Your 10-Step Guide to Finding the Perfect Fit
As a savvy business owner, you know you can’t do everything yourself. Whether you’re capable or not, you understand that your time is most intelligently spent on activities that grow your business and generate revenue. By taking certain administrative tasks and functions off your plate each month and allowing a Virtual Assistant to handle them instead, you free yourself to focus on just those roles that are the best use of your time and energy as the owner and chief vision officer in your business.
Virtual Assistants are administrative experts.They specialize in providing clients with ongoing administrative support in one-on-one, collaborative relationships. But how do you find a highly skilled, truly qualified Virtual Assistant? Below are some practical points to consider and questions to ask as you go about the selection process.
Since you will be working together virtually and may never meet in person, it’s important for Virtual Assistants to have an online “office” you can visit to get a sense about them and their business. A website can yield critical clues as to the Virtual Assistant’s competence, professionalism, and commitment. If the site is littered with typos, misspelling, sloppy writing and improper grammar, punctuation, and formatting, don’t expect that she (most Virtual Assistants are women, although many men are also now joining the field) is going to provide you with any greater skill or attention to detail should you decide to work together. If she didn’t care enough to present a professional image, chances are she isn’t serious about her business and may be equally uncommitted to the work she does for you. As you look through the site, ask yourself:
- Does it present a polished, credible business image that shows this is a professional you’d be working with?
- Does it demonstrate that this is someone who is highly skilled and competent?
- Is it well-written and coherent?
- Is there an abundance of informative content?
- Is the concept clearly explained?
- Is it organized well and easy to navigate?
You naturally want to find a Virtual Assistant you can work with well, and whose personality and style is compatible with yours. You also want to gain some insight into whether this is a person offering a professional level of skill and service. Once you find a site that instills confidence, have a conversation with that Virtual Assistant. Many Virtual Assistants offer a complimentary consultation, and all it takes is a simple email or phone call to schedule one. You want to choose a Virtual Assistant who gives some indication that she will be professional, responsive and easy to work with. In making contact, take note of these clues:
- Does she respond to your inquiries in a timely manner?
- Does she answer the phone professionally?
- Is there a professional Voicemail system in place? Are messages handled professionally?
- Is she on time and prepared when you meet for the consultation?
- Does she follow-through exactly as promised?
How well the Virtual Assistant guides you through her consultation process can tell you a lot about what it will be like to work with her. Not only do you want a Virtual Assistant who is masterfully skilled and can provide superior service, but you also want someone who demonstrates excellent business sense, especially since she will be instrumental in helping you in your business. During the consultation, the information you should expect the Virtual Assistant to cover with you should include:
- Significant time going over your needs, goals, and challenges;
- A clear overview of how she works with clients;
- What support she provides (as well as what she doesn’t);
- What both of your values and expectations are for working together;
- Discussion about fees.
- Personal and Professional Traits
Listen for cues that tell you this is someone on whom you can depend. How professionally the Virtual Assistant handles her business correlates directly with how well she will handle your work and business relationship. Some things you should pay attention to include:
- Does she appropriately take the lead in guiding you through her consultation? If not, that can mean lots of hand-holding and a lack of initiative in the future.
- Does she ask lots of questions about you and your business? Are those questions smart and purposeful? This demonstrates an expert’s understanding that this information must be obtained before she can determine how she can help.
- Is she confident and articulate? This tends to indicate someone who is competent, knowledgeable and will be proactive in supporting you.
- Does she inspire feelings of comfort and trust? Listen to your gut.
- Do you feel good connection and chemistry? You have to fit together well on a personal level before anything will work at the business level.
- Is she an engaged and active listener? If not, ask yourself if someone who interrupts often and doesn’t listen well is someone you would enjoy working with.
- Skills and Experience
The Virtual Assistant profession expects those who enter its ranks have at least five years upper-level administrative experience earned in the real world. That said, it is an unregulated industry and although industry leaders work tirelessly to promote high standards, anyone can slap up a website and call themselves a Virtual Assistant—including those with little or no qualifications, or only entry-level skills that do not equip them to meet the demands of your very real and important business needs. Asking some of the questions below will help you discern the difference:
- What was your professional background prior to opening your Virtual Assistant practice?
- How many years of administrative expertise do you have?
- How would you rate your skill level with _____? You might ask this in reference to certain skills or software competencies relative to the specific support you need. For example, a client who needs ezine support will need a Virtual Assistant versed in autoresponders and perhaps HTML.
- What kind of work and skills do you currently utilize with clients?
- What are your particular strengths?
- How would you characterize your level of understanding with regard to business principles and operations?
Keep in mind that Virtual Assistants are independent professionals—not employees. Just as you would not ask an accountant, attorney or any other service professional for their resume as if they were applying for a job, it is inappropriate to ask a Virtual Assistant for hers, and the request would be considered ill-mannered. Her website and marketing collateral is her resume and testimonials from current or former clients her references. However, she should be prepared to discuss her skill levels, qualifications and areas of expertise with you in the consultation.
- Training & Certification
Administrative expertise is only earned through actual, real-world experience and ongoing work with clients. The very best Virtual Assistants are lifelong learners and always take time to engage in continuing education and skills training. Don’t put too much stock in certification. The industry does have a few legitimate professional associations and business training programs; however, there has been a proliferation in recent years of disreputable and unqualified opportunists who will “certify” anyone willing to pay. A certificate or letters behind a Virtual Assistant’s name means very little, and neither guarantees competence or great service. Instead, pay attention to the clues listed in this article—truly qualified, reputable Virtual Assistants are going to demonstrate their qualifications, competence, and professionalism in everything they do.
- Business Commitment
Look for a Virtual Assistant who is actually IN business to best serve your needs and expectations. If a Virtual Assistant only freelances or dabbles in this work on the side, that lack of business commitment can definitely cause you many headaches, wasted time and an all-around unsatisfactory experience. This is often manifested as longer turn-around times, lack of continuity, poor communication, conflicting priorities, interrupted progress, and long or inconvenient periods of unavailability. Some important facts to take note of include:
- How long has she been in business?
- Is she in full-time or part-time practice?
- Does she view her business as a chosen profession she is committed to for the long-term (or is it something she is only doing on the side to earn a little extra money)?
- Does she have well-thought-out policies and business standards that will support you in working and communicating together effectively?
A successful, experienced Virtual Assistant will have client testimonials on her website. She may also be willing to provide prospective clients who are in active consultation with her a list of additional testimonials and contact information of satisfied clients who are willing to speak with you about their perceptions and experiences working with her. Of course, there are lots of accomplished administrative professionals who might be new in business, but not new in their expertise. Keep an open mind toward the Virtual Assistant who is still in the stage of obtaining clients and testimonials if all other indications point to her being well-qualified and great to work with.
- About the Virtual Assistant
Virtual Assistance is a collaboration, a “partnership” so to speak. That means it’s a two-way relationship. Many Virtual Assistants provide an “About the Owner” page on their website as a way to share important aspects of themselves with prospective clients. It’s intended to provide you with a view into their personal ethics, belief systems, personality, and goals. This information can be helpful in determining whether you share similar values and sensibilities and want to talk with the Virtual Assistant further. Since you will be choosing each other, make an equal effort to get to know the Virtual Assistant by reading that page.
Virtual Assistant average market rates range between $35 – $70 per hour.
Virtual Assistance is not the type of service you want to price shop. Certainly, we all are interested in getting the best value we can. But we’ve all heard the saying “you get what you pay for,” and this is very true in the Virtual Assistant profession as well.
Take yourself for example. You know you aren’t the cheapest, and you wouldn’t want to be. You know that delivering expertise and quality comes at a price, but the value of that caliber of service extends far beyond mere dollars, and, in turn, saves your clients money.
You know this. And the same is true with Virtual Assistants.
You will find Virtual Assistants who charge very little—so little, in fact, that they can’t possibly be running a profitable, sustainable practice, one that’s going to be around long enough for you to depend on. Inappropriately low rates also signal a lack of business sense, which most often translates to poor quality, and lack of skill and experience. The consequence of hiring a Virtual Assistant who falls in this category is that your investment in her is unstable and ever at risk.
Virtual Assistants who don’t price their services profitably quickly begin to fail their clients. In their last gasps, they may end up taking on a day-job or more clients than they can handle just to break even, becoming overwhelmed in the process. To cope, they might turn to subcontracting much of your work out to others which typically results in longer turn-around times, less availability, and inconsistent service, delivery, and quality of work.
You want ability. You want someone you can work with well. You want great customer service. You want your work cared for by the person you intentionally chose to handle it. And you want someone who’s going to stick around.
So look for quality and value—it’s an investment that will literally put money back in your pocket.
“How to Hire a Virtual Assistant.”[Blog post].Retrieved from www.virtualassistantnetworking.com.