6 Mistakes To Avoid When Hiring A Virtual Assistant

If you’re like me, you have too many ideas and not enough time to implement them. The easiest way to remedy that is to hire a Virtual Assistant that you can hand everything over to and they’ll take care of it, right? Well, the answer to that is yes AND no. Although a VA can be an extension of you, they’re not you. Which means they don’t know your every thought, nor can they predict your every move.

Hiring an assistant, whether it be a Virtual Assistant or an in-house assistant can seem overwhelming in itself. If you’re going to take the time to find the right person, then it’s important to also take the time to really think about what you’re going to have them do, and how you’re going to have them do it.

Mistake #1: Not Taking Time to Decide What They Will Do

This is usually the toughest part in getting started. If you have 100 ideas floating around with no clear structure on how you’re going to delegate some of the work, you’re starting out in reverse. Take time to write down all the things you do on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. You may know what you do, but your new assistant doesn’t know your routine. You can spend time writing this down yourself or go through everything in the beginning with your VA, but take time in doing it. Taking the time upfront will save time and headaches down the road.

Mistake #2: Hiring For Skills Alone

Having the right skill set is important, especially when you’re busy and don’t feel you have time to train someone. But having a certain skill set vs. having personality, drive and determination can be different things. Make sure the person you’re going to be working with and trusting your business to is someone you like.

Mistake #3: Hiring When You’re Desperate

This unfortunately is the trap that many people fall into. If you think you can wait until you have the time to train someone, or the money to pay someone… you’ll never hire anyone. There’s not a perfect time, and sometimes what you think is the worst time, can turn out to be the best. If  it’s not in your budget, then realign your budget. You don’t need to jump in with both feet and hire someone for 40 hours a week, but you can hire the help you need initially and make it work. Once you get to the point that you’re too busy to keep up with everything, it’s difficult to set aside time for the hiring process.

Mistake #4: Not Communicating Effectively

This is another area that really needs to be hammered home. If you are not clear about what you want someone to do, how are they going to do it? Tasks can always be added, but you need to lay out a clear set of initial instructions to get things going. You need to be clear with your expectations of your Virtual Assistant, and they need to be clear about their abilities from the beginning. Thinking someone should know your next move or what you want them to do with a certain project will set you up for failure.

Mistake #5: Not Starting Out With The Right Attitude

By going in with the attitude that you’ll “try it and see”, you’re already saying if this doesn’t work, there’s other options. There’s always another option, but you need to have a positive view on the outcome of the virtual relationship. Starting out with the attitude that this person is going to be an extension of yourself and helping to represent you and your company, will help guide you to take the time to nurture the first few months to put things in place. You can start out with small tasks to get a feel for how the two of you will work together and to help build your relationship. As you go, having the right attitude in place from the beginning helps your VA feel like a true part of your business and your overall goal, which gives them the motivation to work harder for you.

Mistake #6: Not Asking Questions

We all know the downfalls of micro-managing, but this doesn’t mean that you have to be afraid to not only give direction, but to ask questions when you have a concern. If a project seems to be taking longer than you think it should, you have the right to ask why. There’s probably a good explanation or maybe a kink in the system somewhere, but you won’t know unless you ask. The only dumb question is the one that’s never asked.

There’s always more than one way to do things, and being a Virtual Assistant myself for over 18 years has helped me understand both sides. These common mistakes in a virtual relationship can be easily avoided by taking time in the beginning to lay out a clear understanding of what you need help with, when you need the help and how you’re going to get it.

Laura is the Founder of Elite Virtual Assistants. If you find yourself needing some help in finding the right VA, give her a call at (440) 973-7005, email at laura@elitevirtualassist.com or visit www.elitevirtualassist.com.

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Find Your Extraordinary

I’ve recently become a “podcast newbie”. Since I started working with Doug Sandler and his Nice Guys on Business Podcast I’ve become a regular listener. If you haven’t listened yet you should give it a try. He has some great guests that offer solid advice on helping your business, along with inspiring stories from successful people.  After hearing a recent interview with the Stella & Dot Founder Jessica Herrin (which was a great interview) my partner Danae started listening and she’s hooked too.

Doug’s interview with Jessica really supercharged both of us. Her interview was powerful and passionate about her company and her work. What really resonated with us was what inspired her to start Stella & Dot: to reinvent flexible entrepreneurship for women and provide them with the tools to do so. We founded Elite on similar principles.

She knew there were many women out there who wanted to be entrepreneurs, but didn’t want to deal with leases, hiring employees and researching technology. So she created a way for women to earn a good living while being supported by her team. Our mission was similar in the fact that we wanted women to be afforded a flexible work schedule, while keeping their skills sharp and maintaining their position in the workforce.

Many people say you can’t just have passion to start a business – you have to take everything that goes along with it, especially in the beginning. Depending on your industry this could be anything from cleaning floors to keeping the books. There’s a lot of truth to that, but having a passion as the basis for that business is what will drive you to move past some of the less favorable aspects and keep you looking forward to the bigger picture.

Jessica talks about this on Doug’s podcast and in her new book Finding Your Extraordinary – Dream Bigger, Live Happier and Achieve Success on Your Own Terms. Although passion is loving what you do,  it’s also surrounded by things you don’t love to do. As entrepreneurs Danae and I understand this as both of us are passionate about our business and careers and clear on what our mission is, but there are certain aspects of running a company that we don’t enjoy. There will be twists and turns and fires to put out, but at the end of the day if you are passionate about your mission and what you are trying to accomplish – that’s the road to get you through the tough times.

After listening to her interview we can NOT wait to get our hands on this book. Jessica talks about being authentically passionate – have your one passion and don’t let anyone else dictate what that passion is. It’s common for people close to us to tell us what they think we should be – a doctor, a teacher or an architect for example. I’ve found myself guilty of the same thing with my kids as they’re getting older and heading to college. We need to listen to our own hearts to determine what it is we want to do in life, and that’s not always easy.

Ask yourself this question: What would you get out of bed for everyday and do for free?

This concept doesn’t only apply to entrepreneurs or business owners. You can still love what you do and work for someone else. If your passion is to be a nurse, you don’t have to open a hospital or a clinic to love your work and be passionate about helping others. Make your current job great if it’s what you love to do, or use it as a learning tool to get to where you want to be.

So where has the de-risking of entrepreneurship and providing innovative technology gotten Jessica? Her family of companies Stella & Dot, Keep Collective and Ever Skincare currently have 60,000 business owners in over 6 countries. I’d say she’s found her extraordinary.

Jessica set out to make an impact on a grand scale and has succeeded. Danae and I are working towards a very similar goal. Now it’s time to find your extraordinary!

3 Areas You Can Add a Personal Touch to your Automation

Automation has two sides…the good and the overused. I’ve never thought too much about it until I started using some different tools myself. I’m all for using automation…. in moderation.  It has become an essential tool for many businesses to help keep up with the digital marketing demands, and keep in touch with our prospects and clients.

The problem I have is when automation is overused and lacks the personal touch and feel of a human being. I’m still of the belief that nothing can replace a human, no matter where technology takes us. Below are a few areas that you can take steps starting today, to help personalize your automatic responses.

EMAILS

Email automation is a great tool, when it’s not meant to be personal. Sending an automated “thank you for joining” when someone signs up for your newsletter lets them know their request was received. How can you personalize that automated response? I go back at the end of each day or the next morning and send a personal email back to each person thanking them for signing up, and I include something that I feel is of use to most people. Right now I’m sending a social media calendar template that can be tailored to anyone’s campaign.

TWITTER

What actually sparked me to write this were the automated direct messages I was receiving on Twitter. When I started getting a regular stream of connections, I couldn’t keep up with the direct messages that were coming in. I enjoy going through my new contacts at the end of the day to see who is following me. When I sat down and took the time to sift through my messages, I found they were all automated.  There wasn’t one message sent to me that was personal in any way. This is a good way for a possible good message to get lost in the shuffle. Based on my experience, if I’m trying to get someone’s attention on twitter I will @mention them in a tweet. I always read through my notifications before I look at my endless list of generic messages.

HOOTSUITE

Hootsuite is a great platform to use when you need to schedule your campaign days or weeks in advance, and when you’re utilizing different channels. But what you post on Twitter & Facebook might not be right for LinkedIn. Taking the time to post the right content on the right channels is something that you need to spend a little time sorting through.

Using automation in conjunction with some personal interaction can help you strike a nice balance with your audience. You can’t be on top of every new connection or subscriber right when it happens, and as we know our society today wants an immediate action or response locked and loaded. But showing that you took the time to really look at that person or their business and personalize your end-message or connection request adds the human element that has been lost in the electronic shuffle. In the end people want to know that they matter, isn’t that what’s important to you?

 

Inside EVA: Why I’m Passionate about Virtual Assistants

You would expect an article like this from me, considering I founded a Virtual Assistant Company. But what you probably don’t know is why I founded this company. Like many other entrepreneurs, it started with a passion to help others that led to its creation.

I’ve been a Virtual Assistant myself in many capacities for over 18 years, which started soon after my daughter was born. I needed to work AND be home with her. I had no idea how to do this or what I would do, until I saw an ad in the paper from a wholesaler who needed part time work, which I could do from home. My VA career started and blossomed from there.

It kept my skills sharp and also allowed me the flexibility to stay home and raise my kids for many years. I started out part time, but by my third child I was working almost full time as a Virtual Assistant, and eventually needed to send him to daycare a few days a week (funny how we change our mindset by the 3rd child…).

My passion was two-fold; I wanted other women to have the freedom and flexibility to work around their schedules, while staying on top of their skills. Unfortunately when women (or men) take a leave from work to stay home for even a year or two, it makes it difficult to get back into the workforce. It takes time to get up to speed on the changes that happened while you were away. I also wanted them to not have to search for work. That is a stressful time when you’re between clients, and probably the hardest aspect of working as a freelance Virtual Assistant.

The women we’re working with today at Elite, for lack of a better term, are awesome. They’re take-charge women who want the same things we want: to be recognized for their expertise, keep their skill set sharp and earn a good living, while still being able to be available to their families.  These women help us grow as a company with their knowledge and experience leading the way. It’s a great feeling to know that we’re helping each other on this path.

The second part was seeing how as little as 5 hours a week could benefit the clients I was working with. When someone can take even 2-3 tasks out of their daily or weekly routine (I call them the time-suck tasks), it makes a big difference. I found over the years that people take advantage of that time in different ways. Some used it to free up more time to spend with their family and some used it to allow them more time to work on other areas of their business. Regardless of the reason, time is time, and it’s not easy to come by.

One of my favorite parts of this job is the initial consultation with a client. Giving information via email is fine to start, but I always insist on a call. Yes, people are busy. But if you’re serious about getting some help, then I need to talk to you. Most conversations always start out the same, “I know I need help, but I don’t know how someone can help me”. By the end of the call, it feels great to have helped someone plan out how to get started, and discover the things they can outsource that they never thought of before. It’s a wonderful feeling of accomplishment.

I made myself a lab rat.

I’m the perfect test subject: When I started using one of our VA’s, I was amazed at the weight that was lifted off my shoulders. I am someone who feels they need to do everything themselves, whether it’s for business or at home. What got me started was one particular project I had and just couldn’t find the time to complete. I had the bulk of it put together, but no time to implement it. I took my own advice and handed the entire project to a VA. Her help has been invaluable to me. That project has led to other tasks that I’m handing over, knowing we can keep moving our company forward with her by my side.

I never thought I’d become such a “business nerd”.  I am always reading and researching everything I can find on business. I laugh at myself on how many articles I find on different topics, and my first reaction is “that’s something a Virtual Assistant can do for someone”. It’s exciting and such a tremendous learning experience.

My partner and I have spent a lot of time trying to figure out the best way to structure Elite and create a sustainable company. There’s a learning curve with everything in life, and we’ve had some bumps along the way. But we’ve found a solid foundation that we’re working on, and constantly working to improve. If I’ve learned anything so far, it’s to always be in student mode. If you’re not learning, you’re losing. You know the old saying, “you gotta work in the trenches…” Well we have, which I think is what has helped us develop our company to where we are now. Having been Virtual Assistants ourselves for so many years has helped us to understand what drives and motivates our team.

For our Virtual Assistants we strive to:

  • Have a caring, understanding and sustainable company to work for.
  • Offer good rates to keep our VA’s happy and turnover low.
  • Positions that challenge them and keep their skills sharp.

For our clients, we strive to:

  • Have a dedicated assistant who isn’t looking for a higher paying job.
  • Have an assistant who is experienced not only with certain skill sets, but also with working remotely. It may not seem like it, but it’s not easy having a flexible work schedule. It takes discipline, and a lot of it.
  • Be happy. You can’t put a price tag on a happy client.

When I first started this company I never thought about it being my passion. I was initially thinking about how I wanted to help not only other women, but also clients in need of assistance. Then I discovered what a great sense of satisfaction it’s been to create these scenarios for both sides, and that has become my driving force.

If you’re someone struggling with wanting to start a company or a business and you aren’t sure where to begin…think about what you’re good at, and what you enjoy doing. Now figure out how that can help others. This will help give you a great foundation to get started. If you’re struggling with too much work or need that driving force to keep you motivated, it might be time for you to hire a Virtual Assistant.