Okay, so the title may be a little misleading, but you'll understand why you don't want to hire a virtual assistant by the end of this post.
I was recently in Seattle and got to have breakfast with one of my customers, and man it was a lot of fun. One of the things that came up was the topic of virtual assistants and how a business goes about finding and hiring one. We also spoke briefly on what requirements you should give when posting your job to a virtual assistant directory.
Bear with me for a minute, I know that this isn't quite clear yet, but I am assuming that the target market of this post is someone that already has a business, and has, or intends to have, virtual assistants.
A Story That Happens All Too Often
Okay, imagine you are in an established business and you are working with your employees. You just signed a big customer and you are ready to start coming up with a plan on how to deliver an a amazing product to them. You turn to your employees and excitedly tell them about the project, and they respond with "sounds good sir, please give us the requirements."
The rest of the day you spend hours developing the project requirements, submit them to your employee, and they give you an estimated hourly cost for their work. Not to mention, they are not the same team that worked on your past projects because you have had to hire new employees for each job you've completed in the past.
A day into the project, your staff states that they didn't quite understand a portion of the requirements document that you sent. You then call your client, get more details, and pass them on to your team. This happens 10 - 20 times throughout the job, and your client is starting to doubt your capabilities.
When all is complete, you've delivered a decent product, but there are some bugs. You pass the bug list to your employees and they let you know that they are busy with other projects but will get to them when they can. Plus, it is outside of the 2 weeks of support that they give to the product so you will need to submit another proposal to them.
Your customer is now irate... And your profit margin is growing ever smaller...
You submit the proposal and your employees get to work. Once again it is another set of employees, and they mess up one of your clients pages because they didn't communicate with the last employees.
Your customer hates you... And your profit margin is gone.
The Truth Hurts...
Sounds like a ridiculous story right? Well, then why do most people do this when wanting to hire virtual assistants?
The key is to hire real employees overseas and not a virtual assistant or agency.
Full-time virtual assistants allow you to empower them to know and understand your business so that they can literally run your company like a local employee. What is more valuable, and having to write out tasks every time something needs to get done, or someone that can interact with customers, suggest improvements, and get things done without you?
How to really outsource
Stop thinking short-term. If you are going to outsource at all, there are a couple of things you should do:
- Treat outsourcing as a business decision - just like with hiring a local employee, make sure that you there is actually a need. If not, don't.
- Budget for a full-time employee - figure out how much it will be to hire for one year. When you have your budget set, it makes it a lot easier to avoid burnout after a month. Use a service like easyoutsource.com (free), or if you are afraid of messing up by hiring the wrong person, use a service like Virtual Staff Finder (affiliate link).
- Hire passionate people - you don't want someone that just wants a job. There are virtual assistants out there that want to learn your industry. The more passionate about their job, the more they will learn without your direct instruction.
- Be ready to invest your time - in order to get the most out of someone that you hire, you will need to be ready to spend time developing training modules. The more you train and empower, the less time you will need to spend giving direction later.
- Be the boss and communicate - you need to set expectations and communicate feedback, good or bad. Be constructive in everything that you say, but always help your virtual assistant to become better at their job.
Having a virtual assistant should be no different than hiring a full-time employee that you can look at face-to-face. Just because someone is overseas, doesn't mean that all business common sense goes out the window.
So... Hire an employee overseas, not a virtual assistant. Hire someone that will be passionate about what you do and help your business to grow, not just someone that will do a project for you. Do this, and you will see why outsourcing can be amazingly powerful.