Hiring a VA
(it was actually in 2016, but that would make the article title look old :D)
VA this, VA that: What actually is a VA?
VA stands for “Virtual Assistant” and the clue is in the name. Everything you need from an office assistant but on the end of the phone, email or chat box; instead of physically being there.
“That’s not as good then, is it?”
To hire an assistant, you would need to ensure you had 40 hours a week, every week, of work for that assistant to do. Maybe 16 hours if it’s part time, but that’s it, that set amount every single week:
YOU: “But I need you for more than 16 hours a week, we’ve just won a big contract!”
ASSISTANT: “Sorry boss, not my problem.”
So then you need to interview, employ and train another member of staff. In hope that:
- Their standard of work is as good
- The same workload continues to flow in indefinitely
How many of us can say at our current stage in business that we have this?
It’s a fantastic foundation for those that do all of their own work, all of their own tasks both large and small. You can hand over whatever volume of work you’re comfortable with and scale it as:
- You get more comfortable with the right VA
- Your business grows
I don’t have the desire to be entirely hands off. As much as I champion VA’s in this article, being completely passive would be disingenuous to my clients, as everything about my business is them getting my knowledge and expertise …plus it would give me untold anxiety as a known control freak to release control completely!
What CAN you let go of?
The boring answer is: It’ll vary vastly from business to business, person to person.
Something light for me, like answering emails, isn’t a big workload (and I want my clients to know they get me personally when they message). This might be an absolute nightmare for you that; given the sheer volume, completely consumes your day. Maybe you’re out in the field working and worry about missing any urgent emails …and so on.
However, a lot of my client work, while taking my expertise to create and build into a success can occasionally be monotonous and time consuming to implement. These are the areas in which my VA has become invaluable.
Anything that requires a few steps to learn; I explain in an email, over the phone or do a screencast (record what I’m doing on my computer screen) and send it over.
It’s important to note: I’ve never been able to release control over my work in any form, to the point now, looking back; it was ridiculous.
Now, anything I do that fits the criteria of:
- Doesn’t require my personal skill
- I don’t enjoy
…gets handed over.
The organisation of your working life!
I just want to do my best work, in the order that I should be doing it, to the deadline that’s set. I don’t want to organise this. It’s another one of those things that fits the criteria above.
Finish something? Let my VA know.
New client or job? Let my VA know.
Sudden plan change? Let my VA know.
Everything made into a regularly updated, streamlined list. I pick what I want to get done that day, get my head down and do it.
I’ve heard people occasionally talk about the ‘adjustment period’ of using a VA. I have to say it was completely seamless for me and just all around common sense.
VA: “Am I doing this right?”
VA: “What about this particular situation?”
Questions that are asked just once. Then it’s done forever!
A small business owner or freelancer is typically more vested in the work they do, as it means repeat business. Their business grows through good work and doing anything bad would reflect on themselves (and their reviews, if they use freelance websites to win work).
You’re also giving a fellow small business owner or freelancer work, which helps them grow in the same way you do. Your growth often means growth for them!
Your choice of VA
Choice is vast in terms of price / location / agency / freelancer. A lot of business owners obsess about getting the cheapest possible deal on any service they use.
These people know the cost of everything, but the value of nothing.
I use someone local and self employed. I find they not only speak and type fluent English, they also get cultural nuances (not just Western or UK, but Scottish and Glasgow) and this helps greatly when understanding mind-sets and approaching situations.
I did it for ME
I’ve not increased my prices as a result of having a VA. It’s not a charge I pass on to my clients. I did it for me. So I could be free to provide a better service and focus on the things I’m good at.
Perversely, because I can do more of this, I’m getting better results, feeling better, enjoying my business more and never feel intimidated with workload.
I can also take on projects that would normally be essential to have a helping hand. I would typically avoid these, unable to trust outsourcing on such short notice and high stakes.
If you have certain workloads you don’t want to do, that eat up your time and can be outsourced with no drop in quality, why wouldn’t you outsource? It frees you to do more of your best work and allows you to take on more business.