There are a lot of things you might think you need to have in place before you hire a Virtual Assistant (VA), an Online Business Manager, or any other support team member. I could talk to you about needing to have a strong foundation in place, an established business, solid branding or documented policies and procedures.
But these are often things your VA or Online Business Manager can work with you to build.
In all honesty there are few tangible things you need before working with a VA. Most of what needs to be in place relates to your mindset and preparedness.
Here are the most beneficial things to have in place before working with a Virtual Assistant or Online Business Manager:
You need to know where you’re going before you start moving with a co-pilot. If I’m in your sidecar, you can expect that I will ask a lot of questions to make sure I understand your destination, why you want to go there, how fast and what kind of vehicle we’ll use to travel.
Based on the information you provide, I’ll bust my hump to get the results you want. But obviously I can’t do much without knowing your plan. And it has to be your plan – this is your business after all. I’m here to follow your lead, not usurp it.
You’ve got your goals in place, you’re moving along…now, are you able to see them through? Or do you often get shiny object syndrome, and shift gears at a whiplash pace? Sure there are times it’s necessary to change directions – when an idea isn’t working like you thought, or becomes too cost prohibitive – but too much of this causes you and your VA to drive in circles.
Figure out what it is you want for your business, how you’d like to achieve that, map out that overall strategy to share with your Virtual Assistant, and commit to it.
This is a biggie. If you need help, and you’ve found a great VA, allow her to do her job! As a business owner myself, I know it’s hard to hand over projects and tasks you’ve handled for so long. However, that’s the whole point of what we VA’s do for our clients – we get stuff done. But, in order to get stuff done, ya gotta hand it over.
If delegation is a big sticking point for you, be especially in tune to finding a Virtual Assistant that you trust personally. Even if their skills aren’t the most perfect match, if you like and trust them, they can most likely learn the missing skills you need.
Right on the heels of delegation is micromanagement. If you give the project over to your VA and you’ve explained it well enough; trust them to do their job. If they don’t, you’ll find out pretty soon. On the other hand, you’ll never have the opportunity to find out their full potential unless you let go.
Your goals are set, you’ve delegated the work, you’re trusting your VA to do said work – now what do you expect to happen?
What are you expecting from your Virtual Assistant?
There are two expectations to pay attention to: the relationship and performance of the VA, and the overall results for your business.
1) The relationship and performance of your Virtual Assistant. This relates to her doing what she promised, when she promised, showing up as the person and professional she claims to be, and the work being solid. Without question you should expect your VA to show up with integrity in these areas.
2) The overall results for your business. Are you hiring a Virtual Assistant (or any support team member) expecting them to directly bring in money? This expectation may need to be adjusted.
Sure, as VA’s we contribute to the bottom line, but just like most support professionals we are considered overhead cost. Unless we are also a part of your sales team or you can directly attribute an action to income (e.g., trackable marketing efforts that attract clients), we are there to free your time so you can go make the big bucks.
The sad reality I sometimes see is the VA is blamed for the financial outcome of a client’s business. As your support person, we’re looking out for you wholeheartedly, but we’re supporting your overall business and probably not direct sales.
The only tangible thing on this list is money. If you’re going into this working relationship with long-term goals in mind, you’ll want to make sure you can afford your right-hand collaborator for quite some time. Here’s why: the client/VA relationship works best when the Virtual Assistant is able to climb inside your business, get to know it on a deep level and help look out for your interests in an ongoing relationship. Building that relationship takes time, and time takes money.
In fact, it shouldn’t be a stretch for you to pay your virtual assistant or online business manager. It’s very frustrating for both parties to find the perfect client/VA fit only to have it stall out in a few months because the budget wasn’t there to begin with.
If you’re worried coming up with the money will be a problem, think about delegating only the item(s) that will give you the most longevity in your business. For example, if writing, editing, posting, broadcasting your blog is eating up several hours a week, you might want to assign only this task to your VA while you use that time to make more money. You can always add more tasks later on.
Need an idea on what to budget? Most reputable U.S. based Virtual Assistant’s charge an average of $50 per hour, Online Business Managers are similar or at a higher rate. That rate will vary based on specialty, experience and skill-set. Besides hourly rate, many require a minimum monthly retainer so they can schedule their work efficiently for multiple clients. For instance, for monthly retainer clients my online business management starts at $650 per month. I have a few clients that have me managing large and/or intricate parts of their business and they’ve budgeted $1,200-2,000 for my support.
How much does that return to you? Let’s use our above example of delegating blog management to your Virtual Assistant. Depending on your writing expertise it may take you 5 – 8 hours to take an article from idea to publishing. If your virtual team member is a content management specialist (ahem) and can do this in a much shorter time while you create more products or services, book more class participants, coach more clients, or do more of whatever else you do, isn’t that worth it?
Even if you have the knowledge to do it all yourself, you probably don’t have the time to continue managing all of your daily tasks and grow your business.
There’s a lot here to consider. If you’ve worked with a virtual team member before, what would you add to this list? And of course, if you have questions that aren’t answered here, I’d be more than happy to talk with you!