🎙️Show Notes for Episode 053 of the IC PodcastMar 17, 2022
It’s a lot of work to juggle client delivery with the critical work of running your consulting business. The good news is that there are many solutions to this challenge. And one of them is getting additional help for you and your business from a Virtual Assistant or VA. A VA is someone you can hire who can handle repetitive tasks so that you can get back to running and growing your business.
So that's what I really want to focus on in this episode. Listen in as I share with you the nine mistakes that you should avoid when hiring a VA and also the six steps to hiring a VA so that you can effectively create more capacity for yourself to then focus on more revenue-generating tasks in your business.
Download your VA Playbook: The Playbook to Leveraging a Virtual Assistant in Your Consulting Business at: https://www.melisaliberman.com/va
Nine mistakes to avoid when hiring a VA:
- [02:48] Mistake #1
- [03:17] Mistake #2
- [03:52] Mistake #3
- [04:32] Mistake #4
- [06:01] Mistake #5
- [06:42] Mistake #6
- [07:36] Mistake #7
- [08:23] Mistake #8
- [08:53] Mistake #9
Six Steps to hiring a VA:
- [10:48] Step #1
- [14:38] Step #2
- [17:28] Step #3
- [18:00] Step #4
- [20:13] Step #5
- [23:30] Step #6
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**note: This is an automated transcript, so please ignore spelling errors and grammar mistakes*
Welcome to the Grow Your Independent Consulting Business podcast. I'm Melisa Liberman, a fellow IC and business coach. On this podcast, I teach you to become a consistently booked independent consultant without becoming a pushy salesperson or working 24/7. If I can do it, you can too! Listen on to find out how. Welcome back to the podcast. I'm so glad you're here again this week. And if you're brand new, welcome. I'm excited to dive into today's topic because of what I'm hearing so much, and it's the middle of March. As I'm recording this is, most people are feeling like their plate is overflowing. They're not sure how they're going to get everything done. They are trying to juggle client delivery with creating and better establishing and advancing their business goals. And it just feels like a lot. And so there are many solutions to this challenge. And one of them is getting additional help for you and your business. So that's what I want to focus on today; I so often get questions about how to use a virtual assistant in an effective way. And so, what I want to share with you today are the six steps that I find are the most effective in using a virtual assistant in a consulting business. So I'm going to share with you those six steps along with a bunch of mistakes I've made along the way and my clients have made along the way in the past, and to hopefully help you avoid those, it can be an incredibly effective way to create more capacity for yourself. But if you don't really choose the right VA or the right VA strategy, it can end up taking more cycles than it saves. So we don't want that to happen to you. So let's dive into today's topic. Before we do that, I just would love to remind you if you could go leave a rating and a review on Apple so that more people can find this podcast; we're getting some really good traction here. And I appreciate you listening and spreading the word by leaving a rating of five stars if you're game for it and a review. So just a quick reminder on that. And with that, let's dive in. And I wanted to start today's topic with the mistakes to avoid. Because that's the most important thing to know what not to do, and then we'll dive into exactly what to do. Alright. So the first mistake that I want to point out to you is the mistake I made for a long time is not hiring soon enough, not bringing on additional help soon enough, for example, dealing with my books, my bookkeeping process forever by myself. And it just took so much time, and I hated it. So it made it even worse. And when I got a part-time bookkeeper, it was like liberation. Another problem that I see independent consultants making when it comes to hiring a virtual assistant is the opposite of that
you don't hire soon enough, and then you hire from desperation. You literally can't keep all the balls in the air. So you decide to go outsource something, whether it's managing your pipeline, like the admin side of it, or bringing on a bookkeeper, or, you know, helping you with social media or LinkedIn, whatever it is, when you get to that place where you know, you've reached your limits, and you go and hire from desperation. I'm sure you're well aware that never ends. Well. Another mistake. Mistake number three that's important to avoid is if you're brand new to hiring a virtual assistant, I would highly recommend that you don't hire a brand new virtual assistant. In other words, if this is your first virtual assistant, I would recommend hiring someone who has virtual assistant experience because when you're trying to train them how to be a virtual assistant on top of how to execute your processes, it can introduce more risks into the equation that was really quite honestly unnecessary at this point. There are so many virtual assistants out there. Mistake number four, and we're going through nine of these. Mistake number four is that you may, in the hiring process, be really focused on their skills and what they know how to do and what they've done in the past and forget about their personality. Forget about is it a good fit for you in the personal dynamics, and it's really important even though they're not, you know, physically in your office space like you might have been used to when you hired incorporate even though you might only interact with them occasionally, it's still really important to be able to have that connection so that it's someone you feel like you can trust, it's someone you feel like you can troubleshoot with that will listen to you and is open to direction. And that you're not just hiring someone that arm's length and you do not want to talk to or deal with. So that part's really important is to look at both of those sides of the equation. And quite frankly, I've sometimes focused more on hiring for skills and put less importance on the personality side of it or the personal connection side of it. And that's always come back to haunt me. Because at the end of the day, if we're not able to really align with each other and have a conversation and troubleshoot something, it becomes really hard to make the process work really well. So make sure as you avoid that mistake, don't focus too much on the skills and not enough on that personal equation, the personal connection that you have with them or not. The fifth mistake that you want to avoid is not knowing your non-starters. So sit down and figure out what your non-starters are. And be really clear with yourself on those so that as you go through the interview process, and I'll walk you through what that looks like here in a minute, you really know what your non-starter is and can be looking for that. A lot of times, again, if you're especially if you're coming out of desperation, or you're thinking, you know, this is just someone I need to do tasks for me, you've ended up deciding those certain things that might feel like a red flag you can live with, and then you end up causing yourself extra cycles later on, when it's not a good match. The sixth mistake you want to avoid is forgetting what you learned when you hired incorporate; I don't know what happens. But it's like some kind of amnesia that happens when you go to hire a virtual assistant. And somehow, it doesn't feel the same as when you hired incorporate because it's for your own company. And maybe because it's someone who's offshore, for example, or someone that you know is doing a lot of tasks that you don't have to have frequent interaction with. And then you kind of drop all of the things that you learn as you hired or fired, unfortunately, incorporate, bring all of those learnings in sit down for a minute and remember what was I great at hiring and what where wasn't I great and make yourself a plan based on that don't have the corporate amnesia like I had and completely forget what worked well for you when you were hiring. So that you can bring that over here to this process of bringing on a virtual assistant. Similarly, don't make the mistake of ignoring your intuition. If it doesn't feel right, it doesn't matter what the reason is. Just move forward and find a different virtual assistant to hire that does feel right to you. So your intuition is important here. Don't ignore that. Because I know for me, every time I've avoided ignoring that intuition, and I've had this happen with clients, too, they have a feeling this isn't going to work out when they can't put their finger on it. So they go ahead and bring the person on, and then they don't work out, and you know, in a couple of months, and then you know, you're kicking yourself, I knew that wasn't the right choice, I just couldn't figure out why. Just follow that intuition. Don't avoid it in order to save yourself some extra cycles down the line. And then two more mistakes to avoid treating this as a checklist item. Just wanting it off your plate, I just need someone to help me again, you know, thinking like it's not very strategic, or it's not, it doesn't really matter. It's more tactical, so I can kind of bring on anyone; what ends up happening is you end up not getting a great fit for what you need as a virtual assistants, what personality clicks best with you what style matches yours or complements yours the best. And you, again, end up causing more cycles for yourself. And the last mistake to avoid is getting yourself into this box of well, you know, I'm gonna hire just a part-time partial virtual assistant. That's kind of all I can afford right now. Or that's all I can imagine right now; I don't want to deal with more than one. And I want to challenge you to say as you're looking at this process of bringing on a virtual assistant and thinking about the steps I'm about to share with you, really consider that it might be that you need more than one virtual assistant doesn't mean that you need two full-time virtual assistants. But it could mean that you need just like a bookkeeper for two or three hours a month. And then you also need a video editor for five hours a month. And then you also need someone who's better at data entry or pipeline management or something like that a few hours a month. So as we're talking about the hiring and the six steps I'm going to share with you, keep an open mind about what it actually means to have a virtual assistant and that it could actually mean that you have more than one, and they just happen to be fun. Filling different functions in your business, there's no place in your business where you're too small to have more than one. Like I said earlier in a mistake, not hiring soon enough is one of the biggest mistakes I know I personally made when I, you know, when I was early on growing my business, and just thinking to myself that somehow I, I didn't yet qualify wasn't big enough, I didn't have enough volume, or whatever the reasons were, that it felt like I didn't have the permission to hire someone. And looking back, I should have hired someone so much sooner. So those are the mistakes that you want to avoid. And I wanted to start off with that so that you could have that in, in the context as we're going through the six steps to bring on a virtual assistant. So the first step is for you to decide when to hire the virtual assistant. So as you can probably tell, based on the mistakes I shared with you, decide sooner than later; hiring a VA sooner than later can help you to establish a stronger foundation for you from the outset of your business versus I'll just wing it, I'll figure it out. You know, the mentality of I know how I can figure out anything, so many of us have that, right. That's what makes us successful as consultants are that we're problem solvers. We know how to figure things out, we know how to, you know, get things done. But in this case, it's only going to be a disservice to you to try to wear every single hat in your business. So the first step is for you to decide when to hire a VA. And I strongly recommend that you err on the side of sooner than later to avoid what I call some of the common thought errors that I find independent consultants like yourself making about their time, thought errors about their time, and thought errors about their business. So ask yourself if you have any of these thought errors? Are you thinking that you should delay the cost of a virtual assistant? Because you don't yet have enough cash flow to support that? Well, think about it on the opposite side? What time are you spending? Even if it feels negligible, right? Oh, it's just an hour here and there. Does that all add up? What time are you spending where you really could be working on business development. Another thought error I find is delaying that VA, hiring the VA because you can do these tasks yourself. So I already touched on this a little bit, right? Yes, of course, I'm sure you can do the task yourself. I taught myself personally a ton of things that I didn't know ten years ago. But that doesn't mean you should be doing them. And so look at that for yourself, of course. I would say doing it once is incredibly valuable so that you know how to manage someone. So you're not just out of the gate, giving someone else responsibility and your business before you really know what you're doing for most tasks. But don't take that on for the long run, just because you can really look at that and say, Should I be doing this? Yes, I can. But is it something that is impacting my bottom line. And the last thought error that I see so often is that we kind of see this virtual assistant is something that is a big investment in a way. But they can free up anywhere from like five hours, maybe even a couple of hours of your time in a month to 20 hours in a month right now, minds working 40 hours in a month. So imagine how much more impactful you could be with income-producing activities if you freed up even just a few hours every month, up to 40 hours a week if you wanted to. But right now, for me, 40 hours a month is making such a huge impact. So the first step is to really look at your thought your think about why and when to hire a virtual assistant. And question those assumptions. So you don't fall into that trap that I just described. And I will point out to you that I put together a PDF that will have a lot of this listed out, like what the six steps are and some of these thought errors, Interview Questions to Ask virtual assistants where to find them. And you can go to my website, MelisaLiberman.com/VA. So we'll put that link in the show notes as well. I'll give that to you again here in a second as well. So I just want you to be able to print this off and have yourself a little playbook. Okay, so step number one was to figure out when you're going to hire a virtual assistant, so write it down, it's going to be May, it's going to be September, it's going to be now whatever it is for you really look at your business and make a plan. Step number two, then, is to identify the tasks that that virtual assistant would take on. Here's my recommendation to you in this area. Write down everything you could possibly delegate, err on the side of things that you think only you can do in your business, even if some of it is client-facing, write everything down, and then instead of eliminating them by asking what I call a low-quality question like, why wouldn't this work to delegate it? Ask yourself the question for each one of those, how could I make this work? How could I make it successful in delegating this to a virtual assistant? How could I make it easy for the virtual assistant to understand what to do and how to complete this task? So you rule in most of the work instead of ruling out most of the work? This is incredibly important. When I work with clients and question them, why isn't your VA doing that? The answer is usually a little bit of a deer in the headlights. And then the answer can be things like, you know, one client said to me, well, she's already really tapped out, I don't want to, like push her over the edge. So I'll just keep doing it for a while. Okay, well, you have one of two options here, you can either, well, one of three options, really, you can either keep doing it yourself, which you look at yourself, if you're the CEO, you're the business owner, why are you the fallback person for work that can be assigned to other? I'm losing the word that I'm trying to pick up? But why are you the overflow person? That's the word I was looking for? Why are you, as the CEO, the overflow person because you're too worried, your VA is tapped out. So either get another VA and help kind of even out the workload or give the VA the job and have them figure out how to do all of their work more efficiently and stop treating yourself as an overflow person. So again, roll all of these things in that you can instead of asking yourself low-value questions like, why wouldn't this work. So go through the list, make yourself a list of VA tasks, and figure out very minimally, what needs to be removed from that, for really sound reasons after you've thought about all the options of how you know why you need to keep that item. Alright, so that's step two, identify the virtual assistant tasks; I have created a list of 62 of them. I think we're at 62. Now I'll keep adding to it. But at the moment, it's 62 tasks that you could assign to a virtual assistant. So it is in that virtual assistant playbook that I mentioned to you. And again, it's at MelisaLiberman.com/VA. So you can go download that. And you'll get all of what I'm describing to you today, the key points, in a PDF, so you have it as your playbook. Okay, so let's move on to step three. Now, step three, now you have you know when you're going to hire someone, you know what all the tasks are that either one or multiple VAs would do. And now you just need to go through an estimate of how much time each of those would take on a daily basis, or weekly basis, or, you know, added up in different ways, weekly, monthly, and get yourself a good idea of that initial scope, and most likely are going to be wrong. So don't try to perfect it. But get it close enough. So that you have an idea of the capacity that you're going to need, you know how many hours a week that this can pull off of your plate. And then, the fourth step is for you to determine the type of virtual assistant that you'll want to hire. So you need to think about a couple of different types of virtual assistants; you can think about it do I need a general person, like the list I just created? I'm pretty sure if I, you know, got someone who was fairly capable, they could do this wide range of things that I just put on that task list. Or potentially, it might be a specialized person, like someone who's really good with video, for example, or it could be a mixture of both. You need a general one for most things, and maybe just a bookkeeper a specialized kind of thing. So take a look at that and make your best guess. And then also think about whether or not you want someone onshore or offshore. I've had both works really well. I found for me personally that offshore is great when you know exactly what repeatable processes; you can, you know, fairly easily document the process. And I'll go over more about managing the virtual assistant in next week's episode. So be on the lookout for that. But, you know, think about what are the benefits and the pros and cons of onshore and offshore for the type of tasks that I need. And then and then make your plan accordingly. Like I said, I've done both, both have been successful, and both have not been successful. It's not necessarily because of the onshore versus offshore dynamic. It's because of maybe a mismatch. The mistake I made was a mismatch in the type of resource with the type of tasks that I needed them to do. And so you just need to really dial that part in and think about it. Suppose you want something that's fairly easily repeatable. You liked the idea of being able to give someone work, and they work on it while you're sleeping, and it's available the next day, or it's posted the next day, or whatever it is. Offshore is great if you want someone who's a little bit more collaborative in a closer timezone. If you're wanting someone who's maybe a little bit more strategic or has industry extra eperience, then you might want to consider onshore. So those are some things to consider. Do I want onshore or offshore? Do I want general or specialized? Do I think I need one or more than one to satisfy the list of tasks? And then step number five is to go find the VA, the virtual assistants. So, in order to do that, there are really two main ways to find a virtual assistant. The first is to go through an agency that I've had a lot of really good luck with agencies I'll put the agency that I use in the show notes. And in that VA playbook that I mentioned to you, including their website and email address, which they told me they would, that was fine to publish. And what I like about the agency, even though you pay a little bit more, especially for offshore type resources, they do background checks, they do the initial really talking with you about your list of requirements to help you to gauge is this really onshore or offshore? Is this really something I need general or specialized for so they'll help guide you on that last step? I gave you the previous step, and then they'll do the initial screening for you; they'll present a couple of candidates for you to interview my current VA. I got a couple of candidates from the agency. And my current VA didn't quite have the background that I wanted. She wasn't as well versed, at least on paper on LinkedIn. And so I passed on her and interviewed another couple of candidates. And they were not meshing with me so much in terms of style like one of them wanted to meet every single morning, and that wasn't going to work for me. I just wanted someone that would, you know, communicate more over WhatsApp and texting and that kind of thing because I don't have time for more meetings. And so, I ended up going back to the agency. And they said, I know you rolled out this VA, but she's amazing. So why don't you just meet with her even though she's not exactly what you wanted on paper? And she is incredible. She's the best VA I've ever had. And it was a great match. So listening to the agency has been really good for me. And the mistake was that I didn't listen to the agency initially and, and try to, you know, make my own path. But I ended up because I spent some extra cycles ended up finding a great match. The agency will also give some baseline training to virtual assistants and also replace virtual assistants if, for some reason, yours doesn't work out, or they end up not having enough capacity, or whatever it is. So that's why I love working with agencies, especially on offshore-type virtual assistants, in order to have that extra support. And of course, you pay for it. But to me, it's well worth it. If you're looking to do this on your own, and especially if it's more of an onshore VA, I found really good resources, you know, just networking, asking past clients, asking, you know, other women who may take a step back out of their career for, you know, families, if they want to get back, you know, into the workforce that in some part-time capacity. So asking colleagues and looking in your network, LinkedIn has a lot of virtual assistants. And also, Facebook groups are great resources to find those types of people focused on being a virtual assistant as their career. So that is my advice for you on where to find virtual assistant candidates. And then the last step of this process is interviewing and selecting a virtual assistant. So again, in that VA playbook PDF, I can remember what I called the VA virtual assistant playbook that you can go download on my website, Melisaliberman.com/VA,
I put a bunch more questions there for choosing your virtual assistant. So definitely go through just like you would incorporate. When you were hiring in corporate, what are the questions that I want to ask that match back to what I'm looking for, both from a soft skills perspective, as well as from a hard skill perspective, and prepare for your interview, just like you would have in the past? And ask them things like what type of experience do they have? What experience is specific to your requirements list? How many clients are they working with right now? How do they manage their workload across multiple clients? How do they handle ad hoc requests that might not be part of like the weekly routine? How do they handle urgent requests or last-minute requests? What challenges have they had with past clients, and how did they resolve them? So asking those kinds of questions, as I said, I put up a lot more questions into that PDF, so go grab it for yourself. To really get to the place where you've decided which VA you want to bring on and follow your intuition, as I shared with you earlier, do some work here so that you don't have to end up redoing it later on because it wasn't the best fit. So that is my advice to you. And from my own personal experience in having hired and unfortunately fired and worked with a lot of VAs in the course of my business, as well as helping my clients to hire and manage their own vas. So hopefully, this will help give you some things to think about with your own virtual assistant strategy. If you want more help with this, to apply it to your specific business, this is one of the things we do in my 90 Day boot camp for independent consultants. So let's talk about that if it's a good fit for you and your business if the type of subjects that I talk about on this podcast and my style resonate with you, and you know, you're at the place in your business where you could be growing further, you could be growing faster, I would love to have a conversation with you. And we can talk about your specific business goals are, your specific business challenges and then figure out if the boot camp is a good fit for you or not. And I will tell you if it's a good fit in my opinion or not, and you can decide as well. And if it isn't, I would love to give you some recommendations on what might be the next best step for your business. And if it is a good fit, I would love to work with you if you know if we both agree that it's a that's a great next step for you. So with that, I appreciate you being here. Go download that VA playbook. And stay tuned for next week. We're going to talk about the tips and strategies for managing your virtual assistant so that you're getting the most out of their capacity and it doesn't just create another headache for you and your business. Okay, so I am thrilled that you are here. Thank you for listening, and I will see you again next week. Thanks for joining me this week on the Grow Your Independent Consulting Business podcast. If you like today's episode, I have three quick next steps for you. First, click Subscribe on Apple podcasts or wherever you listen to make sure you don't miss future episodes. Next, leave me a review in your podcast app so other independent consultants can find a benefit, and finally, put the ideas from today's episode into action. Head over to Melisaliberman.com for the show notes and more resources to help you grow your consulting practice from your first few projects into a full-fledged business. See you next week.