When scaling your business, hiring a VA is a cost-effective way to bring in flexible support to take on some of the non-core tasks you’re juggling day to day.
But I see a lot of business owners making the same mistakes and complaining that their VA isn’t up to the job, or that VAs in general don’t work for them.
Bad hiring and management of your VA can cause unnecessary stress for you and your team, so you want to make sure you avoid the common pitfalls that I see all the time.
Here are the 5 biggest mistakes I see business owners make when hiring a VA:
1) Not having a clear goal your VA will help you achieve
According to Locke and Latham (psychologists and pioneers in goal-setting theory) if you set goals you’re more likely to make forward progress towards your desired outcome, and avoid anything that distracts you from that outcome.
With that in mind, it’s important to understand what you want your VA to add to you and your business, as that will have an impact on who you hire and what you decide to out-source. For example, your overall goal could be:
- To spend more time with your family outside work
- To generate extra revenue
- To enjoy your work more
- To feel less stressed and overwhelmed with your workload
When you understand the bigger picture of what you want to achieve by out-sourcing, it makes it much easier to decide what tasks to hand over and to measure whether your arrangement is working for you.
For example, if you’re a coach or consultant and your goal is to generate extra revenue from your business, your focus will need to be on billing more hours with clients. Therefore you need to hire a VA who can handle your invoicing, appointment booking, email correspondence, marketing (and anything outside of client work).
On the flip side, if your goal is to enjoy your work more, you may decide to cherry pick certain non-client tasks (such as marketing or email correspondence) if they’re tasks you find fulfilling.
You’ll also have a good idea of whether you’ve hired the right VA, delegated the right tasks and are managing your VA effectively. Without any sense of direction it’s impossible to measure whether you and your VA are a good fit for each other.
2) Trying to hire a Super VA to do absolutely everything
When I explain to business owners that the term VA covers a huge range of skills, they’re always slightly surprised. I don’t blame them – a few years back VAs tended to cover only the more traditional Personal Assistant (PA) roles.
In recent years as Virtual Assistants have become more of ‘A Thing’, many VAs are choosing to niche down and specialise in certain sectors or skills
In recent years as Virtual Assistants have become more of ‘A Thing’, many VAs are choosing to niche down and specialise in certain sectors or skills…and the term has come to represent a much wider group of freelancers like social media managers, web developers, graphic designers, copywriters etc.
But some business owners haven’t quite figured out that there’s not such thing as a One-Size-Fits-All VA. Think about it – larger organisations never hire a single person to oversee EVERY department in their business. They hire specialists to carry out a list of specific tasks. You should apply the same approach to your business, even if you’re a one man band.
Chris Ducker, owner of VirtualStaffFinder.com talks about this in his blog:
“Think about it for a second – This [the existence of an employee who can do everything] is not the case in the ‘real world’, so why should it be the case in the virtual world?! The fact is that if you want to grow your business in a successful way, you need to hire for the role.”
The beauty of VAs is that, as you grow, you can hire a mini team of experts to take on different tasks for only a couple of hours each, each week. It would certainly be easier to manage one perfect VA who’s amazing at everything but you’ll probably have more luck finding a polar bear in the Sahara!
3) Not knowing what tasks to delegate
I’m always amazed when business owners come to me for help finding the right VA for them, and they look confused when I ask what tasks they want to delegate.
Their blank expression tells me everything I need to know: they haven’t even thought about it.
Perhaps it goes back to Big Mistake #2 – they believe in the myth of the Super VA
but often it’s just a case that they didn’t realise they had to.
Imagine walking into a department store, calling over a sales assistant and saying, ‘Excuse me – I need some clothes please’. They would probably look pretty confused about where to send you. Do you want men or women’s clothes? Children’s or adult’s? Smart or casual?
It’s pretty much the same thing when I meet a business owner who says, ‘I’m looking for a VA, can you help?’. If you don’t know EXACTLY what you need help with, you’re going to struggle to find the best person for the job. Plus you’ll waste valuable time throwing random, unrelated bits of work at your VA, without any sense of purpose or direction.
Imagine walking into a department store and saying 'Excuse me, I need some clothes please'
Let’s take a second to consider what would happen if you hired a VA without deciding in advance what you want to out-source. Without thinking about it too much, you bring in a VA whose specialisation is book-keeping. But over the next few weeks you realise that your main problems are maintaining your WordPress site, and building sales funnels.
Not going to work out, right? It’s not your VA’s fault – she has her key skills and experience. But if you don’t plan out precisely what you need help with, there’s a very real possibility that you’ll end up with the wrong VA for you.
For tips on how to decide what to delegate, check out my earlier blog, The 4-Step System to Help You Build a Happier, More Productive Business.
Once you’ve hired your dream VA, you’ll find a whole host of new challenges to contend with. If you’ve worked alone for a while and have become used to doing everything on your own, it can feel difficult letting things go.
Perhaps you believe (wrongly) that:
- No one understands your business like you do
- No one can get things done as well as you
- Your way of doing things is the best and only way
Once you’ve trained up your VA you should resist the temptation to check in on their work and dictate exactly how they tackle certain tasks. They could well have more efficient processes and better knowledge in certain areas but if you stifle them, they’ll never have chance to show you how capable they are.
A survey published in Harry Chambers book, My Way or the Highway showed that 85% of people felt low morale when working with a micro-manager.
On the other hand giving your VA responsibility and ‘ownership’ over the tasks you’ve delegated will lead to:
– Your VA feeling more satisfied and loyal to your business
– The chance for you to take time off without worrying about things being done wrong
– Better quality and efficiency as your VA is able to make decisions to improve your more clunky systems and processes
5) Lack of training and unclear instructions
Ok, so I know I just said that micro-managing is bad but there’s a big difference between being CLEAR and being CONTROLLING. They key here is to clearly define the outcome you wish your VA to achieve with every task, NOT the method they need to use to get there.
Many VAs, especially when they’re working with new clients, will want to look competent so they might feel anxious about asking questions in case they look a bit daft.
Although VAs are freelance, and generally take responsibility for their own personal and professional development, it’s important for you to provide training specific to your business and the tasks you want to delegate.
If you don’t train your VA to understand your business and the tasks you want them to carry out for you, it’s going to have a negative impact on your business and your relationship with your VA:
- Your VA might make mistakes and lose confidence
- You might think you’ve hired the wrong person
- You’ll waste your time going back over everything to make corrections
You'll waste your time going back over everything to make corrections
I’m not asking you to put together lengthy employee manuals and user guides – but there are a couple of quick and easy ways you can improve the clarity of your instructions:
- Provide links to examples of similar work you’d like your VA to follow
- Send screenshots of the way your own work looks
- Record screen capture videos, with you explaining a task
You should also be open to questions as and when they come up, so that your VA knows they can come to you when they’re unsure what you want.
Bringing a VA in to your business is a big step, especially if it’s the first time in a while that you’ve worked alongside another human being (albeit virtually). You’ll want to make sure you hire the right person and that you manage them in a way that benefits you both.
By avoiding The 5 Biggest Mistakes Business Owners Make When Hiring a VA you’ll be on the right track to building a long-lasting and successful working relationship that helps you scale your business.