? We all know how important the follow-up is in our own business, it should be the same for the people you hire.

Oh, and one more thing you may want to consider: Is it important that your VA be available during standard working hours? If yes, then you will want to select someone in a time zone close to your own.

On the other hand, if you fancy the idea of giving your VA a project at the end of your work day and waking up in the morning to find it in your inbox, hiring a VA halfway around the world, may work better for you.

4 – Test drive

This may seem obvious, but I want to mention it anyway. You should always start with a very short, clearly defined project. It’s like that first date, where you just meet for a coffee to see if the chemistry works. Commission a task that can be performed within 24 hours. It could even be the first step of the project you are hiring for. Just don’t commit to a more serious engagement until you are confident you can work with this person.

So there you have it–a step by step plan for hiring your first VA. I hope this helps you get started and I’d love for you to share your own personal experiences with all of us in the Freelance to Freedom tribe.

Remember, you can get started with small projects or a few hours a month. Don’t think that it has to be this huge, full-time commitment to get help in your business. Take it one step at a time.

But I can almost guarantee, once you try a VA out that you like, you’ll quickly realize how biz-changing it can be!

Have a VA that you use or just love? Give ’em a shout out in the comments!


Leah Kalamakis Leah Kalamakis is the founder of The Freelance To Freedom Project and a web designer/developer for brilliant entrepreneurs. When she’s not hanging out in the FTF Community, you can find her people watching on the streets of NYC. Come say hi on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook.

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{ 11 comments… add one }
  • This is some great advice Leah! I don’t quite need to hire a VA yet, but I just might in the next year. I will look back to this article when the time comes. I was able to hire a freelance bookkeeper this year though. YAY!

  • Thanks for this, Leah! The info is really helpful, as I’m considering going the VA route here in a bit. I’ve had interns and subcontracted pieces of my work to developers, photographers and other specialists, but I’ve never tried a VA. I’ve honestly been a little intimidated about working with someone online and being organized enough to make it work.

  • This is so helpful! Things I haven’t thought about like what their workspace looks like (being tidy, etc.) 🙂

  • Love the idea of making a list of things I need help with, things I might need help with, etc.
    And being very clear about the job description.

    Also, I love how organized you are. I need a 90 day plan.

  • The Twitter list idea is brilliant! I feel silly for not having thought of that already.

  • Love this, I had a VA at one point and it was a total disaster, made me spend even more time on stuff than before. So yeah, this is helpful 🙂

  • Lovin’ this post Leah!
    I find that in the first Skype call- and use a camera so much more personal- you’ll know right off the bat if you click or not.
    Go with you gut 🙂

  • William

    Hiring a VA would be like holding a hammer, if you can handle them properly or use them properly, you can build a house; If not, then it would just hurt you. Spend time to train them, give it a week or two at least. Conduct a Video-Call Interview so you could talk and understand each other better and build a relationship which would help you work with less awkwardness and get things done fast and efficient.

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