The virtual assistant (VA) market has grown substantially since the world went all-remote in 2020. Executives without offices still needed support, and the newfound openness to remote work made VAs an attractive option. There are dozens of options when it comes to hiring a VA. Before reaching out to a freelancer or virtual assistant service, you can ask yourself a few questions that make the relationship successful.
1. Who manages the VA?
Virtual assistants save you time by taking over admin tasks like scheduling, expenses, travel plans, data entry, and other important but time-consuming and repetitive tasks. But they will need training and performance management on your systems. Do you want to manage another employee? With freelancers and virtual assistant agencies, you're responsible for managing the VAs. Managed services take that burden off of your plate. With a managed service, you get a dedicated account manager responsible for learning how you work and training and managing the VA to meet your needs.
2. How much time do you need?
Most virtual assistants charge by the hour, and few executives need 40-hours per week of support. That said, most require a minimum monthly or weekly allocation of hours. How much time do you need? The fact is, most executives don't know how much time they spend on admin work because they multitask all day and don't track their time. It can be helpful to document the processes you want to offload before interviewing VAs. This will give you a good idea of the number of hours you will need and help you qualify candidates, ensuring they have the skills and experience for those documented tasks. It's also important to know how many other clients a VA may have and how much time and attention they can reserve for you.
3. Do you have a backup plan?
Another thing to think about when engaging a virtual assistant is what happens if he or she is sick, on vacation, or leaves for another position? Few independent contractors or VA agencies offer backup VAs, while this is a standard best practice for managed virtual assistant services. The backup VAs should be fully trained on your tasks and processes so that they can step in at a moment's notice without any lift on your part.
4. What about security?
Remote workers have become a target of hackers, as home networks and computers lack businesses-grade security protocols. If a VA uses a personal computer to access your systems, you need to have security standards to protect your network and data from any malicious attack. If you give someone access to systems like accounting, CRM, expense accounts, and credit card information, the stakes can be high. There's also the issue of the VAs themselves—do they observe best practices for security, and are they trustworthy? Some services offer background checks, only allow VAs to have encrypted passwords (they never see your actual credentials), and can remotely revoke access if suspicious behavior is suspected.
5. Can you scale?
If your business is growing, and virtual assistants become a lifesaver, how do you develop that service within your organization? It can take us much as 40 days to recruit, interview, and hire a new employee, and as the number of VAs grows, management can become burdensome. Companies in this position often turn to agencies and managed service providers as a more scalable means of hiring and managing VAs. A service provider will get to know your business and processes over time and find suitable VAs to join your team more quickly.
According to Staffing Industry Analysts (SIA), virtual assistants represent a growing and maturing sector of the staffing industry. The productivity gains for busy executives can pay dividends far beyond the cost of the service. Asking these questions can help you get a service that is right for you. You can read the full report below.
About the Author: Bill is Prialto's senior content marketing manager and writes about the future of work and how businesses can be more productive and successful. His work has appeared in the World Economic Forum Agenda blog and CIO magazine.