As small business owners, we all know that one of our most precious resources is our time.  However, it can be one of the most difficult resources to use effectively and generate more of.  Whilst we know that we need to use our time more effectively, all too often we are drawn into day to day tasks that don’t always build value and growth for our business.

One of the best ways to generate more time for ourselves is to hire help, freeing us up to focus on building and growing our businesses.  Hiring your first staff can be not only a challenging milestone and a leap of faith, but one that we’re often hesitant to consider.  This can often be a result of over grasping to control on how day to day tasks are executed, perceived challenges in finding good help or feeling like it would be too much of a financial burden or burden on our time to go through the recruiting and training process.

Outsourcing is a great first step to bringing people into your business as it allows a significant amount of flexibility, it’s easy to try, you can start by outsourcing as little or as much as you feel comfortable with… and with great technology options available to facilitate recruiting and collaborating with your new team member, it couldn’t be easier.

What sort of tasks can I outsource?

There are such a wide range of tasks that you can outsource, however it’s easiest to start with tasks that are very process driven, are conducted on a regular basis and you yourself have a good understanding of… this will aid your chances of success early on!

You might consider some of the following areas to start with:

  • Bookkeeping
  • Other regular accounts processing
  • Online customer service correspondence
  • Transcribing voice recordings (for emails, content, general correspondence etc..)
  • Reporting
  • Data entry and database maintenance
  • General personal assistant tasks

Where will I find the right person?

This depends on whether you intend to hire a local or you’re open to hiring someone overseas.  There are a number of sites targeted at connecting local virtual assistant with business owners, a simple google search will present some good options. However, if you’re open to considering offshore staff, the benefits to your business can be immense, in particular, is the fact that you can hire a top performer at a fraction of the cost of hiring a local (and at a rate that is very good for them as compared to the pay they could achieve through local employment).  There are a number of platforms designed to connect offshore virtual assistants with business owners and to aid in the week to week management of timesheets, payments, etc…  For example Freelancer and Upwork.

How do I find the right person?

There are a number of considerations, some that are specific to the tasks/role you recruiting for, however here are some tips that are specific to hiring a virtual assistant and in particular, an offshore one:

  • Be willing to pay a bit more for quality help. The quote “If you think it’s expensive to hire a professional, wait until you hire an amateur” comes to mind.
  • Back your intuition – If something doesn’t seem right during the recruiting process, If you have any trust concerns, if you feel like the applicant is not giving you the full picture – move on!  You’re likely to be right and whatever the issue is, will only be magnified once they’ve started.
  • Allocate some time to finding the right candidate, don’t rush the process.  Have the applicants go through several stages before final selection.  For example:
    • Initial application.
    • Complete a questionnaire.
    • Complete an interview.
    • Have them complete a sample task.
    • Consider engaging one or more of your finalists for an initial trial period e.g 1-3 months.

Although this might seem exhaustive, it’s has the additional benefit of deterring applicants who are just looking for something quick and easy.  You’ll be left with hard workers who understand that anything worthwhile does not come easy.

How will I manage/lead a virtual team?

It’s actually pretty similar to what you would do with an inhouse team, the main difference is ensuring that you stay connected and are able to collaborate effectively and the tools you use to do so.

It’s important to:

  • Outline the full role and expectations prior to starting.
  • Set the individual up with the right tools and training right from the outset.
  • Provide ongoing communication and training.
  • At a minimum, have your team report in daily, telling you; what they have done today, what they are working on tomorrow and what if anything they will need from you to proceed. This fosters a good base level of accountability/collaboration between you and your team.  Email is a good basic channel for this or any other collaboration app.

Some of my favorite collaboration tools you can try include; the Google Apps suite, Asana, trello, slack, skype, Google hangouts etc…

The benefits of bringing one or more virtual assistants into your business are many.  The main benefits I have experienced, have been to be able to distribute my time more carefully, focusing on building value into the business, rather than keeping myself busy on a transactional level.  Changing my role from the person doing everything, to doing things for a short while, long enough to figure them out, setting a process, setting up tools, setting up reporting, then handing it over to be repeated and moving onto the next project.
Engaging a virtual assistant to fill a need in my business has now become the norm for me,  I wouldn’t even consider an employee position until I had explored the option of outsourcing the role to one or more virtual assistants first. For a dynamic organisation to grow and change rapidly, I find it essential to have a team that will grow with you and be flexible enough to accommodate changes in the way the business operates.