What Should I look for in a Virtual Assistant?

HelpThis article is spurred from an increase in the number of questions I’ve been getting about Team Sandy and how to work with virtual assistants (VA) in general.

The 1st big question: ”Should my VA require a minimum of hours?”  The answer here is There’s no ‘should’ – it’s up to each VA  and depends on how she sets up her business.

For Team Sandy, we request a minimum of 5 hours each month as it’s not worth the administrative overhead (internal reporting, their weekly reports, etc.) if clients are using less than 5 hours/month.

2nd most popular question: “Is it okay for a VA to charge me for training?”

This gets my “It depends” – if you have a special software that the VA isn’t likely to use with another client, then “yes”…you should expect to pay for training time.

If we’re talking about “common” tools such as KickstartCartSolution.com, Aweber.com, ConstantContact.com, or SandraAudio.com, then my opinion is that the VA should either know how to use or get training on her own time.

3rd most popular: “Why do VAs charge such different amounts?”

A VA, like any other business owner, sets her own rates and, hopefully, sets those rates in accordance with her skill set.

For example, while a VA may charge more than her competitors, she may also do the work in half the time and with far fewer mistakes, thus saving you time, energy and money.

“Can I expect my old VA to train my new VA?”  In my opinion, absolutely not in terms of skills.  In terms of your procedures, absolutely.

For example, your “old VA” shouldn’t be teaching your new VA how to set up autoresponders in the shopping cart – that’s a skill set.

Your “old VA” can train to say when you send out your newsletter, which article marketing sites you prefer (but not teach how to enter on those sites as that’s skill set again).

The reason a VA doesn’t train her skill set is because she’s effectively training herself out of a client – if you do require a VA to train another VA, expect to pay more for training time as a result.

“Do I need to prepay my VA”?  This is another of those “It depends” questions – some VAs require prepayment and others don’t, it often depends on how much they’ve been burned in the past.  For Team Sandy, we require a deposit up front and then apply that against the first (and subsequent until it runs out) invoice – from there on out, we invoice either monthly or bimonthly depending on the client.

“What’s the acceptable minimum time a VA should charge per task?”  This is one of those questions which gets my dander up as personally, I don’t think there should be any minimum.  If your VA takes 7 minutes to do a task, my opinion is that she should charge you for 7 minutes.  If she takes 2 minutes, she charges for 2 minutes.

Many VA organizations tell their VAs to charge a minimum of 10 or 15 minutes for every task.  I disagree strongly on this as, in my opinion, it’s not Extreme Client Care™ and it goes even further for me, I see it as a lack of integrity in charging for things not done/time not worked – especially when one of the biggest selling points of VAs is that we pay for “time on task” rather than overhead such as employee salaries.

In short, you want to do your due diligence, ask lots of questions and ensure that the person/people you’re hiring know what they’re doing.  A simple way to do this is to give the person a “test” and see if they can complete it – for example, create this product and autoresponder or send me “this” test from my email service provider, etc.

Remember to ask for references. . .and call them.

Looking for a virtual assistant — check out the International Virtual Assistant’s Association at www.ivaa.org — I spoke at their national meeting last year and was impressed at the knowledge and skills of everyone I met.