When you hit your capacity as a blogger it may be time to hire a Virtual Assistant.  We've put together an extensive guide on how to find and hire the perfect VA for your blogging business.

Tips For Hiring a VA | Food Bloggers of Canada

Once you've decided you need some help in your blogging business, the next step is likely going to be hiring a Virtual Assistant or VA (not sure if it's time to hire a VA? Check out this previous article on how to decide if you need help in your business).

But where do you start?   If you've never hired anyone before it can be more than a little daunting.  Where do you find a virtual assistant? How do you find the right one for you? What should you ask them before you hire them?

Well, we're here to help.  Here's our tips to help you hire a virtual assistant who's the right fit for you and your blog.

(please note - this article is written with the assumption you will be hiring a freelancer or contractor. If you are hiring an employee, there are a few more things you will have to consider)

Step 1: Get Crystal Clear On What You Need Help With.

You can't find the right virtual assistant if you have no idea what that person will be doing once you hire them! If you don't already know what your VA will be doing, use the exercises we provided in our article on deciding if it's time to hire a VA.

You may only want to hire a VA to do a very specific job, like managing your pinterest account or doing your invoicing or, you might want somebody who can manage a variety of administrative and social media tasks.  So you may be looking for a specialist versus a generalist (specialists will usually charge more)

Make a list of duties - you'll be able to use this as a job posting and a hiring and interviewing checklist.

Step 2: Decide Where You Want Your VA To Be Located.

The key word in Virtual Assistant is... Virtual.  Meaning they can work from anywhere.  There are lots of things to consider here:

  • your budget - overseas VAs may work for a lower rate than a Canadian or US VA
  • do you want a native English or French speaker?  This might be very important to you if they will be doing any editing work or communicating with brands you work with or handling your email.
  • is it important to you that you can meet face to face with your VA from time to time?
  • will your VA be required to attend any events that you're involved with? Do you host events or classes?
  • do you want to be charged in Canadian or US dollars? Being charged in Canadian dollars makes your accounting and budgeting easier but US assistants and many overseas assistants will charge in US dollars and the rate you pay will vary month to month based on exchange rates.

These are all important things to consider first and can affect the rate your virtual assistant charges.

Step 3: How Much Does a VA Cost? Determine Your Budget

One of the scariest things about hiring somebody is knowing that you'll have to pay them every month - and that means you have to have the revenue to make that happen.  But if you hire the right person and give them the right tasks, they should wind up paying for themselves while improving your overall revenue.

Virtual Assistants can cost anywhere between $15 and $30/hr Canadian, depending on where they're located and what they specialize in. (there are exceptions to this for very specialized skills or experience levels)

Three of the most common ways VA's charge that you'll probably wind up encountering as you search are:

  1. VAs who charge by the hour.  Some may even charge in 15 or 30 minute increments as well - so if your task only takes them 10 minutes, they may only charge you for 15 minutes rather than 60.
  2. Monthly packages.  Some VAs only offer monthly packages that you prepay for.  So for instance, your VA may charge $200 a month for 10 hours of work (or a certain number of tasks).  If you don't give them 10 hours of work, you will still be required to pay the $200.  These can be a really good solution if you have a consistent amount of work each month and it also guarantees your VA's availability. If you consistently fail to hit the number of hours you're paying for, your VA may suggest moving to a smaller package or, you may have to ask if that's possible.  If you go over your allotted hours you will probably be charged a higher hourly rate for the remainder of the month or perhaps even a rush rate.
  3. VA's who charge by the task or project.  This can be a good option if you have a very specific project with a defined start and end - like creating new social media graphics for all your existing posts.  The VA will charge you a flat rate for the entire job.  In cases like this you will need to get a quote prior to starting work and you may need to pay a partial deposit before work gets under way.

Now that you have an idea of what a VA costs, you'll have to balance out your budget with how much help you need.  There's nothing wrong with starting small and increasing as you go along.

Tips For Hiring a VA | Food Bloggers of Canada

Step 4: Creating a Job Description

Before you can hire somebody, you need a job description - this goes back to Step 1.  You need to be clear what you need help with but as you list that out, you can turn that list into a job description.  A few tips to writing a good job description are:

  1. be honest about what type of person you're looking for.
  2. be honest about what they'll be required to do and any unique working conditions they may encounter
  3. if you would like to see examples of their work, make sure you ask for that on the job posting - things like a web portfolio, CV, resume, LinkedIn profile, client references etc
  4. list the skills you're looking for - if you use Photoshop for your graphic templates, list Photoshop as a skill.  Break out which are mandatory and which are "nice to have"
  5. remember, it is illegal in Canada to put restrictions on employment based on age, race or cultural background, religion, whether or not they plan to have children, or physical or mental disabilities. This carries over into the interview part of the hiring process as well. Here's a good resource for questions you can't ask.
  6. You may also want to include some specific "show us your skills" questions where you ask them to submit answers to how they would handle  certain situations or request that they submit their application in a certain way (i.e. with a certain subject heading).  This is a really good way to see who has read your job posting thoroughly, how detail oriented a candidate is (usually an important VA trait) and if they would handle a situation in a way that suits your business.
  7. Make it clear when you are closing the application process and whether or not you will contact everyone who applies or just those you plan to interview.

Step 5: Where Do You Find a Virtual Assistant?

This may just be the hardest task - finding the elusive, perfect Virtual Assistant.  Here's some suggestions on where to look:

  • Within your own network - ask your fellow bloggers who they work with, if they're happy with their VA and where they found them.  If somebody raves about their VA, ask them if their assistant is taking on new clients.
  • Put your job posting out to your network of friends and family - you might be really surprised who comes forward
  • Put your posting on Linked In if you have a profile (stay tuned - we have a post on why bloggers should create a Linked In profile coming soon!)
  • Formal organizations like The Canadian Association of Virtual Assistants (CAVA)
  • do a Facebook search for Virtual Assistants or Canadian Virtual Assistants - loads of groups and pages will pop up that you can research.  Some of the groups will allow potential clients to join and post their openings.
  • Virtual Staff Finder - this is one of the better known VA services founded by Chris Ducker of YouPreneur. Many of their VAs are from overseas.
  • Services like Upwork, Fiverr and 99 Designs can all be good places to look for help with specific tasks like photo editing, video production, podcast editing, logo design, pinterest and other social media graphic templates.  These can be a good place to start if you just have one or two tasks you need help with.  If you find somebody on those sites that "gets" you, you can build a longer term relationship with them! (If you're a podcast listener, 99 Designs  sponsors a lot of small business podcasts and you can usually find a promo code from one of these podcasts for a first time discount)
RELATED:  4 Words That Prevent You From Becoming a Successful Blogger

Step 6: Hiring A Virtual Assistant

This is it... the culmination of all the steps. Now to actually hire somebody!

Interviewing

Whether you've posted publicly and received 5-10 applications or you've simply got the name of a great person from somebody in your yoga class, or you've found a great designer on Fiverr, you're going to have to eventually have an actual conversation with them.

Ideally, you'll want to talk to more than one person but it's not necessary if a great applicant presents themselves. And don't feel you need to interview everyone who applies - narrow down your candidate list to 3-4 who could be a good fit.

We strongly recommend that an interview be done in person, on the phone or through video conferencing.  Email may only give you a small glimpse into a person's personality and it's fraught with opportunity for miscommunication.  You're definitely gonna need more than that!

Interviewing can be very intimidating (for both sides), especially if you're introverted or have never done it before.  But think of it more like a conversation.  You're simply talking to a person  you might be interested in hiring to find out more about them.  Pretend you're having a coffee date (if they're local, have your interview be a coffee date).

  • Go through their list of qualifications - ask them for a bit more information on specific items
  • Ask them about their process of working with clients
  • Give them a job related few scenarios and ask them how they'd handle them
  • Ask if there are any particular tools they feel are a must have for their job (lots of VAs are tool junkies and can be a great resource for finding tips to streamline your business
  • Ask how many clients they have and if they're available to expand their work with you as you grow
  • Tell them about yourself and how your business runs and what you really need help with
  • Let them ask you questions - if you can get into a good back and forth groove, that can be a good sign you've got a promising candidate and that you're clicking with each other (nothing worse than a stilted interview that's forced!)
  • Have the money conversation - in the corporate world money usually isn't discussed in the first interview but this isn't the corporate world.  Find out up front what they're looking for and see if that fits your budget.  If it doesn't, be up front about it.  If it's a bit higher than you had planned but you love the applicant, think about whether you can scale back the number of hours you need them or find some room in your budget or add a few other perks that don't cost you money.  You don't have to make the decision during the interview.

You do not have to give them an answer at the end of the interview.  Take time to talk to everyone on your list.  Then take some time to mull things over.

Hiring and Onboarding

Once you've made your final choice it's time to formalize things and bring your new VA on board.

References:

Check references - especially if this person will be involved in any way with your finances, legal matters or be privy to confidential information. Ask if you can speak to other clients.  If they hesitate, that should be a red flag.  If your conversations with references or clients bring to light anything that makes you hesitate, pay attention!  This is your business so don't fool around!

Have A Contract:

Prepare some kind of written agreement that outlines the terms of engagement.  Many VAs will have their own contract that they'll want to use which is fine as long as you're comfortable with it and understand it .  There are a few times where having a lawyer approved contract is a good idea - this is one of them. At the very least, make sure whatever you have in place includes the following:

  • who is hiring who
  • when the contractor will start work - if there's a firm end date, that should be noted too
  • payment terms - including hourly or package rate, what happens if your contractor doesn't fulfill their obligations as outlined in the agreement and what happens if you don't pay them on time (or at all)
  • a general scope of work
  • how any disputes will be handled and how the relationship will be terminated
  • who will own the work that is created for you (this is a big one and worth talking to a lawyer for)

As always, this is not legal advice - please consult a lawyer for assistance when you are making important decisions for your business.

Onboarding

Onboarding is the process of bringing a new person into your business processes - either as a client, an employee or a freelancer.  During this period you'll be doing the following:

  • introducing them to your processes
  • ensuring they have access to all the tools and places they need to do their work - this could include software, social media accounts, dropbox etc
  • deciding how they will communicate on your behalf (if this is part of their job)
  • going through a period of training and learning (this goes both ways - your VA may want you to start using new tools to make things more efficient so you may have some learning to do too!)
  • creating new processes around how you'll communicate with each other, deliver tasks and finished work

It's important to go into the onboarding process with lots of patience.  Make sure you set aside enough time in your schedule to get your new VA up to speed and answer their questions and provide constructive feedback on their work.  And make sure you ask them regularly if they have everything they need to do their job, if they're happy with the work.

After a few months you might also want to ask them if they've noticed any ways that you can make the business more efficient or improve certain tasks.  VAs are usually very detail and process oriented and can provide a lot of valuable feedback into making your business run more efficiently!

Hiring a VA may seem like an overwhelming process but it really isn't - there's just a lot of steps.  But if you break them down and tackle them one at a time you'll have somebody great helping you grow your business in no time.  And if you do it right and find the right person, it will be one of the best investments in your business (and in regaining some of your personal life back) you may ever make!

 

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