It has never been easy to strike out on your own and succeed. Being an entrepreneur means having to constantly manage every aspect of your business with little help or support structure. Luckily, we live in a time of lightning-quick communication and searchable help at your fingertips. However, massively increased connectivity and ease of multitasking have raised the ceiling for success, but also create unrealistic expectations of what people can actually do. Many entrepreneurs report feeling severely overstretched and unable to disconnect and relax.
What every busy professional needs is an assistant, of course. Many successful entrepreneurs have cultivated the ability to delegate tasks that are taking too much of their time. However, an assistant isn’t cheap, and many solo entrepreneurs work with very little overhead. It’s also common for the solopreneur to work from home as well, and having an assistant in your home every day can be stifling and potentially awkward.
Enter the Virtual Assistant. A virtual assistant works remotely and only as many hours as needed, which means privacy and savings. Having someone set your appointments and answer your calls and emails also lends a feeling of legitimacy to any business, no matter how small.
However, hiring a virtual assistant is not a one-step solution to every entrepreneur’s problems. Here are 5 pitfalls to avoid when beginning your search for a virtual assistant.
Not Identifying the Work That Will Best Help Their Business
This is a simple first step that every entrepreneur should take before growing your business. If you think a virtual assistant is right for you, don’t just jump in blindly. Make a list of the tasks you should take off your plate, the new work that will arise as your business develops, and stretch goals for your new assistant if they can easily handle what you give them. Knowing how and what to delegate is vital before you even reach out to a potential new hire. When you find the right fit, having a carefully structured set of tasks and goals gets the relationship off on the right foot.
Making a list of the work that you need help with can also make it very clear whether or not you actually need a virtual assistant. Don’t assume that hiring a new person is the silver bullet you need to cure your productivity problems.
Not Vetting Well Enough
Once you’ve made your list and organized your tasks and goals, you still need to conduct the search as if you were hiring someone to work in your office. Even though this job has “virtual” in the title, there’s nothing fake about the hiring process. This is an actual team member who will need just as much attention as an officemate.
If you think that simply finding a willing helper is the solution to your overload problems, think about the money you’ll be spending. Being too hasty with this part of the process will lead to ROI that begins to decrease from the moment your virtual assistant starts.
Burning Out In the Search
There’s a lot of advice out there to help you with #2. Entrepreneurs who have made VAs part of their daily life have written countless blog posts online. There are also lists of tests you can search to help you find potential hires. Knowing how to properly vet a potential hire is key to finding the right person, but getting too bogged down in your search can stop you dead in your tracks. If you’re already way too busy, how will you find the time to build an office-skills test, review a writing sample, and conduct multiple interviews?
One way to help yourself in the search is to use a Virtual Assistant company. These companies take the vetting process out of your hands, and might even vet you a little bit to make sure they find the perfect candidate for your business. Online customer reviews give your search extra power when looking for a Virtual Assistant company, while an individual might not have the same level of transparency online.
Expecting a Plug-and-Play Experience
If you’ve vetted your VA and think their skills and CV are a good fit for you, you still need to make sure your expectations are clear. Then, you’ll need to keep checking in with them each day to make sure they’re staying productive and aligned to those expectations. Bad communication and poor expectation setting are huge pitfalls for the day-to-day management of an assistant.
Don’t expect your assistant to immediately understand your needs and expectations. They’ll also need to adjust to your management style. Entrepreneurs who have successfully made VAs part of their team use a mixture of update reports, small check-in emails, and daily phone calls to keep their VAs on their wavelength.
The other side of #4 is micromanaging your VA. Remember that your Virtual Assistant is part of your company now, and you should be taking their experience into account as if they were an on-premises employee. Micromanaging creates tension and resentment and can lead to a less productive Virtual Assistant. It can also destroy the time savings that led you to hire a Virtual Assistant in the first place.
BONUS: Consider A Virtual Office
While you find yourself setting goals and preparing for your Virtual Assistant search consider using a Virtual Office. If you’re working on #1 in this list you might realize that your immediate needs are simpler than a whole new team member. Companies like Opus Virtual Office provide a mailing address, allowing you to separate your home and business. While you look through Virtual Assistant and Virtual Office reviews online, look not only for customer satisfaction but also the services that each company specializes in. Many virtual office services will also include some level of Virtual Assistant, from a dedicated team member to someone who answers and forwards your calls. We’ve partnered with Opus Virtual Office to collect and analyze their online reviews by entrepreneurs who have chosen Opus’s blend of physical locations and virtual assistant services.
These 5 steps are a great set of guidelines for making your first step to turning your business into a thriving organization with a physical location, dispersed teams, and increased productivity.