Top 5 Mistakes Business Owners Make When Hiring a Virtual Assistant

Posted by on February 20, 2012 in Hiring [ 1 Comment ]

Deciding to bring in a virtual assistant (VA) to help you accomplish those tasks you do not have the time, skills, nor the expertise to accomplish can be an exciting move for your small business—especially if you are working as a solopreneur. But like most things in life, you’ll get back only what you put in to the arrangement.

For those who are unfamiliar, a VA is simply someone to help you complete tasks via the Internet. Finding the right VA and knowing how to effectively work with this person often takes a significant amount of know-how, experience, and due diligence. Many small business owners are unaware of this, and are thus surprised when their virtual hire doesn’t work out (at best) or causes significant damage to the business (at worst).

If you want to have the best chance of making your virtual hire a real success then make it a point to avoid these five big, yet incredibly common mistakes

Common Mistakes Companies Make When Hiring a Virtual Assistant

1. Not enough planning. You can’t just wing it with a virtual assistant. If you want to get the most out of your virtual hire, then you need to stop and consider what kind of person you are looking for and how he or she will be best integrated into your current workflow. What tasks do you want to delegate? What experience, skills, background, and personality do you require for the position? How will you communicate with this person? Realize that there will be a learning curve at the beginning as you get to know your VA and figure out how best to train this person. You may have to make some tweaks and changes along the way, but having an overall agenda in place will definitely put you many steps ahead of the game.

2. Unreasonable expectations. Make sure your expectations in terms of the quality and quantity of your VA’s output is in line with the compensation that you are offering as well as the time you are allotting for task completion. If you are unsure what to even expect, then do some research. Ask your peers what they charge for similar tasks or go to one of the many online VA communities and ask some VA’s directly what they typically make for specific kinds of work.

3. Making unclear or complicated requests. Make sure the duties of the job at hand are clearly spelled out, preferably in writing. In fact, you should not enter into any virtual hiring arrangement unless you have a well-written independent contract or agreement in place.  You should also try to check in with your VA on a regular basis to make sure that everyone is on the same page. For some business owners that may mean speaking every day, but other arrangements find that once or twice a week on the phone or via a web chat session on Skype or Google Hangouts is more than enough.

4. Too focused on the price tag. Though you may be tempted to hire someone with little experience or hope to work with someone overseas where the standard of living is lower and average wages are less, the old saying “you get what you pay for” still applies. If your goal in hiring a VA is to save time and money, then realize that all the time you spend communicating back and forth and fixing preventable errors can quickly eat away at any savings. You should make it a point to consider your VA’s reputation and experience in addition to the money you will be paying this person before bringing him or her on board.

5. Don’t know when to call it quits. If you see that the learning curve mentioned above is stretching a bit too high and far, then it may be in your best interests to end the setup. But that may be easier said than done. Sometimes the hardest thing to do is to walk away from an arrangement that just isn’t going the way it was supposed to—especially when you’ve already committed yourself to it. If a VA doesn’t work out for whatever reason, then knowing when and how to cut your losses and move on to someone (or something) else is extremely important. Why throw your precious time and money away on something that is not giving your business an adequate return? This includes being aware of why it didn’t work so that you can avoid committing the same mistakes later and can make sure that your next experience with a virtual assistant a successful one.

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Adam Gottlieb is a small business owner, freelance writer, and small business consultant who has spent over a decade helping small and home-based businesses improve their image, increase sales and better manage their resources (both the animate and inanimate ones). He currently blogs at The Frugal Entrepreneur Small Business Blog, a resource for small and home-based business owners in need of money-saving business resources, tools, and tips. For more information on hiring and working with a VA, see the “Guide to Hiring a Good Virtual Assistant for Your Small Business.”

One thought on “Top 5 Mistakes Business Owners Make When Hiring a Virtual Assistant

  1. avatarMonmon

    I have to agree on this.
    If I could just share to you a little tip, there’s this freelancing site ( that have a “10 hour trial” thing. You can hire a virtual assistant and test their ability on 10 hours of work. If they perform well on that first 10 hours, then you can now hire them for a full-time or part-time of VA position.
    I find it effective and I think it will lessen or even avoid making mistakes that were stated above. To learn more, you could check this blog out. They’ve got lots of tips on hiring a VA.

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