All things you need to know about hiring a VA

So what does this mean for you and why should you consider hiring a VA?

What is a virtual assistant (VA)?

A virtual assistant provides business or personal support in a remote capacity.  Often the support is administrative. However, ‘virtual assistance’ covers a wide range of services and skills.  From organising your inbox to filing, from designing your logo to bookkeeping.

Why consider a VA 

A business owner works with a VA because they want to make or save money, save time or buy in a skill set.  However, there are some further advantages:

  • No fixed costs or overheads (desk space, computers)
  • No associated employment costs (taxes, pensions although beware of IR35)
  • Access to greater experience and skill sets
  • More flexibility and less commitment
  • Bringing in fresh perspective

How do you know when you need a VA?

There are 2 instances when using a VA makes complete sense:

  1. To free up your own time to focus on generating revenue (or tasks that you value highly)
  2. To fill a skills gap

Entrepreneurs quickly realise that to grow a business, you need time.  The most efficient way to create time is to focus on those tasks that only you can do and outsource the rest. Commonly most people outsource too late. You want your VA to be up and running before you feel the pressure of needing additional support. 

To outsource effectively, you need to be specific in your requirements.  This is easy if you need a particular skill set however, not so easy for generic support. 

The following exercises can help you decide what to outsource:

  1. Work out how much you could earn instead of doing specific tasks
  2. Determine your target annual turnover (say £80,000 pa)
    • Divide this by 2080 (80000/2080 = £38.50).  This is your hourly rate for revenue generating activities
    • Compare what you will be paying your VA on an hourly rate.  Remember to factor in that, on average, a specialist completes a task quicker and more efficiently than you might. 
  3. Write a list 
  • Write down all tasks on your to-do list
  • Compartmentalise those into repeat tasks and one off tasks.  Then run through those that only you can do (i.e. those things that are your core competencies or those things that differentiate you from the competition) and those that can be done by someone else.   
  • All those repeat tasks that can be done by someone else, can be outsourced.

How much will it cost?

The average hourly cost of your VA will vary, depending on the following:  

  • Experience 
  • Skill set
  • The number of hours you require

Whilst the average hourly rate in the UK for an administrative VA is around £25ph, if you were looking for a specific skillset (technical for example) the rate would be more.  

If you spoke to a VA with lots of experience, the rate should be more.  

If if you decided to book a VA for a regular hours per week the rate might decrease. 

Note – things to look out for:

  • Experience: a VA with lots of experience will undertake the task in less time than one with little experience.  An experienced VA will add greater depth of understanding to the work they undertake on your behalf.
  • Day rates:  Whilst this can be an excellent option in order to build up relationship, remember to enquire how much time will actually be dedicated to you rather than shared with other clients and be clear on expected deadlines.  
  • Project fees: A project fee will include fixed parameters for a set rate.  For example, a logo design.  These are great options for projects that could easily balloon out of control if booked on an hourly rate.  

How should you choose a VA?

When hiring a VA you can either go direct to a freelancer or via a company / agency.  

If you go direct there could be a financial benefit as agencies tend to charge more.  However, be sure that you understand 

  • What your VA’s key skill set is (be specific with your requirements)
  • How much time they have available for you.  How that is likely to change and what turn around time you should expect for work projects.
  • What their working hours are
  • What their GDPR and data protection arrangements are
  • IR35 implications (will you be their biggest client; do they have other clients)
  • How many other clients they look after – this can be a good or a bad thing.  Are you going to be a small fish in a big pond or the other way around?  If it is the latter, what are the IR35 implications. 

If you recruit outside of your own country, understand any cultural barriers.  For example, be aware of any UK specific nuances around whatever your task may be.

By going via a company you may pay more per hour.  However, agencies should be able to provide comfort on the following:

  • Finding you the right VA with appropriate experience
  • Access to further skill sets within the group
  • Access to further VAs when you need more capacity
  • Replacement VAs should it not work out
  • Understanding of IR35 and the relevant taxes
  • GDPR systems in place
  • Non-disclosure agreements 

How to have a great relationship with your VA

Like all relationships, it will take a bit of time to get to know your VA.  Here are a few tips to get the best out of your VA from the start:

  • Be clear with your instructions.  You can never be too detailed in your guidance (the more detail you give, the more likely that your VA will be able to deliver exactly what you want, how you want).
  • Do not make any assumptions.  Your VA has a lot of experience however does not know your individual preferences.  Please do not assume that they will know exactly how you like things done; time taken explaining is time well spent. 
  • Communication is key.  Ask your VA to keep in contact with you on how they are getting on.  Communication is the key to making sure your VA is working efficiently and you are getting what you paid for!
  • Time tracking. Many VAs use time tracking software and are able to provide a breakdown of time.  
  • Shared folders.  For GDPR reasons, keeping control of your data is key.  Check your VAs data protection policies.  
  • Onsite work.  As a rule of thumb, most VAs work remotely however on-site work is not unheard of.  Should you feel onsite work may be relevant, be sure to check this is possible at the start of a relationship. 

A VA is an excellent additional resource available to support you and your business.  With limited fixed costs and more experience than you might be able to afford from a full-time employee, VAs are a great option for anyone looking to take their business to the next level. Please do get in touch to find our more about how we can help.

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