When your business is up and running (regardless of the scale), the ‘don’t sweat the small stuff’ philosophy doesn’t quite apply. That’s because the small stuff is often mandatory and if not done well, can put you at a serious disadvantage vis-à-vis the competition. Yet, these small tasks (professional as well as personal) can be a serious time suck and can take away from your real focus. Enter a virtual assistant and voila! Your life transforms and how! If only you don’t get carried away by the wonders of virtual assistance as proclaimed by the likes of time management experts Tim Ferriss (author, The 4-Hour Workweek) and Chris Ducker (author Virtual Freedom).

Don’t get me wrong – I am not saying virtual assistance is devoid of its benefits. Rather, my point is, all the benefits can be maximized if you exercise due diligence before hiring a VA. Start with these five steps to ensure nothing slips through the cracks:

#1 Do your research like your business depends solely on the VA: Owing to the sheer volume and variety of tasks your VA will be handling, the process of finding and interviewing VAs should be no shorter or less exhaustive than you would undertake for other positions – say a developer or a marketer. There is no dearth of professional virtual assistance firms and individual freelancers today, and that makes it even more important (and time-consuming) for you to sift through the pile of options to shortlist the good ones. Fret not; it’s time well spent for once you have the right VA on board, getting back time for the real important tasks will be a breeze. Create an excel sheet and rate companies based on their turnaround time on standard and urgent tasks, pricing plans, experience and educational qualifications of VAs, languages they can speak, reputation and reviews from previous clients, etc.

#2 Contact shortlisted virtual assistants: Comparison chart in hand, it’s time to start contacting agencies to narrow down your options. For most good virtual assistance firms like GetFriday, Habiliss, Zirtual or FancyHands (there are many more), easy approachability is one of their biggest plus points. At Habiliss, for instance, I got a response on live chat within seconds when I needed a quote for an urgent travel itinerary I wanted prepared for an upcoming conference in Geneva. I wasn’t expecting it so soon, and they clearly won me over by exceeding my expectations right at the outset.

#3 Set up live interviews: The time to get face-to-face (at least virtually) with your prospective assistant has arrived! I stress on live interviews because having worked with VAs for over five years now, I’ve realized that unless you actually see and talk to candidates in person, it’s difficult to gauge if you’ll be able to build a rapport with them or trust them (critical for outsourcing personal as well as tasks related to sensitive financial information such as credit card/investment details) and their comfort level in adapting to your unique requirements. Some VA companies do not allow clients to speak one-to-one with prospective VAs but in my experience, looking for those that do (Habiliss and Zirtual are two of the options here) is worth the effort. When you really click with a VA, you’d be surprised to find in how many ways he/she can function as your extended arm.

#4 Delegate tasks – start small if you are new: Once you’ve finalized a virtual assistant firm or freelancer, delegating your non-core time-sucking tasks is the next step. Do this extremely systematically – give clear instructions on what, how, and when you should receive the output, reference samples your VA can refer to while going about the task, etc. If possible, make a training video or manual (especially if your task is lengthy and involves multiple steps, or you are hiring a team of VAs like corporate administrative assistants) – this can serve as a reference material and will also come in handy should you need to change your VA firm, in case you are unhappy with the output.          

#5 Evaluate and provide feedback: This is a critical aspect, especially during the initial stages of onboarding your VA. Rate the VA’s work on the understanding of the task, quality, TAT, and value he/she may have added by way of suggestions and insights into how things work in a particular domain. For instance, if you outsource the task of scheduling social media posts and advertisements for an upcoming event, an experienced VA would not only do the needful but may also be able to guide you on what time of the day would be best to get more likes, shares, and overall engagement for such a post.

So there I said it – a virtual assistant can augment you to the level of a superhuman, if only you take the role seriously, prepare well in advance, and hire only the best-suited one for your unique needs. Do you have any more tips on hiring and working with VAs? Please feel free to share.   

About the Author:

Linda Sanchez is a writer at heart, a communication specialist professionally, but most of all a fellow human trying to help out many with stress and lifestyle management while gaining back control over their life. I love networking with people globally with similar interests, of varied cultural and professional backgrounds, and a lot of information to share. I currently write at http://www.habiliss.com/blog/         

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