Virtual assistants are independent contractors. Period. They are not employees, they are not “hires.” Got it? OK.. let’s move forward.
Choosing to contract with an independent contractor in the form of a virtual assistant, administrative consultant, online business manager, or any of the myriad of similarly titled professionals, can make a big difference in your business. Having someone who is qualified with an outside point of view can give insight and expertise that can get a new company back on the right track to being successful, while maintaining workflow throughout any transition. If that is a path you are planning on heading down, you need to make sure you contract the right person.
When contracting a virtual assistant, you should go through the same process and have mostly the same criteria as when you are hiring a full time (or part time) traditional employee. If the person you’re going to potentially contract with doesn’t have a proven track record and the required experience, they will be a drain on your resources – both financially and mentally.
Finding the right virtual assistant begins in matchmaking love fest between your needs and their experience level. You both need to be on the same page with what the project (or long term ongoing tasks) require and the skills needed to work towards the goal you both share.
The virtual assistant that you contract with needs to have sufficient experience. Try to avoid those who are overqualified and always avoid who aren’t aligned with what your and your company needs. Before you even start making interviews, write out what the tasks are specifically, so that everyone is on the same page and to ensure that there will be a good fit for the project or task at hand.
When you’re ready to begin interviewing, use these six areas as a criteria to make sure you’re bringing in the right kind of person to your team:
1. Level Of Experience
If the person you would potentially contract with has not worked on projects that are similar to yours in the past, this should be a deal breaker and you should not even consider contracting with them. If you do have a good resonance with each other, great. Down the road there may be an opportunity where both are a match, so stay in touch.
Look at their credentials (always make LinkedIn part of your due diligence process) and how long they’ve been in the field and developing their skill set, if they don’t have adequate experience, you’re taking a risk with your company’s future.
2. Samples of Work
While they might have previous experience, you need proof. Ask for samples of previous work or ask that they do a small sample to prove that they know what they’re doing. Having solid evidence is the best way to be sure that you’re hiring someone who knows what they’re doing.
Keep in mind, that this may not always be possible. If you are contracting a content writer, then it’s easy – they can provide links to articles they’ve written (always double check their content against Copyscape). If you are contracting for bookkeeping, then it’s not so easy. Use hypothetical scenarios to solicit a response or use the following tip.
An independent contractor’s reputation says a lot about their abilities and professionalism. Ask for references or testimonials and contact them, find out about their previous clients experiences. A solid, experienced virtual assistant will have this information as a page on their website. Don’t forget to look for that info on their LinkedIn profile, as well.
The feedback you get from those past & present clients, good or bad will help answer some of the questions you have and can be a big factor in your decision whether or not to contract with that particular virtual assistant.
You should never ask for a resume? Why? By asking for a resume, you are conveying the message that you are looking to hire and employee. You aren’t. You are contracting a virtual assistant, who runs their own business. While it may seem like semantics, the IRS will expressly advise you differently. You can find how the IRS defines an independent contractor on their website.
4. Work Tendencies
The whole thing about being a virtual assistant is.. being virtual. Your independent contractor will work from a remote location, usually from their well equipped home office, and you need to understand their work habits and make your expectations clear for this working relationship to be successful. Likewise, be aware that you are not their only client and they also run their own business.
Make sure you are aware of how much management they need and be prepared to adjust the amount to be more or less as needed. Starting out is hard for both parties, so plan on investing time to onboard correctly. Use YouTube videos for training, video chat (Google+ Hangouts, Skype, etc.) and other communication for feedback.
Don’t delegate dump. This is when a client dumps tons of various, unrelated tasks to their new partner in business. Build task upon task with your virtual assistant. When you do this, both you and your VA build trust, understand your respective businesses, and the sanity will slowly sink into both of your work days.
5. Contractor Flexibility
Things change through the course of a project, it’s almost inevitable. While it is your responsibility to keep scope creep low, sometimes things happen. You need to make sure you hire someone who can adapt to the changes required.
Sure, you can’t always know how they will react to change, but try to gain an understanding of their personality and how willing they are to change plans, but if you’re asking them to be flexible, you need to be as well.
Finding the cheapest hire is tempting, but resist the temptation. This is especially important for new and upcoming businesses. While funds might be on the low side, you need someone who can do your project correctly. If you’re worrying about price right now, then you probably can’t afford to hire another contractor to clean up the mess the first one made. Paying a little extra for a quality and experienced contractor is worth it in the long run to help your business get off on the right foot.
Let me put it this way: You won’t be passing the “is awesome to work with” test, if all you care about is price. You need to value the experience, organization and commitment brought to the table. That comes with a price tag.
The team you have working for your business will make a big difference in the success of your company. Virtual assistants are a part of that team, whether for a solo project or for ongoing support. Make certain you hire the best talent that suits the need for you and your business.