If your to-do list is fast becoming unsustainable, you do not have to wait till you are literally drowning in tasks you do not have the time, skills, nor expertise to accomplish. You could hire a virtual assistant (VA) to help you. As small business profit margins stay slim and trim while sales continue to languish, bringing a VA on board is not just in vogue, it’s a strategic, cost-saving move.




But, in order to capitalize on the arrangement, you need to start the process on the right foot. The following are five things you should do before you even start searching for virtual staff:


1. Be very clear about what you are looking for. When it comes to working with a virtual assistant, you don’t want to be spending too much time and money making decisions based on trial and error. To get things moving in the right direction, make sure you can adequately answer the following questions:

-Which tasks will your virtual assistant be responsible for?

-What kinds of skills, experience, and personality should this person have?

-What are the software and hardware requirements for the job?

-How many hours a week do you anticipate having your virtual staff work, and how much do you expect this person or team to accomplish in that time?


2. Determine how much you can afford to pay. Creating a budget for your virtual staff is a must because it will help you to focus your priorities. It will also give you an idea as to which sites and services you should use to recruit your virtual staff. Keep in mind, though, that with VA’s in particular, cheaper does not always mean better.


3. Create a job description. Once you have an answer for the questions mentioned above, your next step is to get it all written down in a clear job description. Just keep in mind that the more thought you put into the job description the more it will help to keep both you and your VA on the same page in terms of the job’s requirements, the expected level of performance, and the compensation being offered. You will also save yourself some time by attracting appropriate candidates for the position.


4. Decide how you will go about screening applicants. The amount of effort you put into screening applicants will largely depend on what your VA will be doing for you or your business. Where your VA will be handling sensitive information or will be directly communicating with either customers, business partners, or other established contacts, then investing some time and thought into the vetting out process is a must. Make sure that you or your chosen virtual staffing firm are conduct a background checks and verifying the applicant’s stated experience and skills. Also, make are to get a list of at least three references and make it a point to get in touch with them.


5. Create a system for evaluation. This is a step that many small business owners and entrepreneurs seem to overlook, yet it is an essential part of the whole process. If your motivation for hiring a VA is to save time and money, then make sure you don’t waste away that savings trying to force a VA relationship that just isn’t working out. Moreover, by knowing what to look for in your current virtual staff, you can make smarter hiring decisions in the future. Hiring, communication, and management “mistakes” then become valuable lessons learned that can be later applied to increase productivity and efficiency.


In short, with a little forethought and effort, you can help to ensure that your virtual staff will bring you and your business a very real savings.

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