Updated: May 20
Hiring a VA: Dealing with Good Problems
There are bad problems in business - like no one wants your service.
But there are actually good problems too - like too much business to handle.
But a good problem is still a problem.
The phone’s ringing off the hook, invoices are going out, queries are coming in. With one hand you’re typing an Instagram post. With the other you’re looking for a contract.
When starting out, this is how it goes. You’re the receptionist, the accountant, everything. But as you grow a bit - there’s that awkward moment. When it becomes too much. Big stuff gets put off in exchange for everyday operations.
You don’t have the space, moment, or bandwidth to hand it off.
So you just sleep less, eat more fast food, say no to invitations from friends.
We’re all smart enough to recognize - from the outside, anyway - that this is no way to run a business. It’s no way to live! Still, people do it every day.
“Our phone rings daily with calls from small businesses, many of whom are solopreneurs, stressing as their businesses take off,” says Gwen Rosener, co-founder of the staffing agency FlexProfessionals, “Some are running around with their hair on fire, trying to juggle everything.”
Are you doing this? Yeah, I’ve done it too.
But none of us started a business hoping to work ourselves to death. It’s time to delegate.
The time has come for hiring a VA.
Hiring a VA can seem a little weird. Like inviting an invader into your business. But those mundane tasks you’re doing? Updating Facebook or ordering supplies? That’s what hiring a VA is for.
Still, it’s awkward for some folks. And oooooh my god, you can do it wrong. So I put together a list of rules for hiring a VA. Looky here.
Katie's Rules for Hiring a VA:
The Hire-Fire Cycle
No Penny Pinching
I use this list whenever I need to elegantly delegate. Now you can too.
No need for both of us to struggle through the same potholes - so let’s break this down.
Hiring a VA. Firing a VA.
The Reader’s Digest definition of the Hire-Fire Cycle is this: “hire fast, fire fast.”
Oo. That sounds so ruthless, doesn’t it? But when you’re hiring a VA, it’s about your business working better. If someone isn’t going to work on your team, you usually know it pretty fast.
I know. You’re a heart-centered entrepreneur. That’s so great. But sometimes it’s better for everyone if you lean into the “entrepreneur” side of that.
Hiring a VA that’s a mismatch in no crime. But keeping that VA after you know it? That’s shirking your duty to your clients. If your virtual assistant isn’t doing their job...you’re not doing yours.
I once convinced myself that my VA could work because she needed the job. I worked so hard to make it true. Communicating was exhausting and most of my energy went into assuring her that she wouldn’t be fired.
Turned out hiring this VA made work for me.
My output was suffering. I was suffering. My clients were being lost in the process. And the poor VA was so nervous every time we talked. I finally gave myself permission to let her go.
So fire your VA if they don’t:
Lighten your workload.
Make things run more efficiently and effortlessly.
Ask useful questions.
Listen to your answers.
Fire that VA tactfully - but fire them. It’s fair. If things aren’t getting easier, it’s not worth it. It’s literally the opposite of why you hired a VA.
Oh! And I’ve said nothing about the “hire fast” part!
Here’s what that means:
When hiring a VA, don’t be careless, but just...get on with it.
That’s it. You’re not picking a college or a life partner. Stop looking for the perfect candidate. Get. On. With. It.
When hiring a virtual assistant, go to a reputable staffing company or ask for referrals (my method).
Be sure to schedule a video call with them. You can make sure their English is solid, see what questions they ask, and get a feel for how well you match.
Genuinely check their references - make the decision - move on.
Just be sure to revisit your decision as you live with it.
And be willing to cut the cord if it’s not working out.
Sane Tasking: Your VA is Not Mary Poppins
When you finally grasp that you have an assistant, you may discover that you’re pretty bad at delegating. Totally fine. Sit down and brain dump all the things you wish you could hand off to someone. Think, “if I was sick for two weeks, what could someone else cover?”
Ultimately, you’ll have a zillion tasks you’re willing to give away.
BUT. That doesn’t mean you give all zillion to one virtual assistant.
When you’re hiring a VA go narrow with the tasks you give them. I call it Sane Tasking. Basically, you hire each VA for one bucket of tasks.
Don’t hire a VA for social media posts then ask them to pull reports and schedule your acupuncture Even if the person is competent to handle all of it, it’s going to be more work for you.
I know it doesn’t seem sane - training three different people for three different functions, but it is.
If you keep it to one domain, your virtual assistant will be able to function intuitively a lot faster. They’ll become an expert in their one area at an accelerated rate. And you can get to efficiency with less training.
With One Exception…
There is one exception to the Sane Tasking rule.
If you get a person who is a virtual assistant not as a side hustle but as a calling - you can maybe go wider on the tasking. You’ll know this VA when you meet them. They’re the unicorns of the hiring world. It’s like Mary Poppins showed up at your door.
They’ll ask insightful questions, things that you never thought of. They’ll be able to invent systems to plug the holes in your workflow you didn’t know you had. They’ll do it all without breaking a sweat.
If you do get one of these when hiring your VA, what you’ve found is a bona fide professional assistant. Start them narrowly, but let them grow. Bit by bit you can discuss new tasks and roles. Eventually, hand them a salary and a contract.
Early Bird Virtual Assistants
So yeah...it’s a weird suggestion, but I hire morning people.
This isn’t from some “early bird catches the worm” idea. I mean, I don’t know maybe they do get all the worms - but that’s not my reason.
I care about efficiency. And when you’re hiring a VA you’re going to want someone who’s up before you.
When I “clock in,” so to speak, all the work I generated the day before is resolved. New things will be prepped and ready on my virtual desk. It’s like elves came in the middle of the night, put on glasses, and got to work.
I like a VA that starts the day at least 90 minutes before me.
I can show up, crack my knuckles, and get started on my work. No waiting on any small thing to appear. We’re ready to go.
To be clear, it’s only important to hire someone who’s up before you. It’s a synchronizing issue. I’m not moralizing about morning people vs. night owls. If my VA lives on another continent and gets up at noon - I don’t care as long as their noon is before my morning.
The point is - think. When do you do your best work? When will you be generating the work for them? Then go about hiring a VA to fit that time puzzle.
Hiring a VA on the Cheap. Scrooge Please!
The concept of “you get what you pay for” may seem pretty obvious. It’s such a cornerstone of my belief system, I should probably get it inked on my arm. And in the world of virtual assistants, it’s front and center.
Technically, hiring a VA is something you can do for pennies. English is pretty common now in some less-developed markets. Hiring a VA for less than a living wage is totally doable. If you’re Scrooge.
Look I get it, it’s tempting to want to squeeze that dollar as far as it can go. Even though you’re scavenging on other people’s hardship.
But if you’re not bothered by the whole “Evil Robber Baron” identity you’re embracing, you might be interested to know that lowballing when you’re hiring a VA can really bite you in the butt later on.
Substandard work is usually attached to substandard pay. You could get a VA who doesn’t grasp your work and isn’t trained to ask the relevant questions. And low pay often attracts compulsive job-hoppers - people who drop a client when the possibility of a better-paying or less challenging gig comes along.
The point is if you’re not paying them a wage that’s considered truly generous where they live, you won’t keep anyone good for long.
Don’t assume loyalty when hiring a VA. Loyalty is earned by paying people well and treating them with respect. That’s what grown-up leaders do. That’s how sustainable success happens.
Hiring a VA: A Little Intention
Hiring a VA isn’t exactly hard, but it’s an adjustment. Do it wrong and it can feel like you gave birth to a colicky baby - all fuss, no freedom. Do it right and hiring a VA feels like you got a fairy godmother.
So hire your virtual assistant with a little intention, a little attention - but definitely hire them.
Virtual assistants aren’t just an interesting luxury. They’re a sign you’re taking your role as a leader seriously. So put down the proverbial clipboard, let go of that filing, and hire a good VA that can help.
Then you can get on with the big stuff, the stuff that only you can do.
Worried about if you are taking the right decision? Don’t fret. I got you covered in Brave Biz Lab, free coaching with a new theme each month.