A virtual assistant (VA) is a digitally based worker who can provide a range of support services remotely. VAs have often been considered a superlative solution for helping entrepreneurs stay on top of their mounting workloads. Hiring them is an excellent method for freeing up time and keeping operational costs down. This guide discusses a few things you’ll need to know to get you on the right track.
Why use a virtual assistant?
VAs are most helpful when you assign them crucial yet repetitive tasks that need to be completed on a regular basis that you do not have time for. By giving these tasks over to a VA, you can clear your schedule for other matters that require your direct attention. However, giving tasks to VAs is only effective if you know how a VA’s talents are best applied. By and large, there are five key areas where VAs can help most:
- Inventory management
- Customer service
- Monitoring product listings
- Communicating with Amazon
Specific tasks you might assign to your virtual assistant include generating written content, setting up/managing your ad campaigns, handling search engine optimization and link building, managing your social media accounts, etc.
Hiring a virtual assistant
There are several avenues for hiring a VA. Some sources recommend putting out mass job listings. Others suggest going through lists of candidates on dedicated virtual assistant sites or services such as Angie’s List. You can view a repository of potential sources for virtual talent here. Regardless of where you search, here are some key points to keep in mind before reaching your decision:
- Know what you are looking for in a candidate
- Conduct extensive interviews to ensure you find someone who’s a good fit
- Check references
- Negotiate terms beforehand
If you’re hiring internationally, you’ll want to ensure that you can communicate with your VA in English and that you’re cognizant of cultural differences that may affect communication. Ensure that the time difference between your location and the VA’s shouldn’t pose a barrier to completing your work.
Managing your virtual assistant
To work with a remote employee, you’ll have to establish an effective means of communication. Email can work, but for more immediate responses, platforms such as Skype and Slack will allow you to keep an almost-always open channel.
To manage your VA’s productivity, you’ll want to implement monitoring software that will enable you to track your employee’s progress. Platforms such as Timeproof and Time Doctor record when remote hires are working and relay this information to you to verify that they aren’t wasting your time.
You’ll have to give some measure of control over your information to your VA to work effectively, but you’ll still want to protect yourself. Hiring through a respected VA company will offer some measure of safety. You can also configure some of your accounts (e.g., your bank account) so your virtual assistant has limited access, reducing the opportunity for abuse.
When paying your VA, you’ll want to work out the details beforehand (when discussing salary) and have everything in writing when your new hire signs a contract to work for you. If you go through a VA company to hire, the company might insist on a direct draw from your bank account. When hiring via other means, you’re likely to have other options open to you, such as PayPal and the like.
Empower your VAs with Helium 10
Giving your VA access to tools like the Helium 10 suite increases their productivity. It includes tools that aid in product research so your VA can stay on top of critical issues worth your time. It can also help with finding the best keywords to use in your product listings (along with eliminating keywords that could be hurting your listings). Your VA can even monitor inventory and complete repetitive tasks, saving time and letting you focus on growing your business.