Starting your very own business is exciting! We’ve heard the Walk Disney quote “If you can dream it, you can do it”.
While that saying is true, I’m a firm believer that you can not achieve ALL of your goals on your own. Yes, you can start building your audience, grow your email list and begin creating your product, but how do you know when you’re ready to hire a virtual assistant?
A Virtual Assistant is so much more than someone who performs administrative tasks, checks your email, and schedules a flight here and there. Virtual assistants come in all stripes and might perform a range of tasks for your business. You will find that some specialise in certain areas, while others have a general level of administrative expertise. In any case, a good Virtual Assistant keeps helps you by streamlining, optimising, and taking care of the administrative work that happens behind-the-scenes of your business so you can focus on the big picture. A virtual assistant isn’t sitting in an office greeting clients as they come in!
So, how do you know when you are ready to hire a Virtual Assistant?
Are you prepared to relinquish control?
This is really the first question you need to ask yourself and it is imperative to answer with brutal honesty if you are thinking of hiring a Virtual Assistant. If you are someone who always likes to feel in direct control of what’s going on with your tasks and projects, you might not be ready to hire a Virtual Assistant.
This may sound like stating the obvious, but rest assured that there is a good reason to mention this point here. Giving up some of the tasks that you currently do by yourself does not sound difficult, does it? In fact, it probably sounds positively wonderful… until you actually come to do it.
Many clients that I talk to are initially eager to pass the reigns over to someone completely capable. However, in reality, it isn’t that simple! I know because I am a business owner just like you! It is difficult to give someone control over your business.
Even though it is difficult, what I can tell you is that when you relinquish control over tasks into the capable hands of someone else, you will flourish! You will feel the sweet relief of lost time, now found again. Suddenly, the things you did not have time for are now back on your calendar.
Can you delegate at a distance?
If delegating simple tasks to locally based employees is difficult, it can be even more challenging when outsourcing to a remote worker. This is where many people who hire Virtual Assistants go wrong. They think that outsourcing is simply a case of creating a few written or verbal instructions, and then letting go. What happens next?
The first time a task is not completed satisfactorily, the frustrated client takes it back, figuring they are better off doing it themselves.
Effective delegation involves a lot more than simply giving someone a task and waiting on its completion. It does not matter either, whether that someone is a local employee or on the other side of the country. So, if you are not sure about your delegation skills, you may not yet be ready to hire a Virtual Assistant.
The 80/20 method
To clarify my recommendations are not intended to discourage you from hiring a Virtual Assistant, but simply to prepare you for the fact that outsourcing and delegation can be very challenging for business owners, especially at first. It will not take too much practice to get it right, as long as you approach it with forethought.
It may help, for example, to try not to even think about delegation as the outsourcing of a task. Instead, think of it as reducing your workload on any delegated task by about 80%. Your 20% of the task will comprise the initial structuring, outlining, and defining of objectives (10%), and reviewing the results (10%) after your Virtual Assistant has completed their 80%.
The 10% given over to review should also include the delivery of feedback. Inform your Virtual Assistant as to what was done really well and what could do with improvement. Offer tips, guidance, or more detailed instructions (if needed) for the next time your Virtual Assistant completes the same task.
In time, you should be able to start giving your Virtual Assistant 100% responsibility for some tasks. But if you think only in terms of 80%, anything more is a bonus, and you won’t be disappointed about retaining a small portion of your original workload. A saving in personal labor hours of 80% is a pretty sweet gain after all.
Do you even know what you want from a Virtual Assistant?
Some business owners can have an unsatisfactory experience working with Virtual Assistants for the first time because they don’t have any firm objectives in mind when hiring their first Virtual Assistant. They were just told that they need help and to hire a Virtual Assistant.
With Virtual Assistants being billed as a sure way to shave hours from your working week, it’s all too easy to get over-enthused and into hiring mode before really thinking things through.
In addition to considering the process of delegation, it makes good sense to clarify in your own mind exactly what you want a Virtual Assistant to do for you. If you hire a Virtual Assistant only on the basis that you want to save some of your own time or to increase your productivity, you might be in for an early disappointment.
Achieve early success with outsourcing objectives
Without clear objectives in mind, it can be easy to get bogged down in the early stages of the Client/Virtual Assistant relationship. As you struggle to decide what tasks to delegate, become tied up with creating work instructions and procedures and training your Virtual Assistant. You can find yourself managing your assistant through multiple tasks simultaneously.
When this happens, clients sometimes hastily deduce that they made a wrong decision in hiring a Virtual Assistant, and give up before the teething troubles can be ironed out. So, before you jump into the outsourcing process, decide exactly how you want your Virtual Assistant to save your time or increase your productivity.
Where are you spending most of your time?
Write down every minute that you are spending on your business. This will allow you to budget your time. If you are “overspending” in one or more areas, it’s probably time to enlist help.
The goal of a Virtual Assistant is to lighten your workload. Once you are free to do what you do best, you’ll see the return on your investment.
Prepare before you hire.
After clearly setting your outsourcing objectives, it will be easier to take the following final steps in preparation to hire a Virtual Assistant:
· Identify the tasks and/or projects that you wish to outsource
· Prioritise the identified tasks, and create a sequence or schedule for their delegation
· Finally, create some instructions and/or training materials for each of these tasks or projects
The entire process of setting goals, prioritising, and preparing will help you in the following ways:
· You will be more informed about the skills you require from a Virtual Assistant
· You will be better able to find a Virtual Assistant who is a good match for your needs
· Your Virtual Assistant will be able to provide better service from day one
· You’ll be able to manage your time better, and that of your Virtual Assistant
· Your Virtual Assistant will be more self-sufficient from the outset of the working relationship
· You’re less likely to become frustrated and feel that a Virtual Assistant is not for you
These are real benefits of outsourcing objectives and preparation, ensuring that your overall time saving and productivity objectives will be met and that ultimately you’ll be glad you decided to hire a Virtual Assistant.
Remember though, to follow this process before you even begin searching for a Virtual Assistant.
Get ready to delegate
So, what do you think about all of that? Is the time really right for you right now to hire a Virtual Assistant? If you ask yourself the questions and run through the process described in this post, you certainly should be.
· Get yourself ready for the realities of task delegation.
· Set your sights on exactly what you want a Virtual Assistant to do for you or your business
· Prioritise and prepare a little, then go ahead and hire.
These actions will help you to hire a Virtual Assistant whose skill-set closely matches your needs. You will also get off on the right foot with your new Virtual Assistant, thanks to your preparation. Most importantly of all, you will avoid being one of those people who heard the hype and thought that hiring a Virtual Assistant is like signing up for a cable package.
So, are you ready to hire a Virtual Assistant?
With over 20 years of experience as an Executive Assistant, Amy Martin leads the Business Support Team at Total Eclipse Agency.
Offering impeccable attention to detail, and an innate skill at streamlining business operations, Amy’s background encompasses both corporate and government sector support and she brings this knowledge and skill set to your business via our Business Support Services.