I have two Dropbox accounts. One is associated with my current email and the other with an old one (from a job I had years ago). Apparently that old address is tied to my paid Dropbox account, but I can't get it to sync with my phone, nor can I log into dropbox.com with it ... because since I can no longer access that email address, I can't do a password reset.

This is the kind of task that drains me. I've scoured the Dropbox support site; I've emailed them and gotten a rather long and seemingly convoluted response about how to fix this.

This is also a good example of the kind of thing I would absolutely, positively love to hand off to a virtual assistant.

Almost every entrepreneur or businessperson I know has considered hiring a virtual assistant (aka VA). But a lot of us haven't quite taken the plunge, for reasons either financial or because we're not quite sure exactly what we'd have that person do.

But according to Ardenia Gould, business expert on working remotely, if you're even considering doing it, you should. "I took the plunge early last year," said Gould, "and it was the scariest but best business decision I ever made."

Here are 7 signs you need a virtual assistant:

1. Your business is holding you hostage

You're vacation-deprived. You need more time off but you're reluctant to take it. As an entrepreneur, you love the idea of setting your own hours and calling the shots. But if you can never find the time to step away from your business, it's time to call in reinforcements.

2. Your business needs skills you don't have

"I needed serious help with business taxes, securing business loans, and taking on a major renovation project so I could host retreats," said Gould. "I'm not a tax expert, I knew NOTHING about business loans, and I'm certainly not a general contractor."

The solution? She hired a virtual assistant who had a background in real estate, underwriting, project management and bookkeeping--and she's never looked back.

3. You wish there were two of you

I run a podcast called Dear Men, on sex, dating, and relationships. I love interviewing guests, but I don't love sourcing guests, (researching people who would be a good fit), and I hate dealing with scheduling. This means I put that stuff off, which in turn means my editorial calendar is often running behind.

When growing your business (or trying to), it often seems like there aren't enough hours in the day. This is a good sign that it's time to get a VA.

4. You spend more time on administrative tasks than the core business itself

It's hard to add value to the bottom line when huge chunks of your day are spent invoicing, billing, e-mailing, booking, etc. Admin tasks are necessary, but often distract you from adding your highest value by doing what you do best.

Plus, they tend to drain your energy (like me with Dropbox). So not only are you getting less done, but you actually feel worse than when you started.

5. Your business is a hot mess

You're finding yourself missing deadlines or meetings (or things on your calendar go MIA). You're not hitting your goals--or maybe you didn't even have time to set goals because you've been so busy putting out fires. There's no room to be strategic when you're in a constant state of overwhelm.

6. You're ready to scale

When it's time to scale, you typically need three things: systems, cash and people. When it comes to people, you should start with the most critical role that will help you scale. For example, if you're launching a membership site, you may need a part-time VA to handle sales and conversion. Or you may need someone to handle member support and customer service for new members. Determine your most essential role(s) and start there.

7. You're big on vision but short on execution

You're a visionary. You've got a ton of great ideas. You're going to revolutionize the game. But first, you've gotta get it done.If you're great at big-picture thinking but get bogged down in the details (or avoid them altogether), a VA will help you thrive.

When you're ready to hire, here are a few smart ways to find the right virtual assistant:

  1. Referral from someone you know and trust (that's how Gould found hers). Just post to LinkedIn and/or Facebook that you're looking for a good VA and follow the leads

  2. Niche placement agencies like HireMyMom.com, which staffs experienced, highly-qualified work-from-home moms

  3. Freelancer platform Upwork. Conveniently, Upwork itself tracks your VA's hours, screenshots what your VA is doing, and manages the payment processing, which can streamline things

  4. If you don't want to spend the time to hire your own VA, you can use Leverage, a company specializing in hiring virtual assistants. This can be pricier but easier

According to Gould, hiring her virtual business manager was a life-changing decision. "My sanity--my mental, physical and emotional well being have drastically improved since I lightened my load. I can take real vacations, knowing things are actually being handled in my absence."

She has also managed to put more money in her pocket, since her VA has tightened up her invoicing so she gets paid sooner (no more chasing down clients for payment). And she estimates that her VA has saved her tens of thousands on taxes, subscription services, canceled flights, late fees and by negotiating excellent rates with vendors on her behalf.

You don't have to do it all yourself. There are financial, emotional, and spiritual benefits to getting a little help.

Published on: Jul 8, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.