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Lead Your Team Managing

Considering a Virtual Assistant? 5 Tips to Make It Work

Considering a Virtual Assistant? 5 Tips to Make It Work
Lighten your workload and keep your life organized with a virtual assistant. / Credit: Virtual assistant image via Shutterstock

Are there so many tasks on your to-do list that you barely have time to focus on your business? If so, it might be time to think about hiring a virtual assistant.

Whether it's a single person dedicated to working with your business or a service that provides assistance on an as-needed basis, a virtual assistant (VA) can free you from administrative tasks and let you focus on what you do best. By hiring a remote worker, you can get the help you need without the expenses associated with a full-time, in-house employee.

If you're thinking about utilizing a VA for your business, here are a few tips for successfully finding and working with one. [10 Virtual Assistant Services for Your Business]

Business owners commonly hire VAs for tasks like public relations, social media and other customer-facing duties. If you're going to entrust someone with your brand, the first step is to make sure you trust that person.

"Personality is important," said Diana Ennen, founder of Virtual World Publishing. "You want a VA who you get along with and feel comfortable trusting with your business information. It's OK to get testimonials and check references."

If you're hiring an assistant through a staffing firm or service provider, be sure to read his or her reviews and get samples of past work when applicable.

Every VA has a different background and skill set, so you'll want to find one who is familiar with the type of work you do.

"You want to make sure that the VA understands your business and the way you work," said Jennette Pokorny, chief operating officer of human resources service provider EverNext HR. "Having to train a VA in your business should not be your focus. Interview the VA or company you are hiring as you would an in-house employee. Ask yourself: 'Do they fit my needs? Do they understand my industry? Do they have the experience in the areas I will use them in?'"

A VA service provider will often have a set price for hiring their assistants, but if you're working with a freelance VA, you'll have to work out a payment system. Hourly rates may seem like the easiest solution, but because VAs work remotely, tracking exactly what they're doing each hour can be difficult.

"Paying hourly is usually a downfall for everyone," said Lis Dingjan, founder of branding and Web development firm The Identity. "It doesn't encourage your VA to work efficiently, since some tasks only take a few minutes, and will create a frustrating work relationship. Package things up and [set a price] for batch tasks if possible."

Regardless of your pay structure, make sure you're getting the best service for the price. Ennen noted that cheaper isn't always better.

"The more skilled VAs can be more expensive, but they are worth it," she told Business News Daily. "Know what you can afford, and look for an assistant who meets your needs."

As with any remote employee, time-zone differences can impact the way you and your VA work together. Business coach Yoon Cannon noted that if an assistant lives in another time zone, you should verify that they're able to respond to you during your working hours.

Another factor to keep in mind is that you are likely not the only business with which an assistant is working. It's important to respect the fact that, like regular employees, your VA has other obligations outside of your tasks.

"Remember that VAs are not your employees," said Jackie Gernaey, CEO of the New York chapter of business coaching service provider The Alternative Board. "They may have competing schedules with other clients."

Communication is key to any successful business relationship, and this is especially true with VAs. Explaining yourself thoroughly via digital means of communication can sometimes be difficult, but it's necessary to ensure that your assistant is carrying out his or her tasks properly.

"If a VA doesn't complete your task successfully, it is often due to you not explaining the task clearly enough," said entrepreneur and business consultant Nate Ginsburg.

"Your own delegation and communication skills play an important role in creating a successful outcome with your VAs," Cannon added. "Take the few extra minutes to be super clear and specific in all your communications."

Originally published on Business News Daily.

Nicole Fallon
Nicole Fallon

Nicole Fallon received her Bachelor's degree in Media, Culture and Communication from New York University. She began freelancing for Business News Daily in 2010 and joined the team as a staff writer three years later. She currently serves as the assistant editor. Reach her by email, or follow her on Twitter.