“The strategies work but do you work?” – Russell Leeds Russell Leeds (@russellleeds) is an entrepreneur, trainer and property investor. He co-runs Leeds Group Holdings, and with a team of […]
This is something I get asked ALL the time.
For me, hiring a virtual assistant has been a game-changer.
Instead of having to toil at repetitive tasks, I now outsource them to my VA.
And it feels GREAT!
Because of the timezone difference, I wake up to a daily report every morning saying what work has been completed and the time it took, meaning I’m effectively working as I sleep!
In this post, I’ll be sharing the specifics of how to hire a virtual assistant, what systems you need in place and how to manage the working relationship.
Let’s jump in!
A virtual assistant is someone who completes online tasks for you or your business.
You don’t need to be in the same office and you don’t even need to be in the same country.
They can work from ‘virtually’ anywhere in the world!
The short answer is anything and everything!
My VA takes care of podcast editing, producing, scheduling, writing shownotes, creating social content, sending emails…
The list goes on!
I know some entrepreneurs who have multiple VAs working for them and one of the VAs will manage the workload of the others!
In other words, when asked what can a virtual assistant help you with, the question should actually be what can’t a virtual assistant do?
If you’re a business owner, your time is precious.
And you need to squeeze every last drop.
By outsourcing dull, repetitive tasks that don’t require your input, you’re able to spend more time on the things that do matter.
The things that will help drive your business forward.
You might be good at editing audio – heck, you might even enjoy it – but is it the greatest use of your time?
Chances are these non-creative, menial tasks aren’t moving the needle for you and your business.
When you hire a virtual assistant, it’s also a good way of dipping your toe into managing people.
From my experience and those of guests I’ve interviewed, most VAs are hardworking, reliable and loyal, providing you hire the right person.
(We’ll get to this soon!)
This is the number one question I get asked.
Annoyingly for you, the answer is it depends! 😆
What sort of tasks would you like a VA to do?
If you’re looking to hire a virtual assistant with very specific skills, such as web development or graphic design, you can probably expect to pay more than someone who has only very basis admin skills.
That’s not to say you can’t hire a virtual assistant who has advanced skills at a reasonable rate.
Nor does it mean those who don’t have more advanced skills aren’t worth hiring.
Far from it!
I hired my VA and we agreed on $3 USD an hour – a competitive wage for South-East Asia – and she has been excellent!
She only had basic editing skills at the time but she is a very willing learner.
Now, her specialist skills around podcasting are just as good as mine – if not better!
I would highly recommend it.
However, I’m going to guide you through the entire process of creating systems before you hire a virtual assistant so don’t worry!
(And if you have no idea what I mean by systems, that’s fine too!)
The only thing I will assume beforehand is you have tasks ready to outsource.
For example, if you create YouTube videos and you want to outsource video-editing tasks, I’m going to assume you have an active YouTube channel.
Same with podcasting.
Now you’re convinced hiring a virtual assistant is the best thing you can do for you and your business, how do you do it?
I’m going to break it down step by step.
I should add that I followed Travis Marziani’s “How I Hired a New Virtual Assistant” YouTube video which was EXTREMELY useful.
Definitely check it out!
Scott, I want to hire an assistant, not do all the work myself!
I hear you, I hear you, but before you consider jumping straight into the hiring game, I’d highly recommend spending some time going through all your tasks yourself.
This way, you can get a sense of how long each task should take, potential stumbling blocks, and you’ll be better placed to be able to help your VA.
Of course, there may be some tasks which you simply don’t have the skills for.
I, for one, can’t design for sh*t!
In this case, I’d recommend hiring a freelancer on a one-off basis, using a website like freelancer.com.
(You can always hire them on an ongoing basis after if they do a good job.)
Next, see if you’re able to turn something like a design into a template which can easily be used time and time again, such as for creating social media posts.
It’s exactly what I did for my social media templates.
A freelance designer created a few templates for me which my VA can easily amend without needing any specialist design skills herself.
A virtual assistant handbook brings together all your tasks into one document.
In order to produce Entrepreneurs Can Party, there are a BUNCH of tasks that go into making this happen.
I’m not just talking the tasks relating to the podcasts themselves. There’s promotion on social media, reaching out to potential guests, guesting on other podcasts…
So now I have one single Google doc that lists every single task that needs doing.
Just as importantly, each task is broken down into lots and lots of steps on how to complete tasks.
For example, my ‘producing a podcast’ task alone is broken down into over 30 individual steps!
And in case you’re wondering, YES, writing these steps out was the most tedious thing I’ve EVER had to do!
Two weeks in a coffee shop downing caffeine and listening to banging tunes got me through it!
But now it’s detailed in a document, I’ll never have to spend my time training VAs.
They’ll be able to go through this handbook and figure things out themselves.
As you’ll see from Travis’s virtual assistant handbook, something else worth adding to this document are times for weekly meetings you may have and any general daily tasks, such as checking emails or Slack communications.
This is one of those where I’m just going to refer you straight to Travis’s Rules Handbook.
You see, creating a Rules Handbook isn’t something I’d even considered until I saw Travis’s!
This will help set your expectations so that you and your VA are on the same page when you onboard them.
It also outlines a process of what will happen if they don’t meet your expectations.
It’s probably not something you’ll want to think about. However, should you decide to let go of your VA, it’s only fair that you do so in a way that’s agreed upon by both parties.
Again, I’ll link to Travis’s Day 1 VA Orientation Document so that you can see this in action.
This Orientation Document will give instructions to your VA on their first day of employment.
It will tell them what tools to download, what documents to read (link to Virtual Assistant Handbook and Virtual Assistant Rules Handbook) and an overview of your most important rules / policies.
It’s also helpful to think about how you’ll pay your VA at this stage.
How much are you willing and able to pay? Will it be on an hourly basis or monthly salary?
Now I know what you’re thinking. At this stage, hiring a VA still feels a LONG way off.
However, it’s important to consider these questions because it’ll help give you clarity on the systems, tools and processes you need to get in place.
And it’ll save you a LOT of time in the long-run.
Now this is something you can do at a later date, for sure.
For the purposes of this post, it seems to make sense to include it here.
This will include a link to the 1st Day Orientation Document, your expectations, how you’ll pay your VA for their setup time etc.
Feel free to copy my email below!
When it comes to managing both your work and the work of your VA, Asana is great.
Asana is a web and mobile app designed to help teams organise, track and manage their work.
Here are just a few of its great features:
I have no qualms with either. Asana just happened to be the one recommended in this excellent YouTube tutorial by Louise Henry.
You’ll be glad to hear that’s all of the pre-checks complete!
Before we jump into the hiring process, here’s a rundown of all the other tools me and my virtual use on a regular basis that haven’t been explained so far.
Note that whilst many are free, some do cost money.
When it comes to time reporting and calculating how much to pay your virtual assistant, Hubstaff is brilliant.
Here’s how it works:
You invite your virtual assistant to join and any time they complete work, ask them to press the record button on Hubstaff.
This measures how much time they spend doing work for you, which websites they visit and it even provides screenshots so you can see what they’re up to.
Personally, I’ve never felt the need to look at these screenshots but it can remind your VA not to do other people’s work in your time!
By adding in the hourly rate, you can also export time reports which calculate how much you owe your virtual assistant for their work.
(I ask my VA to export this time report at the end of each month and email it to me as a CSV file. This way, I can cross-reference the time report with the daily reports my VA sends me. I’ll come onto this later.)
At $14 a month on their basic package for 2 users, you may decide this is a luxury you don’t need.
Once a week, me and my VA have a 20 minute Zoom meeting to raise any issues or questions that might have popped up during the week.
Typically, these revolve around changing schedules, changing workload and any additional tasks I might be looking to set.
As much as anything, it’s just nice to have a catch up about how our week’s have been.
Never forget that assistants are people too!
Payments caused a few headaches to begin with.
That’s because my VA wasn’t able to easily access PayPal, and despite trying other service providers like Payoneer, I didn’t feel they were particularly friendly.
Thankfully, just a few months before, I had applied for a position at TransferWise (which I didn’t get).
Why’s this a good thing?
In preparation for the interview, I read up on the company.
Turns out they’re doing some really cool things!
A disruptive force. Smart people. A low-cost money exchanger.
And what’s more, there rejection letter was one of the nicest I’ve ever received!
So I signed up for an account, added my VA as a payee (which was SUPER easy) and transfered her the money I owed.
It arrived in her account a few hours later, all the way in Asia.
Highly recommend these guys.
If you’ve never heard of Slack, it’s basically WhatsApp on steroids.
Download it for free today and you’ll see what I mean!
Pretty essential this one.
I have an Office 365 email which I bought from GoDaddy.
Truth be told, a free gmail account will do.
Personally, I just prefer firstname.lastname@example.org because I think it looks more professional than, say, email@example.com.
You see, when I see businesses without one, it always makes me question where else they’ve been cutting corners.
Small details matter.
Ever wondered how you can hire a virtual assistant and them access all your online accounts without having to share login details?
I know I sure did!
That’s when Travis introduced me to the wonderful world of LastPass.
For less than £40 a year for up to 6 users, LastPass provides you with your own personal “vault” in which you can store your login details.
Moreover, you can let other users use these logins.
Here comes the clever bit.
Once you’ve got your vault set up, you can install the LastPass Chrome extension (or Windows App) which automatically populates login details for users who’ve been granted access to the login.
For example, say you want to let your VA access your emails so they can send them on your behalf but you don’t want them to be able to login to your online banking.
You grant your VA access to your email account and when they go onto the relevant login page on their device, the fields will automatically populate.
For the online banking page, they won’t.
In case this sounds at all complicated, LastPass provides instructions which walk you through the set up step by step.
I love, love, LOVE Google Drive!
When it comes to sharing word and excel documents online, I don’t there’s anything better.
And you get a LOAD of data space for free.
All of my VA system documents are stored on here, as are any additional tasks I set my VA.
If you’re looking to store large documents ‘in the cloud’, I’d highly recommend Dropbox.
For just £10 a month, you get a mammoth 2 TB of storage and it’s super easy to integrate Dropbox into your documents.
This means you don’t have to visit Dropbox every time you want to upload something.
You don’t even need to be connected to Wifi.
Drag something into your Dropbox documents and these files will be uploaded automatically the next time you’re hooked up to the internet.
This is where the fun begins!
Now you’ve got all your systems in place and you’ve installed all the tools you and your VA need, let’s hire a virtual assistant from the Philipinnes!
As I mentioned earlier in this post, I hired my virtual assistant from the Philippines for a number of reasons:
Once you’ve got all your systems set up, I’d highly recommend creating a sample project in a Google Doc BEFORE you post your job.
For the sample project, I asked each applicant who got through my initial filter to complete 4 mini projects 24 hours before our interview and send them over in one email.
The 4 mini projects were the following:
Once this is in place, it’s a good idea to write a pre-interview email.
This means that when you start to receive applications from potential suitors, you’ll be able to quickly ping them details of the sample project.
In this email, I provided a link to the sample project and asked them to select an interview slot from a Google Excel I also provide a link to.
Having an interview timetable is handy because it means you can (hopefully) batch all of your interviews in one day.
This is exactly what I did.
I interviewed 7 people back to back in one day, giving myself at least a 15 minute break between each so I could reflect on their answers.
Whilst we’re on the interview day, you’ll want to schedule this for at least a week after you post your job to give people enough time to submit their applications.
ANYHOW, I’m getting ahead of myself!
Once you’ve got your sample project lined up, visit onlinejobs.ph and create an account.
You can use a free account to post your job but you need a paid account to communicate with workers and actually hire them.
(Effectively, then, it’s a paid service!)
It’s definitely good value for money though at $69 a month for a pro account which you can cancel at any time.
Here’s a link to the job I posted all those months ago!
Again, I can’t take credit for this as I pretty much copied Travis Marziani’s example job description!
There are a few things I want to point out from it.
In the header at the top, it clearly specifies I’m looking for someone on a part-time basis and the salary is $200-$250 (a month).
The ID proof is 50. This is the default option and essentially means applicants have to meet certain criteria before they can apply, such as verifying their profile.
Moving into the job overview section, I make it clear what the job will entail and what the perks of working for me are.
Remember, hiring is a two-way process.
You’ll want to make your proposition as enticing as possible to find the best talent!
For me, I made it clear the VA could work whenever they wanted, whereever they wanted, could have as much holiday as they want and the opportunity to learn new skills.
Moving down, I give very detailed instructions of how applicants should apply for the job:
For example, in the email response to me, they have to change the subject line to ‘I Want To Work For You, Host of [insert the name of my podcast which can be found at scottstockdale.co.uk].
This is a very clever hack which separates those who tailor their applications from those bulk response to a bunch of applications and aren’t that serious.
(To give you an idea of how effective this one instruction alone is, I was able to immediately discount half of all applicants!)
Instruction 3 tests their ability to write in English and also to follow basic instructions.
And finally instruction 4 gives me a sense of whether they’ll be able to do the job.
Once the responses start trickling in, you can email applicants with your pre-hiring email.
If you’ve followed all the steps above, this can be an enjoyable week of enjoying the sample projects and looking at the profiles of potential applicants before the interviews.
The schedules full. You’ve got interviews lined up. You’re excited (hopefully!)
It’s time to prepare!
To conduct the interviews, there are plenty of tools you can use.
My personal favourite is Zoom. It’s free, easy to use and lets you record videos, meaning you can play them back if you’re unsure about which assistant to hire.
Next, it’s time to think about what interview questions to ask.
Again, I’m drawing on help from Travis with this one.
Here are the questions I used.
And that’s pretty much it!
Give yourself time between interviews to reflect, take breaks and drink plenty of a water.
You’ll be doing a fair bit of talking!
And in case you’re nervous about being the interviewer, that’s completely understandable!
I know I was!
And even with all the prep I did, I still felt like I was completing winging it! 😂
Here’s how an interview to hire a virtual assistant might look:
The dust has settled. The interviews have finished. You think you know who you’d like to hire.
Hire them, goddamitt! 😆
In all seriouness, it’s easy to overthink this.
Here’s what I did.
1. Messaged back the applicants I knew for sure I wouldn’t be hiring on onlinejobs.ph.
I thanked them for their time, gave a couple of lines of feedback about how they did (what went well, how they could improve) and wished them luck in their search.
2. Emailed on the same day the virtual assistant I wanted to hire with the following:
Thankfully, my virtual assistant was delighted to accept (and I, in turn, was also delighted!)
3. Messaged back the applicants I had on my reserve list to to tell them the bad news and give them feedback
4. Emailed back my new virtual assistant with the following:
As you can see, I made it clear my assistant didn’t have to complete anything before our first Monday meeting.
However, my assistant’s the best!
She agreed to check through the VA documents before Monday and came back on Sunday morning with the following:
Like I mentioned earlier, providing you get all the dominoes in place before you hire, this onboarding process can be seemless.
Indeed that’s how it was for me.
We had our first meeting on the Monday, made sure she had all the tools and systems that were needed to start working, and let her crack on.
That’s not to say I haven’t made mistakes though.
I’ll come to those shortly!
One thing I always say to people when conversation turns to how to hire a virtual assistant is keep your schedule clear for the first week.
The reason is it’s a good idea to provide your assistant with as much feedback as possible.
And it may take time to respond to their questions, give them constructive critique etc.
By providing constructive feedback from the onset, this has a few advantages.
Number one: It’s less likely your VA will make the same mistakes again which will save you both time in the long-run.
Two: Providing detailed feedback signals to your VA that you’re serious about the relationship.
And three: You’re implicitly teaching them and developing their skills which most VAs will appreciate.
As well as providing as much feedback as possible about the work your virtual assistant does for you, the first week is also a good time to iron out creases in your systems.
For example, it took us A LONG TIME to find the right payment system for me to send money to Vietnam where my VA is based.
(As mentioned previously, we ended up using TransferWise and they’ve been fantastic!)
We also had to tweak the amount of work I gave my VA to do each day.
Initially, I spread it over the week. Now, it works better for us to front-load and have the weekends off.
You probably won’t get it right straight away. You’ll make some mistakes.
And that’s absolutely fine!
What are these illusive ‘systems’ I keep referring to?
Systems are streamlined processes and ways of doing things which are designed to save both you and your virtual assistant time.
Here’s a brief rundown of the systems I have in place to help manage the ongoing working relationship me and my virtual assistant have.
As mentioned earlier, we have a Zoom meeting once a week on Monday mornings.
This gives us both an opportunity to feedback on how the week has gone and any questions we might have.
It usually lasts about 15 minutes and there’s no formal structure.
We usually chat about non-work things for a few minutes (usually my VA’s beautiful cat will pop up at this point!) before I ask how their week has been.
As this point, my VA feeds back her tasks and any problems she might have encountered. There usually aren’t too many (if any) because I encourage her to message me on Slack as they arise.
Once she’s happy, I’ll sometimes provide extra feedback on work or slight changes I’d like her to make.
For example, it might be to change the formatting of episode shownotes or social media content.
(It’s often really small things like this which are just my personal preference.)
And to wrap up, I might introduce some new tasks for her to be doing if she a) wants to, and b) has time in her schedule.
Short and sweet.
I described Slack earlier as WhatsApp on steroids.
Pretty apt I say!
It’s a messaging app which me and my VA use to communicate on if there are any pressing tasks or changes I’d like her to make, or if there are any pressing questions she has for me.
It’s basically a direct line if something is time-sensitive.
For example, I place Amazon affiliate links into shownotes for books and sometimes I have to authorise her to login.
In this case, I’d get a message on Slack with my VA asking for the one-off sign in code.
With this, I’d open my emails and ping it to her.
As well as being free and separate from other messaging apps I use with friends, Slack lets you organise chats by channels and you can easily share and sort files.
All in all, it’s fantastic!
This was a very late addition to our systems but it’s actually been one of the most useful.
In a Google Excel doc, I detail all of the tasks I’d like my VA to do on any given day during the week.
It’s a rough framework which I encourage her to change and fit to her own schedule as she pleases.
It also contains links to other documents, such as when I have ad-hoc tasks that need completing.
In other words, it’s a live document that’s constantly changing.
As I described earlier in this post, Asana allows me and my VA to see what work needs completing on any given day.
Based on the weekly tasks document described above, I update our Asana workflow every Sunday morning.
The reason for this is when a task is marked as complete on Asana and it’s set to repeat, say every 7 days, the task repeats on the day it’s marked as complete – not the original day.
In other words, if I complete a task a few days early and mark it as complete, Asana will tell me to complete the task a few days ahead again.
Hence the need to reset the tasks on Sundays.
As I described earlier, Hubstaff lets you track your VA’s time and automatically calculates how much to pay based on the work they’ve done.
My VA opens Hubstaff everytime she does work and presses ‘record’. This then tracks her time in the background as she works.
At the end of every working day, my VA send me a daily report by email.
This details the work she’s done, how long it took her in total and any challenges that arose.
For example, the power in her country went out.
This meant that on this day, she had to relocate to an internet cafe and use the power there which added time.
My VA use to detail the time it took her to do each task.
However, after a discrepancy between the total amount of hours detailed in her daily reports and the time Hubstaff calculated, she suggested writing down the total daily time instead as she tends to multitask effectively.
So this is how we do it now.
Her suggestions on how to improve our systems are always welcome in my eyes.
As described earlier, I use TransferWise to pay my VA.
It’s dead simple to create an account and get set up so I won’t describe it here.
How do I calculate how much to pay my VA at the end of each month?
Amount of hours x hourly pay
How do you calculate the amount of hours?
On the last day of each month, my VA will export the monthly time report that Hubstaff generates for her (which includes pay in USD).
She sends this to me and I compare this to the hours detailed in the daily reports to check for any discrepancies.
Once we’re both happy, I convert the USD amount to GBP on Google and transfer this amount on TransferWise.
TransferWise takes a small fee so I make sure to soak this up my end so that my VA is getting paid fairly.
It really is as simple as that.
As I described earlier, I created a virtual assistant handbook.
This gives a detailed breakdown of all my tasks and how to complete them.
This means that should I decide to hire another VA, I won’t need to spend my time training them.
They’ll be able to go through the handbook in their own time and figure things out.
Having said this, if they do have any questions or something isn’t clear, I encourage them to ask me.
This way, we can amend any unclear instructions and save us both time by getting things right first time around.
Do I provide any additional training?
It’s something I’m thinking about.
Having worked in businesses where things can get boring and you’re not learning, I know how important it is to feel challenged in work.
This is why I like to give my VA new tasks every so often. It challenges her and keeps her engaged.
(Not that she needs much encouragement as she’s fantastic at what she does!)
In my current 9-5, my employer provides access to LinkedIn Courses which we’re free to explore whenever we have a spare moment.
Ongoing training like this is something I’m seriously considering.
As I mentioned write at the beginning of this post, hiring a virtual assistant has been a game-changer.
She’s saved me SO much time and I can’t stress how lovely it is waking up to a daily report full of completed tasks!
Is there ever a bad time to hire a virtual assistant?
I’m not sure there is.
As long as your expectations are clear about how much work you’re able to provide and you stick to any promises you make, you could start by hiring someone on a part-time basis, as I do.
If you’re then able to make that transition of hiring someone full-time or even multiple VAs at once, go for it!
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“The strategies work but do you work?” – Russell Leeds Russell Leeds (@russellleeds) is an entrepreneur, trainer and property investor. He co-runs Leeds Group Holdings, and with a team of […]