From Start-Up Do-It-All-Yourselfer to Business Growth Mode: Tips on Hiring Your First Virtual Assistant
Many of you are in the Start-Up Phase of your business and you’re right on the verge of a growth spurt. At this juncture, most small business owners, solopreneurs, private practitioners, even mompreneurs, are in the do-everything-yourself mode working 14 hours a day or, delegating to family and friends who will help out whenever you can.
You’re in the pinching your pennies phase and longing for the day when you can afford to hire a team.
The shift from Do-It-All-Yourself to Hiring Your First Assistant is typically a HUGE STEP for most solo business owners. It can feel scary. It feels like giving up control to those who have never done it before. And all good entrepreneurs tend to be somewhat (or maybe a lot!) obsessive-compulsive and controlling of details!
Now every growth spurt entails some stretching and maybe even a bit of pain, but when done correctly, bringing a good assistant onboard represents three things for you and your business
- It’s A Rite of Passage
Symbolically and in reality—it’s you making a statement that you take yourself and your business seriously. You are moving on up and growing your business!
- It’s Liberating
As you trust yourself to managing and delegate to your assistant you reap the benefits of focusing on what you do best—the creative work that is the genius of your company!
- It’s Preparation for Even Greater Growth
When done correctly, it’s a small and safe way to prepare yourself to grow your business even further in the future. You start with one team member and prepare yourself to add on others in the process.
Signs You Need To Hire Your First Assistant
- You are working 14 hours a day.
- You’re on the verge of burn-out.
- Your family and friends say they never see you anymore.
- Your kids no longer go to you for anything—they go to your mate.
- You’re no longer enjoying your direct client time because you’re always thinking about the busy-work that needs to get done.
- The growth of your business is suffering because you, as owner, creator and innovator of new programs, products and services, no longer have time to innovate and create. You’re too involved in the busywork of running the business.
- The time you are spending doing tasks an assistant can do is time and revenue lost—and unrecoverable.
Do Your Homework as The Visionary of Your Business
While this may take a bit of time, looking deeply at all the tasks of running your business and where you want to grow are key in this transition phase from Do-It-All-Yourself to Hiring Your First Assistant. I recommend spending a few weeks gathering the following information and answering these questions:
- Where is My Business Right Now?
For 1-2 weeks prior to seeking applicant names, keep track of all the tasks you do to run your business. Log the amount of time you spend on these tasks. (This is not direct contact with clients or the people who send you clients.)
- Where Do I Want To Grow?
Answer the question about where you want to grow your business 12-18 months out and then back it out. What do you need to put in place in the next 6 months? What are the specific tasks that need to be accomplished? Separate them into the two above lists: Those that require your Creative Genius work and those that should be delegated to another kind of expert.
- Where Do I Need to Spend My Time to Reach My Goals?
Keep a running log or journal of everything you could be doing, would love to be doing, need to do—that only you can do as creator of the services, products and programs that benefit your ideal clients—IF you are to achieve the growth you want to achieve in 12-18 months.
Choosing a Live or Virtual Assistance
Talk to 3 – 4 other professionals in related fields to learn about their experiences. What is their experience with hiring their first assistant? Do they recommend anyone in particular? Gather names, pay rates, suggestions? What do they see as the pros and cons of live or virtual help?
This is purely personal preference, but I’m a huge fan of Virtual Assistants for this phase of business start-up and growth. If you do any work from home, neither of you has to do your hair or make-up to email or talk on the phone and get a huge amount of work done! Communications can be sent anytime of day or night!
Hourly going rate for a Virtual Assistants typically runs between $35-65.00/hour, depending on the type of services provided. Many Virtual Assistants also offer programs or packages of services which means you contract for a set of specific services and pay a set fee per month or a set fee for a period of 6 months to a year. Then no one counts hours, you simply get the results your VA has committed to. Most VA packages are renegotiable as you grow into your next level of needs.
As you find a VA who seems to “fit” your needs, I recommend starting with a short-term agreement to see if you really do like to work with one another. Here are some important considerations:
- Turnaround time on projects and means of communication?
What is the turnaround time? Is there flexibility or not? I know I always have a list of tasks each week for my VA, Tara. Yet she and I both know I discover or create many more tasks for her as I do my creative work each week. Sometimes she is able to add on and other times she has to say “Not today” or “Not til next week.” Tara and I have to negotiate what’s possible on a regular basis simply because of my working/creating style. So far we are both willing to do so, mainly because we try to have good communication and empathy for one another. I enjoy cheering on her business growth and she does the same for me. But not all VA’s or VA services are going to be as negotiable, so check around. Think about your personality quirks and working style and see if you can articulate these needs when you interview for your first assistant. (For example, do you check all your work or expect me to check for typos, etc.)
- Software program and capabilities
How experienced is she in working with professionals in your field and what is her experience in meeting their needs? Find out who her ideal clients are? What software programs do they most frequently use? Understanding what programs she recommends and is familiar with is important. You’ll also want to know her ability or willingness to add-on new software expertise if your business model requires certain programs. Is she a quick study? Who will pay for the training or learning time if you want a new software program? Or does she have other VA’s she recommends or contracts with for certain technological needs.
- VA as Solopreneur or Project/Group Manager?
Some VA’s work solo and some are a group of VA’s managed by a project manager. You may get great service at a lower cost in the beginning if your VA is working solo and just starting her business. Be willing to grow with her if you do start this way. It’s only fair that her pay increase as your business increases.
Tara started solo and is now training a small group of assistants taking on specific areas of service provision. So as my needs have grown, her capabilities are growing in step.
- Experience, References and Training?
In the world of VA’s, my experience is that working style, personality and willingness to grow rapidly together are far more important than specific past jobs or degrees. It’s such a rapidly growing field that references and on-the-job experience are often more important. As are other satisfied clients. So this may sound like a no-brainer, but ask for names of people you can contact to find out how working with your potential VA like working with her. Ask them for best ways of navigating through sticky areas and negotiating work together.
I know I also felt especially comfortable when I learned that my VA had hired her own coach. I knew she did not work in isolation and had a mentor she could turn to for best business practices in delivering her services. It said a lot about her desire to grow her business and that I was going to benefit from her growth while she helped me to grow.
I’d encourage you to start with a small number of hours each week or month and keep tabs on hours and dollars spent for a number of months. Notice where you’d like more help and re-evaluate after a few months. Tara and I started at about 4 hours per week. After two years of my business growth and gladly working together, it’s often 4-5 times that amount in hours and quantity of services.
What Does Your Chief Financial Officer Recommend?
And finally, as the CFO of your business take a look at this question:
- What’s The Cost of Not Hiring a VA?
As best you can, figure out the dollars you will lose if you do NOT hire an assistant. How will your time and energy and revenue-making ability be tied up in the basics of running the office and its weekly functions? How many programs and products could you sell that would cover the cost of your first assistant?
And most of all, how much more free time would you have to enjoy the benefits of running your own business and not having a J.O.B. if you really ran your business the way you envisioned?
If there is any way I can be of assistance in helping you take this huge step toward growing your business, please reach out and contact me via my terrific VA and team at TeamSuccess@BigPictureConnections.com