This is my story and experience in hiring a Virtual Assistant as someone who runs and manages three small businesses. If you want to skip ahead and get more immediate answers, scroll to the bottom of the blog.
If you own a business or work as a freelancer, you’ve probably been in the same situation as me - where administrating your own business takes over your entire life and you feel like you’re constantly drowning or running behind. Or you have a number of tasks that you simply don’t get around to because they’re “nice to have,” but not on your priority list right now.
Too bad that those things that are “nice to have” actually make a bigger impact than you ever thought. For example, having a good overview of your sales patterns over time can help you identify areas of growth as well as activities you may need to cull.
My grandfather always told me, “If you want to get on the horse of running your own business, YOU need to ride it. Don’t let the horse ride YOU.” Such a clever man, and what a simple way to outline success. However, if you have been in that position, you know it’s not as simple as that. Learning how to ride that horse is a hell of a bumpy ride.
One of those bumps is growing your team and putting your trust in their hands, which is not such an easy thing to do. Since 2008, I’ve hired many assistants in the UK and USA, but for some reason, none of them stuck or delivered what I hoped they would. It was most likely my fault for giving them too much to do, or them not feeling fulfilled in their role. Simply put, it just wasn’t always the right fit, and more often than not, I realized that crucial tasks had been forgotten, neglected, or not completed properly. Not so great when your company relies on how your customers perceive you!
For a few years, I opted to replace administrative assistants with clever automated online systems and took on as much of the work myself as I could. I wanted to understand the system; I wanted to get off the horse and have a go at running. It was a great experience, but after a year or so, I was drowning once again, immobilized my gargantuan list of admin tasks with no time to dedicate to my core staff or ability to drive my business forward.
It was the time to prepare our accounts, and I had just implemented new accountancy software after years of using Excel (what a revelation!). The reconciliation and setup was going to take hours of repetitive work. Exasperated by the situation, I took to upwork.com and looked for someone who could help me.
At the time, the thought of hiring a VIRTUAL assistant on an ongoing basis never crossed my mind. I had lost all faith in the assistant/admin team idea. BUT, I thought, maybe I can get some help for small tasks here and there.
This is when I met Cherry for the first time. She applied for the job I posted on upwork.com, and after screening all of the candidates, the feedback on her profile and the fact that she had won an award made it an easy choice. I had picked my “Cherry.”
In our first encounter through Skype, Cherry wanted to find out about what I do and how she could help me. I was very much apprehensive and suspicious of this whole VA thing, but I passed on the task, she asked a few questions over the next two weeks, and HEY PRESTO, before I had a chance to think twice about it, the work had been done, and it was wonderful, thorough work.
There and then, I was hooked. “What else can she do?!” So I started giving her another task, then another, and then another, being very careful to not overload her despite her constant, “We want to help you, feel free to give me more tasks!” But I had learned long ago that the easiest way to burn out your staff is to give them too much at once, so I was adamant that I was going to take things slowly and build our working relationship over time. I’m so glad I did!
Fast forward 18 months later, and Cherry and her team are running the entire back end of my business operations. They have made me more efficient and structured, and I can finally say I’ve been able to get onto that horse and ride it into a solid trot. Without Cherry, it wouldn't have been possible. This is why I decided earlier this year to jump onto a plane and not only meet the woman who gave me my freedom, but return the favor and back her in her dream of setting up her own Virtual Assistant company. Cherry Godmother is the nickname I had given her from the start, and I truly hope she can sprinkle her gold dust on anyone else who needs it. They have a growing team of wonderful assistants that she carefully cherry-picks (pun intended) and nurtures.
If you think of a virtual assistant as a souls-drained individual sitting in a dark grey room in a leaky shack, think again. The CGVA office is the kind of office anyone would dream to work in: fresh, vibrant, fun, music pumping, occasional karaoke, and so much nurturing and guidance from Cherry. Given the currency exchange between the Philippine Peso and the Dollar, and the cost of living, it makes it a win-win situation. $6 per hour in the Philippines is the equivalent of $30 per hour in the USA, with the added bonus of having a culture that is expert in the service industry and with following guidelines (on top of being the happiest and most friendly nation in the world).
Which brings us to the question you’ve been asking yourself: “Should I hire a personal assistant?” If you answer YES to at least 3 of the statements below, it sounds like you’re in the need of some VA magic:
I spend more than 5 hours a week doing administrative tasks
Much of the admin work is repetitive and has a set system
I collect data that needs to be sorted and filed
I receive a lot of emails that can be answered with a few templates
I receive a lot of emails that don’t require a response, but might need an action
I use spreadsheets to track my bookkeeping
I have to carry out reconciliation tasks
I use spreadsheets to track my sales
I don’t use anything to track my sales patterns
My business can benefit from researching and reaching out to new opportunities
The most important thing when hiring a VA, not just Cherry, but anyone, is to make sure the fit is right. I would highly suggest trying out one task or one month and see how it goes. Sometimes it’s just a chemistry thing, and the same thing can be said about dating. Start slow, don’t give everything away too soon, and learn to work together until you are ready for the next step.
Good luck with your VA search, and watch this space for more tips on working with your VA. Subscribe on the right to get more articles in the future.