If you manage things carefully, make all the right moves and work to steadily grow your operation, you will eventually find your company is running you—instead of the other way around. And, by running you, we mean running you ragged. In the life cycle of every self-founded enterprise there is a point at which it’s still too small to hire full-time people, but it’s too big to run alone. This is when you should consider hiring a virtual assistant for your ecommerce business.
What Is a Virtual Assistant?
A virtual assistant (VA) is a digitally based worker hired to perform a wide variety of functions, such as administrative, technical, clerical and creative occupations. Working online, they can be located anywhere in the world, which gives you the ability to have tasks accomplished while you sleep—on the other side of the globe. VA capabilities are as varied as the people filling the role. This means you have to be selective to ensure a good fit.
Things to Consider Before Contracting
Your first step should be to figure out which aspects of your store would be best served by a VA. If your business is to sell ebooks online, you’ll probably want someone who can handle order processing, deal with returns or exchanges, manage inventory, handle accounting and bookkeeping, upload blog posts and manage social media; leaving you free to focus on tasks associated with growing your business. To that end, you’ll need to create a list of tasks you feel comfortable outsourcing from which you can develop a list of duties. This will give you a sense of the capabilities you’re looking for, as well as the training you’ll need to provide. By and large, any repetitive tasks you’re currently (or will be) doing on the phone or a computer on a daily basis qualify.
Create a Job Description
Once you have an idea of what you need, create a job description to list on the sites VAs consult looking for work. Outline the tasks you need to have accomplished, list the software and/or equipment with which they’ll need a working familiarity, as well as the hours and days during which you’ll need them to be available to work.
Post the Listing and Review Applications
Once the listing goes live, you’ll receive applications. A lot of them will be obviously cut and pasted. You’re looking for people who took the time to draft a specific response to your query. Attention to detail and the willingness to go above and beyond are among the key attributes in a VA.
You’ll be amazed to discover how much you can learn about a person in 15 minutes. The main things you want to determine are whether they’ve worked virtually in the past, what their long-term career goals are, how they spend their free time and what attributes they consider to be their core proficiencies. Listen to their level of enthusiasm, the words they use to express themselves and how comfortable they seem communicating with a stranger. This is a person who will be representing you in a number of different capacities, so you want to make sure they are an accurate reflection of the image you’ve crafted for your business.
Start with a Simple Task
Before you go all-in with someone, assign a minor task to see how well they accomplish it. Outline what you need and give them a deadline by which to complete it. Make sure they understand it’s a trial and absolutely pay them for it. This will allow you to see what they can do before you take them on completely.
Solid Training is Key to Their Success
Even though they may be familiar with the elements of the tasks you’ll assign, they’ll need a chance to learn how you want to see them completed. Take the time to thoroughly train them to your specification. Screen-sharing platforms like Google Hangouts can be particularly useful for this. Be patient and open to questions. Bear in mind they’re dealing with something new and do everything possible to help them get it right.
Maintain the Relationship
Meet with your VA on a regular basis to give them feedback and an opportunity to share their insights. Provide the appropriate level of support and make them feel appreciated. Remember, you’re hiring an assistant, not a servant, so treat them with respect. After all, hiring a virtual assistant for your e-commerce business is what’s going to help you grow into new successes.