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How To Know When You're Ready To Hire A Virtual Assistant


Barnaby Lashbrooke

Founder and CEO of Time etc, author of The Hard Work Myth

10 minute read

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If you've ever found yourself desperately wishing for more hours in the day, or staring down an endless to-do list with a sinking feeling, you're certainly not alone.

As much as we'd like to think we can do everything ourselves, there soon comes a time when we're faced with the burning question: How do we know when we need help?

If you’ve read up on all the benefits of hiring a virtual assistant (VA), it’s pretty clear that they’re just what the entrepreneur ordered. They lighten your load so you can focus on business growth instead of being bogged down by busy work.

But should you hire a virtual assistant as soon as you get ready to launch your business, or is there a time when bringing them on board can benefit you the most?

What is a virtual assistant?

If you're unfamiliar with virtual assistants, let's start by running through who they are and what they do.

Similar to a traditional administrative assistant, a virtual assistant, or VA, handles a wide range of administrative tasks that keep a business ticking over in the background.

These remote workers may not be able to organize your filing cabinets or show up to the office with your coffee order, but their flexibility and adaptability make them invaluable assets for any business owner in today's world.

And it's not just time that you can save when you hire virtual assistants, you can save money, too.

Unlike a full-time employee, you only pay virtual assistants for the productive time they spend working on your tasks, and you can start with as little or as much support as you need. Plus, the independent nature of their work means that you don't have to worry about office space, equipment, employee benefits, vacation days, or sick days. With all of these cost savings combined, this could save you up to 90% compared to hiring in-house.

Now, let’s assess your situation together and find out if a virtual assistant is the right call for you and your business needs.

See: Virtual Assistant Vs. Employee: Which Is Best For Your Small Business?


Are you ready to hire a virtual assistant?

When you’re just starting out as a business owner, you probably accept that wearing many hats is all part of the job description. But you’re only one person, and you only have so many hours each day. Things can start to get pretty overwhelming, pretty quickly.

  • You're struggling to make progress: Does it feel like you’re always working, but you’re not seeing the results you want? Are your competitors moving ahead of you?
  • Your work-life balance is suffering: Do your family and friends complain that they never see you anymore? Do you feel like your work hours are taking over your life?
  • Important things are falling through the cracks: Do you often run out of time to finish all your work, so you end up putting things off until the next day (but then the same thing happens the next day, and the day after that…)? Have you noticed the quality of your work dropping because you're rushing to get everything done? Are important issues going unresolved because you don't have time to address them?

If you can tick any of these boxes, this is usually a clear indication that you need a virtual assistant.

With our 17 years of experience supporting over 22,000 business owners and high-level executives, we've discovered there are fundamental factors to consider that can make or break the success of your virtual assistant experience.

So with that in mind, these are the questions I would ask you before making your hiring decision:

1. How established is your business?

If you’re still in the ideation and validation stage and haven’t launched your business yet, it's probably too soon to hire a VA.

Why is this?

In most cases, bringing someone into your business too early makes it tough to figure out what exactly they should be doing for you. Chances are, you won't notice much difference in your workflow or productivity, either.

Another potential issue with hiring a virtual assistant too soon in your business journey is that it could strain your finances. If your business isn't making much money yet, paying for their services every month might be a burden you don't need.

That's why the best time to consider getting a virtual assistant is when your business is already up and running. It's important that you're generating enough revenue to justify the expense and that there are at least one or two regular tasks they can help with.

However, if you're drowning in unanswered emails or other time-consuming chores each day, a virtual assistant may still be able to lend a hand. Just keep in mind, they wouldn't be handling many business-related tasks at this stage. They'd be more like a personal assistant, helping you manage daily tasks in your personal life.


2. Are you trying to outsource critical tasks?

While it's true that virtual assistants can handle a wide array of administrative tasks effectively, as a business owner, certain tasks on your to-do list are better off staying in your remit—especially in the early stages of your business.

What do we mean by this?

First of all, in every business, there are critical tasks that play a big part in shaping the direction, reputation, and bottom line of a company. Whether it's strategic decision-making, financial management, employee relations, or product development, they require a deep understanding of the business's goals and values, as well as a level of expertise, discretion, and judgment.

Handing these responsibilities over to VAs, who might not know all the ins and outs of your business, could lead to misunderstandings and errors being made. Plus, relying on virtual assistants for such important tasks could hold us back from coming up with innovative new ideas or developing our skills in-house.

Secondly, it's no secret that in the early days, many small business owners prefer sticking to what they feel the most confident and capable of doing. This often means that early-stage sales and marketing tasks, like cold-calling, are passed over or put off at every given opportunity.

At first glance, these might not seem like critical tasks. But when your business is just starting out, they can make all the difference in your success—and that's why you're the best person for the job at this stage.

The best way to understand your market and figure out how to position your product effectively is by doing the groundwork yourself. This will give you the expertise, discretion, and judgment needed to navigate all those other critical tasks that will steer your business to long-term success.

3. Do you feel stressed, and why?

A recent survey of startup founders reveals a challenging reality of the modern business landscape. 72% of founders shared that managing their business has negatively impacted their mental well-being, with stress (44%), anxiety (37%), and burnout (36%) being the most common concerns.

Before you think about hiring a VA, it's important to understand the root cause of your stress.

For example, if you're a chronic procrastinator, a virtual assistant is unlikely to be able to solve this issue.

But if you’re constantly stressed because there's always too much to do and never enough time to do it all, then a virtual assistant could be just what you need.

Offloading some of the repetitive, day-to-day tasks that fill your plate means you can reclaim valuable time and mental bandwidth for the things that matter most, instead of feeling constantly stretched to your limits.

See: 6 Stress Management Techniques From The World’s Most Successful Business Leaders


4. How many hours are you spending on admin each day?

We recently surveyed 251 entrepreneurs about their workload management strategies.

In a typical week, 59% log expenses, 49% do research, 45% do schedule management, 44% create invoices, 43% do data entry, 40% place orders for office supplies and equipment, 29% format documents, 27% chase late payers, 24% write content for social media posts, 20% book travel for work trips, 15% organize social events for staff, 12% write blogs, and 11% buy gifts for employees.

There's no denying that all the tasks on this list do need to be done to keep a business running smoothly, but should they be done by you?

Our survey also revealed that those who identify as ‘expert delegators’ are more likely than their peers to have seen revenue and profit growth in recent times.

When asked to compare revenue between their past two years of business operations, 82% of ‘expert’ delegators had experienced growth compared to just 66% of the rest of the participants, or ‘non-expert’ delegators. Average revenue growth for expert delegators was 143% but for the non-experts, it was 80%.

Ticking all these repetitive tasks off your to-do list can make you feel productive and that you've accomplished a lot, but the truth is, simply "getting things done" isn’t enough to push your business forward. That’s only possible if the right things are getting done.

So, if you're spending more time on routine, time-consuming, and distracting tasks than high-impact activities that bring you closer to your goals, hiring a virtual assistant can help you tip the balance back in your favor.

See: Virtual Assistant Vs. Freelancer: The Best Ways To Outsource

5. Do you have one or two tasks ready to hand over?

Once you've established you need support, simply hiring a VA is only half the story. You'll need to be able to put that support into action.

Not being prepared with tasks to hand over is one of the most common—and hugely underestimated—hurdles that can impact the success of your VA experience. Because without it, both you and your assistant will struggle to get off the starting block.

Think about it, if you hired a new employee to work in your company, would you expect them to arrive on their first day already knowing exactly what they should be working on, and how they should work on it?

All you need are just one or two routine tasks that, ideally, you deal with on a daily or weekly basis. Chances are, you'll have plenty of things to hand over, but focus on just one or two for now—you can always do more later!

While this list is by no means exhaustive, these are some ideal tasks to start with:

You can also try our free to-do list optimizer to just how much (or how little!) of your workload actually needs to be done by you. Simply enter your regular task list and the optimizer will show you which responsibilities should stay in your remit and which ones can be handled by virtual assistants.

Once you have these specific tasks lined up, you’re ready to go!


What's the bottom line?

If you're stressed out and spending way too much time on things that aren't moving your business forward, this is a clear sign that you shouldn't be going it alone any longer.

Take a step back and think about where your business stands. If you're well-established with a steady stream of revenue, a virtual assistant could be the missing piece that helps you scale. But if you're just starting out, it's okay to wait until you have a clearer picture of what you need.

Next, think about the tasks that are weighing you down the most. If you're not the best person for the job, handing them over to a virtual assistant can give you back some much-needed breathing room that lets you concentrate on what really matters.

By paying attention to these signs and being honest with yourself about your needs, resources, and what you want to achieve, you can take a huge step towards lightening your load and giving your business the boost it deserves.

So, if you're ready to feel more organized and in control with a virtual assistant by your side, Time etc is here for you.

Instead of wasting precious time and money trying to find the perfect candidate, speak to our expert team to get started, and we'll handle the rest! We'll match you with a skilled virtual assistant based on your unique business needs, so you can start doing more of what matters most.

Or try us out for free today!

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About the author

Barnaby Lashbrooke is the founder and CEO of Virtual Assistant service Time etc as well as the author of The Hard Work Myth, recently recommended by Sir Richard Branson. Barnaby is a Forbes Columnist on productivity and is also an accomplished entrepreneur, selling more than $35 million worth of services.

Psssst...want a free copy of my book The Hard Work Myth?

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