When was the last time you took stock of your productivity? If we’re honest, most of us are too busy to devote time to this important task. But if we did (and I’ll share more on how to do that below), we’d likely find hours of time wasted on mundane tasks each week.

A Workfront survey actually found U.S. employees at companies of 1000 workers or more only spent 45% of their workweek on primary job duties. Where did the rest of the time go? Well, 14% of their time was spent on email and the other 40% was spent on meetings, “interruptions,” and … administrative tasks.

This gets a little fuzzy when you consider what an “administrative task” is. An administrative task for a salesperson is different than that of a real estate agent or graphic designer. But we all have them. They clutter up our days and keep us under water and sometimes underperforming.

Luckily, technology has given us a new opportunity to get ahead: virtual assistants. But who are these mythical creatures? How do you know if you need one? And where do you look? I’ve got all those answers and more, below.

When to Hire a Virtual Assistant

Entrepreneurs often think, “I can do that better myself.” In fact, most of us often think that. And while it might be true, it doesn’t make each task worthy of your time and attention.

There’s a difference between self-discipline and martyrdom -- even at work. Here are a few ways to tell you’re ready for a virtual assistant:

  • When you have a list of repetitive tasks you complete regularly - Do you spend 90 minutes a day answering emails? Write it down. 30 minutes a week booking hotels? Add it to the list. 15 minutes filling out expense reports? You know the drill. You might be surprised at how much time these small tasks chip away from your week -- and which ones pop up most regularly.
  • When you know the process backwards and forwards - Generally speaking, you should be quite familiar with the tasks you’re assigning to your virtual assistant. Because the goal is to get menial tasks off your plate, these should be projects you complete regularly. This also helps you find qualified help you can train thoroughly.
  • When you’ve conducted a cost-benefit analysis - You’ve heard the old adage, “20% of the tasks provide 80% of the value.” Use your list of repetitive tasks to add up how much time you waste on these projects each week -- and just how much of your salary is being spent completing them.
  • When you don’t need full-time help - Don’t use a virtual assistant in place of what should be a full-time job. If you need to hire a web developer, don’t try to cut costs by piecing it out. You’ll put strain on your company and your virtual assistant. And the end result will likely cost you more over the long run. Seek a virtual assistant for one-off projects or small tasks that don’t justify a salaried employee.
  • When you have the money - Don’t stretch your budget. Only hire help when your revenue stream can support it or can’t live without it.

How to Hire a Virtual Assistant

1. Document your process

Begin by taking notes of the process you’d like to outsource. Write each step down, include screenshots when applicable, and add nuanced insight into how you prefer these tasks completed. This will help you identify which skills and experience are absolutely necessary to include in the next part of the process …

2. Create a job description

Include tools your virtual assistant should be proficient in, like excel, PowerPoint, or Gmail. Share preferred experience levels and skills. And don’t forget a detailed list of the tasks they’ll be performing. It’s also helpful to describe the scale of your request or business.

If you anticipate your virtual assistant will need to be adept at managing a busy inbox full of requests from fellow executives and enterprise clients, set that expectation in the job description to attract well-qualified candidates.

3. Include an applicant test

Include a test in your application. If you’re a content manager hiring a virtual assistant to manage guest contributors, have them answer a few fake email prompts or schedule several editorial slots on an imaginary calendar. By testing their abilities, you’ll be able to separate those exaggerating their skills from the rest.

4. Add a keyword or “Easter Egg” in your job posting

This is especially helpful for sites where you post virtual assistant job descriptions and available job seekers apply. Add a line at the bottom of your job description asking applicants to “Include their favorite Steve Jobs quote” in their reply. This ensures you weed out assistants who haven’t actually read your email or are not detail-oriented.

5. Conduct an interview

When possible, conduct an interview. While some virtual assistant companies pair you with an assistant from their database, others allow you to meet with your assistant so both sides can determine fit. If you’re able to conduct an interview, include questions like:

  • How do you manage shifting priorities?
  • How do you structure your work day?
  • Tell me about a time when you’ve faced a stressful situation at work. How did you respond?

These questions will give you insight into the intangible qualities not present in a resume or assistant profile.

6. Start on a trial basis

Again, this is not always possible. If you do choose a company that allows you to trial your assistant, make sure you communicate that early, so both parties are aware there’s an exit if it isn’t a good match. Usually, two weeks is sufficient for deciding whether you’ll work well together.

7. Take time to train your assistant

In order for this to work and for it to save you time, it’s crucial your assistant is well-trained. Invest time during your first few weeks answering questions, providing comprehensive documentation of the tasks they’ll be performing, and explaining why and how you prefer each task to be completed.

8. Have realistic expectations

You’re hiring a virtual assistant, not a full-time employee. There’s a reason you decided not to bring this role in-house, so don’t expect the same loyalty, understanding of your business, or rapport with your virtual assistant as you would a careered professional. Keeping your expectations in perspective is key to finding and maintaining a healthy working relationship with your assistant.

9. Don’t be afraid to cuts ties and move on quickly

That said, if your virtual assistant isn’t working out -- don’t be afraid to sever the relationship quickly. Reach out to customer support for direction on how to move forward.

Top Virtual Assistant Companies

1. The Virtual Hub

  • Associate, $8/hour for 20/40 hours/week; Analyst, $10/hour for 20/40 hours/week; Specialist, $12/hour for 20/40 hours/week
  • The Virtual Hub offers outsourcing for entrepreneurs to reclaim their time and grow their business. They have assistants specializing in general administration, social media, content management, digital marketing, and systems.

2. Prialto

  • $1200/month for 55 hours of support
  • Prialto is a U.S.-based virtual assistant facilitator for executives. You’ll enjoy a team approach with a project manager, primary assistant, and backup assistant -- not to mention, an internal managerial cohort.

3. Zirtual

  • Entrepreneur Plan, $398/month for 12 hrs/month and one user; Startup Plan, $698/month for 24 hrs/month and two users; Small Business Plan, $998/month for 36 hrs/month and three users; Team Plan, $1398/month for 50 hrs/month and five users
  • Zirtual offers you a dedicated, college-educated, U.S.-based assistant and no-hassle replacement, should you need it.

4. Worldwide101

  • 10 hours/month, $430; 20 hours/month, $790; 30 hours/month, $1140; 40 hours/month, $1480; Pricing options for bigger plans available upon request
  • You’ll meet your virtual assistant before deciding to work together. Your assistant will train a backup, in case of emergency, and you’ll enjoy a client dashboard for tracking your assistant’s tasks and time.

5. Upwork

  • Upwork is free to join, post jobs on, and source candidates from their individual freelance database; Upwork Pro, $500/hire + 10% of invoice for premium, pre-vetted, and hand-picked talent; Upwork Enterprise, price varies as technology and services are custom for every company
  • Upwork offers companies and individuals options for hiring virtual assistants. Use their free platform to source candidates for one-off or ongoing projects or choose from their pro or enterprise plans and let them do the heavy administrative lifting while you enjoy the benefits.

6. Belay

  • Pricing available upon request
  • Find virtual assistants, bookkeepers, and webmasters on Belay. All you have to do is fill out an online questionnaire and they’ll pair you with an experienced assistant to meet your unique needs. From travel arrangements to data presentations and C-level support, Belay specializes in exactly what you do.

7. Fiverr

  • Individual freelancers from $5 and $40/hr
  • From data entry to graphic design, Fiverr is a platform where you can find, connect, and hire virtual assistants. Filter by price, vertical-specific experience, and more.

8. UAssist.Me

  • $299/month, 20-Hour Plan; $799/month, Shared Assistant; $1598/month, Full-Time Assistant
  • Choose a plan, fill out a job description, meet your assistant, and get started. Real estate assistance services, transcriptions, answering services, and billing are just a few of the administrative tasks their assistants will complete. And if you’re looking for a more specialized service, they also offer experienced professionals in writing, graphic design, and programming.

9. Freelancer.com

  • Individual freelancers from $5 to $50/hr
  • Hire a freelancer from their expansive directory or post a job and have freelancers bid to give you their best price.

10. 24/7 Virtual Assistant

  • Offshore plans starting at $15/hour; U.S. plans starting at $359/month for 20 hours/month
  • When you need assistance at work and in your personal life, turn to 24/7 Virtual Assistant. Their college-educated assistants will take care of nearly anything, from bill paying and travel booking to online shopping and more.

11. Fancy Hands

  • $29.99/month for 5 requests; $74.99/month for 15 requests; $199.99/month for 50 requests
  • Fancy Hands is a service that measures tasks as “requests,” which are defined as 20-minute blocks of time. You can place standard requests (answered in 24 hours), live requests (answered within one minutes via SMS or chat), or recurring requests that are completed on a repeating basis.

12. Premier Veba

  • Pricing available upon request
  • Premier Veba offers a suite of customized business services for executives, creatives, and technical experts. Whether you need someone to help with your operating system or an assistant to tackle blog writing -- these folks have someone for you.

13. TaskBullet

  • Starter Bucket, $10/hour for 20 hours; Light Bucket, $8/hour for 60 hours; Expert Bucket, $6/hour for 240 hours
  • When their VA’s are clocked in, they’re actively working on your tasks, so you’re never billed for a moment of work that’s not your own. Your hours are good for three months, so you never waste time and money during slow weeks or months. And TaskBullet’s unique clock-in, clock-out technology ensures you don’t pay for time spent on someone else’s tasks.

Real Estate Virtual Assistant

Real estate virtual assistants complete small tasks, like responding to emails, updating listings, and following up with leads. This allows agents more time to work with existing clients on closing deals that will grow their business and earn referrals.

Mod Virtual, Real Support, TaskBullet, and Conversational Receptionists all offer virtual assistants specializing in real estate. Virtual transaction coordinators gather and organize the deluge of paperwork required for closing transactions.

Sales assistants identify qualified leads or lead sources and conduct initial outreach. And generalists keep your calendar in order, erect yard signs in new properties, and handle data entry by updating listings on your MLS, Zillow account, or CRM.

Here are a few other areas in which real estate virtual assistants can help your business:

  • Build buyer’s packets
  • Manage transactions
  • Data entry
  • PowerPoint or presentation design
  • Client feedback
  • Graphic design for mailers, websites, or social media
  • Social media management
  • Write blog posts or emails
  • Lead nurturing
  • Prospecting
  • Client gift management
  • Website link building

If you’re hyper-focused on growing your real estate business, consider hiring a real estate virtual assistant. The value they bring can be priceless.

You’ve done enough. Really. Give yourself a break and do the work that counts. Consider hiring a virtual assistant and see what they can do for your well-being and professional growth. And check out this post for more tips on sales tools for small businesses.

Free Sales Training from HubSpot Academy

Originally published Aug 9, 2018 7:30:00 AM, updated August 10 2018

Topics:

Entrepreneurship