#30: How a Virtual Assistant Can Help Your Business, with Cat DiStasio

Today’s guest is Cat DiStasio, a freelance writer and project manager who specializes in human resources, business, marketing and technology. Cat also consults with small businesses on HR processes, teaches content marketing writers how to market their services, and blogs about the business of freelancing. 

Cat has also been a virtual assistant—or VA—although she is now transitioning out of that kind of work. But she still knows a lot about hiring a VA and graciously helps connect freelancers and VAs to each other.

Cat says to think of a VA like an executive assistant in the corporate world: an administrative person who can do a lot of things, such as proofreading, research, travel support, email and calendar management. They can also help you with brainstorming and developing processes. A good VA can be a sounding board for your business.

Cat recommends making a list of the things you keep putting off or tasks you are bad at. And then find a VA who loves doing those things.

Think you can’t afford a VA? A VA is a freelancer just like you, and you can scale up. You can hire a VA for just 2–3 hours a month to start.

Do the math. You can spend $100 a month, for example, to hire a VA to help free up a few hours so you can focus on your work and make more than $100 during that time.

As your income increases, you can outsource more work to a VA—or even more than one VA, focusing on various skill sets.

Working with a VA is scalable, flexible and customizable.

How can you find a VA? It can be difficult to find the person right for you who is skilled, reliable and nice to work with.

Tip 1: Get involved in social media groups about the topics you cover. VAs will look for work in those groups.

Tip 2: Ask. Referrals and word-of-mouth are some of the best ways to find potential VAs.

There is a gap between all the VAs and the people who want to hire them. There isn’t one well-known organization that everyone knows they can go to to find a VA.

There are virtual assistant agencies, but Cat is skeptical of their model, in which you pay the agency to connect you with a VA.

Let’s talk VA rates. Cat believes $15–20 an hour for a VA is too low. She doesn’t think that is high enough for someone you’re expecting professional work from. She recommends looking for a VA in the $30–35 range and expect fantastic work for that pay. Some VAs with more specialized skills might charge more than that, especially if they’re doing project management work for you.

A well-paid VA is going to be happier and more engaged and be a partner in your business.

How should you interview a VA? As far as personality, it’s similar to how you vet clients: Is the person easy to communicate with? Do you enjoy talking with them? Does it seem like they understand what you’re saying?

When it comes to their skills, test them. Hire that VA for a small project that might take a couple of hours and then see if you are happy with the results. And definitely pay them for their time. Don’t ask them to work for free.

Consider finding 3–4 candidates and test them all at once—not one right after the other, which wastes time by dragging out the hiring process.

When you’re ready to hire a VA, consider whether you need a contract and also a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) because you’ll be sharing client information with them. You need to know if your contracts with your clients have any clauses about hiring any subcontractors. Be sure you’re following those clauses when it comes to your VA.

You might also want a confidentiality agreement between you and your VA.

Biz Bite: Give yourself a break!

#1: Don’t be too hard on yourself but also #2: give yourself an actual rest break.  

Resources:

Cat DiStasio website

10 Tasks You Can Outsource to a Virtual Assistant blog post

and.co = an app to help freelance business owners; Cat uses it to create contracts

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