Become Superhuman: How to hire a Virtual Assistant (Includes Exact Steps, Successful Templates, and More)

If there was a way for you to double how much work you get done every single day without spending any additional time, would you do it?

One year ago I hired my first virtual assistant, and I’m never going back.

PRECURSOR: If you’re already sold on hiring a Virtual Assistant and don’t want to spend the time going through the steps below, I recommend hiring one directly through Zen Assistant. If you’re looking for more info on why and how you should hire a VA… keep reading:

I used to burn so much energy on random tasks that would pop up in my life and business that it felt like a daily battle to do the real work that moved the needle. For example, one day I had a super simple idea for a Facebook ad I wanted to test. I thought it was going to take 1 hour max to set up, but then I spent the entire afternoon researching which type of Facebook ad was best for what I was trying to do… and by the end of the day, I was so damn tired and confused that I didn’t even create the ad! As a person who considers time to be one of his most valuable resources, this was frustrating.

It’s true, we all have the same amount of hours in a day as Beyoncé and Tim Ferris (author of the 4 Hour Work Week) but we obviously don’t all use our time in the same way. It turns out that successful people are usually great at delegating tasks so that they can focus on their most important work.

One year ago, I decided to up my game... I did a little research, and it turns out that you can get a quality virtual assistant for as little as $2-$4 per hour. The Philippines, specifically, are filled with people that speak great english and are affordable (note: At $2-$4 per hour, they are getting paid the same as teachers and accountants in their country and they get to work from home, which I hear is important because many of these people are very family oriented… so you don’t have to feel guilty about the hourly rate, this is just economics at play).

In 12 months, my virtual assistant has helped me with over 200 tasks! Here are a couple highlights:

  • Before I launched my Kickstarter for Flip Band, my virtual assistant researched all the top bloggers & reporters in my industry, created a list with all of their contact info (over 1,000 people!) and reached out to every single one of them with a personalized message (result: the project was funded in less than 24 hours)
  • When I needed to find a new apartment, my VA reached out to all the listings on Craigslist that were a good match for me with personalized emails. She then scheduled viewings for me with all the best places (talk about a avoiding some headaches)
  • My VA even helped me quit sugar by checking-in with me daily and serving as my accountabilibuddy for two weeks until my cravings decreased (side note: best decision ever when it comes to increasing energy)
  • I’ve even used VAs to answer customer service emails and source/post daily content to social media (Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, etc…)

In short, an assistant can help you become superhuman and can help you free up time to do more of the things you care about most.

Now that you’re convinced, let’s get to it! Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to hire a Personal Assistant:

No more excuses. Here are the exact steps you can use. If you’re willing to pay more money, you can even skip the entire recruiting process by simply hiring someone through Zen Assistant (quality is good and price is fair). For those of us who are scrappy though, here’s how to do it:

1. Create a post on UpWork (and make it attractive):

If you’ve never used UpWork (previously oDesk), then you’ll need to create an account first (it’s free). You can do so here.

Once you have an account, the first thing you’ll want to do is create a post on UpWork for a virtual assistant. When writing the post, be clear in what you’re looking for and also try to appeal to whom you’re hiring.

Not sure what to write? Here’s the exact post I used:

Subject Line: Virtual Assistant Needed (long-term, 4–16 hours / week)
Hi there!
My name is Victor Mathieux and I’m the founder of ______________.
I’m looking for a virtual assistant who can help me during the week for an average of 1–2 hours per day, ideally long-term. MUST speak great English.
You’ll be doing a variety of tasks, including:
1. Creating lists of and contacting top bloggers in our industry
2. Helping me with personal tasks (e.g. scheduling mtgs, booking travel, etc…)
3. Finding & scheduling content to go out on Twitter / Facebook (I can teach you)
4. Doing a variety of other tasks (must be comfortable trying new tasks often)
If you are a good fit, there is room to grow in the position.
I’m looking for someone detail-oriented, reliable and positive. Big bonus if you consider yourself an optimist.
Please let me know:
1. Your hourly rate
2. What hours you’re available (please convert this to the PST time-zone)
3. Why you are VA — What do you enjoy most about it?
Big thanks!

And here are some settings I used too (skills, job category, pricing, requirements, etc…)

Job Category: Admin Support > Personal / Virtual Assistant

You want to make sure you set an hourly rate range that’s “as needed” instead of a “project” based range. Also make sure you’re only getting people that speak fluent english (or whatever you primary language is).

Once you have the post filled out, just hit “submit”. Don’t worry about this thing being perfect, just get it out there. If you’re feeling uncertain or nervous about submitting the job post, that’s normal. Most people experience this before they do something new for the first time. JUST DO IT! I promise it’ll be worth it.

2. Invite candidates to join your posting:

After you’ve created your post, you’ll have the option to invite people to your job offer. Do it! It’ll greatly increase your chances of finding a good candidate. Try to only invite people within your desired price range and I’d also recommend looking for people in the Philippines (as I said before, they seem to be the best bet for being both affordable and great at communicating).

3. Narrow down your candidates to the top 2–3 people:

You’ll definitely get applications from people that are NOT qualified. If their grammar is terrible or they start their cover letter with “Dear Sirs or Maddammes” this is probably a red flag that you shouldn’t hire them.

Here’s what to look for when hiring (in what I believe to be the order of most importance):

  • a) Are they within your budget? If their hourly rate would make you think twice about sending a task their way, forget about it. The point of a VA is to be able to delegate big *and* small tasks so you have more time and energy to dedicate to your highest leverage work
  • b) Do they communicate well? Can they speak your language well enough? They don’t need to be english teachers but solid communication is the most important factor in hiring a virtual assistant. If you hire someone that you can’t quickly communicate with then every single task will become a drag. You want to be able to delegate even the smallest tasks to your VA and you won’t do that if the time required to explain something is higher than it needs to be. I literally send my VA 10 second voice messages sometime with questions like “can you look up the best time to surf in Bali?”
  • c) Do they seem like they *enjoy* being a VA? Believe it or not, there are people that really enjoy being VAs. They value serving others. Last thing you want is someone who hates their job. You want this to be a win-win.
  • d) Do they seem like the would be fast and reliable? More info on how to determine this in #5 below.
  • e) Do they seem resourceful, self-driven, and willing to take on new tasks? More info on how to determine this in #5 below.

Questions A and B should be fairly easy to judge from the initial UpWork screening but C, D, and E will be harder to tell right away. Which brings us to our next step…

4. Hire the top two candidates for a 2 week trial

Why hire two? Because it’s hard to tell who is best without actually working together. Hire your top two picks for a 2-week trial and see who you like better. Give them both tasks. Who’s faster? More reliable? More fun to interact with? Trust me, it’s worth the up-front investment (and honestly, it won’t cost you that much more).

I mentioned above that you want to work with someone that’s resourceful and willing to take on new tasks. One simple way to test this is to give them an intentionally vague task that requires some resourcefulness and intuition. For example:

Hey! Could you please create a spreadsheet with 15 of the top influences in the fitness industry? Then could you try to identify what their top 5 tweets were on Twitter this year (most retweets) and rank them in the spreadsheet? Lastly, could you highlight the tweets that you think would be the most inpsiring to re-share via Facebook or Twitter? Thanks so much!

Notice that there’s somewhat of a clear goal but it requires them to be resourceful and also give their own opinion. Who comes back with the better answer?

At the end of the two weeks, hire the person that you intuitively feel is the best fit. It’s not very scientific but that’s the surest way I’ve found to hire people you enjoy working with for a long time.

If for some reason you feel like you didn’t find a good fit, then try creating another post on UpWork! Sometimes it takes 1 or 2 tries to find a great fit. Don’t give up, it’s worth it.

5. Start delegating

Once you have some virtual assistants selected, I challenge you to try to delegate something EVERY day for the first week (even a tiny task). It will be hard at first and you’ll probably realize that you suck at delegating… You’ll tell yourself, “oh I can’t delegate this because…” Think about the most successful people you know, do you think they’d delegate that task? If the answer is “probably” then try to delegate it!

Really want to take your game to the next level? I challenge you to delegate something *EVERY* day for 30 days and see what happens. Shameless plug: You could even wear a Flip Band to make sure you actually do it. Getting in the habit of delegating every day will force you to start thinking about what’s worth doing beyond your own limits, and as you grow your skills as a delegator you’ll start to realize that you’re capable of executing on much greater visions, because you’re no longer doing it on your own.

And one more thing: Your VA is a person… not an augmented version of Siri. The more you build a real connection with them, the better experience you’ll have. When first working together, I recommend hopping on a quick Skype call to get to know each other a little bit. Build the sense of connection early on and check-in every couple months to see if there’s anything you can do to help make their job easier. If you serve them like a real leader, then they’ll feel cared for and take on more ownership.

So there you have it. Those are the basic steps on how to find and hire your first virtual assistant. Now you’re ready to go take on the world.

And if that all sounds like too much hassle, I’d recommend giving Zen Assistant a shot. It’s a bit more money, but your time is worth it.

If you have any questions, feel free to reach out.

In San Francisco? Come checkout our new ZenFit Pop-up (Bootcamp + Yoga + Meditation — all in 1 hour)

Thank you:
Tim Ferriss for first turning me on to the idea of hiring a VA
Katherine Krug for teaching me basics on how to hire good people and constantly pushing the limits of what’s possible