If you have ever hired a Virtual Assistant you would probably agree that finding a good VA can be a daunting task. And if you haven’t, I assure you there is nothing easy about it! There are a ton of websites, companies and agencies that all promise to connect you with the best Virtual Assistants available.
Truth be told, a fantastic Virtual Assistant means different things to different people. They could all offer high quality VAs (not every one does) but their skills, availability or rates might not be what you need. It is important to understand the differences between the wide range of VA sources. You wouldn’t shop for new shoes in a grocery store, right? This is exactly the same with hiring Virtual Assistants. The best source completely depends on what you are looking for.
Let’s take a look at the 7 best places to find a Virtual Assistant:
- Freelancing marketplaces
- General purpose job boards
- Temp agencies
- VA Agencies
- VA Recommendation services
Now, let’s take a close look to see what we can expect from each of them:
- Freelancing marketplaces such as Elance, oDesk or Guru (see a complete list of freelancing sites sorted by Alexa rating here) connect you with 100s of thousands of VAs from all across the globe. You can find VAs that work individually as well as VA agencies. These sites have VAs of all types, skills and quality. Marketplaces provide a few essential services that simplify your work with a VA: they help you to select a VA based on a variety of criteria, including several quality ratings, they help you to maintain financial aspects of your relationship with the VA, and to a degree help to control/oversee the work the VA does for you. These marketplaces charge moderate fees for their services, which are typically around 10-15 percent. Marketplaces vary greatly by the size of their VA community, the type of VAs they attract, and the tools they offer. For example, I have found that when I am looking for a VA to do simple data entry tasks I have a better selection on oDesk, but when I am looking for a college educated Internet researcher, Elance gives me a better selection.
- General purpose job boards, such as www.careerbuilder.com or www.monster.com, can connect you with millions of potential job applicants, but they aren’t limited to those looking for work as a Virtual Assistant. They can also be rather pricey. A standard job ad on monster.com costs $395 for a 60-day placement. The benefit is the fact that you can reach so many more potential employees, and you can post your job in the category that best represents the type of job you are hiring for, i.e. marketing or IT. I would only recommend using a general-purpose job board to post your VA job if you are looking to hire a regular, full-time employee for a virtual position. This source doesn’t tend to work nearly as well for project-based work.
- Temp agencies can do much more than simply find you someone for a part-time, temporary position. Many offer what they call a “total talent approach,” meaning they can help you to find exactly the right employee based on the needs of your company. This can include temporary contractors for a specific project, temporary with the transition to permanent hire, to direct-hire. They can also provide the insurance coverage for the employee and take care of their payroll needs. This can be very attractive because it takes a lot of the pressure off of you as the employer when managing your human resources. They also have a lot of talented individuals who specialize in their field, such as marketing, engineering or education. However, this type of help doesn’t come cheap. They all charge fees (usually around from 30% and up) making them pretty expensive. I have used temp agencies in the past when I am looking to hire someone for short-term jobs that required local presence due to operational constraints.
- Do a search for virtual assistant agencies and you will find that quite a few come up. These can be very attractive because they have pre-screened (and ideally qualified) Virtual Assistants on their staff, waiting to come and work with you. But these agencies are not all created equal. As with anything, some are better than others, and some do a much better job at effectively screening their candidates and only accepting those that are truly qualified. Some of the better agencies include zirtual.com, www.redbutler.com, www.fancyhands.com, www.virtualassistusa.com, and www.eahelp.com. Their prices can also vary significantly with some charging over $25 an hour. Another potential downside with hiring through a Virtual Assistant agency is that you are always working with your VA through a middleman. This leaves you and your VA with much less control over your working relationship. I hire through a VA agency when I am looking to hire for a lower-skill position, such as a call center employee or for data entry.
- VA Recommendation services, such as virtualassistants.com or www.virtualassistantville.com, can also be a great resource. They simply allow you to post your job in front of a large audience of virtual assistants looking for work and most don’t charge you a job-posting fee. After that, you do the screening of applicants, pay them through some kind of outside source (such as PayPal) and do all of the hiring and relationship management with your VA. These recommendation services simply act as the bridge that brings the two of you together. I have used these services in the past when I am looking to make a direct-hire for an ongoing position.
- You can also find some great virtual assistants in the blogosphere. A marketing tactic being used by some outsourcing professionals is to put together a blog with a profile of them and their services. You can actually view their work, contact them and hire them through the use of their blog and it’s contact me function. One example is www.myvirtualblogassistant.com. You will also find many great blogs that are written specifically for virtual assistants and those that hire them, such as www.michaelhyatt.com. These blogs offer great information not only about hiring VAs and managing the relationship with them, but can also help you to connect with potential VA candidates.
- Word of mouth is the oldest (and sometimes the best) trick in the book for finding great candidates because you are getting recommendations from those that you know and trust. This can be great, but it can also severely limit the reach to find the very best candidate available depending on the scope of what you are hiring for.
As you can see there are good and bad aspects of all of these sources for finding a Virtual Assistant for your business. The best one for you depends on the scope of work and your personal preference. My recommendation is to try out each of these services to find out what you are most comfortable with. As they say, practice makes perfect. And while you are never completely sure about any hire you make, you will learn a lot with each VA experience to help you whittle your hiring down to more of a science.
Where do you find your Virtual Assistants? Do you look in different places depending on the job? Or do you always use a specific site? Please leave your comments below or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.