Should You Hire a Virtual Assistant Through a VA Company, a Marketplace or Go Direct?

Taking on the task of hiring a Virtual Assistant can be incredibly daunting! Literally millions of people of all levels of skills and walks of life are ready to offer their help. Ratings and reference systems help filter out the supply of workforce in some way, but still, far too many to chose from.  And who can guarantee that VA you’ve chosen had not played  the system somehow or won’t outsourced their job to someone else?  You have no clue – they are virtual!

virtual-agentsFor this reason, you might choose to hire a Virtual Assistant through an existing VA service. This can be attractive because, ideally, they have already pre-screened their VAs and will provide them with the infrastructure they need to get the job done, such as a PC, internet connection, etc.  But there are also some pitfalls to going this route that you need to be aware of.

Before hiring a Virtual Assistant through a VA company, you should consider the a few important factors:

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5 Traps of So Called Cost Effective SEO

5-traps-of-cost-effective-seoIf being found on the web is essential for you or your business, you are probably no stranger to Search Engine Optimization (SEO). SEO, an extremely complex and comprehensive set of activities, has become a major component of marketing strategies for most companies today, and a source of revenue for countless (offshore) SEO providers.

For most businesses SEO is not their core activity and that makes SEO a good prospect for outsourcing. Also many aspects of SEO are somewhat mechanical and labor intensive, so it’s no surprise that many companies elect to outsource SEO. With a large number of SEO providers out there the cost of it is alluringly low.

However, cheap outsourced SEO is not the brightest idea you can try; chances are you will “get what you paid for”, and often even less. Paying just a few hundreds of dollars per month for someone to handle your SEO efforts is likely to be a complete waste of money. As the common saying tells, if something sounds too good to be true, then it most probably is. Here are 5 potential traps to think about whenever you are assaulted with promises of boosting your Google rank overnight: Continue reading

Let a VA Plan Your Next Vacation

travel

For years I have been outsourcing technology tasks to offshore companies all over the world.   But it was only recently that I truly embraced the idea of out-tasking and started using Virtual Assistants. And now I am finding myself getting increasingly attached to using VAs to “outsource my life”.  I plan to write more about it and look at various aspects of using virtual assistants for mundane, laborious, and annoying tasks that may clatter your day and take your mind off important aspects of your personal and professional life.

Few things in life are better than going on a truly great vacation. You can spend time with those you love, in a beautiful and exciting place, as you and your family take a break from the many demands placed on us in our every day lives.   Of course we are talking about perfect vacation, not the one which ends up costing you too much, or the one which turns out so exhausting due to mishaps and issues that you need another vacation afterwards.  The key to avoiding that is good planning and it’s amazing how much time and efforts it takes to plan a vacation.

There are many different travel sites that promise to book you the best hotel for the best price, but how can you be sure if it really is the best deal available? And then you need to check out TripAdvisor, find the right tickets, and arrange for a taxi… And what if you want to drive around Europe for a couple weeks and stop in 10+ cities?  Where are all those locally owned travel agencies with beautiful brochures and smiling advisors!?  Oh, yeah – just another casualty of the Internet age.

This is where hiring a VA can help you tremendously.  Your VA can plan your vacation and given the focus and hopefully experience they can do it fast and possibly better than you would…

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How to Stay on Top of a VAs Work Without Micromanaging

MicromanagerEveryone who uses VAs on somewhat consistent basis  has been burned at some point, and I am no different. In fact, a few years ago I had hired a VA to work on SEO. Initially her work was good but at some point it became spotty, and eventually, downright bad. As it turned out, she had “outsourced” her job to her 9-year-old son. Apparently she thought kindergarten was enough of an education to tackle the job. While this story might seem shocking, it is not unique, and after you have been burned once or twice, it can be easy to fall into a trap of micromanaging.

While staying closely on the top of your VA’s work might seem necessary, in the end of a day you just want to ensure that you are getting what you pay for, it is quickly become bad for both your working relationship and your overall bottom line.

Do you think you aren’t guilty of micromanaging?  Ask yourself a few questions:

  • Do you often find yourself frustrated because your VA didn’t do exactly what you told them?
  • Do you spend a lot of time making corrections and cleaning up your VAs deliverables?
  • Do you notice that nothing that your VA does is good enough?
  • Do you need to know exactly where your VA is and what they’re working on?
  • Do you need frequent and detailed updates?
  • Does it always take your VA longer to do the task then it should or would’ve been if you’d done it yourself.?
  • Do you spend a lot of time reconciling timesheets and deliverables?
  • Do you prefer to be cc’d on all emails?
  • Do you think that getting a VA was a bad idea?

If you answered “Yes” to 3 or more questions in this list, chances are you are micro-managing your VA. If you said “Yes” more than 5 times, then I need to tell you that you, my friend, are a micro-manager without a doubt and you will lose some really great employees if you don’t stop. Alas, while this is great advice, it is not easy for many of us to instantly stop micromanaging. So just take it easy and start letting go one piece at the time. Continue reading

Afraid of Using a VA? Here are Proven Tips To Minimize Your Risk

halo-cortana-1Even though using a Virtual Assistant is now considered to be common practice for many entrepreneurs and companies, delegating tasks that you’ve always done yourself can still feel scary. It is a frightening concept to give important tasks to someone you have likely never met in person. It might make you feel like you are losing control. The most common thought is probably an old cliché – If you want something done right, do it yourself. It’s old, but not good. In fact, for many of us “DIY” is pronounced as “die” :) Being a superhero (superworker) rarely pays. And I promise you, using a VA can actually be very rewarding.

There is always a risk when hiring a new employee of any kind, and there are steps you can take to minimize the risk you take on. Here are some tips to help you minimize your risk:

Start with the right hire. Remember it’s not about the best VA. It’s about the right one.

  • Take the time to do your prep work. Before you ever begin the hiring process with a new VA, you should know exactly what you want from them. This helps to minimize confusion, find the right person for the job, and maximize productivity for both of you in your working relationship.
  • A great way to know exactly what you want is to record what you do. You can use screen-capturing software such as TinyTake to record your actions and use it to explain the tasks to your VA.
  • If the scope of work your VA will be doing is likely to expand (which is often the case if the VA is good) you want to look for someone who can deal with more complex tasks that those you currently have on the plate. Don’t aim too high though, because your VA may be costing you too much or even worse be under-challenged and unmotivated to do their best work from the beginning.
  • When you are evaluating VAs for your new job, it is important not to focus on the rate.  Rate (however important) is secondary, because the quality of the VA and the work he or she will provide should be your main focus and motivation.
  • Get your paperwork in order. Before your VA begins doing any work for you, make sure you have an established contract with specific deliverables and requirements attached. This would include pay, hours per week, when payment should be given, the start date, specific tasks, quality expectations, and reporting frequency.

Once you believe you have found the right VA, it is important to spend the time needed to establish the best possible work environment for both of you. Continue reading

The Secrets of Getting the Best Price for Your Virtual Assistant

Virtual-AssistantWhere hiring a virtual assistant used to be out of the norm, it has now become much more mainstream. Every day, thousands of companies and individuals are hiring Virtual Assistants to complete a variety of projects for their business. And even more, these companies are finding that hiring a Virtual Assistant is beneficial to their business in many new ways, often far beyond of what was originally expected.

There are many questions that come to mind when you are first considering hiring a VA. One of the questions that you might ask is, “what kind of rate can I expect?” And unfortunately there isn’t an easy answer.

Can you hire a Virtual Assistant for $5 an hour? Absolutely! But will that person prove to be a beneficial member of your team? Maybe. Maybe not. The point to hiring a Virtual Assistant needs to be getting the biggest bang for your buck. You want to use your dollars wisely to hire the best assistant possible for the least amount of money. Continue reading

Finding VAs just got easier

Activities that call for out-tasking, ad-hoc outsourcing or “outsourcing your life” inevitably bring us to a not so easy to resolve dilemma – where and how to find a decent virtual assistant (VA). In some cases we can engage resources from oDesk or elance, in some cases we need to find an established VA company. And like with most of vendor selection challenges choosing VA vendor is a task not for the faint of heart. Sheer number of resources that fall into VA category makes proper selection a seemingly daunting task. For example, a search for “virtual assistant” brings 29K entries on oDesk and 19K on eLance.

Interestingly enough an approach here could be using another layer of outsourcing – getting an assistant who can find an assistant… And as luck may have it a few days ago I run into someone who offers exactly that kind of services – Nick Loper, the founder of Virtual Assistant Assistant, the leading directory and customer review database on personal and small business outsourcing companies. Nick also wrote a book “Virtual Assistant Assistant: The Ultimate Guide to Finding, Hiring, and Working with Virtual Assistants” that is now available on Amazon and published a white paper that discusses the current state of the personal outsourcing landscape. Here is a summary in his own words:

It looks at some of the macro trends impacting the industry, including large scale geographic shifts in supply, and the growing confusion over what exactly is a “virtual assistant.”

The study also addresses the demand side of the equation with an analysis of proprietary never-before-released survey data from prospective outsourcing clients. This includes information on desired work functions, anticipated workloads, preferred working relationships, and more.

As demand for outsourcing services has increased, so has interest from venture capitalists. A number of high profile companies and startups have raised funds to grow their business.

Finally, the paper looks at some of the demographic data on website visitors seeking out information on virtual assistants.

Outsourcing service providers may be able to use this data to better cater their offerings to meet the demands of the market.

VA market is going to grow considerably and selecting companies that can match your specific needs would become increasingly different. In that light services like VAA could be extremely helpful. I hope Nick continues growing his business…