Pinch hitting since Kathleen’s out of town, I’m posting my latest news. I’ve hired a virtual assistant…
And it’s actually working out quite well. Many of you are in my boat, entrepreneurs working solo who really don’t want to get into the complexities of hiring employees. Maybe you don’t have the type of space that facilitates bringing in outsiders (work from home or work in some kind of structure on your property) or maybe you live in a state with complex labor laws and even though you have a degree in Human Resources, you’d rather not be bothered (that would be me).
I was getting increasingly overwhelmed with work to the point where I actually began to dread my day. Work wasn’t getting done and I stopped caring about 3 weeks ago. A friend of mine suggested that I try Craiglist, to which I made the “don’t make me throw up” face. Craiglist, you’ve got to be kidding. I had some experience trying to find a publicist on Craiglist a while ago, and not wanting to relive deeply buried memories, let me just say that a good publicist will not need to post on Craiglist (no offense to anyone, but it’s one of those duh things).
Determined not to even use Craiglist, I set up an email address specifically for this type of thing and posted on several virtual assistant job boards.
But they were ridiculously expensive. $30-70 an hour. Not even going to work because at that rate, it’s so hard to hand off a substantial amount of work because you start thinking of the cost and figure you should just do it yourself (even though you won’t have the time) and you never solve your problem.
Reluctantly, I tried Craiglist. Found someone and the rest is history.
Well, not really. Let me tell you what I’ve found because it’s exactly what I was looking for and I think it’s a perfect solution for many of us who need administrative assistance.
In my opinion, I think the best type of virtual assistant to find is someone educated, who worked, is driven, but wants (really wants) to be a stay at home mom, and needs something to keep her intellectually stimulated. A lot of my friends are in that boat and started their own businesses. Not everyone has the tenacity to do that, so the next best thing is someone who could, but doesn’t want to (or has been there and done that but would rather do something else).
We’re two weeks into it, and it’s working great. It’s a must to find someone who can work independently and has a pretty good computer with all the necessary software. We’re using instant messaging software to communicate throughout the day, along with sharing some of my FileMaker databases on a hosting service (she has a copy of FileMaker Pro as well). Last year, I set up all of my business related emails to run through a tech support/ ticket system, so I already had the infrastructure to have different users handle customer service related emails and website-based live chat. The missing link was to set up a call handling system, so that we could forward calls from the same number to either one of us, depending on the nature of the call or the time of the day.
I’m a firm believer in outsourcing (as mentioned before, I use a fulfillment center as well), not only because I don’t want to have employees unless absolutely necessary, but also because I don’t have the patience to train someone or deal with absences or turnover. I highly recommend that some of you who are in a similar position, and have a similar outlook, consider virtual assistance.
Once you get to a certain size, or number of virtual or outsourced workers, it does make sense to get a space and bring everything and everyone under one roof, but I’m not at that point yet.