You’ve reached a stage in your business where you can finally delegate all those tasks that eat up your precious time. But you can’t just hand over your list of duties to some inexperienced intern who’s going to waste time and create more work for you.
A virtual assistant needs to be an extension of you. This is someone who will whip up magic in the background, knock things off your daily task list, and leave you to attract new clients, dream up new ideas for your business or make preparations for new product launches.
Finding the ultimate virtual assistant can be a lengthy process if you don’t know what to look for and what questions to ask. It’s essential to provide every potential candidate with a clear, concise description of what the job entails, but it’s also important to have a solid set of questions ready to ask your VA before you hire them onto your project:
1. What Do You Believe Are Your Key Strengths and Core Skills?
Obviously, you’re looking for a particular set of skills to match up with what you need in your business, but there are skills above and beyond that you may not have thought of.
They may be an admin wizard, but they may also have social media marketing skills, be an exceptional writer, or maybe they’re financially savvy and have a history of helping small business owners manage their overhead.
2. Will You Be Doing the Work Yourself or Do You Use Subcontractors?
This question doesn’t get asked enough. Subcontracting out work is very common. Senior virtual assistants will interview for these jobs, then contract the work out to a less experienced VA, taking a percentage.
Subcontracted work can still be exceptional, but if you expect your VA to work with confidential information, you may not want to have anything subcontracted out.
3. Are You Willing to Sign a Non-Disclosure or Confidentiality Agreement?
No one wants to think about a possible breakdown in your professional relationship, but one of the first rules of business is “know how to protect yourself”. This gives you control and a sense of security with the comings and goings of your business.
4. What Backup and Security Systems Do You Have in Place to Protect Your Clients?
Whether your VA is working with sensitive information, or they’re dealing with irreplaceable files, a solid VA should have a series of systems and procedures that will protect your work from getting lost.
5. How Would You Break the Week Down When it Comes to My Project?
Understanding your VA’s processes, and how they approach a typical work week will give you some insight into how they manage timelines, how they prioritise tasks and what their workflow may look like.
6. Can You Provide Client Testimonials and References?
This is a fairly standard question for any type of job, in person or virtual. But working with someone virtually requires a degree of trust, and it’s important to know what their track record is with their previous clients.
Are they consistent with delivering projects in a timely manner? Are they easy to work with? Do they ask questions?
These are all things you will want to ask their previous employers.
7. How Computer Savvy Are You?
You would think that hiring a virtual assistant means your candidate will automatically have a healthy stable of technical abilities, but this is not always the case.
Ask them if they work with specific programmes. Do they have a solid grasp of the basics (Google Docs, WordPress, Adobe, Word, Excel)? What additional programmes are they comfortable with or competent in? Gain a full understanding of their computer literacy, and work it to your benefit.
8. Where Will You Be Conducting Your Work?
If your business handles highly sensitive materials, it’s incumbent upon you to know where your VA is working on your projects. How private is their work space? Do they share it with someone else? Do they have a system in place to make sure the work is protected and backed up?
9. How Many Hours Are You Able to Contribute to My Project?
Depending on their workloads, VAs will often juggle a few clients at a time.
It’s not appropriate to ask what else they’re working on, but you have a right as a client to know how much time your VA is able to dedicate to your project.
Set clear expectations on time, and if there are instances where your project may require more than the allotted time, agree on an increased rate in advance.
10. How Do You Prefer to Communicate?
The key to a seamless relationship between a client and virtual assistant is clear communication.
Find a system that works for both of you, but also one that doesn’t require too much time to teach. Whether it’s Asana, Google Docs, Trello, or a remote tracking software like Time Doctor, there are plenty of options out there to facilitate a successful working relationship.
11. How Do You Prefer to Charge For Your Time?
Some VAs charge hourly, some prefer a monthly salary, and some charge per project.
Are you requiring the services of a VA for a long period of time? Or are you needing them for a short period of time?
These are all factors to consider when you’re discussing compensation for your VA. As a secondary question, you’ll also want to know if your VA charges differently for any overtime work you may require.
12. What Time Zone Are You Located In?
It’s common to outsource your work to off-shore workers, and while there may be cost benefits, this could be inconvenient if you want to converse with your VA in real time.
If you’re located in the Pacific Standard Time Zone and your VA is located in the EST zone, that three-hour difference can be enough of an inconvenience to affect your business.
This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it is a great place to start. Don’t rush into hiring your first virtual assistant, and understand that it’s as important that you are a good fit for them as that they are for you.
About the Author: Kristie Santana is a certified life coach and founder of the National Coach Academy. Her most recent project is co-founding Life Coach Path, a New York based organization whose mission is to help students pursue their passion for coaching and find certification.