Gift Yourself 1 Day Per Week: Hire a Virtual Assistant
Sep 02, by Tanya Alvarez
Your battle for more time runs alongside your struggle to let go and have someone else do the work.
It’s a confusing challenge, no doubt.
Since you’re a self-starter, it’s 2nd nature to put in the hard yards yourself. And it’s your business that you’ve built from the ground up. Why leave things up to someone else?
This sense of 100% control is a powerful feeling. That, plus your dogged determination, has likely been a centering force during the beginning stages of your business’s evolution.
But now, as you strive for more, the DIY approach is impractical and unsustainable.
There are only so many hours in a lifetime, and you need to make room for things other than work. Whether family time, personal growth, or anything in between, your professional endeavors can’t always be your #1 priority.
Entire manifestos can be written on the pitfalls of a poor work-life balance.
There’s a law of diminishing returns when you spread yourself too thin with work. Eventually, you’ll hit a wall and stop making progress. So, it’s time to let go of your hardline DIY approach, giving yourself time for other things.
To the above point, you can gain back 1 day per week by hiring a virtual assistant (VA).
While this process can be relatively painless, it isn’t as simple as hopping online and pressing a few buttons. Instead, there’s a proper way to find a VA, and by following my suggestions, you’ll gain back the gift of time:
Disclaimer: Establish Your Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)
Imagine you fall ill for a day, a month, or even a year: What would happen to your business?
If you haven’t created a blueprint for someone to fill your shoes, the answer to the above question would be, “nothing good.”
Alternatively, what if you established a blueprint (or standard operating procedures) so that someone else (e.g., your virtual assistant) can keep things in motion even while you’re unavailable?
Setting yourself and your VA up for success means establishing a reliable SOP for all tasks. This way, specific operations will remain in motion, even if you’re taking a break.
Why Should You Hire a Virtual Assistant?
Reason #1: Virtual Assistants Give You Back Your Time
In the Harvard Business Review, I read that a VA can give you 1 day back per week. I also found out from another article about 47 separate tasks these online assistants can do for you.
Whether it’s gifting you back 1 day or taking 47 tasks off your hands, your ears should perk up. Because it means a lot less soul-sapping work for you.
Reason #2: Virtual Assistants Help You Scale Your Business
When I suggest outsourcing, an excuse I hear from some peers and clients is, “only I can do the work.”
I’m sorry to be blunt, but if your work is so hyperspecific that only you can do it, then you aren’t running a real business. It might be harsh, but that’s #realtalk–no two ways about it.
That’s not a knock on you by any means; it’s just the laws of nature.
How can you scale your business if you can’t outsource work? You’re one person, and with that comes limits on output and productivity, no matter your commitment and drive. Don’t limit yourself to a side-hustle when you can build an empire.
Reason #3: Virtual Assistants Allow You to Focus on the Task at Hand
“It will just take a minute” is the curse of the entrepreneur. Multitasking is definitely a skill, but too much of anything is harmful.
Most business experts will tell you too much multitasking is terrible for your career and mind.
By trying to do everything at once, you won’t do anything well. Hiring a VA gives you time to focus on what you do best, so you can deliver spectacular results on work that directly contributes to your business’s growth.
Reason #4: Virtual Assistants are Highly Affordable
Something preventing many entrepreneurs from outsourcing is the cost. With virtual assistants, this isn’t a problem and is a real lifesaver.
Specifically, VAs, when hired from other countries, only cost $4-$5 per hour. Someone more local will cost much more, meaning you’ll either need to be comfortable hiring someone overseas or be ready to pay $15-$30 per hour.
Reason #5: Virtual Assistants Allow You to Buy Back Your Time at a Discount
Regardless of where you hire from, time is what’s most valuable. More importantly, with the right virtual assistant, you’ll make back the money you spend on them (and then some).
Whereas you’ll never get back the time that you lose by trying to do everything yourself.
Imagine you’re faced with a menial task that takes an hour, such as filling out a database.
Look at this from two vantage points:
- The menial work can be for a client
- Or it could be your own work
If this energy-sucking work is for a client, and you charge between $250-$500 for an hour of services, paying a VA to do the job still nets you a huge profit. Remember, you’re only paying them $5.
Even better, you’ll be doing something you want to do, whether business or personal.
The same principle applies if the database-related work is specific to your business. Sure, a client isn’t paying for it. But you can spend that time either recharging your mental batteries or growing your company in other ways.
What Work Can a VA Do for You?
Are you going to hire a VA and immediately have them pitch million-dollar ideas to prospective clients?
Of course not.
Still, virtual assistants are well-rounded and hard-working. And you’ll quickly find out you can trust the person taking work off your hands.
Really, though, it all comes down to your vetting process and the type of worker you bring on board. Factors such as comfortability with the English language can be figured out as you find the ideal VA for you.
I strongly suggest starting slowly–just like dating. You wouldn’t propose after a week, would you? With that idea in mind, don’t put the weight of the world on your VA’s shoulders right away.
For example, if you want a VA for customer service, start with simple work, just so you can get an idea of their skill set, and they can get a feel for your business. Think about what you already have a template for, such as scheduling appointments. And avoid giving your VA work that requires too much independent decision-making–especially during the beginning stages of your working relationship.
Then, as your hypothetical customer-facing VA earns your trust, they can have more interactions with clients.
VA’s are frequently tasked with event planning, blogging (including publishing, internal linking, and research), scheduling social media posts, and data entry. But this just scratches the surface, so I’ll repost the link for 47 separate tasks a VA can perform.
How Do You Prioritize What to Delegate?
Below is a delegation hierarchy, where you’ll decide the work you most need to delegate and what you should keep on doing yourself:
1st you must delegate your Energy Suckers:
- These tasks are your most significant areas of weakness.
- You don’t enjoy this type of work at all.
2nd you must delegate your Low Impact work:
- You’re “okay” at these tasks
- But you don’t enjoy this work.
3rd you must delegate your Joyless tasks:
- You’re very good at this work, and it helps your company grow.
- But you still don’t really like this work.
4th you must delegate your Thriving work (or your Genius zone):
- You’re amazing at this type of work, and it has a massive impact on your business’s growth.
- This is your wheelhouse, and you love it.
Note that a VA isn’t your only outsourcing option. For instance, you might really struggle with bookkeeping, in which case you’d need a bookkeeper, not a virtual assistant.
Either way, you must weigh the following factors:
- Delegated Tasks:
- What category does each workplace task belong in? Low Impact, Energy Sucker, Joyless, or Thriving?
- The Cost of Delegation:
- I use Upwork’s catalog section, where you can type what you’re looking for into the search field (e.g., type in “virtual assistant.)
- Upwork will then inform you of terms (e.g., 6 hours for $30). This isn’t permanent, and it’s highly affordable, so you can test someone out without much risk.
- The Time You Spend on each Task:
- As an entrepreneur, you sometimes need a visual representation of how much certain tasks (especially those you don’t like) are devouring your time. This is where my delegation worksheets come into play.
- With my delegation worksheets, you’ll quickly see that you’re spending double-digit hours per week on work you don’t like. More important, you’ll see you can pay an affordable rate to have this work done correctly.
Lastly, as a rule, the better you are at something and the greater its impact on your business’s growth, the less it should be delegated. The purpose of outsourcing to a VA is to eliminate your weaknesses and maximize your strengths.
How Can You Find a Virtual Assistant?
Your best bet for hiring a VA is a freelancing platform. Both Upwork and HireMyMom.com have worked for me.
Upwork offers you a broader pool of candidates beyond the US. Alternatively, HireMyMom.com is typically stay-at-home moms who are US-based, well educated, highly skilled, and want to re-enter the workforce.
Why Upwork is an Entrepreneur’s Best Friend
The benefit of freelancing platforms like Upwork is that you’re a customer. So, you don’t deal with payment processing, and you can leave feedback (sometimes negative), which tends to garner improved service. You’ll also have access to a VA’s previous work through screenshots as a frame of reference, and you can track their hours.
Most important is the time you save with a freelance platform like Upwork.
Job postings of old required you to go back and forth with tons of candidates, further cramming your schedule with no guarantee that you’ll find someone. Conversely, Upwork’s catalog puts the hunt in your hands, streamlining the process. Since an Upwork VA’s previous work is readily available, you know what you’re getting. You can see right away who meets your requirements.
Also, you know up-front what you’re paying for (e.g., delivery time, pricing, hours, revisions, number of deliverables).
Transparent, up-front pricing is specifically crucial since you can plan and budget around both.
What Three Questions Should You Ask Before Hiring a VA?
These suggestions below aren’t skill-testing job interview questions you’ll be asking a virtual assistant.
Instead, you’re asking these questions to yourself, so you can better strategize when outsourcing your work.
Question 1: Is your VA going to be recurring, or is it a one-time-only gig?
Recurring tasks should be prioritized. Eventually, you can get your VA to do one-off jobs, but that’s after you’ve built a relationship with them.
For recurring work, you’ll already have a templated system that’s basically plug-and-play. But for one-off jobs, you don’t necessarily have a fine-tuned process.
Additionally, recurring tasks happen at a set time each month or week, and you can more easily block that time off.
Question 2: Do you want your VA to work based on your timezone or their timezone?
Working based on your timezone means you’ll be paying a bit more for your VA.
And here’s why:
Many VAs live in places like the Philippines. They’ll have to stay up all night to keep up with your schedule. Or, you’re hiring them from the US, which we’ve already established costs more.
Unless your work demands that your VA’s hours align with your timezone, the wiser choice is to let them work on their own schedule.
Question 3: Will your VA be communicating with clients?
Client communication is a task of high importance, and you really need to trust your VA to perform this type of work.
Factors such as written and spoken English become a priority, and you’ll need totest writing and verbal skills. It’ll take a lot of extra work, which is why I suggest initially outsourcing tasks that don’t involve communication. Eventually, you might get there–but walk before you can sprint in this area.
Writing a Job Post for Virtual Assistants
Hiring a VA is one thing; hiring the RIGHT VA for your business is a whole different story altogether.
You need to find someone whose skill set matches your needs. And you’ll attract these bespoke candidates by writing an effective job post. Below are some tips on how to get that done:
- List all responsibilities:
- Explain the work you want (and don’t want) completed, defining the scope of the required tasks.
- List all the tools and software needed.
- Clarify the number of hours per week or month your VA must work.
- Explain the requirements:
- State what level of experience you’re seeking in a VA and what skills they need (e.g., strong writing, excellent overall communications, PowerPoint, Productivity Tools).
- Test your candidates:
- Create a test for candidates to take. This way, they can prove their value in a relevant scenario before you make a decision. It’s added insurance.
- Hiding a litmus test within the job description will also filter down to top-performing VA candidates.
(Here’s a more thorough deep dive into writing a job posting for a virtual assistant.)
What Tools Will You Need When Hiring a VA?
Having an assistant at your side is an adjustment. As such, you must add new tools to make their job easier and streamline your correspondence, collaboration, and communications.
First and foremost, a Password Manager like 1Password is a must, eliminating all access-related headaches.
And personally, I enjoy using GoogleDocs to share documents with my virtual assistant.
Tools like Slack are helpful for written communications, but you can also use the freelancer platform (e.g., Upwork) to communicate. If you prefer face-to-face interactions, Zoom is another option if it fits your budget.
Then there’s Loom, a video recording tool that works with your camera and screen.
I specifically like using Loom for work I’m hesitating to get done. First, I record myself doing the task and then send it to my VA to complete before typing it out, so I now have an SOP. In fact, this is how I create all my standard operating procedures with my virtual assistant.
You’ll also need project management tools, such as Trello or ClickUp. These will tell what about new tasks, what’s in progress, in review, and closed.
And here is the framework I use for defining work on Clickup:
- Task (with video instructions)
- Timing (frequency)
- What defines done?
- Due date
Treat Your VA Like Any Business Partnership
At first, as a cautionary measure, paying your VA hourly is fine.
However, as they gain your trust and confidence, reward your virtual assistant for their solid, reliable work and pay them on a monthly plan. This way, they’ll have a more steady flow of income, giving them peace of mind and a sense of loyalty towards you.
What Will You Do with Your Time?
Time is the most precious gift of all.
And once you’ve found the ideal virtual assistant, you’ll suddenly be gifted 1 day per week. That’s 52 days and 1248 hours per year.
You can choose what you want to do with those hours, whether it’s more days with your family or time to yourself. Perhaps, you’ll focus on the work you’re most passionate about.
Realistically, you can fill your freed time with a combination of all the things you’re missing out on. All you need to do is follow my process of hiring a virtual assistant, and the clock will suddenly become your best friend.