The Top 5 Mistakes I Made When Searching For A Virtual Assistant

Main Takeaway: a VA is not gonna solve your problems, unless you know what problems you want to solve.

When I first started looking for a Virtual Assistant (VA) it was around 2007.

I had no idea what to look for, who to look or for or how to look for them.

But I was getting a VA and that’s all there was to it.

… I was totally sold on the idea.

Many mistakes later, I figured out how to fine tune that process.

So how do you get a VA and avoid the same mistakes that I made?

First, let me tell you a little bit more about what happened.

I actually reached out to services and tried a few like Tasks Every Day, Bpovia and Ask Sunday.

I got my main full time VA from Topper Company, a much smaller, lesser known, VA service company.

That same VA asked if she could work for me directly.

We negotiated and she was my VA for several years, until I no longer had a need for her skillset.

My current VA fits my exact needs for my business, but that wasn't by mistake.

Now, let me tell you about my five biggest mistakes and how I turned those mistakes around.

Mistake #1 - “I was looking for love in all the wrong places.

I didn’t know where to look. I was postin’ on craigslist, monster.com, random job sites...pretty much anywhere I could find.

Now, while some of those are okay, depending on what you’re looking for, not all of them are great.

So, outside of a direct recommendation from an entrepreneur friend, I've found the best site is Upwork. I've also had a really good experience with Time Etc.

I’m able to get quality work at market rate for the job.

I am also very specific in my job ads.

Mistake #2 - I didn’t clearly define the role and duties upfront.

I was all over the place at first like many are when they’re first starting out.

It really was trial by fire.

And then, I wised up.

I got super clear about what I actually needed and then wrote that into the job description.

And I made sure the VA had previous experience and could speak to that experience.

No more random assignments and random tasks.

Mistake #3 - I didn’t set clear boundaries.

My VAs were a bit all over the place and turning in things late.

They just were not focused and had no idea how to set their own boundaries.

I started setting super clear expectations.

Right up front, I note the number of hours and I say how many times I want to meet each week.

Once they’ve started, I’m extra clear on deadlines and make sure they’re a buffer time between their deadline and the time an item is actually due so I have time to review it.

So, whatever your requirements are, I'd state them upfront.

That requires you to be really clear on what you actually want.

So, to set your expectations for your VA you want to overcommunicate, especially in the beginning.

Let them know, “Hey!, this is exactly what I expect from you. Can you provide that?”

Mistake #4 - I didn’t fine tune the interview process.

At first, I was all over the place.

I was asking interesting questions.

I would google up some questions, do a bit of research here and there, etc.

Now, I have a very fine tuned interview process - I ask 10 specific questions for each interview.

Also, in the job description, I will request that when they respond, they also send a response to a specific question I’ve included.

So, they’ve emailed me, I screened them, they have the experience and I have insight to their answer on a very specific question.

That alone weeds out half of the applicants (yes, even for high level positions or high level contractors!)

Why?

A number of reasons… either they weren’t that interested in the job and didn’t really answer the question, they didn’t follow directions, they are slow to respond, their grammar or writing won't work for the job.

I also have them do a face-to-face Skype interview with me for just 5 to 10 minutes.

That happens after I’ve narrowed the candidates down.

That really helps me figure out if this person will be a good fit, do we have a good vibe, do we have good chemistry, are they able to communicate well with me and will they be able to speak to my clients directly and do it well.

This helps you make certain that this person is the absolute right fit for you and your business.

Mistake # 5 - I didn’t have a probation week.

Make sure you try them out and like their work.

Don’t just hire them.

That means, make sure they are accountable and actually do the job they say they can do well.

So, give them a trial week to try out their work.

If you like them and their work, move forward.

If they’re really good at some duties, not so good at others, be sure to address your concerns and shift the focus for them as needed.

But, make sure to try them out for a week before you commit for a longer period of time.

That means you help them redefine what they are best at so you can get their best quality work.

So, those are the top 5 mistakes I made when I hired my first virtual assistant, and my solution for each. How can you use this to improve your own hiring process?

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