Yet another Spark Bits Weekly where I ask a panel of homepreneurs a blazing question about running and growing their businesses from home.
Today’s Q is:
Have you hired any virtual experts or assistants to help you run your business? What should a person consider when hiring help?
Stephanie Watson from Barry Publishing says:
Two years ago I grew faster than I could keep up with and attempted to outsource work. But I found that the people I outsourced to 99 percent of the time were late, or could not be counted on. Plus, I had issues with clients paying me on time. Unfortunately, since I live a credit free life, this meant my contractors were paid late too. Due to this, I stepped back and looked at my business and decided that I would do all the writing myself and not try to grow so big. I fired everyone. Writers, VAs and clients.
I needed a steady income, and not a big business. So, I eliminated half my client base by resigning anyone who had topics I could not write on my own, or involved VA work that I did not want to do. I eliminated anyone who had unreasonable expectations of my time, or sucked up a lot unpaid time from me with phone calls they did not want to be billed for, and/or clients who did not pay me on time regularly. I was relentless. I kept only clients whom I love, who loved me, and who respected my time and paid me on time.
What should a person consider when hiring help?
Fast-forward to today. I have built my business past the level I was when I stepped back. I still do 80 percent of the writing myself. I have found a great writer who happens to be my daughter, and a terrific VA who is my other wonderful daughter (I have four, I could run an empire, if they’d all get in on it). I outsource graphics to an outside firm, and she’s great. I regularly turn down work that’s not right for me, and do not work with the wrong people anymore. Or, if I find myself with the wrong person, I end the contract sooner now. During this process, I have learned that some of the issues with outsourcing have to do with several factors and half the time it’s the person doing the outsourcing who is the problem, and I include myself in this equation.
When outsourcing ask yourself these questions
- Do you have a reasonable system in place?
- Do you know what you want the contractor to do?
- Are you willing to pay a reasonable rate for the work and skill level required?
- Do you pay on time?
- Do you understand the person you’re outsourcing to is not your employee, but is a business owner with other clients and a life?
- Do you expect last moment work, without paying extra for the privilege? (Tip: If you need last moment work you need to hire a full time employee.)
- Do you have policies and procedures in place that the VA or other contractor can look to when there are issues?
The largest issues on this list are the first two. With three not far behind. If you don’t have a system in place and you are not clear on what you want the contractor to do, then they cannot do their job reasonably.
For example, my job is supplying content, but so often someone will sign a contract with me and have no idea what they want me to write. I do offer a service where I also decide what to write, but they typically do not pick that service. As a contractor, I can’t do my job if the client doesn’t know what it is that they want me to do. And, if they have no system in place, or a really difficult time sucking system, and aren’t willing to use mine, it will make it hard too.
Plus, pay on time. Your contractor might not admit it, but if you don’t pay them on time they might not be able to buy milk. I have been very guilty of also wanting to hire contractors, but have no idea what I want them to do. I have also paid contractors late, due to my clients paying me late, and it was just not a good system at all. It’s not a good way to run a business.
It’s really not the contractor’s job to wait for you to get your money before you pay them. If you don’t pay fair rates, and you don’t have a system in place, and regular work, the contractor is naturally going to move on to greener pastures and put you on the back burner. It may not seem right or fair, but that’s how it works. People need to do the work they do in order to earn a living to take care of their family. Before contracting with anyone consider that they are a human being first, contractor second. Treat them how you wish to be treated. If you wouldn’t put up with it, don’t ask them to.
Cindy Bidar from The Educated VA says:
As a virtual assistant myself, I’m a huge fan of bringing in experts to help your business grow. I have hired writers, graphics people and developers in the past, and I also hire and manage team members for some of my clients.
The best tips I have when it comes to hiring a virtual service provider
- Be very clear about what you need. If you’re not sure what you need or what can be outsourced, it might be helpful to work with a consultant to make those decisions first. Then you’ll be better able to find the right virtual assistant for you.
- Ask for referrals. Colleagues and fellow business owners are a great resource for finding top-notch service providers.
- Start with a trial project. Don’t just jump right in for 20 hours per month and access to your entire business without a test run first. A small project will give you a good idea about whether you’ll be a good fit to work together long-term.
- Schedule a short phone interview. For project-based work this probably isn’t so important, but if you intend to work with someone long-term, it’s very helpful to chat by phone or Skype for 15 minutes or so, just to get to know each other a little better.
Should I Hire A Virtual Assistant?
I remember feeling way in over my head (although excited) about the task of running Sparkplugging. From managing all the blogs on the network to the learning curve and my expanding ‘to dos,’ I frequently thought about what it would be like if I could just hire a team to help me. In fact, as I am writing this I can think of 25 things I have to do or could be working on to run my business.
When I first started researching and settled on an online marketing business, I offered to pay my sister to help me iron out my content plan, proofread and promote on social media. She agreed but shortly after, was offered another opportunity from her old job that she just couldn’t pass up. I was crushed but understood. I didn’t trust any of the outsourcing sites to make an attempt to hire someone else. So, I continued to work on my launch. Then, Sparkplugging became available. I felt that because it was already up and running, it could buy me some time.
Buying time, I feel, is the essence of hiring assistance. There is only so much you can do if you plan on growing your business and if you just don’t have the necessary skills to attend to certain tasks. For me, technology is that skill I am just not good at. Therfore, I did hire someone for tech support to help me maintain my sites. The peace of mind and time I would have spent figuring things out is just priceless.
But hiring virtual staff or outsourcing contractually can also pose some challenges. Things like unreliability, less than ideal quality of work, turnover, legal aspects (depending on where you live) and beyond – You might find yourself treating more headaches than getting real work done. It’s no wonder why the Sparkplugging panel offered some solid and concrete tips for hiring a virtual service. Planning carefully can ease the process although it’ll still take some fine tuning when you are just starting out.
When you think of the grand scheme business tasks needed to keep your business running and your sanity intact, it’s well worth looking into. I think circumstances and priorities are different for you and me. But, I also think sometimes it’s just a matter of knowing you can ‘move the needle’ if you could focus more time on the things you’re good at and love to do so that you can actually have a home-based business you enjoy running.