I am often asked “How does one work with a VA?” If you are at that stage where you need help with your business but don’t know how to delegate work to a VA, let alone how to find one, then this blog post will most certainly help you.

When you do find a VA that suits your requirements, remember they are not an employee. VA’s are freelance contractors who have an entrepreneurial mindset, they run and manage their own business.  They are the SME in what they do. You need to know what a VA is not to help you understand what a VA is.

Where to look

Depending upon your requirements, the country you live in and your budget, there are several options available that I would recommend.

  1. Search the internet for Freelance Virtual Assistants – Look for well constructed websites, photos, testimonials, do they post, what do services are they offering?
  2. Referral – ask your friends do they use VAs? Could they recommend anyone to you?
  3. Linkedin – ask your connections on Linkedin who works with VAs, do a search for Virtual Assistant.
  4. Work with a VA recruiting company – they have lots of overseas VAs on their books.  You also pay a one off subscription, and depending on the country, you are expected to pay holiday pay, Christmas bonuses for example. You are not hiring a contractor when you do this, you are gaining an employee.
  5. Online forums –  there are many online forums like Elance or Odesk where you register, create an ID, post a job and hope that the people who respond are whom they say they are. It can take an awful lot of time to weed out the real VA.

If you choose a VA who is in your city, organise a meeting or coffee catch up, if your VA is overseas arrange a Skype or Google hangout. Face to face meetings are a must whether physically or digitally. You wouldn’t hire a builder to construct your home if you hadn’t met them would you?

How much do they charge?

You have decided you need help, but how much do you want to pay for that help? How much responsibility do you want your VA to have. It’s horses for courses, it’s all country specific. If you are looking at an overseas VA and you live in Australia then you would pay around $500 per month for a VA who is able to dedicate 8 hours a day to your business. But overseas VA’s come with a unique set of issues, see the grass is not always greener below.

If you are seeking a VA through an online recruitment agency, you will pay an an upfront fee for the service. You will then go through the interview process to choose a VA and once you have found a VA you can work with you then pay up to $500 per month. On top of which in most cases you pay holiday pay, bonuses etc as you are actually taking on an overseas employee. 

In Australia, Virtual Assistants are not employees, they are SME’s who run their own businesses.  Yes, some may team up and collaborate with others to get the clients work completed but they are not employees, nor do they work for free. You can expect to pay between $20 to $100+ pr hour for a VA in Australia. If you want someone who can hit the ground running, is in your time zone, speaks the same language as you do and has reliable means of communication, then this is what you need to pay.

Not all Australian VAs charge an hourly rate, a lot package their services which means significant savings for you, because you never pay superannuation, holiday pay, sick pay, payroll tax, you don’t need to provide equipment and they don’t take up your office space. Every VA you research should be taken on their own face value there is no cookie cutter approach.

The grass is not always greener

If you decide to go with an overseas VA you need to be aware of:

  • Cultural differences
  • Language barrier
  • Your sense of urgency isn’t theirs (time zone issues)
  • You may give them the work, but they in turn can give it to someone else (this can happen anywhere)
  • Weather, believe it or not can be an issue
  • Local internet connection, pretty much always an issue

I’ve worked with clients who have overseas VAs as well as being my clients.  Some have been outstanding to work with, knowledgeable and reliable working in a variety of fields, others give VA’s a bad name, they can disappear for days, and always blame the weather or internet connections for not being around. Whatever the reason, this impacts on what you need them to do, it can put you behind as much as a week or more, it can impact your sales, your deadlines and your credibility.

I have several clients who “use” to work with overseas VAs but who now work solely with me because they found working overseas, time zones, language barriers and constant disappearing was having an effect on their business.

If you must go overseas for your VA, do your homework first, don’t get caught up in the hype that some companies put out there. The grass is not always greener and your reputation is paramount.

Consider what you need to delegate

You need to evaluate where you are spending time that is not business critical to you. It is these tasks that you can hand to a VA to undertake on your behalf.

Below is tiny example of how I help my clients.  Over the past three years as an Administration Consultant I have worked with some of Australia’s most inspirational thoughtleaders, mentors, speakers and authors.

  • Manage social media accounts – write blurbs and posts
  • Book travel / accommodation
  • Manage budgets / operating expenses
  • Content writing / scheduling of blogs and maintain websites / HTML newsletters
  • Tech advice / Troubleshoot
  • Research / reports / keynotes
  • Coordinate overseas teams / allocate work
  • Manage email and diary

Recognise the value

A good VA is worth their weight in gold.  They will save you thousands of dollars over a 12 month period. They are the SME in their chosen field, they make a great sounding board, and will always offer up a solution to  your problem. They love their business, it is their passion and it shows. Do your homework, ask around, check with friends, ask them for the name of their VA; they may or may not be taking clients, it doesn’t hurt to ask.

If you find a VA you would like to work with, do not try and bargain them down or ask then to do work for free so you can decide if they are good enough. Remember, they are running a business just like you. Would you have someone try to bargain you down or ask you to do work for free before they decided to give you the job?

I’d love to read your thoughts, please leave a comment below.