There's a lot to be said in favor of hiring remote employees, including virtual assistants. Author Chris Ducker is a big proponent of working with virtual assistants. And he's not wrong.
As Ducker says,"Nowadays, working with an online assistant and other types of VAs allows you to leverage your time, and focus on the really important aspects of business."
But before you jump in and hire someone, you need to give it some careful thought and consideration. Here are 10 questions you must ask - and answer - yourself before hiring a virtual assistant.
1. Do I really need a virtual assistant?
Just because you're busy doesn't mean you need an assistant. Take a hard look and examine everything you do to determine if the tasks you're challenged with really need to be delegated to a virtual assistant.
You may find that your daily activities just need a more efficient workflow, or better project tracking to stay on top of your tasks. Also, you could very well be overwhelmed with projects, but find that every task is too critical to delegate. Sometimes you need to just push through, and sometimes you need help.
"When clients ask me about virtual assistants or remote staff, the first thing I get them to understand is what they as clients are good at or not good at doing," says Liam Martin, founder of Staff.com. "This is often quite difficult for entrepreneurs, as they've usually been doing everything in their business themselves. Once you show them that others can not only do it better, but that their business can't grow without delegation, they get a VA."
2. Am I prepared to hire a virtual assistant?
If you're certain that a virtual assistant is the answer, don't just jump at the opportunity to finally bring someone on. Hiring a remote worker isn't easy, and you need to be able to give them clear direction.
You can't assume they'll just jump in and magically start helping. Consider not only the time it will take to train them, but also the tasks you want them to take over. An ongoing list of repetitious tasks provides great insight into what can be outsourced.
3. How will I communicate with my virtual assistant?
Executives and entrepreneurs have the most success with remote employees when roles and communication are clearly laid out. There are a lot of great cloud-based applications to help with task tracking, communication, and project management. Decide up front how you'll work with virtual assistants to ensure efficiency in both work and communication.
4. How will I track their time and performance?
You don't want to add to daily stress by worrying about whether or not your virtual assistant is staying on task.
Apps like WhenIWork.com provide smart schedule solutions for remote staff to help you greatly improve employee accountability.
I Done This is great productivity app that lets your employees log productivity with time stamps. You'll be delivered a digest of everything that's been tackled so you don't have to chase your assistant down for updates or search through email threads to track progress.
You can even automate your payroll processes with payroll automation software like Wagepoint.
5. Are my own tasks killing my productivity?
Owning or running a business can erase the lines of normal work/life balance. When tasks from your personal life and your ever-increasing workload start blending together, you'll probably benefit from a virtual assistant.
You don't want to make compromises that kill productivity, especially when you have to start making choices between getting work done or neglecting important personal details.
6. Will having a virtual assistant bring value that contributes to revenue?
A virtual assistant is an employee, and that means labor overhead. When you look at the tasks you have on your plate that could be delegated, ask what kind of a return would come from delegating those tasks. Would delegation of certain responsibilities lend to an increase in revenue and growth?
"I'm convinced that virtual assistants are the future," says Michael Hyatt, author of Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World. "Tricia has worked for me, fifteen hours a week, since last August. Honestly, it's one of the best decisions I have ever made. Many successful entrepreneurs I know are following suit."
7. What is my personality type?
You'll be working closely with your virtual assistant, so you want to find someone you can mesh with. Are you a Type A personality who works well with similar personalities? Do you need a more laid back person? Are you too chill for your own good and need a Type A person to keep you on track?
Know what type of person and personality will energize you, and look for a virtual assistant who will complement that.
8. How involved do I want a virtual assistant to be in my business?
Finding a jack-of-all-trades virtual assistant is nice, but you can't lay that expectation on anyone you hire without clearly defining it. It wouldn't be fair to ask a task-oriented assistant to collaborate on a marketing campaign. Likewise, you don't want to hire someone who is expecting to be heavily involved in your growth when you just want them to handle the most menial tasks in your day - they'll be unhappy, and won't last.
9. What kind of commitment am I expecting?
Do you have a lot of ongoing projects that will require a retainer agreement with a pre-set number of hours per month? Or do have a smaller time demand and would prefer to pay as you need help or buy small packages of hours?
Knowing what kind of time commitment you're expecting will help you narrow the pool and find the most appropriate virtual assistant when you're ready. Services like Zirtual, a virtual assistant service designed to work for entrepreneurs who need more time to focus on the big picture, let you find just the right amount of help you need with scheduling meetings, paying bills, managing social media, and more.
10. What forward-thinking skills do I want in a virtual assistant?
Having a task list of things to delegate is a solid start when you want to hire a virtual assistant. Keep in mind, though, that this is an individual that will likely grow with you and your business. That means new tasks being delegated down the road. Think about what kind of skills you want a virtual assistant to have - and what would bring you the most value as your business grows over the next two or three years.
Do you have experience hiring and working with a virtual assistant? Share your story in the comments below: