As your small business grows, time management will become more and more important.
You only have so many hours in the day. If you can’t figure out ways to leverage each hour of work better, you’ll put a cap on your income potential. One of the ways that you can increase your earnings per hour is by hiring a personal assistant.
Whether you choose a clerical, expert, or executive assistant, hiring a personal assistant can create more time for you to devote to the tasks that impact the growth of your business the most.
When Should You Hire An Assistant?
If you’re like most small business owners, you’re probably asking yourself, “Do I really need an assistant?” The thought of paying someone else to do something that you handle right now can be a hard sell for some entrepreneurs.
But, as we’ll see later, the value that a personal assistant can bring both financially and emotionally is incredible.
If you’re wondering whether or not you should hire an assistant, here are some questions to ask yourself:
- Do I spend time each week on repetitive tasks that someone else could handle just as well?
- Do I spend time each week on tasks that aren’t within my areas of passion or gifting and/or drain me?
- Am I forgoing opportunities to “grow” my business because of the attention that “managing” my business requires?
- Do I feel like I don’t ever have the time or headspace to think about the “big picture” of my business because I’m always so consumed with “busy” tasks?
- Am I starting to feel like my work is beginning to “own me” instead of the other way around?
- Do I feel like my relationships with my family and friends is being hurt by my weekly workload?
If you answered “yes” to any of those questions, then there’s a chance that hiring a personal assistant could benefit you.
What A Personal Assistant Can Do For You
Personal assistants come in all shapes and sizes. What one can do depends largely on what you need. But to give you a general idea of the kinds of things that personal assistant do, we’ve lumped them all into one of three main categories.
These types of personal assistants are the least expensive. Some of the things that they could handle for you include:
- Data entry
- Scheduling appointments
- Answering phone calls
- Responding to emails
- Sorting your business mail
- Managing social media accounts
For small business owners that are just wanting to hand off some of “busy” tasks, a clerical assistant could be a good option.
- If you can make more money per hour writing articles than proofing them, why not hire a proofreader to take that task off your plate?
- If you could meet with one or two more clients per day just by never having to block off time for scheduling, why not hand that task off?
There’s no doubt clerical assistants can provide great value. But there will be a limit to what they are able to handle. Clerical assistants are paid to take a task off your plate, not necessarily do them faster or more efficiently than you.
If, however, you need an assistant who is stronger and more proficient in an area that happens to be one of your weaknesses, an “expert” assistant may be what you need instead.
These types of personal assistants will cost you a little bit more, but they also will be handling more difficult tasks.
The tasks that expert assistants handle will generally require training and/or experience in specific software or small business tools.
Expert assistants are more valuable to you, as the business owner. Here’s why.
- With a clerical assistant, an hour of their time saves you an hour of your time.
- But with an assistant who’s an expert in a particular type of skill, one hour of their time could save you two, three, or more hours, depending on your proficiency in that skill.
- For instance, if you have minimal experience using QuickBooks, a QuickBooks expert could get tasks done two or three times faster than it would take you to get it done.
Here are some of the tasks that an expert assistant could handle for you:
- Social media marketing (using tools like Hootsuite, Tailwind, or Sprinklr)
- Accounting and Bookkeeping (using tools like QuickBooks, Xero, or Wave)
- Editing and publishing blog posts (using Wordpress)
- Designing artwork or presentations (using PhotoShop, LightRoom, Adobe Illustrator, or Powerpoint)
- Editing videos (using Adobe Premiere or Final Cut Pro)
- IT and server management
While the first two categories of personal assistants are primarily task-oriented, this last category of assistants is more goal-oriented.
Another way to put it is that you tell an executive assistant what “outcome” you are looking for and let them figure out how to get it done.
Executive assistants are often also placed in charge of other team members. They, in essence, become an extension of you, making sure things get done and everyone stays on task.
Executive assistants not only make sure that tasks get done efficiently but also consider whether or not they are actually helping to move the business toward its goals.
Here are some of the things that an executive assistant could handle for you:
- Finding, hiring, and training employees
- Managing the content team for your site
- Business consulting
Executive assistants could seriously turbo-charge the productivity of your business and for that reason, they will cost the most per hour.
Speaking of how much personal assistants cost, that’s the question that we tackle next.
See also: How To Stay Organized At Work
How Much Do Personal Assistants Cost?
While personal assistants will cost less or more depending on their experience and knowledge level, UpWork, a freelancer hiring site, says that these are the average hourly rates that assistants from all 3 categories charge (NOTE: they use different names for these categories):
- Clerical assistants: $12-20+ per hour
- Expert assistants: $20-35+ per hour
- Executive assistants: $38-50+ per hour
When looking at the hourly costs above, one important thing for you to consider is what your own time is worth. Let’s say you make $150 without an assistant but then hire one for $40 an hour. Your assistant works 10 hours and saves you 8 hours of work (cause there will be questions, management time, the assistant may not be as fast as you, or any other reasons.)
In that scenario, you would have paid $400 in labor but freed up $1,200 worth of your own time! That’s the kind of incredible return you can get when you leverage a personal assistant’s time well.
Discovering The True Value Of Your Time
Kayla Sloan is the founder of 10K VA, a program which teaches virtual assistants how to make a consistent $10,000 per month working online. When interviewed for this article, she emphasized how important it is for business owners to gain a true understanding of the value of their time. Here’s what she had to say.
If your time as a business owner is worth $200 per hour and you currently spend an hour a day checking and responding to email, or an hour a day on social media responding to comments, etc. is that task worth $200? I’m guessing probably not. Yes, you CAN do those things yourself, but should you be doing them? Doing them yourself may be holding you back from growing your business to the next level.
Speaking of growing your business to the next level, Deacon Hayes, founder of the personal finance website Well Kept Wallet, has seen firsthand how hiring an assistant has helped him do that.
Hiring a personal assistant was crucial to growing my business. Letting go of the tasks that I am not great at and letting somebody else take them is one of the best things I have ever done. It freed me up so that I could focus on what I am good at and grow the revenue of my business.
When you look at hiring an assistant in this light, you realize it’s really not an expense, but rather an investment.
Conduct A Time Audit
If you’re not sure just how many hours of work that an assistant could free up, it may be worthwhile to spend a week or so conducting a time audit. Rescue Time and DeskTime are two popular time audit tools that could help you track how many hours you’re putting into each task.
Then you’ll have a concrete idea of your hourly wage and could better identify areas where an assistant could step in.
How To Hire A Personal Assistant
There are three main ways to find personal assistants for hire: job sites, personal referrals, and VA Agencies.
The first main way to hire one would be to put a job posting up on a site where assistants look for work. Here are some examples:
Although I’m sure there are great assistants to be found on each of these platforms, you may have to deal with a bit more trial and error until you find an assistant that’s a good fit.
If you know other people who are already using an assistant, ask them for recommendations!
As Kayla Sloan explained, this could be one of the best ways to find an experienced and dependable assistant.
Ask for referrals from other business owners. Who do they work with? Who is their rockstar VA? Ask the VAs you interview for testimonials. Or ask for references you can reach out to to verify their work. (Just like traditional hiring!) What training has the VA taken, what skills do they have, and what tools do they know how to use?
Another way to find a personal assistant is to use a VA agency. The nice part about using an agency is that you shouldn’t ever have a lapse in work due to one specific personal assistant quitting or having weeks where they are unavailable.
When you hire an agency, they make sure that you always have someone ready to go to get things done for you. The downsides to agencies can be that you may feel like you can’t ever get in a groove with one particular assistant. Work quality could also vary widely from one assistant to another.
Here are a few popular VA agencies:
I would recommend reading reviews for each of these agencies before choosing one. Also, ask around to see if any of your fellow business owners have had a good experience with a particular agency.
No Guarantee Of First-Time Success
Whether you hire someone individually through a hiring site or through an agency, there’s a chance that you may not hit it off with your first assistant. Here’s what Kayla had to say about that.
Not every VA is created equally. That may sound harsh, but it’s about finding the right fit for you and your business. If you’ve worked with a VA in the past and it didn’t work out, don’t give up! Just try again and use what you learned the first time to do a better job hiring the second time.
As we discussed earlier, an efficient assistant can be one of the best investments you make in your business. I’m willing to bet that you wouldn’t give up after one try with other strategies that could significantly increase your revenue capacity. You shouldn’t give up on a personal assistant because of one bad experience either.
Tips For Making The Most Of Your Personal Assistant Hire
Congrats you’ve landed on a personal assistant. Don’t pack up your belongings and fly to Bermuda just yet! You may find quickly yourself frustrated in a week or two that things aren’t getting the way you’d hoped. Or worse, the assistant may feel frustrated and quit, leaving you right back where you were before the whole process started.
But doing the following things can go a long way toward ensuring that the relationship will be a productive and happy one.
Create A Clear Job Description
This is something that Kayla emphasized when asked what a small business owner should do in order to have a positive experience with a virtual assistant.
Have a clear list and realize that you may end up needing to hire more than one VA in order to get people who are truly great (not just good or ok) at all of the things on your list. What is your expectation for communication, deadlines, etc. Lay all of that out and then discuss it during the interview with potential VAs. The most common mistakes I see business owners make when hiring a VA is that they don’t know what they need help with and they don’t set clear expectations. What does success look like? Communicate that with your VA. If you don’t tell them, they won’t know and they can’t read your mind.
Kayla also recommends taking things slow with a new assistant until you’re sure that the relationship will be a good fit.
Also, do a test project or trial period to make sure it’s a good fit before getting into a long-term contract or handing over the keys to the kingdom to a new VA.
Create How-To Guides And Videos
If you have a task that you hope an assistant will be able to take off your plate, you could hop on the phone and explain it to them personally.
But then what will happen if the relationship doesn’t work out or when the assistant moves on? You’ll have to teach somebody else how to do that task all over again.
Write “How-To” Guides
Try writing “how-to” guides that can be easily read and understood by any of your future hires. Be as detailed as possible and even use screenshots if you think this would help add clarity.
Does it sound like creating this kind of guide would take a lot longer than just walking somebody through a task over the phone? Yes, it will on the front end. But it’ll save you so much time in the long run.
Written checklists are also great for tasks that have multiple parts that need attention. For example, you may have a multistep process for onboarding a new client. You could create a checklist for your assistant so they remember to have each new client fill out a set of forms, send a welcome email, then follow up in two weeks seeing if they have any questions, then finally sending a small thank you gift.
Record “How-To” Videos
If most of the work that you’ll expect your assistant to do will be on the computer, you may be better off using a screen capture tool that will record you doing the task yourself. This could save time and actually be more helpful than even a typed-out guide.
When asked what tips he would you give for developing a successful relationship with a VA, Deacon Hayes said that this was one of his g0-strategies.
I recommend using a screen capture software so that you can share task details via video with your new VA. This way they can re-watch the video each time they do the task instead of emailing you constantly with questions.
Here are a few popular online screen capture tools for you to check out:
You should definitely give one of these tools a try. It could end up saving you a ton of time!
Require Regular Reports On What Your Assistant Has Accomplished
While it’s a great thing if you’re assistant is a self-starter and doesn’t require hand-holding, you’ll still want to be given updates on a regular basis on what they’re getting done.
Just asking your assistant to send a quick email once a week with the list of things that they accomplished with an estimate of how long each task took them may be a good start.
If your assistant is spending several hours each week on a task that you don’t feel is a high priority and you’d rather he or she spend that time on a higher-value activity, both of you are going to want to know this.
Provide Valuable Feedback
Think you’ve found the perfect assistant? Well, you may have. But Kayla warns that you should still expect a learning curve.
Make sure it’s a fit for what you need but realize that there will ALWAYS be an adjustment period as you and your new VA get used to working together and figuring out the best ways to communicate. Even with the most experienced VA there will be an adjustment period as you both get used to working together.
Don’t expect that the day after you hire your assistant, your workload will immediately drop to zero. Instead, expect that for at least for the first few weeks to months, you’ll need to keep an eye to on things make sure that tasks are being done the way that you want them to be.
When you find that your assistant isn’t quite hitting the mark, politely point it out and explain where they can improve. Don’t be afraid to give feedback.
As long as you aren’t rude an insensitive, giving helpful feedback will only serve to improve your relationship with your assistant.
Make Them Feel Like They’re Part Of The Team
This is one is especially important if you have hired a virtual assistant who will be working remotely. Yes, they will be providing their own technology and office space, but they are still doing work for your business.
If you have a mixture of “on-site” and virtual employees, do whatever you can to make your virtual team members feel like they are valuable members of the team. One idea for accomplishing this would be to include them on all-staff emails and video conferences.
Also, if you give employee Christmas gifts or bonuses, consider sending one to your VA as well. You want them to feel like even though they may work in a different town and office space, they are an important part of your team…because they are!
Wrapping It Up
As a small business owner, your success will be tied closely to how well you are able to spend your time on the tasks that bring you the highest return. If you’re feeling maxed out right now, an assistant could help you raise your income ceiling two or three stories beyond what you ever thought was possible.
Are you wanting to take your business to the next level? Getting up earlier and working later could help you do that. But perhaps a third option would be the best choice–hiring a competent personal assistant.