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My guide to hiring a virtual assistant: 20 top tips for success

Guide to hiring a virtual assistant: 20 top tips for success

I regularly get asked for advice on hiring a virtual assistant, so here’s my complete guide to hiring a VA, including my top tips for making sure it’s a success.

Hiring a virtual assistant should be high on the priorities list for any entrepreneur or small business owner. Hiring a VA will help you reclaim hours of your life from doing admin tasks that are not the best uses of your talent, leaving you more time to spend on making more money, finding more customers, or having more free time to enjoy life.

I’ve been lucky enough to have a few great VAs work with me, so thought I would bosh out my tips for hiring one. If you’ve never hired a VA, never even thought about it, this guide will walk you through the entire process. If you’ve had a few VAs maybe this guide will help improve your processes. Let’s go!

Contents:

Hiring a virtual assistant guide
20 tips for hiring a virtual assistant
  1. Know what you want done before looking
  2. Be sure a VA is actually what you need
  3. Set your requirements
  4. Look in the right places to find the right VA for you
  5. Due diligence and testing your VA before committing
  6. Expect to put in time upfront for your VA
  7. Put time aside every week for planning and managing
  8. Be patient and tell them exactly what you need
  9. Document everything
  10. Use videos to show how to do something
  11. Give your VA power, trust them, and don’t micro manage
  12. Numbers and Yes/No answers
  13. Set them up on a company email
  14. Pay on time every time
  15. Respect their time
  16. Get to know them
  17. NDA is up to you
  18. Don’t give up if you don’t find the right fit
  19. Bonus tip from a dropshipping entrepreneur
  20. Bonus tip from a virtual assistant
Additional Resources

What is a virtual assistant

A virtual assistant gives assistance from a remote location. Because the assistance is remote, tasks are generally completed digitally – not in person or on-site. Assistance can be varied, perhaps categorising emails, research, data entry, social media updates, accounting, competitor analysis, calendar planning, editing sound/videos, recruiting… Most of the tasks handled by a virtual assistant are admin-related, non-critical, and very often are not customer-facing. Many entrepreneurs are backed by quality virtual assistants, freeing up their time to spend on the critical tasks for their business.

Typically a virtual assistant is self-employed (freelance) so they can work for multiple clients. As the virtual assistant is self-employed, they don’t have the same rights as employees, so for a business it means less paperwork, forms and taxes to complete. It also means that the work the virtual assistant does should be 100% on tasks – unlike a full-time employee in your office, you don’t pay them for water cooler chat or just for looking busy. With a virtual assistant, you just pay for what they do.

Most commonly used by businesses, especially entrepreneurs/solopreneurs, virtual assistants have become more and more popular over the last 15 years. Tim Ferriss gave the virtual assistant industry a big kickstart by advocating their usefulness in The 4 Hour Work Week in 2007. For location independent entrepreneurs, a virtual assistant has become seen as a “must-have” so your business can run while you’re not there, and it fits perfectly in to the “work from anywhere” ethos.

Virtual assistants are know by lots of different terms, the most popular is simply an abbreviated version of the words, VA; as in “I need to hire a VA!” or “can anyone recommend a VA?“. They are also often called a virtual office assistant or virtual personal assistant. Some people call it outsourcing – “I need to outsource my admin!“. These are all variations on the same thing, there is no real distinction between them, they are all virtual assistants.

Virtual Assistant Meme

Why hire a virtual assistant

A virtual assistant is commonly seen as just for “entrepreneurs”, or those people who always seem to be “busy”. I don’t quite see it like that and I think anyone who is running a business and wants to have a higher standard of living should probably hire a VA.

The bottom line is that a VA can help you grow your business, stop you working on tasks that aren’t helping your business succeed, and free up more of your time. Whatever your business is, I bet this is true. There are things that you are doing that are not driving the most value for your business – these are the tasks that you need to outsource.

Your time has a value. So if you earn £200,000 a year, and work 40 hours a week, your time is worth £100 per hour. If you pay a virtual assistant £20 per hour to complete admin tasks you would normally do, you have essentially made £80 for doing nothing.

Maybe the money you make only comes from 50% of your working hours – i.e. the revenue generating tasks. You could outsource all your non-revenue generating tasks to a virtual assistant. Using the same numbers as above, the same 40 hours of work per week, you can make £400,000 a year. It’s cost you £20,000 in payments to your virtual assistant, but you’ve increased your income by 90%, without working any harder. Alternatively, you could just work 20 hours per week and still earn £200K per year and spend the rest of the time at the beach. Either way, it makes sense to stop doing busy work.

How much should I pay a VA?

Don’t start comparing wages to office workers or general employees. There is a massive difference. You can hire a full-time admin worker in the UK for around £17K ($22K USD) per year, maybe £20K ($26K USD) in London. That’s an hourly wage of £8.75 ($11.20) and £10.20 ($13) respectively.

So why would you pay £15, £20 or £25 per hour for a virtual assistant? I can hear you now – “£25 per hour, that’s nearly £50K per year!!

Now think about that full-time admin worker again. Where are they working? You need an office – that’s rent, electric, AC, heat, food, cleaning. All money. And when they are in the office, out of an 8 hour work day, they are probably working for 4 or 5 hours. The rest of the time is toilet breaks, getting distracted, listening to employee chitchat, checking Facebook, swiping on Tinder.

Oh, and don’t forget that you now need to do do payroll (you need an accountant), pay taxes for the employee (money and time), pay national insurance (money and time), get insurance for employees (more money), write an employment contract, give holiday pay, sick pay, give notice periods, do HR tasks, deal with employee rights….

In fact, most accountants say that the true cost of an employee is actually 1.8-2x more than the wage you pay. This is a great calculator – the true cost of an employee. So when you hire someone at £10 per hour/ £20K a year, the true cost is actually £20 per hour and about £38K per year. And that’s just someone on minimum wage, with maybe with no experience.

So paying £25 per hour for someone experienced, focused, working on purely the tasks you tell them too, without any of the additional crap to go with it, sounds like an absolute bargain, don’t you think?!

Small businesses that are making less than my £200K per year example probably need to adjust their scope a little – I’m not advocating £25 per hour as a standard wage for a VA.

Instead, work out what you make (or want to make or expect to make) in a year, then divide by 40 (hours) x 52 (weeks) (2080) to work our your hourly earnings. Try and find a VA for less than 50% of that. That seems fair and to be good business sense. An example calculation:

£50,000 – the money you want to make each year
40 – hours worked per week
52 – weeks in the year
40 x 52 = 2,080 hours per year worked
50,000/2,080 = £24 per hour
50% of 24 = £12 per hour to pay your VA

How should I pay?

There are multiple payment methods to get money to your VA. They really depend on where your business is based and where your VA is based.

Using PayPal is an obvious answer, but PayPal not only charges around 3.5% of the transaction, but also applies currency conversion fees should your VA not use the same currency. This can see up to around 15% of the payment disappearing to fees! This is a lot of money for your VA to lose.

My preferred method of transferring money overseas is TransferWise – they support around 40 currencies. If by chance the currency you need to send to isn’t supported by TransferWise, Azimo is another great money transfer service.

Azimo lets you send money from 24 countries – the UK, the Eurozone, Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Switzerland – to over 195 countries, so a great alternative to TransferWise. Azimo also offer cash pickup services – similar to Western Union – but with much lower fees.

Special offer: Get your first two Azimo money transfers for free – no expiry!

Some VAs expect 50% of payment upfront to confirm you as a client, some 100%. This is quite normal, and gives them some protection from you not paying them. Trust needs to go both ways.

If you are using a freelancer platform like UpWork, the platform will take care of the payments on your behalf, normally taking the money direct from your bank account or card.

What are the best countries to hire a VA from?

This depends on your requirements. For good English, a common requirement, look for VAs from English-speaking countries or those where a focus is on English in school. If timezone matters, then look for someone in the same or similar timezone.

I’ve had great success hiring VAs from UK, USA, Macedonia and Malaysia. I would also look at Ukraine and Bulgaria, which I have yet to use personally but have heard good things. Generally I have found that VAs from all of these countries have a good level of English, a good work ethic, have access to fast internet, got taught IT in school, and are in generally good timezones. Low wages in Eastern and Central Europe also means that many residents turn to the internet looking for work at fair prices.

I’ve had bad experiences hiring VAs from Thailand, Philippines and India. Poor english skills, poor internet connections, poor work ethic, lots of public holidays. I know a lot of people rave about the Philippines as a source for VAs, but seriously, there are so many better workers out there that I would avoid it.

Average Salary Map for Europe in Euros
Average Salary Map for Europe. You can get a full time worker in Ukraine for 190 euros… Source

Where are the best places to hire a virtual assistant?

There aren’t actually that many bad places to find a VA, it’s more about how you handle the recruitment process and hiring which I’ll explain more about below. Some platforms charge 10-30% in fees to the freelancer (VA), so very often you will pay a lot more when using these platforms.

Try and go direct to a VA if you can – there is less “security” when you go direct, but the platform fees soon outweigh any potential loss (if your VA took the money and ran), and that is the only thing a platform might protect you from anyway.

Top tips for hiring a virtual assistant:

Let’s jump in to the meat of this article, these are my top tips for hiring a virtual assistant. I’m no expert, but I’ve hired quite a few VAs, plus helped friends find the right VA for their business, and have listened to the mistakes friends have made in the hiring process. So everything I’ve learnt is below. I hope this helps you find the right person.

1) Know what you want done before looking

This is one of the worst and most annoying mistakes I see. A busy entrepreneur thinks “I need help, I’ll hire a VA” and immediately writes a “VA wanted” job advert. They have no idea what tasks they want done, how the VA will help, what skills they need – nothing! This person is a time waster. The kind of person who organises meetings with other people and in the meeting starts researching the topic of the meeting. You know the type of people I mean. Don’t be that person.

You need to have a good idea of what you want done before looking. By spending some time to analyse your own work, you will see how a VA can help, what type of VA you need, and that you have enough tasks on a regular basis that warrants a VA working for you.

Essentially you want to list all the tasks that you do that aren’t directly contributing to your revenue/growth, list how much time each one takes you to do every week and then how many times per month you need it done. Your final time figure is roughly how much time you need from a VA. Here’s my method of doing this:

  • For one or two weeks, make a note of every single task you do in your working day and how long each one takes
  • After the two weeks, assign categories to each task – something like: type of work (revenue generating or admin), repeat time, unique
    • ‘Type of work’ is revenue tasks (those that directly earn you money), or admin tasks (non-revenue tasks)
    • ‘Repeat time’ is upon the schedule a task is repeated – daily, weekly, monthly, or maybe it was a rare task, a one-off
    • If a task is ‘unique’, this means that every time it’s done it will be different, its not easily repeatable or requires further knowledge
  • Use filters to show non-revenue admin tasks that repeat and are not unique – these are the easiest to delegate and are the basic tasks for your VA
  • Non-revenue admin tasks that are unique might not be worth delegating, or might require more training – so put these as advanced tasks for your VA
  • Revenue tasks should be focused on by you, more time doing those then more money coming in

Here’s an example list from an imaginary web developer. Our example web developer makes websites for a living, and he uses social media, Linkedin and blogging to get new clients.

Timesheet job list example
A web developer example – a weeks worth of tasks with time specified, what types of tasks they are and how often they repeat

From a list of your tasks like this, you can pull out basic and an advanced task list that you could assign to a VA, how often you expect those things to be done, and the amount of time per day/week/month you expect it all to take.

Splitting out tasks in to basic and advanced and estimating the hours required

For our web developer example, they can outsource 7-8 hours of work every week to a VA easily from his basic, with a further 10-12 hours with some basic training and systems in place. That is 50% of his working hours that they can outsource!

2) Be sure a VA is actually what you need

By breaking down the tasks you actually need help with, you can then analyse them and see exactly what areas you need help with. Maybe it’s not all admin tasks you need help with, so maybe you don’t even need a virtual assistant. Perhaps you need something more aligned with your business.

If you are renovating a house, a general builder could probably do every job you needed, eventually! But I bet instead you call specialist workers to fit the kitchen, fit the carpet, do the electrics, etc. You need to apply the same principles to a VA and your other employees.

A VA is predominantly for general admin tasks. A virtual assistant isn’t a sales manager. Otherwise they’d be called a sales manager. Duh. A virtual assistant isn’t a marketing manager. Otherwise they’d be called a marketing manager and be charging 10x more.

With a VA, if you say X, they do X. It’s hard to find a VA that you say X and then they do XYZ and creates ABC. Especially without a ton of training and systems in place, or maybe ever. Set your expectations properly of who you are hiring and what you are paying.

Hiring a VA to make an app? I mean, literally what the fecking what? Kill me now. Source

Using our web developer example, they can definitely save time with a VA. But some of the advanced tasks are going to need some SEO skills, content marketing skills, and social media skills. So perhaps what would be better for his business is a VA handling the basic tasks, and then a junior digital marketer to handle the advanced tasks.

A VA might be able to handle those advanced tasks, but the time it takes you to train them, for them to learn, and then to produce work of quality could take weeks or months. This is where you need to judge a VA and the work you need from them, and you need to weight up if your business can sustain that learning period or you need someone with slightly more knowledge to take control.

3) Set your requirements

Remember that time you got dumped and in a depressed mess you sat down and wrote a list of stuff you want from your “perfect partner” – well this part of your VA search is basically that. But for work. And no crying required.

Have a think about your perfect worker – what they need to be and do – and make a list. Here’s some questions to get you started:

Do you want them in a certain timezone or to work between certain hours every day?
Timezones are important if you have customer-facing businesses likes ecommerce stores and you need help with customer service. No good having someone answering the phone when the phone only rings when they aren’t there.

Do you want a 24/7 worker? Is there more work than just one person can handle?
Some businesses require 24/7 workers/responses, and if you do, you probably need to hire a team of VAs or go to a company that offers round the clock service

Does your VA need to answer the phone? Do they ever need to speak to anyone?
If so what accent should they have, where should be from? If they need to phone people, what time do they need to be available.

What languages do they need to speak?
Maybe it be better for your business if your VA could speak Mandarin so they could speak to your factory?

What internet speed should they have access to?
Some countries have terrible internet (hey yeah I’m looking at you India and Philippines) so you need to take that in to account if upload/download/voice calls are important.

What type of computer should they use? Do you use any specialist software?
Maybe you use a specialist software for Mac, so no Windows allowed.

What things are deal breakers or essential to you?
Maybe you don’t want someone older or younger than you, maybe you want someone who invoices in pesos, who knows! A VA is a contractor, not an employee, so go crazy and hire whoever you want for whatever reason you want.

To prevent time wasting at the hiring stage it’s essential to get these requirements laid out early on.

4) Look in the right places to find the right VA for you

Now you have your task list and requirements you can narrow down who you can hire and where to look for them. Use your deduction skills to come up with a short list.

If your VA needs specific skills start with that – you would be surprised how specialist the VA industry can be. There are VA freelancers and agencies that specialise in different niches and can be a good place to start – for SEO, accounting, sales, Amazon FBA, dropshipping… Whatever your niche, it’s worth using Google to see if there is a specialist that can help you.

Timezone should be a big factor – if you want them in the same timezone as you or your customers, try and narrow down the countries that they could live in – use a tool like World Clock to see what timezones match your customers.

For example, if you want American timezone, most of Asia is out of the question as its timezone is almost opposite, so you would want to look at hiring in the US, South America, maybe Europe.

If you need 24/7 support, look for a company that offers this – they’ll likely assign a team to your account and use software to help manage your queries. That will probably be easier for you than hiring multiple VAs to get you started.

A Google search should throw up plenty of agencies, plenty of freelancer websites like UpWork (avoid those for now) and also some self-employed individuals websites – these will be your best targets.

If a Google search doesn’t throw up some results, your next step would be to ask for a referral – I find a Facebook or Linkedin post to be effective. Facebook Groups are also an excellent way to find a VA – either target nomad-specific groups, virtual assistant groups, or groups within your niche (e.g. Amazon FBA).

Lastly, you can use freelancer websites like Freeeup, Truelancer or Creme de la Creme and if that really doesn’t work out your last resort might be UpWork (terrible), Fiverr (terrible), or People Per Hour (awful).

You don’t have to think too hard about any advert or job description – you already have your task list, you already have your requirements – so that is your advert.

If you place an advert on somewhere like UpWork put something in the advert copy that the applicant should reference when they contact you. I usually write something like “When applying, please start your message with word BANANAS so I know you have fully read this advert“. You’re going to get a ton of applicants who haven’t read the advert but email you anyway, and as they haven’t used your special word it means you can instantly delete their emails.

5) Due diligence and testing your VA before committing

You’ve got a list of potential candidates. You need to do your due diligence to see how good they are.

  • Ask for a reference or a testimonial from a client – I then look up the client to make sure they are real and/or still in business.
  • Get examples of work they have done before – if you want them to write things, ask for a public blog post they have written. If social media, ask for an account they update (and their own personal accounts if you really want to check them out). If SEO, ask for a website they worked on.
  • Ask them to do a test task. I like to set a general task (or a few) and get all of my candidates to do the same thing.

The key things that I look for when dealing with a VA is initiative, attention to detail, being able to understand me, and write good English. I would try and make the task you set a little open-ended (so they could show initiative), and have some kind of collection and writing aspect so I can make sure the English is good. Your tests might be different!

Returning to our web developer example and the tasks they needed to complete, a good test for a VA would be to research some information I needed (“Find me the top 3 payment gateways in Malaysia, I’m looking for integrations with WordPress and low fees, average transaction approximately 1000MYR“) and some content writing (“Write a 750-1000 word article on the new Gutenberg editor for WordPress including advantages and disadvantages, and including quotes and comments by well-known developers“).

You’re not looking for perfect with these tasks, but something to build on. Of course if the VA comes back with a perfect article, including images, video, embedded tweets, quotes and a structured well-written article, you know you have found a great candidate. Hire them!

6) Expect to put in time upfront for your VA

You’ve got a long list of tasks that need doing, you need to figure out how to get someone else to do them. It’s probably going to cost you a little bit of time to explain what you want done, show them how it’s done, monitor them doing it, give feedback and corrections, and then put that completed task in to your workflow.

A VA will need training, to understand your business, your service, your products, you, how you work. This is the same for any employee, and the same for any VA. You need to invest time early to get time back later. For the first few weeks or months, you might be losing hours, but you need to know that in the future you will claw those hours back.

The goal is to look back in a few months and find out that you’re now saving a day or two every week by using your VA. That won’t happen over night, but it will happen.

Don’t forget though – if you pay peanuts, expect monkeys. Be realistic. If you are paying £2 per hour, don’t expect someone to immediately know how to do a task. You will need to weigh up how intelligent your VA is with what they have to learn and how much time you can commit to teaching them and the return that will bring.

7) Put time aside every week for planning and managing

Having a VA doesn’t magically eradicate your to-do list, you need to work hard to get a VA working hard. You need to manage a VA just like any other employee. Set time aside each week to make sure you have given them tasks, you have given them instructions, and they know what they are doing.

Give them the big picture, this helps with initiative, so if they find themselves with nothing to do, they can suggest tasks to you.

One reader (Alex on Reddit – many thanks) suggests spending time with your VA everyday. Before they start work, get your VA to write a list of the three biggest things they hope to achieve that day.

You can then review, tweak, edit the list for them, or set priorities. You can then ask your VA to send a short review at the end of their day so you know the status of each tasks.

Personally, I don’t tend to work like that as I travel too much and my timezones changes, and I don’t expect my VAs to work shifts, I’d like them to have some freedom, so weekly tasks has always worked for me, with small variations as I go through the week. Using a shared Trello board also gives you a lot of control over your VA’s task list.

8) Be patient and tell them exactly what you need

A virtual assistant is not mind-reader. So be clear and tell them exactly what you expect, what you want and how you want it done. If you don’t care how something is done, tell them that, but tell them what the result should look like.

If you don’t know how long something will take, put a time limit on it anyway and ask them to update you if they reach that time and the task is not done.

When you give them instructions, you should constantly ask “Does that make sense?” or “Do you have any questions?” as this will help make sure they know they can ask you stuff even if it makes them feel stupid.

Dealing with questions and problems with your VA requires a lot of patience. If you have never had an employee before, its twice as hard. You can easily catch yourself saying “I’m so busy, I don’t have time to explain this again!” – but you won’t ever be less busy if you don’t take the time to invest in your employees now.

9) Document everything

Firstly, you should document your agreement with your VA and set some ground rules. Make sure you document what you expect from them. Tell them how to track their time. How often they should be working for you. What is the maximum time they should work for you. Timesheets delivered by X day. Payment will be made by X day. If you need time off, please give me X days notice. Etc.

Secondly, write instructions clearly for each task you set and then save them.

Step 1, do this. Step 2, do that, because of X. Step 3, if X is Y, then Z.

You need to have a little bit of systems mindset (if you want to learn that, check this free book about systems)

When your VA does something new and it’s likely to be repeated in the future, get them to document the process. This will help you make sure the VA understands the task, and will help you to see if the process can be improved.

I often use Google Docs for this – easy to edit, history is saved, and accessible from anywhere.

If you ever need to change your assistant in the future, or expand your team and bring on new assistants, you will have all your common tasks documented to make the process super easy for a new VA to learn and take over.

10) Use videos to show how to do something

If you want to speed up the process of documentation, or a process is difficult to follow (try not to send lengthy emails of instructions that are hard to understand!), an easier solution is to record a screen share video and upload it to YouTube as “unlisted”.

The video could be how to update your ecommerce store, how to complete an excel sheet, how to update your blog, whatever.

When a video is uploaded as “unlisted” anyone with the link can view the video, so you can send that to your VA or your team and they can watch it like a normal video.

I use a program called Screeflick for Mac ($35) to record my screen and my voice, but I’ve also found a free screen recorder for Mac called Kap. For Windows, try Loom, TinyTake (5 mins recording for free), or Screencast-o-matic ($2 a month)

Add the uploaded video link to your documentation so you have a complete guide for your assistant.

11) Give your VA power, trust them, and don’t micro manage

The best VAs are those with initiative and a problem-solving mindset. But even those VAs can be held back by a bad boss.

The point of hiring a virtual assistant is so that you have more free time. You lose this advantage if you micro-manage. Certain tasks might be important, so you want feel like you need to oversee it.

Maybe you don’t trust your VA is doing their work and slacking off, so you are constantly chasing them. Maybe a task that takes you five minutes takes them 20 minutes. Maybe they spent hours researching something that should have taken an hour.

Small things like this can make you not trust your VA, they are mostly normal feelings to have about employees, but also means you need to improve your processes.

If you feel you need to micro-manage, then you have failed as an employer. Your systems are bad. Go back to your requirements and documentation; write out how you want something done, what you expect, how it should be done, what the result looks like and how you want them to communicate this. If you’ve done that, there should be no need for micro-management.

Give your VA power to make decisions. This is especially important in customer service or client-facing positions. Don’t make them check with you, the boss, on every problem they have. Give them parameters to work with. If a delivery was messed up, let them issue a refund for the delivery. If a customer is complaining on Twitter, trust them to handle it, and issue discount vouchers. If a supplier says they will be delivering late, allow them to make deals to push for a quick delivery.

The famous story of employee empowerment is from the Ritz-Carlton hotel chain – “We entrust every single Ritz-Carlton staff member, without approval from their general manager, to spend up to $2,000 on a guest. And that’s not per year. It’s per incident. It doesn’t get used much, but it displays a deep trust in our staff’s judgment.

Removing your need to deal with problems will only help you make more money dealing with the important issues, and will let your VA know they are trusted and appreciated.

12) Numbers and Yes/No answers

These are hacks for general productivity but really help when you are trying to save time and be more efficient.

Ask your VA to make sure they number every question/point in their emails.

1) 2) 3) 4) etc.

This means you can quickly reference each number in your reply.

1) Yes, 2) Not yet. 3) Approved. 4) Here’s what you should do….

It also saves doing those weird in-reply emails where people write ALL IN CAPS or make the text red or something to try and make the reply standout. Everyone should put numbers in their emails!

I also ask my VAs to try and word questions so I can give a Yes/No answer. It goes against natural conversation skills, where we try and make people talk about themselves and in details, but making your VA word questions in this format makes them think more about the outcomes of what they are asking and what the question really is.

Each question with a number, each question answered Yes or No. Super simple, super efficient, no ambiguity.

13) Set them up on a company email

I always setup my VA with a company email and I would advise you to do the same. This keeps your brand consistent for customers, means that when they look at your emails the VA is not also getting distracted with their life, and you have some control over their mailbox.

I would normally use a generic email address – something like [email protected] or [email protected]

If you stop working with your VA and use a generic email inbox name, this makes the transition much easier. It also means you can register for online services with the email address and the new VA has full access to everything.

If you have multiple VAs, I’d recommend an inbox sharing tool like Front or Loop. This lets a team work from one email, assign emails as they come in, use templates to reply, and more.

14) Pay on time every time

If someone has done work for you, pay them straight away. Seriously I can’t stress this enough. I can’t believe this has to be repeated and explicitly spelt out to business owners.

A wage, your payment, keeps a roof above someones head, food on their table, kids in clean clothes for school, debtors from the door, important medicines paid for. Don’t assume just because you are comfortable that your employee is also the same. Never make any employee chase you for payment. Never make an employee wait for a payment. They are working for your dream, so don’t give them money nightmares in the process.

Worrying about money, and how you’ll get paid, is a terrible burden to give your staff, so please pay your VA promptly.

If you could pay your invoice that would be great
You’re a bad entrepreneur if you don’t pay your employees straight away

15) Respect their time

Your VA is working for themselves to support their lives, their family. Don’t ask them to work for free, especially if their wage is already low. Don’t make them sit on a “planning call” every week for a few hours while you get organised (especially if it’s not billable time). Don’t be the disorganised client who insists they drop everything and help them on a weekend or late at night, your VA isn’t going to be rested and happy to serve her customers the next day.

16) Get to know them

Having great working systems in place, combined with never meeting your VA, can make your relationship feel a little bit robotic. But your VA is a real person! Get to know them, ask them how they are doing and have a relationship with them.

Any employee will do their best for their employer if they know the employer cares for them.

Christmas and Birthday bonuses are always appreciated, I even know entrepreneurs who treat their VAs to holidays/retreats as a bonus – a holiday for your VA and you can get to know them on a personal level.

17) NDA is up to you

An NDA (non-disclosure agreement) means that secrets stay safe, protecting both sides. So if you are letting a VA in to the inner workings of your business, perhaps an NDA is required.

I’m a little bit blasé about NDAs as I’m very much from the VC school of thinking that “you’re far better off working with somebody of high ethics with no NDA then somebody of low ethics with a signed NDA“.

A non-disclosure agreement might give you some semblance of protection when working with a VA, but what will it really get you? Are you going to sue your VA in Philippines for damages when they work for $3 an hour? What are you really going to get out of it?

Maybe the use of the NDA is just to scare them in to thinking that they need to make sure they protect your secrets, but really, don’t you want a VA intelligent enough to do this already?

Whatever you choose, you can find generic mutual NDA templates online, and then use a service like HelloSign to get the document signed and properly delivered to all parties.

18) Don’t give up if you don’t find the right fit

Employing people is hard, and finding the right VA for your working style is hard. You don’t have to settle on the first one you find if you don’t like the working relationship.

The process of hiring is slow to find the right fit. So persevere. The right candidate can be found if your expectations are right and the renumeration/experience is right for the candidate.

I’ve had great success finding VAs that give a shit, work hard and want to do better. Most of the VAs I have hired are no longer VAs as they have all gone on to bigger and better things. You need to be clear in what you want, you need to set out your wants and needs and expectations, you need to make sure they understand this, you need to know what they want and to help them grow with you.

I’m a big believer in that there are no bad hires, only bad management. If you expect someone on day one to be fluent in your products, sales, marketing and up-selling etc, that person won’t be advertised as a VA, thats a sales person. So be clear about what you are looking for and the realities of hiring people with skills, and set your expectations.

Bonus tip from a dropshipping entrepreneur

Rashad from Banker in the Sun
Rashad from Banker in the Sun

Rashad runs a dropshipping empire from Thailand, and also blogs about his lifestyle at Banker in the Sun. He wrote a blog about “How I Made $617,218.36 In One Year While Traveling The World” (a few years ago now, so expect that figure to have gone up!) and he now runs a team of VAs who handles his business for him.

My VAs are always close to the timezones of my businesses. If shipping, sales, or customer service requests arise, someone is always available during extended business hours. The good news is that 90% of your competition (in the dropshipping space) does not follow this rule, giving you a major timezone advantage. Using VAs in the right timezone and having them interact with my customers boosted my sales by over 25%.

I am only good at dropshipping because I developed and trained a team of VAs to sell, service, support after having managed retail teams for two decades. It’s no different than opening a real shop. I spend a lot of time training my VAs and they have done so well that I’ve rewarded them with all-expenses paid trips to other countries. I train them to sell so I can be confident they can close customers for me.

Bonus tip from a virtual assistant

Gabby is a Virtual Assistant
Gabby is a virtual assistant for entrepreneurs, coaches and business owners.

Gabby is a virtual assistant for entrepreneurs, coaches and business owners. Originally from Malaysia, she is now travelling the world while working for her clients. She spent three years working for a coworking space and being exposed to entrepreneurs and how they work, and has now quit her 9-5 to be a full time virtual assistant.

Trust and getting to know my employer is really important for me. We are colleagues, and although our relationship is always professional, I consider my clients my friends and I love helping them with their businesses and helping them to juggle their lives

I don’t use any screen recording software to monitor what I do, and I’ve never had a client request it. I think if a client doesn’t trust me to work honestly on their projects then the relationship has already failed.

I love using Trello. My clients and I access our boards at our own time whenever and wherever we want, be it on laptop or phone. It is easy to use, the integrations that come with it are great, and keeping track of tasks becomes so much easier. I highly recommend using it.

Additional Resources

Best tools for working with a virtual assistant

Some of the tools/services I’ve used to help me manage and work with virtual assistants:

Time tracking – Toggl or AndCo
Work monitoring – TimeProof or Screenshot Monitor
Screenshots – MonoSnap or Gyazo
Screen recording – Loom or Kap
Task organisation – Trello
Collaborative documents – Google Drive
Shared Folders – Dropbox (get extra 500MB with this link)
Team inbox – Front or Loop
Social scheduling – Buffer
Calls – Skype
Meetings – Calendly
Signing Docuemnts – HelloSign

List of VA companies and freelancer directories

Some well known VA companies:

Task Bullet
OnlineJobs.ph
Virtalent
Zirtual
Prialto
The Virtual Hub

Some of the freelancer directories where you will find VAs:

YunoJuno
CloudPeeps
Freeeup
Speedlancer
Truelancer
Creme de la Creme
Guru
UpWork
Freelancer
People Per Hour
Fiverr

Got any questions about virtual assistants? What have I missed? Got any success or horror stories about a VA? Let me know in the comments below

About the Author:

Hi, I'm James, a location independent entrepreneur! I travel the world while working on my own businesses, as well as helping friends and people I meet make more money. Follow my journey on Twitter or Instagram.