The ultimate guide to finding a great Virtual Assistant

How to find a great Virtual Assistant

Imagine this: The phone's ringing, you've got 300 unread emails in your inbox and your most valuable client sent you a text at 7am this morning to ask you to complete an urgent piece of work by the end of the week. You want to be focusing on the profitable work, but the VAT return deadline is looming and you've made a promise to complete a project by the end of the day.

Sound familiar? If this is a daily occurrence for you, then it might be time to find a little extra help.


What Are Virtual Assistants?

They're real people! Virtual Assistants are generally defined as self-employed Personal Assistants who work remotely.

Types Of Virtual Assistants

Types of virtual assistant range from telephone answering services, to general administrative help, to specialist personnel who can offer technical skills.

What Kind Of Services Can They Provide?

Examples include:

General Tasks

  • Diary management
  • Make calls on your behalf
  • Perform general research
  • Screen your email and respond on your behalf
  • Bookkeeping activities such as dealing with receipts
  • Manage any projects you don't want to handle
  • Make travel arrangements
  • Expenses
  • Phone call coverage
  • Email filtering
  • Calendar management & Appointment setting
  • Social media management
  • Payroll preparation
  • Reporting

Specialised Skills

  • Website design and development
  • SEO
  • Content management services
  • Digital marketing
  • Blogging
  • Software development
  • Medical, legal and audio Transcription
  • Translation services
  • Inventory management
  • Data protection and security
  • Market research

Where to find a Virtual Assistant

This depends on your budget, time available and whether you need them to have specialist skills.

  • Online searches
  • Ask friends and family for recommendations
  • Contact a specialist VA agency
  • Job sites
Top Tip: Shop around. There will be great cheaper options and bad expensive options. It's not always about the rate. Really look into what you are getting.
Top Top: Look for someone close-ish - i.e. be aware of your time zones. Don't commit to a person in a zone where the two of you are having meetings at 4am and 10pm!

How Do You Hire Them?

This depends on the type of VA you're looking for and how much time you want to spend finding the right one.

You'll need to put some time into the recruitment process, but you can speed this up by working with a dedicated VA agency, who will have already done their own vetting to ensure that the VA holds the core qualities you're looking for.

Apply the principles of good employee recruitment:

  • Be known as a great employer
  • Check references and examples of past work
  • Take advantage of social media and look at their linked, Facebook and twitter profiles to get a feel for the kind of person they are.
Top Tip: Look for credentials and associations with VA organisations. This doesn't guarantee the quality of the person necessarily but it does show they care enough to stay informed.

What Makes A Good Assistant?

Virtual Assistants can be like shoes - you might need to try a few on until you find one that fits.

Look for motivated, time contentious, people who take pride in their work and like a challenge. You'll want someone who can be polite and careful in their written communications. Look for someone who isn't afraid to challenge, but who does it politely.

Top tip: Don't discount a candidate if they don't know a specific program but are a good fit otherwise. VA's tend to be self motivated (or they wouldn't do well) so they tend to learn quickly. Give them a chance to learn.

Pitfalls to Avoid When Hiring a Virtual Assistant

1. Skipping the prep work

Document your daily and weekly activities to analyze which tasks could be delegated out. Then you need to come up with detailed instructions on how a brand new person would accomplish those tasks.

2. Forgetting that you get what you pay for

3. Expecting too much

Don't necessarily expect to find one person who can deal with everything you want to delegate - you might need to consider hiring more than one assistant depending on the skills that are required.

4. Micromanaging

If you're hanging over them, then you're not going to free up your time. Agree a process and the level of communication that you're happy with and let them show you what they can do.

5. Not considering timezones and language barriers.

Top Tip: Have them prove their skills. This is important. Hire for a trial period and have them prove they can do what you need. Alternatively, give them a few practicals tests as part of the hiring process.

Tips For Working With VAs

Consider asking them to send you a 'daily wrap' email where they provide you with a brief list of things they've worked on that day.

Top Tip: Be clear as to how you want to communicate your needs. What programs do you use and how often will you be communicating or expect communication?

Successful Entrepreneurs who use VAs


Ramit Sethi of

I've now developed a 'playbook' I use with my assistant, who is based in Florida. She anticipates what I want - for example, when I travel somewhere and land, I open my phone and my entire itinerary is there, including turn-by-turn directions, confirmation codes, and special notes about people I'll meet. She also corrects my weak spots (e.g., not just reminding me to buy gifts for someone, but giving me 3 options along with a recommendation, so I can just reply and say 'Yes').

Tim Ferriss of the 4 hour Workweek

Tim extolled the virtues of using a VA in his book the 4 hour workweek.

Tim has some great tips on learning how to outsource your inbox

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