November 22, 2007

If you find yourself bogged down with the business of running your business, you may need a Virtual Assistant or VA. A VA can set up systems and procedures to free you from time consuming tasks that eat away at your billable hours. Finding the right VA takes time. Because the work is collaborative, it is important that you find the right fit for you and your business. Too often, business owners become overwhelmed and decide they need help. They contact a Virtual Assistant without knowing why and have the wrong expectations. Here are seven common mistakes business owners make when trying to hire a Virtual Assistant:

1. They don’t understand what a Virtual Assistant is or does

A Virtual Assistant is a highly skilled administrative professional working from his or her own office, utilizing their own equipment. Virtual Assistants are not at your beck and call, they work more like an attorney, accountant or billing service providing you with a set number of hours per month on a retained basis. It is your responsibility to make sure you use those hours. A few VAs will also take on “pay-as-you-go” (PAYG) work as well. A competent VA should have a minimum of 5 years working in upper level administrative positions in the brick and mortar work place before stepping out to start their own business. They may, or may not have additional training or certificates.

What a VA does is create a collaborative working partnership with you to help you succeed. They create systems and procedures to streamline your business and help it flow in a logical, intentional way. They do the things that eat away at your time and prevent you from being most effective.

2. They don’t know what they want their Virtual Assistant to do for them

Virtual Assistance is the new buzz word and often business owners’ call without knowing what they want their VA to do. That is certainly okay if you are over burdened and don’t have a clue yet what you should handle or your VA should handle. But before you contact a VA have an idea of what the administrative tasks are that you do on a regular basis. Know the types of administrative jobs that are bogging down your business. Take time to think about what it is you are doing that is eating away at your time as well as things you just hate to do. A quick way to do this is to take one week and write down all the non-billable, administrative things you do and the time it takes to do them. See how much more money you would be making if even 50% of that time were billed to your clients. Or for those looking for more free time, what fun things could you do with those free hours? Chances are, the right VA will love what you hate!

3. They shop for price and not for value

Stop thinking in terms of “how much will this cost me” and think of how this will save you time, energy and yes, in the long run even money. We all know that running ourselves ragged is not the answer to a successful business. “Work smarter, not harder” is the mantra of small business owners, and VAs are the smart solution.

4. They expect their VA to be and do all things

In this day and age, so many people are looking for someone that does it all. VAs are not bookkeepers, web designers, and graphic artists. They are first and foremost administrative professionals. That is not to say they cannot perform some of the duties typically assigned to a bookkeeper, web designer and graphic artist. And some will over these services at a different rate as part of their VA packages. Most are able to handle some billing, update existing websites and use graphic artwork to create brochures, newsletters or presentations. And if a VA or VA company says they can do anything and everything, beware. Every VA has their strength and weaknesses and the smart VA will know what they do best and not accept work that they don’t do well. You may find that two 10-hour retainers with two VAs works better than 1 20-hour retainer with a VA that might not do some things as well.

5. They have an employer/employee mentality

If you find yourself thinking of a VA in terms of being an employee, stop and ask yourself. Would you ever think of an attorney that you have hired on retainer in that manner? Probably not. VAs are consummate professionals that do not need babysitting nor do they jump just because you called. They are in the business of making your business run smoothly and if you have constant “emergencies” that need immediate attention, you either are holding on too tight or have hired the wrong VA for your business. On the other hand, if you are the type of person who needs to control every aspect of what your VA does, then perhaps a part time in house employee is best for you.

6. They do not respect their VA’s system and procedures

Many small business owners do not respect the VA as an equal in business. They forget that their VA has several clients and walk all over their boundaries. Since a VA works with – not for – several clients, it is important that their time be respected and the procedures they set in place adhered to.

7. They don’t look for a VA that is targeting their specific market

If you are a business coach, speaker, attorney, or horse breeder, do your due diligence and look for someone that is specifically targeting your profession. If you cannot find one that is in your exact field, then broaden your search a bit. By finding someone in your field, you are going to find that special connection of someone who speaks your language and understands your passions.

When searching for a Virtual Assistant, be sure you fully understand what a VA is and what he/she will do for your business. Look for one that is targeting your market, someone that speaks your language and understands your business. Realize that a superior VA will not be or do all things. Drop the employer/employee mentality. Understand that you are working with a business owner, like yourself, providing a service and partnering with you for mutual benefit. Understand the terrific value a VA will bring to you and your business. Respect their time and procedures. They are busy professionals just like you. Last, but not least, honestly appraise your ability to trust and let go. Can you trust another individual to do the work and use your time and money wisely? Even VAs that hire other VAs struggle with this one. It’s hard to let go of “your baby”. But letting go might be the most rewarding thing you do!



  1. Thanks for an excellent article. I often have prospective clients I don’t close with because they have trouble with the concept that VA does not equal ‘temp’.

    • Thanks for the comment, even though I wrote this some time back, I’m glad it is still being read and appreciated. Now if we could just get more CLIENTS to read it! 😉

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