I’ve written before about virtual assistants and how having a partner — someone who has skills to complement yours, who owns their own business assisting others, and who works from their own office — can be a boon to solo entrepreneurs.
After wasting more hours last year than I like to admit by trying to format my own email newsletters and e-books, set up my own shopping cart, and compare online class registration systems, I admitted that I was working WAY too far outside my expertise, and that I really had to get help.
This month I’ve hired a virtual assistant, and I’m really looking forward to this working relationship. Though a virtual assistant is not an employee, the process of choosing one is very much like a hiring process. I wrote a complete description of what I need, how many hours per month I want the person to work, what my business is about, and what my working style is like. (For example, in dealing with complex issues, I really dislike email. I need to pick up the phone and have a short conversation with the other person rather than spend hours writing an email that addresses all the variables in a complex problem.)
When candidates emailed in response to my request for a proposal, I reviewed their websites and blogs — all of them, including those that weren’t directly related to their VA business. Then I scheduled times for interviews with the final three. Here are the questions I asked each of them:
- How long have you been a VA?
- What was your last job before starting your VA business?
- Do you use a Mac?
- What days & hours do you work?
- Tell me about your experience in helping clients with e-commerce.
- Understanding that there is a lot of variability among the projects you work on, can you give me a range of long it takes you to set up a landing page? format an ezine? set up a new shopping cart for one product?
- Do you have any services you recommend or prefer to use for shopping cart? blog platform? web host? autoresponder?
- Do you take a referral fee when you recommend platforms to your clients?
- Tell me about a recent client success.
- Tell me about a recent client challenge and what you learned from it.
- Tell me how you charge — hourly rate? monthly retainer? arrangements for extra hours?
Each interview took about 40 minutes (10 minutes longer than I had expected). All three were fully qualified, but by the end I felt that I had a good sense of which of these candidates would work best for this project at this time.
One final note: I took the time to write to the two that I didn’t choose and let them know that I wouldn’t be needing their services at this time. After all, I had asked for information, and each of them took the time to compose an email response and then clear their schedule to talk to me. They deserve the courtesy of a final decision. I hope more people adopt this standard of communication. I continue to be surprised by the solo entrepreneurs and companies of all sizes that request proposals, then fail to follow through to a final decision.
Have you hired someone recently? Do you want to? Write your experiences here.