There comes a moment in every entrepreneur’s life when you realize you can’t do everything yourself.
Usually it hits you when you’re drowning in a pile of paperwork, emails, or invoices and you suddenly understand that there aren’t enough hours in the day to do all the things you need to do to keep your business running smoothly.
Hiring a Virtual Assistant is one of the first – and most important – hires you can make as an entrepreneur.
Until you have someone on your team that you can delegate repetitive tasks to, you run the risk of wasting valuable time on activities that don’t contribute to the growth of your business.
If you want to grow, you need to delegate.
To find out how to hire a Virtual Assistant, we’ve broken down the process into a step-by-step guide to make your first hire as smooth and stress-free as possible.
Click the links to skip ahead:
- Are Virtual Assistants worth it?
- 6 benefits of hiring a Virtual Assistant
- Types of Virtual Assistants you can hire
- How to choose the right tasks to outsource
- How to hire a Virtual Assistant in 6 simple steps
- Tips for managing your Virtual Assistant
- Top tools for managing your Virtual Assistant
- How to know when it’s time to hire a Virtual Assistant
- Hire a Virtual Assistant so you can focus on what matters most
In short, yes.
All successful entrepreneurs reach a point where they find they can’t do everything themselves – and that’s when they hire people to do things for them.
Hiring people to help you is an essential step to building a scalable business that continues to grow, even when you’re not working. If you continue to do everything on your own, you run the risk of filling up your schedule with time-drain tasks that don’t contribute to income generation or the growth of your business.
Think about the repetitive tasks you do every day, including:
- Scheduling meetings
- Answering simple emails
- Uploading new content
- Doing basic data entry
- Creating invoices
Hiring a team member lets you make the shift from the daily slog of working in your business to working on your business. By bringing other people onto your team, you free up essential time in your day to focus on activities that have the greatest impact on your business and income.
When you start hiring people, you open the door to using your expertise and skill only where it’s needed to grow your business – and delegating tasks that don’t need your direct input.
“One of the things we can do to avoid burning out is to become more effective delegators. At first, it’s hard letting go, but trust me folks, once you start letting go of the steering wheel a little, you’ll want to hire a full-time driver sooner or later!”
Download Outsourcing Worksheet
Whether you hire a single Virtual Assistant or you build an entire team of virtual staff, outsourcing to remote team members can have significant benefits for your efficiency, productivity, and income.
Here are some of the top benefits of hiring a Virtual Assistant:
You can work from anywhere
Depending on where you live, renting a physical office space can be pricey. Hiring a Virtual Assistant gives you the chance to start building your team from anywhere in the world – while keeping your expenses low. With the exception of paying for a few remote work tools to make managing virtual staff easier, the main cost of hiring a Virtual Assistant is the amount you pay them for their time and any training they complete. That means you can start hiring staff without breaking the bank.
Hire the best of the best
A Virtual Assistant – and virtual staff more generally – can work from anywhere in the world, as long as they have an internet connection. That means you can find the most talented candidates for your business by significantly increasing the number of potential candidates available to you for each role. Choose your new hire based on talent, not geography!
Find affordable talent
Most Virtual Assistants operate as independent contractors and depending on where they live, their hourly rate could be significantly lower than what a full-time employee would cost your business. A Virtual Assistant in the Philippines, for example, will typically cost less than half of what a Virtual Assistant in North America costs for completing the same tasks and responsibilities with the same level of skill. If you have a limited budget, it could be worth looking further afield to help you hire a Virtual Assistant who is qualified and well-suited to the role.
Reduce your workload
As an entrepreneur, delegating specific tasks and responsibilities to someone else is a huge step toward reducing your workload – and with it the stress of running a business. If you try to do everything yourself, you can quickly find that the work mounts up, leading to long workdays, feeling overwhelmed, and having zero time for other areas of your life like family, hobbies, and self-care activities. Hiring staff is important not just for your business, but also for your mental health and wellbeing.
Do more of what you’re good at
You can’t be a master of everything – and you shouldn’t try to be. For every task and process that’s required to run your business – including the ones you don’t like or aren’t good at – there is someone who specializes in doing those tasks. So why are you still trying to do it all yourself?
When you hire a Virtual Assistant, you give yourself the chance to invest time and energy into the areas of your business that need you and that you’re uniquely qualified to do. Hiring a Virtual Assistant lets you do more of what you’re good at.
Focus on income-generating activities
The fact is, your business needs to make money to survive. When you hire a Virtual Assistant, you can focus on activities that add significant value to your business – and that have a direct impact on your income. Hiring a Virtual Assistant lets you take a big picture approach to your business and focus on growth, rather than admin.
If you want to grow your business, you need to let go of the idea you have to do everything yourself. No entrepreneur is an island.
“Your most precious resource as a human being (not just a business owner) is TIME. The less you commit to, the greater your focus. The greater your focus, the more impact you can have with the time you’re given. For this reason alone, everyone should hire at least one Virtual Assistant.”
Before you hire a Virtual Assistant, figure out which type of Virtual Assistant is best suited to the tasks you want and need to outsource. Here are the two main differences:
The General Virtual Assistant
The most common type of Virtual Assistant is a General Virtual Assistant – also known as a General VA. A General Virtual Assistant is someone who can take on the daily tasks and processes that are important for running your business but not necessarily on growing it.
The tasks that you would delegate to a General Virtual Assistant tend to be technical and repetitive, such as managing your emails or travel schedule, scheduling your appointments, data entry, research, scheduling posts on social media, and more.
The Specialized Virtual Assistant
Unlike a General Virtual Assistant, a Specialized Virtual Assistant is someone who has a very specific skillset and is better suited to owning and/or overseeing a specific process in your business. Specialized Virtual Assistants tend to charge higher rates than General Virtual Assistants because they already have a specialized set of skills and will require minimal additional training from you.
Tasks such as customer service, bookkeeping, video editing, and project management, for example, are all tasks that could be carried out by a Specialized Virtual Assistant.
Outsourcing tasks vs outsourcing outcomes
The way you assign responsibilities to different Virtual Assistants also varies.
With a General Virtual Assistant, it’s best to outsource specific tasks and processes – and it’s important to provide training on how to do those tasks and processes properly, especially if you have specific preferences or quirks in your business.
With a Specialized Virtual Assistant, it’s best to outsource specific outcomes. A Specialized Virtual Assistant will generally be more skilled than you are at the tasks that are a part of their role – after all, that’s why you’re hiring them! As you’re counting on their knowledge and expertise, it’s best to tell them what to do, not how to do it. Leave it to the expert!
Every entrepreneur has a long list of tasks and processes involved in running their business. To help you decide which ones to outsource and which ones you should keep doing, try sorting them into 4 categories.
Every task and process in your business belongs in 1 of 4 categories:
- Tasks you should do: High-value, income-generating tasks that you enjoy doing and you’re actually good at.
- Tasks you shouldn’t do: Low-value tasks that aren’t the best use of your time, even if you’re good at them or you enjoy doing them. (These are the hardest ones to outsource!)
- Tasks that you don’t want to do: Tasks that you don’t like doing and that take up a lot of your time, that someone else will be better at.
- Tasks you can’t do: Tasks that you lack the necessary knowledge and skills to do properly.
Download our Outsourcing Worksheet with a handy table to help you categorize the tasks in your business.
Download Outsourcing Worksheet
“The tasks you hate doing or can’t do should be at the top of your list of things to delegate. The harder tasks to part with are the ones you can do and may even enjoy doing, but realistically, shouldn’t be doing them.”
Hiring a virtual assistant is different to hiring freelancers for specific projects.
When you hire a freelancer for a project, that project has a start date and an end date. And since most freelancers have multiple clients, you won’t always be their first priority.
When you hire a Virtual Assistant, you’re essentially hiring a team member. Even though the tasks you delegate to them might change over time, they will occupy a specific role on your team. That means the hiring process looks a little different.
Here are 6 steps to hiring a virtual assistant for your business.
Start by making a list of all the tasks and processes you plan to delegate to your Virtual Assistant. Assuming these are tasks that you’re currently doing yourself, create training documents (aka Standard Operating Procedures) for each of these tasks. To learn how to write effective Standard Operating Procedures, check out this guide.
If you’re hiring a Specialized Virtual Assistant, document the outcomes you want them to accomplish instead of specific tasks or procedures.
When you have your list of tasks you want to delegate to your Virtual Assistant, it’s time to create a job description for the role.
All of the tasks you delegate to a General Virtual Assistant should share a similar skill level and hourly rate. Tasks that require specialized skills shouldn’t be included in the job description for a General Virtual Assistant – those tasks are for Specialized Virtual Assistants.
Your job description should include:
- Background information about your business (e.g. your industry, what you sell, and who your main clients/customers are)
- Level of education, experience, and/or skills required
- List of duties and responsibilities
- List of any apps, tools, or software they will be using
Here’s a template of a Virtual Assistant job description you can use:
|Virtual Assistant Job Description Template|
|We are a [introduction to your business], specializing in [further details].|
We’re seeking someone to provide administrative and customer service support. In this role, you will be responsible for performing various administrative tasks, including [task 1], [task 2], and [task 3].
The ideal candidate should have experience handling administrative projects and delivering high-quality work with minimal supervision. Ideally you will also have experience with [relevant experience] and [relevant experience].
Requirements and skills:
Once you have your job description ready, the next step is to post it online and start accepting applications. You can use a general virtual hiring site like Upwork or opt for a specific Virtual Assistant hiring service or directory.
This freelance marketplace list is a great place to find freelancers for just about any task.
Here are 5 more websites you can use to hire Virtual Assistants:
“It’s important to create a detailed job description so expectations are met on both sides. I always ask people I know first for referrals. A Virtual Assistant should be able to provide references and samples of their work. Speaking with them by phone is very helpful to get to know them and their personality to see if it’s a good fit.”
Once you’ve received enough applications for your Virtual Assistant role, review the candidates and narrow down the list to the top 5-10 individuals. You can then schedule interviews with your shortlist.
A video interview is the next best thing to interviewing someone in person – with a video call, you can figure out pretty quickly if you can communicate well with the candidate and if they’re likely to be a good fit for your business. If someone isn’t willing to do a video interview, this is a red flag.
As well as going through candidates’ work experience and skills, it can also be helpful to ask about their goals, how they like to work and how they prefer to be managed during the interview. You could even ask your candidates to complete a personality test. This will help you to further understand their values, strengths, and how they work best.
“We ask a very specific set of character questions that test how someone would treat another human being. We have “automatic disqualifiers” that kick people out of our funnel immediately based on their answers. This prevents us from talking to someone who doesn’t share our value system, without us getting glossy-eyed about their resume. It’s saved us from so many bad hires and makes our screening process go much faster.”
Before you commit to hiring a specific candidate, give your top 3 candidates a task to complete as a trial test. Pick a task that would be part of their regular responsibilities if they were to get the job so you can see how well they perform with this task. Asking your candidates to complete a real task will help you determine who the top candidate really is – but you should also pay them for their work.
Depending on the results from the interview and trial task, you can choose the best candidate for the job! Once you’ve selected your top applicant, start them off on a trial period – for example for 30, 60 or 90 days. A trial period gives you the chance to see how your new hire gets on in the Virtual Assistant role, as well as giving the successful candidate a chance to see if your business is the right fit for them. This is an important settling in period where you can both adjust to working together.
Note: Make sure they sign a formal Service Agreement before starting any work – and if necessary, a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) too.
Hiring a Virtual Assistant is just the beginning. Once you’ve added someone to your team, part of your job as a business owner is to help maintain a productive, professional, and mutually beneficial relationship with your new employee.
Here are 4 tips to help you manage your Virtual Assistant after hiring.
Schedule regular check-ins
Use a communication tool like Google Workspace, Microsoft Teams, or Slack to conduct regular, quick check-ins with your Virtual Assistant. This could be daily at the beginning or end of their workday, every second day, or even weekly. Choose whatever works for both of you.
Use this time to make sure your Virtual Assistant knows what they need to be working on and to check that there isn’t anything or anyone – including you! – blocking them from completing their tasks for the day.
Ask for weekly reports
At the end of each week, ask your Virtual Assistant to send you a report of what they did that week. You can provide them with a template to use to write their reports.
Here are some questions you could include, along with any specific metrics or KPIs that they’re responsible for tracking:
- What tasks or projects did you complete this week?
- How much time did you spend on each task or project?
- What are you still working on?
- Did you run into any problems or challenges?
- Do you have any feedback, questions, or ideas?
- Do you need any additional training? If yes, in what areas?
This helps you keep track of what your Virtual Assistant is working on – and gives them a chance to flag any potential issues or areas where they need help.
Micromanaging is one of the most common pitfalls entrepreneurs risk after hiring someone new. While it can be hard to give up control when you’re running your own business, it’s important to remember why you hired a Virtual Assistant in the first place.
If you set clear expectations with your new Virtual Assistant and you evaluate them based on how well they meet those expectations, there shouldn’t be any need to micromanage. Yes, there are programs that allow you to “spy” on your Virtual Assistant and track the time they spend working – but these tools are unnecessary when you have trust and clear expectations.
If you wouldn’t like being managed the way that you’re managing, you know you’re doing something wrong. Let your Virtual Assistant do their job – and focus on doing yours!
Create a culture of feedback
To have a productive and positive relationship with your Virtual Assistant, it’s important to create a culture of open communication. Encourage them to share ideas, ask questions, and provide feedback on a regular basis. You can try doing quarterly review sessions that give you a chance to give and receive feedback, as well as setting new goals for the next quarter. Doing so will help you learn how to be a better manager and help your employees feel more fulfilled and valued at work, which is essential if you want to retain them long-term.
Take a look at Kim Scott’s book Radical Candor as a framework for giving and receiving feedback to help you get started.
While the concept of hiring someone you might never actually meet in person might seem strange, with the right tools you can build a productive and enjoyable relationship with your Virtual Assistant – and any future hires.
Here are some top tools you can use to make your life easier.
- Google Workspace – Includes a whole range of productivity and collaboration tools, including Gmail, Calendar, Meet, Chat, and more.
- Zoom – Ideal for video calls and weekly check-ins
- Slack – Ditch email and chat faster and easier with your virtual team
Project Management Tools:
- Trello – Manage and organize team tasks with virtual cards
- Asana – Keep projects on track and make sure you hit key deadlines
- Basecamp – Use to chat, collaborate and work together on documents
File Sharing & Security
- Google Drive – Create and share your work from anywhere
- Dropbox – Upload, save, and share files across your team
- LastPass – Secure, encrypted password manager
To find even more programs and tools to help you run your business, check out our list of the top 40+ online business tools used by entrepreneurs.
Unless you immediately hired a team as soon as you launched your business, you’re probably wearing many different hats right now and your time is spread across a lot of different tasks and responsibilities.
To become the CEO of your business and start spending time only on the activities that will help you grow your business, you need to delegate specific tasks and responsibilities to others.
To do that, it comes down to simple math.
If your goal is to generate over $100,000 in annual revenue, for example, you can’t expect to hit this goal by spending time on tasks worth $20 per hour. Unless you can work 5,000 hours in a 12-month period (pretty unlikely), the math just doesn’t add up.
To help you reach your income goals, you need to spend your time on activities that have a higher hourly rate.
One of the reasons many entrepreneurs resist hiring people to help them is because they see it as an expense and not as an investment. If you’ve ever felt this way about hiring, try this exercise:
Calculate your Target Hourly Rate
Your Target Hourly Rate is the rate that you, as the CEO of your business, need to earn in order for you to achieve your income goals.
To calculate your Target Hourly Rate, take your monthly (or annual) income goal and divide it by the number of hours you intend to work during that period of time.
For example: $250,000 (annual income goal) divided by 2,000 (# of work hours) equals $125 per hour
Here’s a calculator to do the math for you.
Every task in your business has an approximate dollar value
As an entrepreneur, it’s your job to identify activities that contribute the most value to your business and spend the majority of your time on those activities. Any tasks or activities that fall below your Target Hourly Rate should be delegated to someone else.
If you’re not achieving your income goals, it’s because you’re not spending enough time on high-value activities.
High and low-value tasks
Low-value tasks are tasks that are necessary for running your business but don’t directly contribute to increasing revenue. Some examples of low-value tasks include bookkeeping, customer support, graphic design, and video editing.
High-value tasks are tasks that directly contribute to increasing revenue. Some examples of high-value tasks would be marketing and lead generation, launching new products or services, and creating strategic partnerships and joint ventures.
The quickest way to increase your income as an entrepreneur is to delegate and outsource more low-value tasks and instead fill your calendar with as many high-value tasks as possible.
“Personally, I hired way before I thought I was ready for an assistant, and encourage others to do the same. Most people wait until they are at a specific revenue, or have been in business a set time period. There is no “magic” time that hiring support makes sense, other than: If it will allow you to focus on what you do best, you aren’t going into debt to do it, and the time you’ll save frees you up to focus on revenue-generating activities, then it’s time.”
If you’re feeling tired and overwhelmed from building your business, you’re not alone. Most entrepreneurs work long hours simply because they haven’t learned how to leverage their time and delegate effectively.
A lot of entrepreneurs think they can do everything themselves and that’s exactly what they end up doing. What they lack in efficiency they make up for in work ethic – often at the risk of burning out.
If this is you, it’s time to reframe the problem. Your job as an entrepreneur is not just to create a job for yourself – an entrepreneur is someone who builds systems and hires people to help run their business for them.
Hiring a Virtual Assistant helps free up more time for you to focus on activities that have a greater impact on your life and business. If you want to grow, you need to let go.
To start outsourcing for your business, download our Outsourcing Worksheet.
This was originally published in 2022, it has since been updated in June 2023.