In the past few years there has been a huge increase in the number of freelance PAs and Virtual Assistants in the market. A simple Google search brings up thousands of individuals and companies offering VA services, so how do you know which ones to trust, and who will do a brilliant job for you and your business?
Because all professional organisers love a list, here’s my handy guide on what takes a Virtual Assistant from good to great, and what you should look for if you want to hire the best.
Great VAs are thinkers as well as doers
When given a task by a client, an exceptional Virtual Assistant will not only complete the job at hand, they will put themselves in the client’s shoes, thinking carefully not only about the basic task, but also about all of the minutiae that can turn a piece of work sour if not considered properly.
Take organising an offsite meeting for example; Aside from finding a suitable date and location, an efficient VA should also:
- Consider the purpose of the meeting and whether holding it at a particular time of day will get the best from the attendees
- Ensure everyone knows how to access the building and the meeting room
- Ensure all dietary requirements are catered for
- Ensure an agenda is created and circulated, with desired outcomes listed as appropriate
- Check for actions from previous meetings, updating these accordingly and circulating alongside the agenda
- Create a seating plan if there are any particular conversations which the client would like to hold (or any attendees who should be kept apart!)
- Follow up with attendees post-meeting on behalf of the Chair
And so on, and so on…
These things may seem relatively minor in isolation, but if one of them falls down, the whole purpose of the task can be undermined, so it is crucial to hire a VA who can think strategically as well as tactically.
Strategy and execution go hand in hand for entrepreneurs, and the same goes for VAs.
They listen and ask questions
Most Virtual Assistants offer consultations – usually a short chat with a prospective client to explore how they might work together. During these consultations, the VA should be mainly in ‘listening mode’, gleaning as much information from the client as possible about their business and life goals and challenges in order to ascertain how they can help.
They should also ask appropriate questions to explore what the prospective client might need help with, and to begin to learn more about their business.
Over time, your VA should also listen and ask questions about what you do, to help them become more strategically, commercially and politically aware of the way your business or sector operates, and how this may affect the tasks they perform.
If you have a consultation with a VA and they talk non-stop about themselves so that you can’t sneak a word in (a bit like drinking from a fire hose!), they may not be focused on your specific needs, which is, of course, why you are there in the first place.
They administrate their own business well
A great VA will have their own house in order, as well as helping others to organise theirs.
VAs should have professional registrations appropriate to the services they offer (almost all VAs need to be registered with the ICO, and those who handle financial tasks on behalf of clients should also register for Anti-Money Laundering Supervision), they should carry insurance, and above all, they should issue their clients with a contract and data processing agreement before any work commences. This ensures that both parties are clear on what is being agreed, and what needs to be done.
If you’re considering working with a VA, always check that they have their legal and financial operations in order before work gets underway.
They put their clients at the heart of what they do
This should go without saying, but on occasion, I have found that a VA’s website or pitch is in ‘broadcast mode’, only talking about themselves and their experience.
While it is important that VAs explain who they are and what they do, many entrepreneurs and business owners are time-poor, or may not even know what they need a VA for, and an exceptional VA will also demonstrate to their clients how they can relieve pressure, add value, and provide a fantastic return on investment.
They are great communicators
Great communication is what really separates a good Virtual Assistant from a great one.
The standard of a VA’s communications, both written and verbal, should be high – after all, they may end up representing your business and speaking with your clients, and so an ability to communicate with professionalism, clarity and accuracy is key.
Your VA should also provide you with regular updates on the status of your work, whether in writing or over the phone, to give you peace of mind as they handle tasks on your behalf. This will ensure you feel comfortable with progress and are aware of what they are working on at all times.
While the above list is not exhaustive, these are just some of the attributes that a truly exceptional Virtual Assistant should hold.
If you have struggled to find a great VA in the past, or don’t know where to start, get in touch to discuss your requirements today.