If you aren’t using Virtual Assistants, you’re likely wasting most of your time. Below I’m going to show you how I’ve used VAs to bootstrap two separate businesses to over $10,000 per month in revenue within the first three months (one to $25,000 per month) and much more.
For entrepreneurs reading this, it is likely you feel overwhelmed at times by infinite to-do lists, tasks that aren’t “worth” your time, and the feeling that you’re dropping the ball no matter how much you accomplish. You’re right…and that ends today.
Step 1: Realize you have a problem
Back when I started my first company, I felt like I was being bogged down by mundane, repetitive tasks. Building my business as a solo founder meant I had a mountain of work and not enough time so it became clear that I had to do something about it.
Step 2: Decide what work you hate
Some of the tasks that I was doing at the time were running scripts and scheduling social media posts. It took 15–30 minutes per day and felt very tedious. So I made a rule that if something took me 15 minutes per day and could be taught to someone else in that much time, I would do so immediately. I’ve stuck to it and had incredible results since.
Step 3: Quickly source high quality candidates
You can hire people remotely for small projects or ongoing work easily on platforms like Upwork. They have neat features that let you specify details around who can apply. I usually aim to work with someone who has at least 100 hours of prior experience, has good ratings, works independently and not with an agency, and is either from a place where English is the primary language or speaks English fluently.
When I hire on Upwork, I usually look for someone to start out with an initial task or two. Going from that to becoming a full-time VA is a multi-step process so I start easy. My job description includes the initial task for which I am hiring and at the bottom I put something like, “Any job applications that do not start with ‘I am not a robot and pay attention to detail’ will be immediately discarded.” I do this to quickly filter spam.
Step 4: Put them to the real world test
Once the applications roll in, I look to find a few people that seem like they have relevant experience, whose profiles are well written, match my other criteria, and have good ratings. From here, I schedule 3–5 video interviews. I do video interviews because I want to make sure that the people I am hiring have a decent computer setup, fast enough internet, show up on time, and speak English well. Once I find three candidates that pass my simple video interview, I give them all the same paid task as a test. Yes, I hire three at once for a task that can take 4–8 hours and I pay for the tests. Low hourly costs make it easy to hire multiple people at a time as an investment in the one that does the best work.
One of the major advantages of working in globally distributed teams is that you can hire people for a fraction of what they would cost in a place like the US or UK and still provide a wage that is many multiples of what they would make from a local employer. It’s easy to hire VAs — and lots of other positions — for less than $10/hour (if you’re interested in the competitive hiring advantages of distributed teams, check out this study, showing almost 50 countries where $10/hour is double the average wage!).
Think of this post as their first assignment. Write it in the same format that you expect to write future assignments. This way you can see how well you actually work together. Here is an example training doc. The important thing is to make the test as similar to the real thing as possible. If you want someone to follow your instructions precisely, be specific. If you want someone who can do work on their own without your guidance, then make the instructions much more open ended, or tell them verbally. This will test their ability to creatively accomplish a task. For the types of mundane tasks that originally inspired me to hire like this, detail is key.
Step 5: Pick the winner
Give each prospective hire a reasonable amount of time (4–8 hours) to finish and compare their results. By the end of this process, you should be able to hire a competent VA who can start offloading your tasks and freeing up your time. Start with your 15–30 minute per day tasks and see how your VA does for a couple of weeks. Then you can level up your VA by training them on additional tasks.
Step 6: Gradually ramp up work with more tasks
Once your VA is succeeding at a few tasks, you are well on your way to freeing yourself from monotony. The best types of things to delegate to a VA are things that can easily be broken down into granular step-by-step instructions matching my example.
Here is a short list of tasks which I have had my assistants do:
- Social media content scheduling
- Prospecting based on certain criteria
- Finding or verifying email, both using bulk tools and manually
- Market and competitor research
- Data cleanup
- CRM setup and data import
- Scheduling (I like the human touch over automated calendar tools)
- Setting up and monitoring email drip campaigns
- Updating agreement templates
- Building lists of relevant events to potentially attend
- Expense categorization and management
The tasks in this list alone are a full-time, 40 hour/week job, and don’t even include major priorities like recruiting, management, revenue generation, fundraising and more. You read that right, I’ve saved over 10,000 hours of my time over the last five years!
The common theme is that all of these tasks are repeatable and can be broken into granular instructions. Once your assistant knows how to do this stuff, you can reference past work to have them do it again. It gets way easier over time. You should save all your training docs in one folder to make it easy to test, hire, and train in the future.
Step 7: Treat your VAs like humans and unlock your full potential
The fact that your VA is in another country or works for a lower wage than you would find acceptable is no excuse to treat them poorly. Your VAs, like the rest of your team, are all humans with their own unique set of experiences, interests, strengths, weaknesses, and goals. The value of talented human capital compounds, so treat them well. By doing so, I have retained talented VAs for years, we help each other out in times of need, and it’s a joy to have more stalwarts who care about each other on the same team.
While I have multiple assistants at times, my main assistant has worked with me for five years. She knows a ton about how I operate and is so good at what she does that she can help hire, train, and manage new assistants. She is not only my assistant, but she was trained in biology and used to be a nurse at a hospital, now preferring to have a lot more freedom and income working with me, and allowing her to do things like buy a house while also pursuing her extracurricular interests, like playing music in her band.
She has saved me countless hours. At times, with her help, I can 5x or 10x my productivity. Not only was she my main assistant throughout building and selling my first company, Cheerful Giving, but we hired her and gave her a raise to work full time for my next company, Massive. Also, while she did not have any equity in my first company, she was so valuable to us that I personally paid her a significant bonus after the company was acquired.
If you have questions or want help implementing a process like this for your organization, feel free to reach out on LinkedIn (any messages that don’t start with “I read your awesome post on VAs and it changed my life” will be ignored) or Twitter.