Which should come first: a huge pile of tasks on your plate, or the virtual assistant?
Hiring a virtual assistant often puts entrepreneurs in a chicken and egg situation.
If you’ve read up on all the benefits of hiring a virtual assistant, it’s pretty clear that they’re just what the entrepreneur ordered. They reduce your workload and help you shift from busy mode to growth mode.
But should you hire a virtual assistant as soon as you get ready to launch your business, or is there a specific time where bringing them on board can help you most?
Knowing when you’re ready to hire a virtual assistant can be really difficult to judge. Here’s how to use a 5-step process to see if you’re ready to hire a virtual assistant:
What to Consider Before Hiring a VA
Firstly, you should understand if you’re being limited by a lack of support.
Are you looking at your growth goals and then sadly looking off to the side because your to-do list is comprised of tedious tasks that are preventing you from scaling your business?
Are you struggling to make room in your schedule for growth-driving activities because managing your business (with all the administrative and routine tasks) is taking too much time?
All of these can be signs that you need the support a virtual assistant could provide.
However, not all help is equal, so the second thing to understand is what a virtual assistant will do for your business.
A word of caution: if you feel like you really need help, you’re most likely ready to hire a virtual assistant. However, be careful. If you haven’t first defined which tasks you need them to do, and how they will help you, working with a virtual assistant won’t work as well as it will when you identify your pain points and bring them on board to help with a specific set of activities.
With that in mind, let’s assess your situation together and see if a virtual assistant can help!
Are You Ready to Hire a Virtual Assistant?
In addition to simply needing support, there are a few other questions to consider before hiring a virtual assistant:
Step #1: How Established Is Your Business?
The first thing you should look at is how established your business is.
If you’re still in the ideation and validation stage and haven’t actually started your business yet, it’s likely too early to hire a virtual assistant for your business.
However, if you need extra help with managing other tasks like emails or other time-wasting tasks, a virtual assistant might be useful. But in that case, you wouldn’t be hiring them to help you manage the routine tasks related to your business. They’d be more of a personal assistant than a business assistant.
Normally, when you hire a virtual assistant too early, you’ll struggle with clearly defining their tasks and responsibilities. This makes it less likely that you’ll feel their actual impact on your workflow and productivity.
Another problem with hiring a virtual assistant too early in your business’ life cycle is that they might become an added financial stressor. If your business isn’t making money yet, paying for them every month might be a big (and unwarranted) expense.
Similarly, if you haven’t clearly defined their tasks, you’ll be stressed trying to come up with things for them to do.
The perfect time to bring a virtual assistant into your business is once you’re established, i.e. once you’re up and running.
At the very least, you should already see some revenue pouring in so that a virtual assistant is a justified expense, and there are tasks for them to handle.
Step #2: Are You Trying to Outsource Critical Tasks?
Entrepreneurs often want to deal only with the tasks they feel well-equipped to do. In practice, this often means wanting to bypass early-stage marketing and sales tasks.
However, when you’re first starting a business, marketing and sales (cold calling included) activities are absolutely critical, and only you should do them.
Because you can only understand where your market is, and where your product fits in if you do the groundwork yourself.
You’ll have to validate a tactic or two to know what works, and what you could later outsource to your virtual assistant.
If we go back to our growth mode vs busy mode parable, marketing and sales tasks in the early stage of founding your business aren’t busywork: they’re growth work.
No one understands your business like you do. And in the early stage, it’s paramount that you’re the one getting in touch with prospective clients and marketing your products or services.
Step #3: Do You Feel Stressed, and Why?
Before you hire a virtual assistant, identify why you feel stressed or disorganized.
If you feel stressed or disorganized because you tend to procrastinate, then a virtual assistant might not help you.
For example, if you find yourself stuck working on customer acquisition plans, and then decide to give up and head for a two-hour walk, a virtual assistant won’t be able to help.
Virtual assistants do have excellent time management skills, but you should also be able to focus on the most important activities for growing your business.
If your time management skills are up to code, and you feel that you’re stressed because you don’t have enough time to work towards your growth goals, then a virtual assistant can help you clear your plate.
This normally happens when your business is already established and you’re seeing customers pour in.
The more customers you have, the more support tickets you’ll have to manage. At the same time, you still need to come up with new ways to scale, so a virtual assistant can help with customer support as you focus on customer acquisition.
In general, if you feel like you’re managing too many important but routine tasks that aren’t giving you enough time to focus on growth initiatives, you can safely say that yes, you’re ready for a virtual assistant.
Step #4: Are You Spending More and More Time on Time-Wasting Tasks?
Communicating with your leads and customers on social media is important. However, it’s not a task that only you can do. This brings us back to the busy vs growth mode difference:
As an entrepreneur, you need to expend your mental energy on activities that bring you closer to your goals.
And going on a four-hour social media spiral (it starts with answering DMs, and spirals into engaging in social listening by looking up twenty hashtags potentially related to your business) is not it.
A virtual assistant can help by managing those distracting and routine tasks for you.
Similarly, is email distracting you? Is a flood of emails when you open your inbox in the morning becoming the standard?
A Virtual assistant is the answer.
A virtual assistant can filter your emails for you, replying to routine emails, while you take care of emails from potential customers and business partners. This way, you’re getting more wiggle room to focus on crafting perfect offers and meaningful initiatives.
Are you seeing time-consuming tasks creep into your workload without helping you achieve more?
If the answer is yes, then it’s time for a virtual assistant.
The line between growth mode and busy mode is very thin. In the beginning, you’re focusing on growth tasks. But as you actually start growing, you’ll find your focus shifting to busy mode slowly, but surely.
Often, this is hard to recognize until it’s too late.
A virtual assistant can handle routine, time-consuming, and distracting tasks. You’ll be able to stay focused on meaningful activities that will bring in even more customers.
Step #5: Have You Identified Specific Tasks You Need Help with?
Finally, take a look at your tasks and your business’ day-to-day. Are there specific areas you really need help with?
For example, you might have identified a need for someone who could handle:
Shopify store management
Replying to customer tickets
Managing your social media
Sometimes it’s good to look at your main time-wasters, too. If you spend an inordinate amount of time uploading new product listings, or managing your social media, a virtual assistant can help.
You can also look at the tasks you take care of, but feel unequipped to do so.
For example, you might not be the best at social media. Fortunately, as your business grows, it’s not critical for you to do it - not if you get a virtual assistant who has great social media management skills.
Similarly, if you’re spending hours on creating social media graphics or doing your own accounting, there are virtual assistants who already specialize in those areas.
Ultimately, if you have a specific list of routine tasks you need someone else to handle, you’re ready for a virtual assistant.
Other Signs You’re Ready to Hire a Virtual Assistant
In addition to the main five reasons (notably, having an established business and specific tasks you want your virtual assistant to handle), you might also spot the following symptoms:
Your Work-Life Balance Is at Risk
If you’re logging twelve hours a day regularly (as small business owners often do) and finding yourself agitated and exhausted when it’s time to focus on your free time and your family, you might need a virtual assistant.
Often, entrepreneurs and business owners struggle to delegate. In the long term, this affects your life quality.
If your family and friends never see you anymore (and this has been going on for longer than just a few months), you might need to identify the tasks other people can complete, and then delegate them to your virtual assistant.
Important Things Are Falling Through the Cracks
When you have a lot of tasks on your plate, deadlines whoosh past you. Often, these are the deadlines for very important activities your business can’t grow without.
You could also be feeling the problem through customer complaints that have gone unresolved, emails you haven’t responded to, and poor performance even when you’re handling routine tasks.
If growth mode (and activities that help you grow your business) is your rocket, routine tasks still need to be completed because they’re the launchpad. But if there are so many that it’s impossible to take care of them in time, then you need a virtual assistant.
A good virtual assistant will help you get everything in order. They’ll make sure that your customers have an incredible experience and that you aren’t feeling overwhelmed.
Are You Ready to Hire a Virtual Assistant?
Normally, just feeling stressed and overworked as you’re growing your business is reason enough to hire a virtual assistant.
If you’ve also established your business and get enough revenue that hiring a virtual assistant won’t break the bank, it’s time to start looking for the perfect professional.
However, it’s important to know what you need their help with. When you’ve identified the tasks you need them to complete, you’ll be able to find the virtual assistant with the right skills.
For example, if you need help with admin work and accounting, find a virtual assistant who has the necessary skills. Similarly, if you need someone who’ll help you create incredible social media content, look at their graphic design skills.
Once you’ve checked all the boxes, congratulations!
It’s time to start thinking about the tasks you’ll delegate.