Decide on your budget and scope of work

Before you do anything, you need to work out what you are looking for in a VA. Are you looking for someone to manage your inbox, respond to customers and manage your invoices? Or do you need someone who can look after your email marketing, support your membership community and keep your website updated? Maybe you’re just starting out and you need someone who’s more of an all-rounder and can manage a wide range of tasks.

In terms of budget, work out how much you’re able to invest in getting the support you need. And it is an investment – the whole point of the exercise is to free up your time so you can focus on growing your business and making more money. Then think about how many hours a month that might buy you. In the UK you can expect to pay at least £25 an hour for a decent VA, and anything up to £45 an hour depending on services and location.

Be wary of anyone offering to work for less than the going rate – that would ring alarm bells for me in terms of their abilities and the quality of their work. (A VA is covering all their overheads, taxes and training costs from that hourly rate, so less than £25 does not leave much to live on). And the good news for you if that by paying a freelancer, rather than employing someone, you won’t be responsible for their tax, national insurance, holiday or sick pay.

 

Ask your network

When I look at my clients over the years, I’ve met some directly on LinkedIn, some have been via my VA network, some have been recommendations and some have found me via my network. These days, if I’m looking for an associate to take on certain tasks for a client, I always go to my VA community first (this is the paid group I belong to, and where I got a lot of my training when I first set up my business). I’ve got access to a large number of excellent VAs there, so it’s my best resource for finding good people.

As a client, I would start by asking your own network. Your existing contacts, local networking groups and your LinkedIn community are all good places to get recommendations. Just be really clear about the sort of person you’re looking for, as VAs will have different niches, and if you’re looking for someone techie or good with social media, you might not want a recommendation for someone who’s good on the phone or a whizz with a spreadsheet.

 

Use Google

I have clients who have found me directly from my website. If you do a Google search for VAs, it’s likely that the first ones to come up are likely to be worth talking to. Have a good look at their website and associated social media profiles – you should be able to get a good ‘feel’ for the person and whether they will be a good fit for you and your brand.

 

Have a conversation

Once you’ve found one or more potential VAs, arrange to have a phone or video call to meet them (always best to arrange this rather than just ringing up, as VAs will plan and manage their time carefully).

As a baseline, you’ll want to find out:

Their hourly rate. They should advertise their rates on their website, but always worth checking.

Their availability. You might have found the perfect VA for you, but it’s not going to work if you need 20 hours a month and they only have 10 available).

What services they can provide. Have a list of tasks at the ready – and have a good chat to establish if they can provide what you need. Ask for examples and experience. If the VA is new, they should still be able to provide examples from their previous employment.

Their working hours. If you need someone to be available 9am-5pm, you don’t want to work with a VA who only works in the evenings! You also need to establish whether their flexibility suits your needs (i.e. will they do your hours in batches, or spread them out evenly across the month? Will they be able to respond quickly to urgent requests?).

 

Do a trial period

It makes sense to test the water. I offer all my clients a trial, and it’s a great way to get to know each other, establish a working relationship and see if you ‘gel’. The trial is there for both you and the VA to decide whether you want to work together. It’s usually pretty easy to know when it’s not going to work; listen to your gut instinct.

How long should the trial be? Entirely up to you and the VA, but I’d suggest 4 or 5 hours. Assign a task or tasks that are fairly straightforward for the VA to jump straight into without having to be trained in anything specific first, and that don’t need a lot of knowledge of your business that would take a lot of time to impart. Agree their fee for the trial (this should be based on their usual hourly rate) and pay the invoice on receipt, whether or not you end up working together on a regular basis.

 

Establish how you will work together

So the trial went well! Great stuff. Now you need to establish how to translate this into a regular monthly working arrangement.

When you work with a VA it’s not quite the same as employing someone. You are working with another business owner, in the same way as if you hired a graphic designer or content writer. Therefore it’s crucial to establish ways of working that suit you both. Your VA is there to support you and your growing business, and you need to both be clear on what your needs and expectations are. But equally, it helps the VA if you’re aware that they have other clients that also need supporting – so it might not be feasible for the VA to be available to you at all times.

It’s the VA’s responsibility to manage their workload, but equally the client needs to respect their time. A good VA should let you know if they are getting through your monthly contracted hours too quickly, or if you aren’t giving them enough to do and they have lots of hours left at the end of the month (if either of these is the case for two months or more, you should revisit your agreement and decide whether to increase or reduce the contracted hours).

 

Communication

Establish how you will communicate right from the off, so expectations are clear on both sides. Personally I check email twice daily (so I actually get some work done in between!), so for more urgent communications with my clients I use apps such as Slack, Voxer and Whatsapp.

It’s important to find something that works for you and the VA, and ensures that communications are managed by degree of importance (so for example an email is not going to be something urgent, but a Voxer is listened to straight away). But work out a system that is right for both of you. Clear and consistent communication is the key to any successful working relationship – but doubly so when you are working remotely (and may never actually meet!).

 

Sign a contract

Now you’ve agreed on how you will work together going forward, you need to formalise this agreement. A good VA should have a standard contract or freelance agreement they will use for new clients, that includes their T&Cs. As with any working arrangement, it’s vital to have a legal contract in place to protect both of you, should anything go wrong. When you check the contract over, make sure it includes clauses about rights to any work completed, data protection (doubly important since the GDPR came into force) and confidentiality. Some of my clients ask for a separate NDA as well, which I always comply with, but my standard contract does cover this.

Make sure the number of hours and remuneration are clearly stated, as well as a notice period. 30 days is standard, but the VA may have their own terms. The idea is that you’re both protected, but with an easier and faster ‘get-out’ than if you were employing someone.

Disclaimer: I am not a legal bod and this is only very general advice. So do get a lawyer to check the contract if you’re unsure.

 

Found this post useful? Read the follow-up: How to build a good working relationship with your VA

Are you planning to launch a membership site in 2019/2020?

I support my clients with building, marketing and managing their memberships and online courses, helping them to:

  • Create and upload course content
  • Join the dots behind the scenes to automate processes and make things run smoothly
  • Find the right apps and tools
  • Integrate their CRM, course delivery and marketing

If you'd like to have a chat about your membership, you can get in touch to arrange a free 30 minute chat here.

I'm looking forward to finding out more about you, your business, and your goals for the coming year.

Decide on your budget and scope of work

Before you do anything, you need to work out what you are looking for in a VA. Are you looking for someone to manage your inbox, respond to customers and manage your invoices? Or do you need someone who can look after your email marketing, support your membership community and keep your website updated? Maybe you’re just starting out and you need someone who’s more of an all-rounder and can manage a wide range of tasks.

In terms of budget, work out how much you’re able to invest in getting the support you need. And it is an investment – the whole point of the exercise is to free up your time so you can focus on growing your business and making more money. Then think about how many hours a month that might buy you. In the UK you can expect to pay at least £25 an hour for a decent VA, and anything up to £45 an hour depending on services and location.

Be wary of anyone offering to work for less than the going rate – that would ring alarm bells for me in terms of their abilities and the quality of their work. (A VA is covering all their overheads, taxes and training costs from that hourly rate, so less than £25 does not leave much to live on). And the good news for you if that by paying a freelancer, rather than employing someone, you won’t be responsible for their tax, national insurance, holiday or sick pay.

Ask your network

When I look at my clients over the years, I’ve met some directly on LinkedIn, some have been via my VA network, some have been recommendations and some have found me via my network. These days, if I’m looking for an associate to take on certain tasks for a client, I always go to my VA community first (this is the paid group I belong to, and where I got a lot of my training when I first set up my business). I’ve got access to a large number of excellent VAs there, so it’s my best resource for finding good people.

As a client, I would start by asking your own network. Your existing contacts, local networking groups and your LinkedIn community are all good places to get recommendations. Just be really clear about the sort of person you’re looking for, as VAs will have different niches, and if you’re looking for someone techie or good with social media, you might not want a recommendation for someone who’s good on the phone or a whizz with a spreadsheet.

Use Google

I have clients who have found me directly from my website. If you do a Google search for VAs, it’s likely that the first ones to come up are likely to be worth talking to. Have a good look at their website and associated social media profiles – you should be able to get a good ‘feel’ for the person and whether they will be a good fit for you and your brand.

Have a conversation 

Once you’ve found one or more potential VAs, arrange to have a phone or video call to meet them (always best to arrange this rather than just ringing up, as VAs will plan and manage their time carefully).

As a baseline, you’ll want to find out:

Their hourly rate. They should advertise their rates on their website, but always worth checking.

Their availability. You might have found the perfect VA for you, but it’s not going to work if you need 20 hours a month and they only have 10 available).

What services they can provide. Have a list of tasks at the ready – and have a good chat to establish if they can provide what you need. Ask for examples and experience. If the VA is new, they should still be able to provide examples from their previous employment.

Their working hours. If you need someone to be available 9am-5pm, you don’t want to work with a VA who only works in the evenings! You also need to establish whether their flexibility suits your needs (i.e. will they do your hours in batches, or spread them out evenly across the month? Will they be able to respond quickly to urgent requests?).

Do a trial period

It makes sense to test the water. I offer all my clients a trial, and it’s a great way to get to know each other, establish a working relationship and see if you ‘gel’. The trial is there for both you and the VA to decide whether you want to work together. It’s usually pretty easy to know when it’s not going to work; listen to your gut instinct.

How long should the trial be? Entirely up to you and the VA, but I’d suggest 4 or 5 hours. Assign a task or tasks that are fairly straightforward for the VA to jump straight into without having to be trained in anything specific first, and that don’t need a lot of knowledge of your business that would take a lot of time to impart. Agree their fee for the trial (this should be based on their usual hourly rate) and pay the invoice on receipt, whether or not you end up working together on a regular basis.

Establish how you will work together

So the trial went well! Great stuff. Now you need to establish how to translate this into a regular monthly working arrangement.

When you work with a VA it’s not quite the same as employing someone. You are working with another business owner, in the same way as if you hired a graphic designer or content writer. Therefore it’s crucial to establish ways of working that suit you both. Your VA is there to support you and your growing business, and you need to both be clear on what your needs and expectations are. But equally, it helps the VA if you’re aware that they have other clients that also need supporting – so it might not be feasible for the VA to be available to you at all times.

It’s the VA’s responsibility to manage their workload, but equally the client needs to respect their time. A good VA should let you know if they are getting through your monthly contracted hours too quickly, or if you aren’t giving them enough to do and they have lots of hours left at the end of the month (if either of these is the case for two months or more, you should revisit your agreement and decide whether to increase or reduce the contracted hours).

Communication

Establish how you will communicate right from the off, so expectations are clear on both sides. Personally I check email twice daily (so I actually get some work done in between!), so for more urgent communications with my clients I use apps such as Slack, Voxer and Whatsapp.

It’s important to find something that works for you and the VA, and ensures that communications are managed by degree of importance (so for example an email is not going to be something urgent, but a Voxer is listened to straight away). But work out a system that is right for both of you. Clear and consistent communication is the key to any successful working relationship – but doubly so when you are working remotely (and may never actually meet!).

Sign a contract

Now you’ve agreed on how you will work together going forward, you need to formalise this agreement. A good VA should have a standard contract or freelance agreement they will use for new clients, that includes their T&Cs. As with any working arrangement, it’s vital to have a legal contract in place to protect both of you, should anything go wrong. When you check the contract over, make sure it includes clauses about rights to any work completed, data protection (doubly important since the GDPR came into force) and confidentiality. Some of my clients ask for a separate NDA as well, which I always comply with, but my standard contract does cover this.

Make sure the number of hours and remuneration are clearly stated, as well as a notice period. 30 days is standard, but the VA may have their own terms. The idea is that you’re both protected, but with an easier and faster ‘get-out’ than if you were employing someone.

Disclaimer: I am not a legal bod and this is only very general advice. So do get a lawyer to check the contract if you’re unsure.

Found this post useful? Read the follow-up: How to build a good working relationship with your VA

Are you planning to launch a membership site in 2019/2020?

 I support my clients with building, marketing and managing their memberships and online courses, helping them to:

  • Create and upload course content
  • Join the dots behind the scenes to automate processes and make things run smoothly
  • Find the right apps and tools
  • Integrate their CRM, course delivery and marketing

If you'd like to have a chat about your membership, you can get in touch to arrange a free 30 minute chat here.

I'm looking forward to finding out more about you, your business, and your goals for the coming year.