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6 Steps to Hiring a Virtual Assistant

6 Steps to Hiring a Virtual Assistant

Start With a Success Recipe

I hired my first virtual assistant at the Indie Business Network, over a decade ago. I shared a bit about the experience at Indie Business Blog. Today, I work with a very small team of people who help me manage the day-to-day tasks at IBN.

Since I have worked with virtual assistants for so long, and since the bulk of my business is conducted virtually, I am frequently asked how to hire a virtual assistant. Based on my experience, this article answers that question. Here are 6 steps to adding a virtual assistant to your team.

First, for those of you who don’t know or are unsure, a virtual assistant is a business owner who provides clients with business and administrative support from a remote location, freeing the client to do more of what they do best.

Does that sound like a person you could use in your business? If so, read on.

6 Steps to Hiring a Virtual Assistant

1. Clarify what you need help with.

The first step to hiring a virtual assistant is to map out exactly what you need help with.

Don't wait until you are exhausted and desperate to hire a virtual assistant. Here are 6 steps to getting the help you need now. #lifestyleceo Click To Tweet

Most entrepreneurs wait to hire help until they are so desperate that they can’t think straight enough for long enough to pinpoint their exact needs.

You probably need help with a “ton of things.” But you cannot bring someone on board, dump a “ton of things” on them, and expect them to be a suitable replacement for you.

Your first step must be to step away from your business and look objectively at the tasks you are performing regularly. Record exactly what you do every day for a week, as you do it. At the end of the week, you’ll see how much time you took doing what. This weekly snapshot will help you pinpoint precisely where you need help the most. Hire first for those things.

You can record your weekly tasks on paper, or you can use an app like the Eternity Time Log.

2. Create success recipes.

In order to effectively delegate a task, you first need to have in place a system for performing that task. I call these systems “success recipes.”

For example, before I hired a person to help me with the Indie Business Network’s Instagram feed, I created and implemented an Instagram success recipe that worked reasonably well.

When I was ready to hire someone to help me, the success recipe was already working. Additionally, candidates could observe the exact recipe simply by viewing IBN’s Instagram feed. All she had to do was follow my success recipe. It made for a very smooth transition for both of us.

Having a success recipe avoids any need to micro-manage her. I stay out of her hair and let her do her work on her own time. I know she is grateful for that.

Over the many months she and I have worked together, she has tweaked the Instagram success recipe from time to time. It’s even better today than it was when I was doing it myself. Everyone is happy.

3. Understand what a candidate does and does not do well.

Over the years, the term “virtual assistant” has evolved into a kind of general way to describe “anyone who does stuff virtually.” Without commenting on whether this is a good or bad thing, the result is that there are millions of people all over the world who work virtually and call themselves “virtual assistants,” regardless of what they actually do for a living.

You’ve got to look beyond the title, and focus on finding the right person (or persons) for the tasks you need to accomplish. Keep in mind that you may need more than one person. For example, if your biggest needs are for social media management and database management, if you cannot find one person who can do both well, you may need to hire two people.

Whether or not a person calls herself a “virtual assistant” is not important. I have three assistants on my team, and only one refers to herself as a “virtual assistant.” They all do a great job. What they call themselves doesn’t matter.

If a virtual assistant candidate can do what you need, and do it it well, she is a good candidate regardless of how she identifies her profession. #lifestyleceo Click To Tweet

Look beyond the title to see the substance of what a person does well. If a candidate can do what you need, and do it it well, she is a good candidate regardless of how she identifies her profession.

4. Take a “test drive” with representative tasks.

Once you narrow down the field of candidates to 2 or 3, you can assign each of them tasks that are representative of the tasks you need performed.

Give the candidates the success recipe (or an appropriate variation of it) and an appropriate time frame to perform the tasks, and then evaluate their performance. Compensate them fairly for the one-off tasks you are asking them to do. Pay them regardless of how they perform.

Make an offer to the candidate who does the best job, and who you feel most closely aligns with the core values of your brand.

5. Settle on an appropriate hourly rate.

This will vary based on the tasks the person will perform, the city in which they reside, and your bank account.

Your goal should be to pay as much as you can for the person’s assistance, consistent with the complexity of the task at hand and the going rate for work of that type. It may be difficult to figure this out on the front end. Each of you should benefit from the collaboration, both financially and in terms of personal and professional satisfaction.

In addition to an hourly rate, there are other ways to compensate a person. You can include perks like gym memberships, trips and retreats, gift certificates, and personal and professional development training classes.

Everyone should be growing and having a good time working together.

6. Make an Offer and Execute a Contract.

A detailed explanation of contract and employee/employer law is beyond the scope of this article, but I do recommend you put in place a contract that sets forth the specific parameters of your working relationship with a virtual assistant.

Include things like the hourly rate, when invoices are due, when invoices will be paid, how time should be tracked, how your confidential commercial business information should be handled, an intellectual property statement, and more.

A virtual assistant can be an employee or a contractor, and the distinction is an important one. Employees are treated differently from contractors by state and federal government entities, so be careful to know the differences for purposes of employment and tax law.

This Internal Revenue Service publication sets forth the differences between an employee and a contractor. In a nutshell, the more control you have over the day-to-day work of a person, the more likely they are to be classified as an employee. Classification as an employee triggers numerous legal requirements that are not triggered for contractors.

Depending on the types of tasks you delegate, you may benefit from the advice of a tax and/or employment attorney in your state to help you understand and apply the law to your particular business.


Hiring someone to help you with your business is a very big step, and it can be scary. But it’s also exciting, as it means you are growing!

If you want your business to run smoothly as you grow, you must spend more money or spend more time.

As a Lifestyle CEO, your time is generally worth more than your money. #lifestyleceo Click To Tweet

As a Lifestyle CEO, your time is generally worth more than your money.

The more time you have, the more fun you can have doing the things you enjoy with the people you love.

You’ll be surprised at how delegation of even a single task will help you enjoy your life and your business more. Start with one single task that someone else can do. I predict you’ll find that the time you save by not doing that task will be infinitely more valuable to you than the money you’ll save by doing the task yourself.

And once you do it for one task, believe me, you’ll want to do it for others.

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Best and success,

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