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I love outsourcing, collaborating, and getting support in my business. After several rounds of messy, unhelpful co-ops, I’ve found a good groove with this - fortunately! 🙏🏻
If you ever wondered whether, when, and how to get help in your business, this newsletter will be helpful for you.
In this edition:
Let’s get into it.
Meet the Expert
Claire Grace is an operations consultant and the founder of The Assistant Quarters, an agency for VAs and OBMs.
In her work, Claire and her team of VAs (Virtual Assistants) and OBMs (Online Business Managers) support solo and small businesses by taking care of their admin and operations - from small weekly tasks to running the business in the background. A dream for people who don’t love the nitty-gritty!
I met Claire when we discussed a potential collaboration two years ago. When we spoke, I was impressed with how structured and straight-forward her process was. I’m delighted she’s sharing her expertise in this edition!
Connect with Claire:
Instagram // Website // Newsletter Sign-up
1) When is it a good time to start working with a VA as a solopreneur?
A lot of big voices in the online business space will say hire a VA ASAP. I don’t necessarily agree. For example, my first hire was an accountant and I don’t regret that decision for a minute. Before you hire any team member, you need to be clear on your business goals and what you want to achieve.
As a rule of thumb, it’s time to hire a VA if you’re reaching your natural capacity (in terms of time), can spot opportunities where your business could run more smoothly with help, or you want to achieve something in your business more quickly than you can execute on your own.
I HIGHLY recommend thinking about hiring a couple of months before you truly need someone. Don’t wait until you are knee deep in overwhelm/burnout or two weeks before you want to launch something. You won’t make the right hiring decisions when you are hiring and onboarding someone from a place of panic.
2) What are realistic expectations of the kinds of tasks a VA can fulfil for you?
Most VAs will have areas of specialism, whether that be the types of businesses/clients they support or the tech and tools they are familiar with.
There are VAs who provide Lifestyle/ Private PA support, traditional PA support such as email/diary management, right through to Tech VA who can help you set up email automations and help you manage your online course/membership platforms. There are also VA who only work with Coaches, or Property Businesses for example.
Whatever your business, or wherever you need help, you are unlikely to find a magical unicorn who can do 'all the things’ well. A lot of clients often end up hiring a traditional VA to help keep them organised, and then a Tech VA to help run their online business or a Marketing/Social Media VA to help them with their Marketing plan.
Be clear on your VA role description, be clear on the level of experience you need a VA to have, and be realistic with your budget if you want a VA who has experience under their belt. A great VA will bring all of that knowledge and experience to your business, without you needing to spend additional time training them. Hire the best person that you can afford, as you will reap the rewards.
3) For many solopreneurs, a VA is their first hire. If they’re concerned about bringing on the wrong person, what should they screen for in an interview to set up the collaboration for success?
Don’t ask for random VA recommendations on Social Media/Business Groups. A VA might be perfect for one person, but absolutely the wrong hire for another.
You might well be a Solopreneur, but approach hiring like the HR department in a big business and you’ll make a much better hire. I always encourage clients to create a Role Description and a simple application form so you can screen out people who don’t fit the bill before you even get to a Discovery Call. I intentionally don’t use the word Interview as you’re hiring a contractor (who’s a business owner in their own right), not an employee and I think that’s a really important distinction, particularly when we talk about hiring VAs/OBMs.
On a discovery call, you will want to make sure you have shared values, that you are happy communicating and working together in a way that aligns with your mutual preferences. You may also want to dig into their experience, and ask them to share examples of client projects where they have used similar tools or similar business models. Ask them to talk about difficult situations or problems they may have experienced and how they handled them.
4) How much time should you set aside for onboarding a VA?
Onboarding will depend on the size/scope of the role but I would definitely make sure that you dedicate some time to sharing your mission, vision and values so they understand your business and where you want to get to. I would also spend time sharing your high level business plan, so that they understand how their role fits into your short-term and long-term goals.
Also make sure you agree on preferred communication methods, how and where you will assign tasks and how you would like your VA to update you on progress. Also make sure they have everything they need in terms of passwords/systems access along with copies of any SOPs that you have documented for your business that they may need to follow.
If some of these things don’t yet exist, this is a great opportunity to start creating them. Another reason why I recommend hiring a VA when you aren’t in a place of overwhelm/burnout!
5) You run an agency for OBMs and VAs, when does it make sense to work with an agency vs. an individual VA?
An agency will give you flexible cover that can grow easily with your business. An agency team will have the ability to cover for your usual VA if needed when they are ill or on holiday. An agency may also be able to provide more than one person, allowing you to hire different experts when you need them all under one roof.
This will also usually mean that you’ll have a Client Manager (this may be the Agency Owner) on hand to make sure that the Client/VA relationship is working well and to help guide you if you’re new to delegating or having a team.
6) Anything else you’d like to add or wish I had asked you?
There are a few tips I’d give to solopreneurs who are thinking of hiring a VA, so that they can be great clients.
1) Make sure you communicate with your VA so that you are both on the same page from day one. If you want things done a certain way, or have feedback you’d like to share - let your VA know. None of us are mind readers, your VA should also feel able to share their own ideas, they may well have a quicker/easier way of doing something that you might not have thought of. Create an environment that allows them space to share their ideas, and deliver their best work.
2) Give your VA a clear brief or clear instructions when delegating a task, as well as a clear deadline if needed. Then allow your VA to prioritise and manage their workload to deliver those tasks. You are hiring a VA to make your life/business easier and to deliver on the tasks you delegate to them in the best possible way. You shouldn’t need to micro-manage them or query every minute of their time sheet. Mutual trust and respect is really important here, you should have a sense of this from your Connection Call before you decide on who to hire if you look for someone who is a good fit values wise, as well as having the experience you need.
3) Give your VA time to settle in. If they make a mistake, or don’t hit the ground running quite as quickly as you hoped give them a chance to improve. You know your business better than anyone else, it can take time for a VA to get up to speed.
Essentially, everything comes back to good communication right from the first Connection Call!
Have a lovely weekend - and get yourself the support you need.
Business is a team sport! :)
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