by Kathy Soulsby, author of “How To Work With A Virtual Assistant“
Bring in an assistant too early and you don’t have enough work for them to do or the budget to do it. Too late and you’re potentially already at a volume of work yourself that is excessive, and therefore finding the time to manage recruiting and onboarding a new team member is tricky.
So how do you know when it’s the right moment to bring someone into your business as a support?
Are you ready to let go?
It might be that a VA is your first experience of someone other than you working in and on your business. You may have IT support or a web designer but a VA, particularly this kind of ongoing support, is a little closer to home.
You have to be willing and emotionally ready to delegate some tasks. If absolutely everything up to this point has been done by you, this is going to feel weird. Sometimes nice-weird (“Oh thank God, that’s off my list and getting done without me, I hated it”) and sometimes annoying, frustrating, or even unhappy-weird (“Why is she doing it that way, that’s not how I’d do it!”). But either way, it will feel weird. There are a few ways to balance out the initial weirdness.
Firstly, be cautious and put security and legal measures in place so you know your business is safe. Secondly, only delegate to someone you trust. You should only give tasks to someone who understands and respects your business and your values. It is completely fine to only ask your VA to do a few easy internal tasks as they start, to ensure that you’re happy with everything before they’re let loose on client facing work. But in the fullness of time, you’ll need to let your VA take the initiative and make some decisions without your input. Otherwise, they’ll be asking you everything at every stage and it’ll take longer than if you did it yourself. If you can’t imagine a time when you would let that happen, if you know that you tend to micromanage, then be realistic about that now.
It doesn’t necessarily mean that a VA won’t work — you may just need to manage their expectations at the start and review exactly what you give them in order for you to feel comfortable. Some tasks naturally lend themselves to delegation by those who are more nervous about handing things over. A VA writing your blogs or web content for example, is likely to expect you to review it before it goes live.
Likewise, if a VA is managing your diary, you should be able to let them do that without checking each and every appointment change. If this makes you nervous and you feel that you must be involved in every transaction and every email, then you may not be ready for a VA. And of course, it’s not going to be very cost effective for you if you routinely check every single task they do.
Do you have enough work to outsource?
You may be ready, willing and poised to get someone onboard but if you don’t have enough work that someone else can pick up, you might not get a useful bang for your buck. When we are overwhelmed, it is very easy to think that we have piles and piles of things that someone else could take off us. But is this really the case? Take a careful look at your “delegate” list. As we talked about earlier, there is an initial investment of time and energy to getting a VA on board, and if you only have a teensy bit of work for them to do, it might not be worth it.
Do you have the budget?
Can you pay for enough of a VA’s time to make the relationship worthwhile for you — and them?
If you want to build a good relationship with a VA and really have someone be a useful support to you, you need to be able to invest in at least 8-10 hours a month of their time (or get to that amount quickly).
With a decent amount of monthly hours, you can invest in training your VA. They’ll know how you like to work and what your priorities are. They’ll be armed to make decisions on your behalf. They’ll add value to your business and start to free up your time to earn more money. So, can you pay for that?
Are you trying to fix a person with a resource?
Are you bringing in a VA to fix a problem you have failed to solve with something else? If you are thinking of getting a VA to support someone on the team, is that because they are overloaded or because they are unmanageable? If you can’t manage your member of staff, please don’t expect a VA to do it for you.
Do you have the time to bring a VA up to speed?
Do you have the time to recruit and onboard someone properly at this moment in your business and life, or would another point in the year get you off to a better start? Getting a VA isn’t an instant fix to getting your time back. It will, of course, in the long run, but there is an inevitable amount of time that you will need to invest in getting this project off the ground. If you do a poor job of bringing someone in, it will impact on what you get out of them. So be honest about your commitments.
How a VA could help those with ADHD
Those with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) brains are amazing at their brilliance, laser focused and capable of delivering fantastic work, on time, on budget and wowing those around them. However, the things that are not their brilliance they really struggle to get excited about and to get themselves motivated to do. Fortunately, more and more folks with ADHD are discovering that working with a VA can be life changing.
Outsourcing everything but your brilliance is even more critical for those whose brains work in this unique way – because unlike those of us who will (eventually) knuckle down and grumble through the things we find tedious, those with ADHD really find that challenging, so those things get left or overlooked. And if you are running a business, things like not sorting out your VAT return really can have some nasty consequences.
This is where the right VA can be a huge asset, scooping up things that are necessary but fall outside of your scope of interest and genius. A VA can also suggest systems and ways of working that might help make some of these tasks easier in the future.
Are you too much of a mess for a VA?
This is a moment for some self-examination. To put it simply, if you are a born hot mess, even the most amazing VA in the world is not going to be able to make you organised. No VA can work miracles. Just like hiring a personal trainer can’t make you thin and hiring a cleaner can’t make you tidy, hiring a VA will not make you organised. Only you can do that. A VA relationship will involve effort on your part and a level of organisation at your end to make it work.
*this is an adapted extract from “How To Work With A Virtual Assistant” by Kathy Soulsby
Kathy Soulsby has run her Virtual Assistant business, Personally Virtual, since 2014. Personally Virtual comprises a team of over thirty VAs, supporting businesses great and small with expert diary ninja and operational support. Prior to setting up Personally Virtual, Kathy was an EA for fifteen years. She is author of “How To Work With A Virtual Assistant“.