You and your business have come to the point where you need some help. You’ve asked around at some network groups, mentioned your lack of free time to a business friend and decided the best option for you would be to outsource some of your admin to a virtual assistant.
Congratulations! You have certainly made a great decision, one which will allow you to spend your valuable time more wisely. However, before you rush in and hire the cheapest VA you can find on a freelancer marketplace site, think about what you want your virtual assistant to do for you. Make a list. (If you don’t know what you need your VA for ensure you tell them this at the start. A great VA will help you determine what she can do to support you best.)
So are you looking for a one off easy data entry task or are you hoping for a long term professional relationship where your VA is invested in making your business successful?
It is important that you do some research and choose a virtual assistant that is right for you. This may mean a trial task or time period. You may want a face to face consultation, either over coffee if local, or via Skype. Either way a good VA will have a few things they will want to ask about you and how you work. Don’t be afraid therefore to ask plenty of questions of your own to ensure you are confident you are hiring the right person for your business.
Questions you should ask a virtual assistant
Essential and legal
Insurance. A professional VA should have business insurance. If she is working remotely from her own premises then professional indemnity will suffice, If she is coming to your place of work or working away from her premises then she should also have public liability cover. If the VA employs other assistants then she would need employer’s liability insurance. Whilst this shouldn’t have a direct impact on you it shows that the VA takes her business seriously.
Is your VA GDPR compliant? Unless you have been living on another planet for the past few months you should know all about GDPR. Your VA is like any other business in that they need to be compliant about how they handle, store and share identifying personal data. That includes data about their own clients, AND the data they will have access to that you hold.
Will your VA being handling your financial admin, book keeping or payroll? Although there is a bit of a grey area around what is covered under financial administration, and some professional VA organisations are trying to get clarification, essentially if your VA is expected to do any financial work over and above logging your expenses then it is likely that they need to be registered with HMRC under their money-laundering regulations.
Skill match. Depending on the tasks you want your VA to do, you need to ensure she offers these services and has the skills and experience to do them. Sometimes your tasks could be particularly role specific so is she willing to be trained?
Where in the world is your VA? By definition your virtual assistant normally works remotely from you, but do you mind if they are in another country or timezone? Is the work you need completing time or location specific?
This is also a good time to discuss availability. Some VAs work around family commitments. Some work late in the evening or early mornings. Some work more over the weekend. Other VAs have specific ‘office hours’ and may only work 9-5 during the week. Again, depending on the type of work you want them to do, this will determine the working pattern that will suit. For instance if you want a VA who will take your calls during business hours you need to find one who offers this service and is available when your phone rings the most. However, if you have a huge report that needs transcribing then you probably don’t mind if your VA does this late in the evening, as long as it is done by the deadline.
Availability may also depend on the type of contract you have, ie if you have a retainer type contract you have purchased a set number of hours each week or month and your VA could block out certain days or times for your work.
It is also good to check what the VA’s terms are regarding urgent work. Unless you are hiring your VA for a 40 hour week if is probably safe to assume she has other clients. If your type of work often means tasks need doing at short notice ensure your VA has the scope for this. And don’t be surprised if your VA charges extra for urgent work although this should be clear on her pricing policy.
Communication. Whether or not your VA keeps set hours you do need to ask how you will be communicating with each other and what her expected response time is to your emails.
Tools of the trade. Check the tools and software your VA uses for project planning, task management, file transfer etc. Are these compatible with your own business tools? Will they be using time-tracking software? Do you use specific software that they will need access to? How will passwords be handled and stored? Are they happy to have a company credit card if you are expecting them to make purchases or book travel?
Compatibility. You may not be sitting next to each other in the office but, if you are hoping to work with your VA for a while, it is good to know a little bit about her personality. Some people thrive on business relationships which are chalk and cheese with each person bringing different traits and priorities to the job. Others prefer to work with like-minded people.
Try asking your VA what she likes about her job, why she decided to be a VA and what she does outside of work. This will help you get a feeling for whether she is your sort of person. However, do remember you are not recruiting an employee you are outsourcing to a fellow business owner. Don’t ask too many typical interview type questions.
Hopefully by knowing what questions you should ask a virtual assistant, and by the end of your research, you will find a VA you feel happy with and who wants to help you. You will both know exactly how each other works and what to expect going forward. Keep communication open, ensure you are clear about task details and deadlines and above all enjoy the freedom you will now have to pursue your business goals and better work life balance.
If you would like to ask me any questions or find out how we can work together please drop me a message today.