Have you been confused about how to hire a virtual assistant? So many of my clients have reached out to say that they want to bring someone on to help them in the business, but that they don’t know how to hire someone legally.
Why Hire A Virtual Assistant?
I was listening to my friend Naomi’s podcast, The Lifestyle Edit Podcast, the other day when she had her own assistant-turned-operations manager, Anna, on to chat about how to bring on support in your business. (Do you guys follow Naomi? She’s incredible. You can get start-up business support on her site here and listen to her podcast episode with Anna here and our episode interview here.)
Virtual assistants work as independent contractors who work on administrative, business development, client/community relationship, or social media daily tasks…and beyond. They usually work remotely and can from anywhere in the world! If you’re feeling bogged down by aspects of running a business that you’re not great at and/or don’t love, outsourcing these to a VA can free up serious time and brain space for small business owners and entrepreneurs.
Over the past few years, I’ve seen some virtual assistant (“VA”) relationships go well and some not so well amongst my friends.
Some hired VAs way too early, some just weren’t organized enough and didn’t realize they needed a specialized virtual assistant. Others learned they needed to work on communication skills.
But I’ve also seen plenty of good VA-Client relationships, too. The especially strong ones were built by women who were patient, driven, team-oriented, and dedicated to communication.
And I’ve even had the opportunity to help a few of them make sure they were working together legally.
So today I thought I’d bring you 7 tips to teach you how to hire a virtual assistant of your own.
That way, you not only hire him/her (I’m just going to go with her for the rest of this post! Obviously a VA can be *anyone*!) in a legally legit way, but you’ll also get more out of the relationship, too.
Let’s kick things off with an organization tip. This is one you should implement before you ever hire virtual assistant services…
1. Get Organized
Before you even consider bringing on a team member of any variety, organize your own systems. Now, I know what you’re thinking. “I need a VA because I’m not organized! That’s the entire point!“
True! You may need help in this department. But things won’t go well if you hand over one big hot mess of a backend of your business to a VA and say “here!”
Clean up your accounts, delete those old files and photos, and get a few systems as organized as you can before handing them over to your VA.
2. What Can You Delegate to a Virtual Assistant?
Before interviewing a virtual assistant, you need to know exactly what tasks and projects you want to delegate to her.
Here’s a personal example:
I recently (mentally) built out a huge project overhaul inside my business. I wrote down a step-by-step list of each task that needs to be done to complete this project, soup-to-nuts. Then, I made 2 columns on a piece of paper: (1) things only I can do and (2) things someone else can do (better).
There are certain things in this project only I can do because either (1) only I know my ideal client, (2) I need my copy/voice, or (3) I’m writing legal info. So those are things I can’t delegate until I bring on a clone ; )
But there were LOTS of things I could delegate to someone who could probably do most of those things even better than I could: design, web/tech stuff, email marketing, administrative tasks, phone calls, data entry etc.
As entrepreneurs, we love to think that we CAN do anything. Yes, you totally can! Whether or not that’s the best business decision is a totally different story ; )
You’ll also want to get really clear on what projects you need help with most in your business. Design? Managing your inbox? Social media? Project management? Customer service?
There are lots of different virtual assistants who all have different specialities and focuses. The clearer you are in your virtual assistant job description, the more specific of a VA you’ll be able to find.
3. Test The Water
You might be wondering how you’re supposed to know whether a VA you meet online is the right fit or not. Are you just supposed to take the plunge? No! Or at least you don’t have to.
Instead, I’d suggest you test things out by hiring her for a few test projects or for a specific time period (trial basis).
There’s no right or wrong here — it’s just whatever makes sense given the project and how you want to start off your VA relationship.
If you hire her for a test period of, for example, 30 days, schedule a meeting at the end of the 30-days to chat about next steps. Whether you choose to move forward or not, it’ll be a learning experience for both of you.
4. Virtual Assistant Contract
Well you knew I’d recommend this one, right? Once you’re ready to hire a virtual assistant (whether it’s for real or as a test per #3), always, always, always use a independent contractor contract.
It’s so important that your virtual assistant is hired on as a independent contractor (aka. freelancer) and not as an employee (unless, of course, you want her to be a full time employee of your company instead.) Listen to episode 64 of On Your Terms™ where I discuss more about hiring contractors and employees.
In America, employees are owed lots of rights and protections that independent contractors aren’t.
And in America, employers (that would be YOU if you don’t designate your virtual assistant as an independent contractor) owe their employees lots of things that you don’t otherwise owe independent contractors (i.e., handling taxes, unemployment, workers’ compensation, etc.).
The contract you use to hire your virtual assistant not only specifies she’s an independent contractor, but it also addresses questions about who owns the work/content that’s produced by your virtual assistant (the company), how she gets paid, hourly rate (number of work hours, etc), confidentiality, and how the relationship can be ended.
Here’s how you use your virtual assistant contract:
- grab my independent contractor template and fill in the blanks (i.e., your name, her name, $$/hour, etc.)
- send the contract, unsigned, to your potential virtual assistant unsigned (I use Dubsado to send / e-sign contracts. Use coupon code samvw for 20% off!)
- Once your VA signs the virtual assistant contract, you sign it. Make sure you both get a complete, fully-signed copy for your records.
5. Payment Options
How Much Does A Virtual Assistant Cost?
Pay your virtual assistant by ‘legally legit’ means, as I call it ; )
What does that mean? Instead of randomly Venmo’ing (is that a word? It is now!) her money, make sure you’re paying your VA from your business account and using your business’s payment gateway (i.e., PayPal, Square, Stripe, etc.)
You need to keep track of all payments you make to her throughout the year. These payments count as business expenses. If you categorize your expenses, this one can fall under “Contractors” or “Freelancers.”
If you pay your virtual assistant $600 or more total in any given year, talk to your accountant about sending a 1099 form by the appropriate deadline.
6. Protect Yourself
I’m not saying you can’t trust your VA. Obviously, I’d hope that if you hired someone, you’d have some level of trust in her.
The truth is, things change. And people don’t necessarily open up their relationship with us by saying, “I’ll probably screw you out of something down the line.”
That only happens once things go south. And things go south for alllllll different kinds of reasons. Reasons you can’t and don’t predict when you’re in the honeymoon phase. (I’m only a little bit jaded by the law lol!)
A few ways you can protect yourself when you hire a virtual assistant are to:
- talk to her references
- ask to review samples of her work
- work on a trial basis (i.e., 30-days)
- use a contract that has all the major legal pieces in place
- use tools, like LastPass, to give secured access to accounts and passwords that you can revoke
- create separate accounts, where possible, so you can easily remove a VA’s access to your tools.
7. Communicating with Your Virtual Assistant
Your communication with your VA doesn’t end once you send your contract.
It’s super important to openly communicate with your virtual assistant, especially if you want things to improve.
You could setup weekly meetings to accomplish 2 things:
- Set out that week’s goals and agenda, so you’re both on the same page.
- Give frequent, real-time feedback.
If you wait 6 months to have meetings, you’re not really giving your VA the chance to do better.
And you never want a situation where you’re not really sure what the VA is off doing, and the VA isn’t really sure whether she’s doing the right thing, because you don’t communicate.
Side note: weekly meetings count as the VA’s ‘work,’ so that’s time you pay your VA for!
At least to me, you should only hire a VA if you have an open mind and are willing to grow with someone. If you think someone’s going to be able to come into your business and nail it from the start, then you might not be ready yet.
And yes, any good VA is going to take a little time to get up to speed. That’s OK!
Just think of it as your chance to show your new VA the way your business operates. And that’s why, going back to #1, it’s so important that you know how your business operates, first.
Hiring your first virtual assistant might be your first step to building out your business’s team. Congratulations! I hope this post helped make sense of some of the issues you’ve thought about.
If you have any questions at all, get in touch. I’d love to hear from you!
IMPORTANT: this post is intended for informational and educational purposes only. It is not to be construed as legal, tax or financial advice. You should never implement anything without talking to a professional licensed in your area who can advise you what the best option is for you and your business.