“Get a VA to do it.”

If you’re an overworked business owner, chances are you’ve heard those words more times than you can count. And you’ve probably taken that advice and hired more virtual assistants, or VAs, than you’d care to admit.

Let me guess … you still feel overworked, overwhelmed, and — If I may — I bet you feel like those virtual assistants are more trouble than they are worth. If you’re like a lot of my clients, you probably think you are the problem. After all, you ARE the common denominator in the situation.

But what if you aren’t the problem and neither is the virtual assistant? What if the problem is you’ve fallen victim to bad advice?

Virtual assistants are among the most affordable service providers in the online space. If you are looking for an independent contractor to free up your time, most business buddies will tell you a virtual assistant is the answer to your prayers.

Sounds easy, right?

Maybe a little too easy.

Virtual assistants can be great resources in businesses that are ready to make good use of them. But if your business isn’t ready, hiring a virtual assistant will turn out to be a costly mistake.

What You Get When You Hire a Virtual Assistant

The biggest problem I see when business owners make a virtual assistant their first hire is unrealistic expectations. You see low hourly or package rates, a menu of services and it seems like your dreams of four-day workweeks and month-long vacations are about to come true. 

Instead, what you get is a time-intensive nightmare.

Rates for virtual assistants vary depending on location and area of specialty. For instance, I’ve worked with VAs in the Philippines and other countries for $10 to $15 per hour, and VAs based in the U.S. for $20 to $75 per hour.

If you’re just starting out, you’ll likely be looking for someone at the lower end of the pay scale, so let’s assume a budget here of $15 per hour.

At that rate, you’ll likely get someone willing to:

  • Answer your emails using templated responses
  • Rearrange your appointment calendar at your direction
  • Follow a system of checklists to accomplish basic administrative tasks
  • Organize your digital files using naming conventions and folder structures you set up
  • Schedule and post created content to your website or email newsletters

To make that happen in an effective, efficient way, your virtual assistant will need:

  • Email response templates ready to go for your most common scenarios
  • Written step-by-step instructions for scheduling appointments using your calendaring software according to your documented preferences
  • Procedural documentation for every administrative task in your business that you’ll have them working on
  • Instructions for data security, file storage, content posting, etc.

So let me ask you this, do you have any of those systems in place?

If your answer is no, you’re not ready for a virtual assistant at this stage of your business. At least, not yet.

You need to think BIGGER.

When a Virtual Assistant is the Wrong Hire for Your Business

Most VAs who work at the low end of the pay scale are very good at following established systems and directions. No more. No less.

When you hire a virtual assistant before you have your business and systems processes set up in a way that helps you function effectively, you will have to create those systems before they can actually help you. 

This usually leads to frustration, and feeling like hired help isn’t worth the trouble.

You feel like your VA asks too many questions. You grow weary of having to think through every step of every task for every process. You don’t understand why these basic tasks take them so much time even after training. You feel like it’s just easier to do everything yourself.

It’s not that the VA isn’t good at their job, it is just that the owner (YOU) hired the wrong role.

Who You Should Hire First in Your Business

If the reason you want to hire help is to free up your time for other priorities, your first hire should be someone who can work at the same level as you. Someone who understands the needs your business has.

Like fitting together pieces to a puzzle, you’ll want a peer who brings knowledge and/or skills you are missing to the organization.

Though you thought you needed an assistant-level team member, what you really need is to hire an individual who can work independently, think creatively, and solve problems on their own without asking you for help every step of the way.

No matter who you hire, you have to be prepared to show them the ins and outs of your business. But to truly position yourself for business growth, your first key hire should be someone who can help you establish the systems and processes to later hand off to a virtual assistant in the future.

Virtual assistants are helpers. What you actually need is an implementer.

An implementer is someone who takes responsibility for outcomes. You tell them what needs to be done and when, and they take responsibility for how it gets done.

Someone with that level of experience and autonomy can give you the outside perspective necessary to grow your business, divide tasks with you based on individual strengths and help you lay the groundwork for a diverse team of future staff members or contractors.

This isn’t a quick hire from Fiverr or Upwork. It takes time to find the person to become your apprentice. But in the end, you’ll reap the benefits of a business that has a strong foundation for hiring well into the future. 

Ready to stop working with virtual assistants and figure out a better first hire? 

At Everyday Effectiveness, we help busy entrepreneurs figure out how to truly lighten their workloads by hiring the RIGHT role the first time and every time. Book a call today to discuss how we can help.