Step by Step Guide to Hiring a Virtual Assistant (or How I Hired my First VA)

hire virtual assistant

A few weeks ago I hired my first VA (Virtual Assistant) on OnlineJobs.ph. I have outsourced things before like development projects to Elance (now UpWork) and little bits here and there to Fiverr (which rocks, by the way, the amount of stuff you can get done for $5 is amazing) but this was my first venture into hiring a full time VA.

For those who don’t know what a VA is, here an excerpt from Wikipedia:

A virtual assistant (typically abbreviated to VA, also called a virtual office assistant) is an entrepreneur who provides professional administrative, technical, or creative (social) assistance to clients from a home office. Because virtual assistants are independent contractors rather than employees, clients are not responsible for any employee-related taxes, insurance or benefits. Clients also avoid the logistical problem of providing extra office space, equipment or supplies.

Task list

Firstly I made a task list. I outlined all the things I knew I had to do on a regular basis and that I do not enjoy doing.  When choosing the tasks you want to outsource there are a few things you should consider. The first thing should be what you dislike the most. The more you dislike the task, the more you should want to outsource it. The second is how much it will cost to outsource. You may hate copywriting, but if you don’t want to fork out tens of thousands to get your sales material written, then you’re probably going to do it yourself.

For me, the things I outsourced for my first VA were:

  1. Article Writing. I don’t mind writing (although I do dislike editing) but I can’t stand writing about the same topic over and over, rewriting articles and writing spun articles. And this is something that needs to be done over and over. So this was high on my list.
  2. Creating profiles and submitting stuff. From articles to ebooks to software to slides. Submitting stuff is very time consuming and drives me nuts.
  3. Social media profile building. Again, not hard just monotonous and time-consuming.

There is more than enough work there for a full-time employee, and tasks like article writing can easily be expanded. There is never enough articles you are writing.

Finding staff

To find resumes I looking around the few of the job boards, but I found OnlineJobs.ph to be the best, [UPDATE: Another new one to check out is Outsourcely]. For my search criteria, all I did was type in “article writer” and sort by date so that the newer resumes came up first.

When assessing the skills that your worker needs, always make sure you target the skill that will be the hardest to train in. For me, it’s going to be much harder to teach someone how to write well than it will be to teach them how to submit to a certain site or use a certain social network so writing was the key metric I was looking for. If you are hiring a programmer, it would be their core language skill (PHP, Java) etc…

Contacting Staff

Before I started searching, I wrote up a quick email. Here it is below:

Subject: Article Writing and SEO Position for Australian Company

Hi XXXXX,

I saw your resume on OnlineJobs.ph and I’m looking for a person who can do the following:

Job Description

  • Article and Blog Post Research
  • Article Writing
  • Article Submission
  • Web 2.0 website creation
  • Ebook creation
  • Directory Submission
  • WordPress Blog Updating
  • Other Traffic Generation Strategies

I am looking for someone to work a full time position, working 9am-6pm 5 days a week, your local time.

Salary starts at $250 USD per month and goes up depending on performance

I am wondering if you are interested?

If you are, please provide the following:

  • A full copy of your resume
  • Examples of work you have done (Articles or Blog Posts)
  • Your current availability

Points included:

  • Job description
  • Working hours
  • Salary expectations
  • Request for more information

I sent this email to ~20 people.

This is the start of the screening process. Basically, you are trying to see how well they take instructions. I have already given some instructions here, and if they do not answer the above three questions correctly, they are instantly disqualified.

Some people responded asking me questions, or with just weird answers, they were instantly disqualified. A few (about 7) responded with the correct information. Those that did, I moved on to the next step.

Screening

To screen my staff, I gave them a task to complete. Again, I got this idea from Tyrone’s Mass Outsource (no longer being sold) and I am SO glad I did this step. I wouldn’t have thought of this myself, even though as a recruiter I have been extensively exposed to this method, I just didn’t think people would do it for me seeing how I’m not a big company with a solid reputation. But it was the best thing I could have done.

Here is the task I gave them:

Hi XXXX,

Thank you for your response.

To make sure you are suitable for the position, I would first like you to complete a task for me.

Please send me an email at the point you start the task, and at final email. This way I will know how long it took for you to complete the task.

Below are the instructions:

  1. Write an article of 400-500 words on the keywordEcommerce Strategies
  2. Use the following in the resource box: Finally, if you want to build an e-commerce store, you should watch the free video course on how to build an online store at eshopwiz. This will take you through the exact steps you need to build your own online store.
  3. Submit the article to the top 3 article directories
  4. Create necessary article and email accounts
  5. Forward me the directories and logins so I can check the task has been completed.

Note:

It is not necessary for the articles to be approved yet, I just want to be able to read them and see that they have been submitted correctly.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Kind regards,

Vinay

This is what separated the superstars from the super******* people that looked good on paper that said they had all this experience doing exactly what I wanted either didn’t respond to the task or came back with very silly questions. Only two completed the task and one was exceptionally better than the other.

The idea is to give them detailed instructions, but not too detailed. I would give more details than this in a real project such as what directories to submit to, what secondary keywords to focus on etc… but for this task you want to see what they are capable of on their own.

At this point, I had 1 candidate left. So I was pretty comfortable. But for the final step, I got on the phone with her. If I had two or three left I would have done the same, but I think getting it down to three is the target I will have in the future.

The Phone Call

I have done phone screenings thousands of times as a recruiter so this wasn’t really anything new to me. What I really wanted to get a feel for was her living situation and her motivation for taking the job. Plus I wanted to weave out gaps in her resume. Without going into too much detail, green lights are things like ‘family’ and ‘long term’ with good reasons that they left their previous jobs. Red lights are ‘need money’, ‘no family’ and ‘first time’ as these show lack of stability and experience.

After she ticked lots of green light boxes, I offered her the position on the phone and she started the next day. The whole process happened over 3 days. And so far she has been great! Hiring an outsourcer is something I recommend anyone who is in a position to do, do. It drastically increases your productivity, lifts your mood and adds more structure to your business.