She called in sick her first day, was late on her second, and by the third she had to be fired. Not exactly what I expected after hearing all the wonderful things about working with virtual assistants (VAs).
Authors such as Tim Ferriss ( The 4-Hour Workweek) and Chris Ducker ( Virtual Freedom) proclaim great things about working with overseas virtual assistants, and they are not wrong. Virtual assistants can help you get more done because they work on the administrative tasks on your to-do list while you work on the high-value tasks that only you can do. (See my previous article, " Want to Make $1,000 or More Per Hour?")
But success with a virtual assistant doesn’t come naturally. Like any skill, it must be learned, developed and mastered. Over the past two years, I’ve hired several virtual assistants and had both good and bad experiences, including finding Dave, my rockstar VA who has become one of the most valuable team members at BiggerPockets.
Finding rockstar VAs to help you get more done is not rocket science. Hopefully, these three tips will help you find the perfect assistant for your team.
1. Don’t hire a VA until you are ready.
One of the first things I realized when I hired that first "disaster VA" was that I wasn’t ready for an assistant. I didn’t know exactly what that assistant would do, I just assumed they would jump in and start helping. I also had very little time to train that assistant, so in the end, there was nothing for them to do.
Before hiring your first assistant, be sure to have a clear idea of what tasks they might be able to take over from you. I now use Evernote to keep track of every repetitious task I do each day, week or month so I can decide later what can be outsourced. When I get enough stuff on that list, I’ll hire an assistant to help manage those tasks.
2. Create solid systems first.
I’ve found the greatest success when I’ve created a system, mastered that system myself, created a training program for that system and then handed it off. If you’ve read The E Myth by Michael Gerber, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.
For example, each week I record an episode of The BiggerPockets Podcast and need to have it edited. At first, I did all my editing myself, but once I mastered that entire process, I made a training video showing exactly how I edit the podcast. I then turned that video into a written training manual.
I handed the system off to my assistant Dave and trained him on exactly how to do it. Dave now edits every podcast, and I don't even need to review them to ensure they are right. They always are.
If Dave decided to leave at some point (don’t do it, Dave!), I could easily hire another assistant for that same role and use the existing training material, resulting in a much less stressful turnover.
3. Hire like your company depends on it.
Most virtual assistants are going to be terrible. It’s not because they are virtual assistants, though. It’s because they are human.
If you’ve ever had to hire employees before, you’ve probably discovered that less than 10 percent of applicants are worth hiring. Most are simply not going to cut it. So why do we expect virtual assistants to be any better?
You wouldn’t hire a lead developer for your company after a five-minute Skype interview, so why would you hire a VA with that process? Sure, the developer might cost significantly more, but in reality, the assistant is more important to the future of your company. No, you didn’t read that wrong. An assistant should be your number-one most important hire because they are freeing up your time, which is worth far more than the developer or whoever else you might be hiring.
So treat your virtual assistant role like it’s the most important role in your company -- because it just might be.
A virtual assistant can change your life, giving you back your day so you can work on the tasks that will take your business to incredible new places. However, if you think you can simply hire any ol' virtual assistant and improve your business, you are naive. Instead, get prepared, take the role seriously, build solid systems, create in-depth training and hire only the best.
Do you have any other tips for hiring a virtual assistant? Leave them in the comments section below.