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When is the right time to hire a virtual assistant?


I was interviewed a while ago by Carmen MacDougall, one of the leaders in the UK Virtual Assistant industry.  She was putting together a book for VAs looking to build up their client list and wanted to find out how I went about hiring my first VA.

It was many years ago that I took on my first VA – someone who helped me with my business remotely, without the need of coming to my office or offering an employment contract. (And no – a virtual assistant is not one of those virtual animated people who pop up on websites to offer assistance as one person admitted to thinking!)

The interview reminded me of the struggle and confusion I felt when I first decided to take the plunge.

You see, I bet we are alike.

You run your own business.  And you probably are, like all good entrepreneurs and business owners, a bit of a control freak!

When it’s your business … your clients, your blood, sweat and tears … it’s really hard to start handing over some of that responsibility to someone else.  Someone who – let’s be frank here – you are not sure you can really trust.

What happens if they send out the wrong email to the wrong person?   What happens if they end up offending a new client which results in them cancelling the contract you’ve just agreed?

What happens if they lose all your files and mess up your accounts system?

All over-the-top, drama-queen emotions – yet perfectly reasonable thoughts from a business owner like me and you.

But if you carry on running the business in the same way you are at the moment, you probably know that you are going to drop some balls yourself.  Trying to do it all by yourself is guaranteed to result in you being the person who sends out the wrong email and messing up your invoices.

So when is the right time to take on some extra help and hire a VA?

Here are some of the danger signs:

  • You have become a slave to your inbox.  Every time you respond to an email another 5 magically appear, which means you never have a chance to get on with business development.  Or writing that book you’ve promised yourself you are going to write!
  • You are missing messages on your phone.  You are out with clients and it takes you at least 3 days before you manage to phone someone back … and you are losing potential new projects on the way.
  • You are spending hours sending out information to clients such as training packs, terms of engagement letters, quotes and proposals.  You sit by the printer waiting patiently for everything to come off before you dash to the post office to get it in the last post of the day.
  • You have projects such as “set up email newsletter” or “get Facebook Page sorted” on your to-do-list for week after week.
  • You find yourself sat at your desk on a Saturday morning working out the last 6 months of business receipts whilst your family go out for a day trip to a local park
  • You are missing out on having that “every other Friday” that you promised yourself to spend with friends – working for yourself meant that you were you own boss … but it feels like you are chained to your laptop and can’t get away.
  • You forget to send out this month’s invoices … because you are too busy!  Cashflow starts to look a little tight.
  • You are frustrated by your website as several of the pages are so out of date that you have stopped sending potential clients there to look at it.
  • You struggle to find the time to book plane and train tickets and often find yourself missing out cheaper seats because you’ve left it too late to organise.

And the reason why I know these danger signs is because I have had them all at some point in my own business.  Got all of those T-shirts!

This was one of the big things that I shared during the interview with Carmen earlier this week.  By the time I came round to getting someone in to help with my business, I was in such a whirlwind of thoughts and big ideas that trying to explain what I needed help with was tough.

When it’s all in your head and you’ve trained yourself to think “it’s quicker if I just get on and do it” – you know you’ve got to slam on the breaks and take the time out to get some help.

Because if you don’t you will only end up suffocating your own success.

So when is it the right time to get a VA?

Before you begin that new project.  Before you decide to launch that 6 month VIP programme.  Before you launch yourself in to a frenzy of project juggling.

Break off one small part of your business – such as your live events, book project or new product you’re planning to launch – and focus on getting help on this.

If you do, you will find it far easier than trying to get help with that whole mountainous business of yours.  And you will have stronger foundations to take on more clients and projects without taking more of your precious time to do it.

It can take 3 or 4 months to establish a good working relationship with a VA but once it’s there, the sense of freedom is wonderful.  Knowing that there is someone else to do the things you hate to do and not able to do so you can concentrate on what really matters.

And you never know – you could find yourself working that 3 day week after all.

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