OK, I think we realized after reading Liz Goodgold’s post that most of us could really use the help of a virtual assistant to manage our business.
So I went straight to the source — virtual assistants and mom entrepreneurs who’ve hired them — to find out how to hire the right virtual assistant for your business without wasting time or getting burned in the process.
Where can a mom entrepreneur find a virtual assistant to hire?
- Social media sites — Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Plaxo – any one who calls herself a “virtual” assistant should be on here. Suzanne says that “an excellent virtual assistant must be prominent on all the social networking sites.” Try tweeting that you’re looking for a virtual assistant and see how long it takes to get a reply.
- Google search — Kristi Bennitt says, “Any virtual assistant worth her salt has a website, so doing a Google search for “virtual assistant”, “virtual bookkeeper” or “Seattle virtual assistant”, for example, will give you great targeted results.”
- Virtual Assistance Chamber of Commerce — who knew that virtual assistants had their very own chamber of commerce? Cathy Griepsma of Making Life Easier for You, that’s who. Cathy says, “The VACC has loads of great advice for VA’s and also for folks that want to hire them.”
- Elance.com — Wendy Kenney of 23 Kazoos has looked and hired from everywhere, including VA websites and Craigslist. She now says, “I will only hire from Elance.com because providers bid on your job, so you can hire someone for a reasonable rate. And, employers rate the people they hire and give feedback so you can see the history of the person you are interested in. Elance allows people to post their portfolio on the site. Also, you can filter by the exact skills and location that you are looking for.”
What questions should a mom entrepreneur ask when interviewing a potential virtual assistant to insure that they are a good fit?
- Ask what computer programs they use and be sure they’re compatible with your computer system.
- Ask for references
- Ask for the typical turn around time for work requested
- Ask what types of companies & industries she works with
- Ask for her website address and visit it
- Ask if there will be a conflict of interest when working for you and any of her other clients
- Ask to review her confidentiality agreement
- Ask if she utilizes a non-compete agreement. If so, review it
- Ask about her work style (project oriented, task oriented, self starter, etc.) and how many hours in a day she’s available to work. Ask when she does the majority of her work – at night, during the day, or weekends – so you can manage deadlines if necessary.
- Ask if the work will be subcontracted
More tips for insuring the “right fit”:
- Speak on the phone — you can often get a “read” on someone just by hearing their voice and how they answer questions.
- Offer as much information as possible about the job — a virtual assistant might decide she’s not the right fit
- Discuss her expectations — what will she need from you to do her job?
How is a virtual assistant paid? By the project or hourly?
Some virtual assistants charge an hourly rate, usually between $10-$50 per hour depending on her experience or the work to be performed (data entry, customer service, social media marketing, etc). Other virtual assistants work on retainer — they are paid in advance for ongoing projects or tasks that will be done on a monthly basis. Still others offer a flat rate per project and have a “menu” of services provided.
How can a mom entrepreneur avoid getting burned when hiring a virtual assistant?
- Check references, check references, check references!
- Always sign a contract –for IRS purposes, you will have to file a 1099 if you pay them over $600 or so a year (if both of you are located in the US). The contract needs to clearly state that they are a contract worker, etc. Otherwise, you might have to pay taxes for them.
- Make sure there’s a confidentiality clause and/or non-compete clause in place — not that it would stop anyone but, if you have it, you have something to take with you to court if necessary.
- Keep records — how many hours your VA worked, what projects they completed, how much you paid them, etc.
- Start off small, with a “pilot” project. For example, if you eventually plan for 20 hrs per month, start with 5 hrs the first month or two. Don’t mention the possibility of more hours. Instead, observe how a VA handles the tasks, her communication skills, etc.
- Ask about invoice policies, including late penalties and interest
Hiring a virtual assistant can be one of the best decisions you’ve ever made, especially if you follow these steps. Says Angelique Rewers, mom of three month old twin boys and co-founder of Richer.Smarter.Happier, “When it comes to my VA, honestly, I don’t know what I would do without her.”
Special thanks to the following virtual assistants and mom entrepreneurs for their fabulous advice:
Dawn Martinello of Monday Morning VA
Yelena McManaman of OneClickVA.com
Debra Cohen, President of Home Remedies of NY
Wendy Kenney of 23 Kazoos
Kristi Bennitt of Seattle VA
Suzanne Roy of VA Work
Angelique Rewers of Richer.Smarter.Happier
Cathy Griepsma of Making Life Easier for You