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​Virtual Assistants: The Complete Guide For Shopify Store Owners


Barnaby Lashbrooke

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

12 minute read

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Shopify store owners are likely to take on all the responsibilities of running their stores when they first start out, and reasonably so as in the beginning it is likely more cost-effective to bear all the weight of store operations. However, as a store grows and sales begin to increase, store owners may find themselves needing a helping hand.

Virtual assistants (VAs) are extremely helpful for owners of growing Shopify stores who are looking to optimize and simplify their day-to-day activities, while also keeping their own personal focus on the continued growth of the store.

Hiring and utilizing a virtual assistant is not only useful but often necessary for Shopify store owners looking to balance their workloads. In this post, we will explore why store owners should consider using a virtual assistant and how to go about finding one. Plus, we will discuss how to decide what tasks to offload to your VA and how to set them up for success.

What Is A Virtual Assistant?

To understand the importance and advantages of using a virtual assistant, we must first define what exactly a virtual assistant is.

A virtual assistant is a person hired remotely specifically for the purpose of aiding in daily tasks set forth by a store owner. Virtual assistants should have well-rounded competencies in multiple areas of business such as financial admin, customer service, marketing, design, and communications.

Additionally, hiring a virtual assistant is a good stepping stone for stores that are not yet ready for a full team of employees, but still require additional help. Virtual assistants are generally considered different from freelancers and traditional employees.

According to Shopify:

"The difference between a virtual assistant and a freelancer or a traditional employee is that virtual assistants are resourceful generalists (sometimes competent in areas like marketing communications or design) who perform tasks or routines rather than owning an entire function of your business."

As such, virtual assistants are not intended to be fully-fledged members of a store's team, but rather helping hands that can be employed to complete various tasks in order to allow the store owner to focus on different aspects of their business.


Why You Should Hire A Virtual Assistant

Below are some of the main reasons why Shopify store owners should consider employing a virtual assistant:

Gain more free time

The harsh reality about running a store of any kind is that there are bucketloads of daily tasks and activities that can eat up a major portion of a store owner's day. When running a Shopify store, it is crucial to remain passionate and committed to long-term goals. However, when every day is packed full of necessary tasks, this can lead to exhaustion and burnout.

By hiring a virtual assistant, a store owner can cut back on their workload and the amount of time that must be committed to running the store each day. In turn, store owners are then gifted with valuable free time that can be spent with family and friends, or on self-care.

In fact, burnout is a medical diagnosis recognized by the World Health Organization that is described as a syndrome that results from "chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed."

As such, proper time management and offloading of work-related tasks is arguably a highly necessary component of successful store operations.

Simplify day-to-day activities and decrease stress

When it comes to optimizing daily tasks and activities to be more time and cost-efficient, finding the best workflow can be rather difficult when a store owner is the sole person behind operations and management tactics.

When a virtual assistant is added to the equation, however, they may be able to bring new ideas to the table on how to best organize and carry out daily operations. In fact, this is one of the main strengths a virtual assistant can offer—finding innovative ways to simplify daily processes so that less time is spent on mundane activities.

Moreover, this can ultimately also decrease the overall stress within the store owner’s work environment since there will no longer be a need for a heavy emphasis on ensuring daily tasks are completed. Instead, your virtual assistant can take charge of making sure business operations are running smoothly as one of their primary objectives as an assistant.

Focus on growth

Not only can hiring a virtual assistant lead to more free time and prevent burnout, but it can also shift a store owner's focus away from having to ensure daily operations are taken care of and towards potential actions and innovations for growth.

This can include activities such as spending more time developing a wider range of products to sell and creating well-designed marketing campaigns to help spread the word about your store.

Plus, a virtual assistant can also be employed to aid in activities that contribute to growth as well, such as crafting social media posts and other content, or helping to follow up on leads that can potentially result in more sales. Virtual assistants can be used not just for optimizing your mundane daily to-do list, but also for increasing the force behind your store's growth.


Utilize specialized talents

Shopify store owners may also want to consider employing a virtual assistant who offers specialized skills and talents in certain areas related to eCommerce and online stores, such as expertise in search engine optimization (SEO) or digital marketing.

A store owner may have an incredibly valuable product that has massive potential but may not have the background knowledge of how to successfully promote their store and bring traffic and attention to their product.

Thus, hiring a virtual assistant with specialized knowledge is an excellent way to bridge the gaps between a store owner’s product and all the technicalities involved in running a successful online store.

See: How A Virtual Assistant Can Help With Your E-Commerce Business

Where To Find A Virtual Assistant

Once you have decided that hiring a virtual assistant is the next best step for your Shopify store, the next question and hurdle that must be overcome is finding the right virtual assistant for you.

It is not terribly difficult to find general candidates for the position thanks to more workplaces shifting towards virtualization and more contractors looking for remote work. However, finding a Virtual Assistant that best fits your store's needs may be a bit trickier. To help you decide where to find your future Virtual Assistant, we will now cover the important considerations to keep in mind when choosing where to find a virtual assistant.


The key to finding the optimal virtual assistant is knowing the right places to look. First and foremost, you must decide where you want your assistant to be based. Your virtual assistant is going to be remote, which means they likely will not live in the same general location as you, or potentially even the same country as you.

As such, you will have many options when it comes to narrowing down your search according to the location they are based. The general rule of thumb when choosing a virtual assistant is to look for someone who is either a native or fluent speaker of your own language.

The second consideration to keep in mind in terms of your virtual assistant's location is how differences in time zone will impact your ability to align your schedules and communicate back and forth. The time zone differences within the same country may be easily worked around; however, international time zone differences may become problematic depending on the tasks being assigned to the virtual assistant.

Therefore, before beginning the interviewing or hiring process, you as the store owner need to determine exactly what location, time zone, and language requirements you need your virtual assistant to meet.


Online marketplaces

Online marketplaces have become increasingly popular for connecting businesses with freelancers and contractors. As such, this is one way you can potentially find a virtual assistant.

A popular example of an online marketplace is Upwork. Upwork is set up as a virtual job board where employers can post job descriptions for freelancers and other professionals within a myriad of different fields and industries to apply to, including jobs for virtual assistants.

Moreover, employers using Upwork can search through candidates and send invitations to interview to specific professionals that match the skillsets and requirements they have for the job they are offering.

Drawbacks of online marketplaces include the potential for unqualified candidates to apply for job offers, making it an extra task to sift through many applications. Online marketplaces may also come with additional overhead costs, such as subscription fees.

Hiring a VA directly

It is entirely possible to hire a virtual assistant directly without going through a third-party online marketplace. One of the best methods for finding potential candidates for a virtual assistant position is through LinkedIn or other social media platforms.

LinkedIn specifically allows for job postings on its job board and direct messaging between candidates and employers. Plus, employers can view candidate profiles to see what relevant work experience or portfolios they have to offer.

Premium virtual assistant services

Using a premium virtual assistant service is arguably one of the best ways to find your future virtual assistant. Premium virtual assistant services, such as those offered here at Time Etc, have curated some of the best virtual assistant candidates currently available in the market. These candidates will often have a wide scope of abilities and skill sets that can be employed for a vast number of different tasks.

An additional advantage of using a premium service is that employers will have a much easier time finding an assistant that matches their specific needs without having to search through marketplaces or social platforms in order to find potential candidates. Plus, premium virtual assistant services also have the potential to cut back on overall overhead costs by allowing you to specify how many hours a month you actually need from your virtual assistant.

This can also allow you to work with the same virtual assistant on multiple occasions, with flexibility according to when you actually need their help. This adds the additional benefit of being able to return to the same assistant with whom you have built rapport and trust with previously.


Deciding What Tasks A Virtual Assistant Will Help With

After you have chosen a means for finding a virtual assistant, the next step that is crucially important is deciding upon what specific tasks or areas of your Shopify store’s operations the virtual assistant will be responsible for helping with. The key to having a successful relationship with a virtual assistant is establishing your expectations beforehand.

Common tasks assigned to virtual assistants helping Shopify store owners can include:

  • Product management:
    - Ensuring product listings stay up to date according to inventory
    - Adding or creating new product listings as new products become available
  • Financial admin:
    - Creating custom Excel spreadsheets for inventory management and data entry
    - Ensuring basic bookkeeping is kept up to date
  • Order processing:
    - Guaranteeing orders are efficiently processed, received, and fulfilled within a timely manner
  • Customer service:
    - Providing quick and helpful assistance directly to customers
    - Helping customers change and track orders
    - Responding to customer emails
  • Social media management:
    - Checking messages on Facebook and other social media platforms
    - Answering questions sent through messaging apps
    - Keeping social media platforms up to date with consistent posts
  • Content creation:
    - Writing content for blogs or landing pages that is SEO-friendly
    - Creating social media posts to promote products
    - Assisting with the creation of social media and marketing campaigns

In truth, there are many important tasks that can be streamlined for efficiency through the employment of a virtual assistant. As a store owner, creating a definitive list of tasks in need of completion is essential for understanding how to best divvy up the workload.

A good starting point for creating a comprehensive task list is to divide tasks up according to what can be completed by an assistant versus what has to be completed specifically by you, the store owner. This way, you can better analyze which tasks can be fully handed off to a virtual assistant.

How To Set Your Virtual Assistant Up For Success

It is important to remember when hiring a virtual assistant that you, as the store owner, are ultimately in charge. While a virtual assistant may have a vast set of knowledge and skills that can be useful, they will still need direction as to what their specific duties are. As such, it is up to you to ensure you provide your virtual assistant with a clear set of guidelines and standards to follow.

Below we have detailed the most important steps and considerations to include within your overall plan for adding a virtual assistant to your team.


Create a clear job description and thoroughly document tasks

While your new virtual assistant may be highly skillful with the necessary background knowledge and relevant experience, they are not superhuman and cannot read your mind. Your role as the store owner means that you have the best working knowledge starting out with what your expectations and needs are.

Therefore, it is highly important that you not only create a comprehensive list of tasks your virtual assistant will be responsible for but also include descriptions of the ways in which you prefer those tasks to be performed. Additionally, it is important to note areas in which you would like the virtual assistant to help improve the overall workflow.

Build resilience

Building resilience within a business simply means ensuring that you and your virtual assistant(s) are always on the same page and working within your strengths. As such, it can be useful to hire more than one virtual assistant and assign them different responsibilities according to their individual strengths.

This is one of the services offered by Time Etc that allows employers to hire multiple assistants in parallel with each other so that they may focus on more specific or specialized tasks. Instead of offloading all the extra work onto one full-time assistant, you can instead utilize multiple part-time virtual assistants.

Understand the importance of investing time

In the beginning, you are going to need to be understanding of the fact that there may be some training and hand-holding required as your new virtual assistant learns the ins and outs of your Shopify store's functions, products, and operations.

There will be an initial investment of time involved, as you will be adjusting to sharing your workload with a virtual assistant. It is important to remember that the key word here is investment—you are building a strong foundational relationship of rapport and trust between yourself and your virtual assistant.

In turn, this will result in you ultimately saving much more time once you have gotten past the initial growing pains and have established an efficient and cooperative workflow between yourself and your team members.

Final Thoughts

Running a Shopify store can be highly lucrative, but it can also be highly time-consuming. Hiring a virtual assistant is a great way to streamline your store's daily operations so that you can re-invest your time in your store’s overall growth and success, as well as gain more free time. A virtual assistant can provide not only much-needed help, but also an opportunity for fresh ideas and innovation that can ultimately propel your business even further forward.

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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.

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