hiring a virtual assistant

Why the Virtual Assistant You Hired Didn’t Work

At some point, every online entrepreneur needs to drop the solo act and add a team member. It’s simply impossible to continue to grow your business if you keep doing everything yourself. But what if you’ve reached that point, hired a virtual assistant, yet business isn’t growing or you’re not saving any time? If you think you’ve hired the wrong virtual assistant, you may be right. On the other hand, the problem could be you. Let me break it down.

Reasons the Virtual Assistant You Hired Didn’t Work Out

Often, high-level business owners come to me because they’ve already cycled through one or more virtual assistants, and they want my help to avoid making the same mistakes. When I work with them to create a more effective hiring strategy, we find that their problems boil down to one or more of the following reasons.

1) You hired a cheap virtual assistant.

You can hire an overseas virtual assistant for as little as $2 an hour through a variety of websites. But the virtual assistants who are skilled, experienced, and reliable left those sites long ago because they can command higher rates for doing quality work. And let’s not even get into time zone and language barrier challenges that may come with hiring from overseas.

Often, business owners think they’re being financially savvy when they hire an inexpensive VA. But hiring a virtual assistant is like anything else: you get what you pay for. Therefore, the cheap virtual assistant is likely to cost you more in the long run. Spend more to hire a virtual assistant you can count on, who gets work done on time, and who does things right the first time, and you’ll save time and money over the long haul.

When you’re considering the expense of hiring a VA, stop thinking about reducing your expenses and start thinking about your ROI. It’s an investment in your business, so invest wisely.

2) You hired a generalist when you needed a specialist virtual assistant.

Here’s a short list of some common tasks businesses outsource to a VAs:

  1. Transcription
  2. Data entry
  3. Social media management/scheduling
  4. Uploading and formatting blog posts
  5. Audio and video editing
  6. Making travel arrangements
  7. Email marketing automation
  8. Simple graphic design
  9. Facebook ads management
  10. Customer service
  11. Proofreading and editing
  12. Payments and invoicing
  13. Responding to social media and blog comments
  14. Internet research

Now, pretty much all virtual assistants are “generalists” in that they possess skills and experience in more than one area. Typically, “generalist” VAs possess more basic administrative skills, whereas “specialist” virtual assistants are experts in at least one of the areas she brings to the table.

As an example, if you need a VA to edit and schedule your weekly email newsletter, a generalist virtual assistant is probably sufficient. However, if you’re looking to have your VA build an email funnel – one with various rules and contingencies – then you need someone with experience in email funnels specifically. To take that example a step further, you’d be smart to look for a virtual assistant who has extensive experience with the specific email platform you use in your business.

Often, the business owners who come to me for help failed match up the expertise they needed with the VA they hired. If the tasks you assign to your VA require advanced knowledge and you hired a generalist, you’re either going to end up with low-quality work or you’re going to waste your time training the VA to become the expert.

Finally, no one person can be well-versed in all possible administrative tasks. So if you have a wide variety of tasks you’d like to hand off to a VA, you’d be smarter to hire more than one person and have them each work in the areas where they’re comfortable.

3) You didn’t effectively prepare your virtual assistant.

Ineffectively preparing your virtual assistant can show up in a few ways, but it often starts with lack of clear and reasonable expectations on your part. These are the three main ways business owners fail to set their VAs up for success.

A) The virtual assistant isn’t clear on their responsibilities.

The benefit of hiring a VA is freeing up your time to do higher-level, income-generating business activities. So, it’s understandable that business owners want to hand off their repetitive (or most hated) tasks ASAP. But it’s not as simple as giving a directive and expecting the VA to run with it.

Before you hire your virtual assistant, develop a detailed list of clearly measurable tasks for the VA to complete. Carefully delineate the activities they’re expected for perform, as well as your expectations around quantity and/or quality.

For example, don’t just tell your VA “pitch me to podcast hosts,”  if your goal is to be featured on more podcasts. Instead, start off by giving them a list of podcast hosts to reach out to. Provide an explanation around why you’re targeting those hosts. In the future, the VA will be able to research additional podcasts for you.

Also, let them know that your goal is to appear on three podcasts a month and that you expect that to require a minimum of 12 pitches each month. That is, you expect them to send a minimum of 12 pitches. Finally, give them an initial script and relevant details about what you have to offer as a guest. The pitches will accurately represent you and be persuasive.

B) You didn’t properly train the VA.

A good virtual assistant won’t need a lot of hand holding. That is, they’ll be good problem solvers who can figure some things out on their own. However, you still need to train them on their responsibilities if you expect them to complete tasks effectively and to your standards.

I’ve seen business owners throw in the towel with a VA because he or she completed a project incorrectly. But the owner never spelled out for the VA what the correctly done project would look like! As for any new job, virtual assistants need proper training in their responsibilities.

On top of talking through processes directly with your virtual assistant, take the time to create materials to support your VA. This might take the form of documents, process flows, checklists, and/or videos you record. Examples of similar projects you’ve completed in the past are also a helpful reference guide for VAs.

After the initial training, take the time to walk through the task with them. In addition, give them a practice task and review it with them once completed. You’ll both end up with greater confidence that you’re on the same page!

C) You’re too busy to manage the VA.

Now, some business owners come to me because their VA isn’t working out even though they provided a clear tasks and proper training. They can’t figure out what went wrong, but the problem is they cut and ran. They were just too busy to manage the VA, or they just failed to realize the VA would require additional management and follow through.

When you save time by hiring a VA, you can’t simply reallocate all the time you save to other activities. Build time into your schedule to manage the VA. If you don’t, it’s not going to workout, and you’ll be back to square one.

I suggest taking a little time each day – maybe 30 minutes – to review your virtual assistant’s work and provide feedback. Ask your VA to send you a report of their activities each day to let you know what they accomplished. Therefore, you’ll know right away if they are prioritizing properly and completing tasks in a timely manner. Also, be sure to ask if they have any questions or faced any challenges you could help them with.

In addition, plan to have a weekly huddle with your VA. Spend the time confirming progress and priorities, making sure you’re on the same page, and addressing any obstacles that came up.

4) You need someone more strategic than a virtual assistant.

Occasionally, an entrepreneur who comes to me for VA help can’t figure out why their relationship with their VA feels like it’s no longer working out. That is, they had been happy with their VA, but somehow things aren’t the same anymore. What’s going on here?

Well, virtual assistants complete tasks you assign to them. Period. Even a very proactive VA impacts your business in a limited way, as you are still responsible for all the strategy and decision making. Their VA was the right for them at the time of hiring, but the business continued to grow to the point where it outgrew the VA.

As your business grows, it also gets more complex. At this point, instead of offloading tasks to a VA, you may need to hand off entire projects to someone else, and that might be beyond the capabilities of your VA.  Maybe the reason it doesn’t seem to be working out is that you’ve tried to assign projects to your VA and those projects are beyond his or her capabilities, which can leave you both feeling frustrated.

In other instances, the business owner needs to add someone to their team who can help with strategy. That is, it’s time for them to uplevel and work with someone who can help them figure out how to achieve their business goals.