How to hire your first virtual assistant (and when to do it)

Lighten your workload

As a busy web professional, you’ll eventually hit a point where you need to outsource elements of your business in order to scale up. It’s all very well playing the hero on your own when you’re starting out, but long-term growth requires a team. However, taking on full-time employees isn’t always the best initial step. On the other hand, hiring a virtual assistant (VA), can be a sensible way of easing into management and significantly lightening the load you’re currently carrying.

In this article, we’ll look at how to tell when it’s time to finally bite the bullet of hiring a virtual assistant. We’ll also break down how to make sure your crucial first VA partnership goes smoothly by stepping through exactly how to go about finding, assessing, and hiring possible candidates.

Let’s start with how you know when it’s time to pull the trigger.

When it’s time to consider hiring a virtual assistant

Just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should. In the immortal words of Chris Rock, “you can drive a car with your feet, but that don’t make it a good idea!” The same can be said for housekeeping duties a virtual assistant could handle.

Virtual Assistant Frustration
Feel like this? It’s time for some external assistance!

As a web professional, your time should largely be spent on high-value tasks where you can productively apply your talent and skills — and charge a suitably rewarding rate for doing so. If you’re finding yourself drowning in minor administrative tasks on a regular basis, that’s an excellent indication it’s time to get some on-demand assistance.

What to do before you take action

Virtual assistants aren’t magicians. They’re not going to be able to read your mind and mysteriously pinpoint the exact areas you require assistance in. Before you so much as fire up a browser to start looking for help, make sure you’ve sat down and thought about where an extra pair of hands could make a significant difference.

Don’t stop at simply identifying broad categories of work.


Nothing that you spend hours on “office work” helps no one. Take a bit of time and document exactly how you’re currently carrying out the tasks you’re looking to offload. Emails? Expense sheets? Appointments? This key step will be invaluable when it comes to delegating tasks to your virtual assistant. That way, they can hit the ground running.

Where to find suitable candidates

The obvious one-word answer here is online. However, before you take to the web, have a serious think about whether there’s anyone in your immediate professional or personal circles who might be looking for some work on the side. There’s an awful lot to be said for in-person contact and leveraging existing relationships when it comes to working closely with someone.

Virtual Assistant Virtual Valley
Sites like Virtual Valley can radically shorten the search process.

If there’s nobody obvious locally who springs to mind, it’s time to hit the wider web. Some starting points here are sites like Upwork, Guru and PeoplePerHour. Options such as Virtual Staff Finder and Virtual Valley are a little more focused in their approach, and they concentrate on sourcing excellent providers from countries like the Philippines.

How to narrow down the field

The first step is all on you — don’t spend cheaply. As with most things in life, selecting purely on price is can be massively counterproductive. You value your own time, so you should have no problem valuing that of the people you’re looking to take on. Proficiency in English is also obviously high up on the list of requirements, but you won’t necessarily be looking for native proficiency in many contexts.

Screen potential candidates on your short list via phone or Skype to assess their skills.


Once you’ve established a list of people who are strong communicators and who offer their services for what seems like a sane rate, the key characteristics you’re after are straightforward — you want someone who’s highly organized, reliable and who has verifiably done the job before.

How to go about hiring

If you’ve followed the sequence above, you should soon be looking at a very narrow field of possible candidates. It’s now time to pony up some cash and actually pay for the completion of sample tasks. You’re looking to take your top two or three candidates and send them each an identical and clearly described task to be completed within a specific timeframe.

Nothing separates the wheat from the chaff like a real-world project, however small it happens to be.


As you move through the various stages involved in setting up the task and checking results, you’ll get a very precise feel for who the best candidate really is. From there, it’s just a question of picking who to hire and locking them into a regular working arrangement.

As a final note, it’s worth pointing out that your winning candidate will inevitably require some bedding-in time once they’re on board — and so will you in your new role as boss.

Treat this as a learning process on all sides.


Make sure you’re evaluating both your new employee and yourself from all sides. With that kind of awareness, you’ll have the best possible chance for a healthy, long-term working relationship.


Hiring a virtual assistant can seem like a daunting idea when you’re used to operating as a lone ranger, but it’s a smart way of easing into scalable hiring. You’re by no means guaranteed to knock it out of the park the first time around, but the points we’ve covered will give you an excellent chance of striking gold early on.

Let’s recap our takeaways one more time:

  1. Clearly map out and document the tasks you actually need help with.
  2. Start local, then expand your search to online portals.
  3. Be prepared to pay for value, but screen candidates rigorously.
  4. Always go with a sample project prior to hiring.
  5. Don’t expect miracles post-hire. You’ll need to work at the relationship to really dial it in.

Do you have any top tips to share around hiring a virtual assistant? Get in touch via the comments section below and share your thoughts!

Image by: josephleenovak via Visual Hunt / CC BY