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A common misconception about being an entrepreneur is that working 16 hours is sexy, fun or cool. Labeling this as a badge of honor is something that needs to be steered away from. During the first couple of weeks of being an entrepreneur, you might feel like you’re Elon Musk or Steve Jobs while they were building their empires, but in reality, for 99% of us, working like this is simply not sustainable.
Like many before me and many sure to come after me, I fell into this exact same trap. I was working tirelessly from the moment I woke up until the moment I went to bed, wearing every hat in the business that you could imagine.
It wasn’t until it got to the point where I was no longer able to see friends and missing family dinners that this became a real problem, and I knew things had to change. This is when I decided to hire my first virtual assistant (VA). Fast forward nearly 8 months and a team of 3 virtual assistants later, it is safe to say this was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. If it’s your first time bringing on a new team member, it can be scary. You don’t know if they can do things the same way as you, or you worry about them making mistakes. Trust me, I’ve been there. But if you truly want to scale your business, you need to have a great team. If you’re not sure where to start, here are 4 things to do before hiring your first virtual assistant.
1. Document everything and establish standard operating procedures (SOPs)
When I say document everything, I mean document everything. All the tasks you do on a day to day basis, use an online tool like Loom to record the tasks, and add them to what will become your new best friend: your company manual or standard operating procedures (SOP). Writing down each task you do step by step and providing video to go along with it ensures that you won’t be bombarded with endless questions, and your virtual assistant can refer to the company manual at any time.
2. Figure out the most delegatable tasks
Now straight off the bat, your virtual assistant isn’t going to be able to replace you. However, over time with careful training, they can come pretty close. Now that you’ve documented all of your tasks, you need to figure out exactly what you don’t want to be doing. Typically, if you’re following the Pareto Principle, or 80/20 rule, you want to focus on the most important 20% of things, and delegate the rest. Depending on what you do, your role might be taking sales calls, sending proposals and creating content, while your VA manages your emails, takes care of clients, does outbound prospecting or manages your social media accounts. The list is endless of what you can have them do — it’s just a matter of being clear on what you want them to do, and what you don’t want to do.
3. Find your virtual assistant
Now, there are a plethora of places to find a virtual assistant online, but not all are created equal. There are a lot of places who offer virtual assistants who are unskilled, untrained and simply ones that you don’t want to use. Personally, I’ve used UpWork, a freelancer platform, and Outsource Monkey, an outsourcing agency. UpWork is great, as you can see virtual assistant resumes, previous job experience and have everything tracked within the platform. The only downside is that UpWork takes a 20% cut of what you pay your VA. Using a company like Outsource Monkey however, makes life even easier, as you receive a fully trained and qualified virtual assistant who specializes in the area of the business you’re wanting to hire for. Rather than shooting from the hip and hoping for the best, the latter requires a lot less time and training on your behalf, and ensures you’re getting exactly what you need.
4. Training and tracking
Last but not least, is training and tracking. Ideally you want to spend quite a bit of time with your virtual assistant at the start, training them on all the things you’d like to have them do. Ideally, progress bit by bit, starting with the easier tasks until they’re fully competent, then progress onto the next task. The last thing you want to do is overwhelm your VA. Once you’ve let them out in the wild, you want to make sure everything is tracked. Not just their hours, but also any KPIs or targets you have for them. This way you can monitor and track business growth, and make any necessary adjustments along the way.