10 Tips for Hiring & Working with a Virtual Assistant

Here are 10 tips for hiring and working with a virtual assistant from TaskUs CEO Bryce Maddock:

TaskUs started as a virtual assistant company. After a year and a half of trying to crack this market, we gave up. Scaling a virtual assistant business is really tough. I believe someone will master it one day. TaskUs has found it is a lot more successful to focus on building amazing teams of outsourced employees for enterprise companies.

In the process of building TaskUs, we hired thousands of virtual assistants. These days we get quite a few requests from friends for virtual assistants. We don't offer these services. But I do offer advice on how to successfully hire and manage a virtual employee. Here are my 10 rules:

1) Start by paying them weekly. But do not pay until the work is complete, a timesheet has been submitted and approved by you for the tasks (this can be done in Google Docs pretty easily with the tasks and amount of time it took to complete them noted clearly).

2) Pay them via Xoom or PayPal. Service providers in Pakistan and a few other countries can't receive money this way. Sometimes they ask for Western Union, which can be quite troublesome. In that case, I would recommend using a freelancer marketplace like oDesk. oDesk can handle payments anywhere in the world and charges a 10% fee. You will have to mark their pay up 10% to make up for the difference.

3) Communicate with them throughout the day via Skype and Google Chat.

4) Expect to invest a minimum of 40 hours of your time getting them up to speed on your process. You can use Skype video screen share for quick demos. But if you are planning on doing a longer demo, I recommend using Camtasia. This way you can keep a repository of screencasts that can be used if you have to replace your VA or hire others. After the screencast, expect to spend time answering the VA's questions one on one.

5) Create a sick or absent policy. Figure out how they will notify you, and what your backup plan is for all of their work. Remember that power outages and internet outages occur a lot more in developing countries, so decide how you'd like them to notify you in case that occurs.

6) Remember, you will only get a great return on your investment if you invest a substantial amount of time to teach. One common mistake people and businesses make is thinking that virtual assistance is a "canned" service or product. Every person and every business have unique tasks and daily business processes. TaskUs evolved to the company it is today based on providing unique and specific daily business processes for this very reason.

7) The more objective you are, the better. Always have goals. For example, we often get requests from companies that want us to help their sales team generate leads. When asked what their ultimate goal is, we often get a vague answer like "to increase our sales and revenue dramatically." Remember, your virtual assistant is just like you in that they need a purpose and something to drive towards. Give them specific goals and metrics for better results.

8) Learn more about yourself before determining who is the best assistant for you. Books like StrengthsFinder 2.0 can be incredibly helpful in that they will reveal your personal strengths and weaknesses. Knowing that info is key as you will always work better with someone that compliments your strengths and counteracts your weaknesses.

9) Take time to create a strengths test for your virtual assistant. Think about some of the daily tasks that you will require and craft tests to determine your assistant's personal abilities and skills.

10) Be patient. Success will not come immediately. For TaskUs employees in the Philippines, they take incredible pride and care to excel at their daily business tasks. What might seem mundane and trivial to you, is actually incredibly important for the personal growth of your virtual assistant. So, be patient and nurture the relationship. If you take the time to teach, you will be rewarded greatly.

Virtual assistance is great in theory, but often times the value is lost in poor execution. Everyone is busy and everyone would like to have someone help them with the tasks they don't want to do. However, the most common myth is that virtual assistance is a wonder-solution. Like any other employer-employee relationship, there are many factors and variables that can affect the health and strength of the relationship. Those 10 tips should help you avoid many of the common mistakes that contribute to a failed virtual assistant experience.


February 08, 2013