There are a lot of virtual workers out there from many different countries. If you’re a US business, you’ll find that your in-country VAs can charge anywhere from minimum wage up to $25 per hour or more. The “offshore” worker will charge you $1-$3 per hour. If it was all a numbers game, you know who you’d choose. But I’m here to tell you there’s a lot more than numbers at stake.
I bought a roll of plastic wrap while out grocery shopping. I had a million different choices in wrap, but I decided to buy the cheap one that happened to also be on sale. As soon as that roll made it to my kitchen, I knew I had made the wrong choice.
My husband opened the box…which didn’t really open. It bent. It tore. And then he struggled getting the plastic out to pull. And it never really pulled. It stuck together. And when you finally got a decent length to cover up some leftover food, it would become bound and mangled on the cheap metal teeth (that were bent along with the box). So you had a stretched out wad of plastic instead of a nice sheet. The worst part was that you had to tear the plastic up toward you, instead of down, like I was always used to.
Day after day, we’d grumble each time we’d have to wrap something up. I got the idea to take the plastic roll out and put it in another box (my wax paper no longer has a home). That sort of worked, but it never really fit well into the box, and it doesn’t pull out the way it should.
So the last time I was in the kitchen fighting with this plastic wrap, it occurred to me that plastic wrap and virtual workers are a lot alike. (I make some of the weirdest connections of things!) There are a lot of choices out there when you’re shopping around. And it’s easy to go with the cheapest offer, because who doesn’t want to save money? But what happens when you do? You get stuck with something that’s not quite up to par. It’s not what you wanted. It’s not what you expected. But you’ve already bought it, so you’ll struggle through to try and make it work.
And then eventually, you’ll just go out and buy the expensive plastic wrap that does exactly what you need it to do. Which means you’ve paid twice for something you just needed once.
You need someone that will understand your language, your business nuances (business functions differently in different parts of the world) and will “get” all the little idiosyncrasies that make up you and your business.
It doesn’t necessarily pay to be cheap. I’m not talking about a couple of leftover chicken legs. I’m talking about your business.
Recently, and quite unfortunately, we discovered a mouse problem in our house. You know – you see the “signs” of a mouse. So, we set out a trap, and the next day, Mr. Mouse was on his way to mouse heaven.
Then we saw more signs, and set out more traps. One morning I walked into the kitchen to see a little brown fluff peering out from beneath my stove. At this point I started to get angry. Not only because I had a nasty rodent in my house, but because, no more than 15 feet away, my two cats were sitting. Hello, cats? Isn’t this your job? Of course it was, but they didn’t know because they really hadn’t been introduced to Mouse #2 yet.
I picked up Othello (who is our best hope for mousing issues because he loves to catch and eat bugs!) and pointed him in the proper direction. As soon as he caught one glimpse of the mouse, he ran, pounced, and had a plump little mouse in his mouth. Hooray!
Since finding that mouse, Othello has changed. He patrols the kitchen like clockwork, scanning the floor, smelling all the corners – he’s looking for signs of a problem. In the meantime, I work on the bigger picture – looking for holes, scanning the basement and foaming/caulking as necessary, cleaning and organizing.
A tiny mouse showed up by the fireplace. Othello was on it. And now he patrols the fireplace and living room with as much vigor as the kitchen.
So, why am I telling you the sordid details of mousing in my household? Because this mouse problem isn’t any different from any other problem that comes up in your life. And when it comes up, you have to know how to handle it. And when you have a series of problems, sometimes you just can’t handle all of it at the same time. That’s when you need help. And that’s what having a virtual assistant is all about.
Little problems pop up, little inconveniences that you need to take care of but can’t get to, because you’re working on the big picture. Hiring a virtual assistant for the small tasks is a great way to keep you forward-focused because you don’t have to worry about missing an issue that pops up. Your VA is there to back you up and take care of things.
Everyone needs a virtual assistant. Even me. And here he is.
Some employers can work with a VA, and some need traditional help. Which is best for you?
This may seem to be a foolish blog to write. After all, I want your business. But honestly, I only want your business if you need me. I can help you if you need me. I can’t help you if you only think you need me.
Working with a virtual assistant is very different from working with someone in the office. In the office you can walk up to the person and chat. You can look over her should onto her screen and discuss things. You can leave her sticky notes with information all over her desk. You can see her functioning, so you believe that things are working. And when you see she’s winding down, you give her more work.
With a virtual assistant, you give your list of tasks to a computer screen via email or chat. And then a few hours or a few days later all of the work is done and you have your deliverables uploaded or in your email. You don’t know how it got done or where, but it’s done and you can move forward with what you need to do.
You, the employee, need to determine what kind of person you are. Do you need to have visual confirmation of an
assistant? Does it make you feel better to be able to see someone at a computer, at a desk, on a phone? Do you need to micromanage?
If any of these apply to you, you should probably work with a traditional assistant. When you hire a VA, you send
her work and put it out of your mind until the deadline appears. Of course you can check in and see how things are going, but for the most part, you know she’s independently working and you can work on your own tasks. When she’s done, she will wait for you to give her more work.
Virtual Assistants are task driven. Once the task is done, we cannot busy ourselves filling the copier with paper and cleaning up the break room to pass the time until the next round of work happens. We have to wait until you supply us with another task.
We would love to be able to help your business, but make sure choosing us is the best thing for you, because in the long run, it will benefit us both.
Even before you hire your freelancer, you should have asked him what his bandwidth is for being able to help you. How many hours each week can he devote to your business? Of course, there are many freelancers out there that will commit and tell you exactly what you want to hear because they want your business.
Unfortunately, not all of them can deliver on their promises. But, you don’t have to go too far into the work relationship before you discover if your freelancer was honest or not. Make the first project something simple, but with a definite turnaround time. Did they commit to that time and follow through? Was it an hour late? Several hours late? A day late?
Also, connect with them via phone or chat or email. How quickly do you get a response back? Now, I understand that if you’re in California and it’s 10pm and you’re sending an email, your New York freelancer is fast asleep. But during the normal business hours, you should be able to get in contact with your help.
You should be first in your freelancer’s life, even if he has twenty other clients he’s working with. For me, that is an important aspect of this business. If I was physically working at your office, you could walk right up to my desk and talk with me. You should still be able to do it virtually.
If you’re not getting quick responses and agreed-upon turnaround for your projects, your freelancer has taken on too much responsibility and it’s probably time to start looking for someone new.
Let’s get to it. The last step in selecting a freelancer. Your job is posted and you’re getting applicants. What should you do? Take your time and do your research!
You are going to get a lot of applicants. And most all of them are going to sound fantastic – because everyone looks good on paper. But you can’t just judge by the resume and cover letter that’s handed over. These two bits of information are void of any humanity. They have been padded, buffed, polished, scrubbed, written, re-written, edited and spell-checked dozens of times. (They should be!) These documents have become so sterilized, using all the right keywords and lingo to get noticed on a search engine, that it’s virtually impossible to tell anything about the quality of the person.
Apart from the shiny, cookie-cutter resumes, there’s a bit of a darker side – the outright fabrication of backgrounds. I am always surprised at how many people lie on their resumes. I know people pad – and that is easily detected – but to completely lie about your education or experiences – it doesn’t make sense to me. Unfortunately, you’re going to receive applicants that are completely BSing you. How do you know? You aren’t going to know immediately, but there are some preventative measures you can take in order to protect yourself.
1. If an applicant catches your eye, reply back with some specific questions about experiences he has listed. If you need someone for a specific software program, ask detailed questions about that program. Someone who has actually done the work is going to give you a solid response. Someone who is just hoping to squeak by is going to sound very generic.
2. If you’re not sure about a response – if it sounds a bit to “professional,” – Google it. You might find an applicant has just copied and pasted information from another website in response to you.
3. Do a phone interview. If this is going to be someone you need to be working with solidly, someone you can trust with your business affairs long-term, please do the interview. Honestly, if you can make it a video interview, even better. At a job long ago a team did a phone interview with a candidate. He sounded knowledgeable. They brought him on board…only to find out that he really didn’t speak English. Someone else had done the interview for him.
4. If you’re using a freelancer website to hire, check all of the previous work done. Check the comments. Ask for references from those previous clients. That’s probably the best thing about using those sites. You can get some kind of history for that person that you might not get elsewhere.
Just pay attention, follow your instincts, and take your time when selecting your freelancer. A little bit of patience will go a long way in securing the most talented person for the job.
Now that you have all the background in how to hire - let's talk about getting you help. Put this knowledge to use and find out if we're the right virtual assistants for your business.
25+ years of business experience. 12+ years of virtual experience.