Don't Do It Yourself

5 Questions to Ask Before You Hire a Virtual Assistant

Me and my HeadsetAs a business owner, sometimes things get a little overwhelming. When you look at all of the mundane tasks you are required to do, and when you think about how much time these tasks suck up, you start to feel bogged down.

One way you can get beyond these feelings, and free up more time, is to hire a virtual assistant. A virtual assistant can take on some of these tasks, which in turn can provide you with the valuable time you require to actually grow your business.

But you don't want to hire just any virtual assistant. You need to make sure that your virtual assistant is a good fit for you and your business. Here are 5 questions to ask potential virtual assistants before you make your final decision:

1. What are Your Normal Working Hours?

It's true that we often think of work at home professions as having erratic hours, but you might need an assistant with work hours that mesh with when you do most of your work. You also need to be aware of timezones. Make sure that you manage your V.A. in a way that takes into account time differences.

In some cases, such as when social bookmarking sites are involved, or when non-urgent emails are answered, the time issue isn't that important. But if your V.A. will be making phone calls and involved in scheduling, normal working hours matter.

2. How Do You Communicate?

Find out the best way to communicate with your V.A. Make sure you are on the same page, whether it's email or Skype. Also, if you foresee the occasional need for emergency communication, find out if it's ok to your V.A.'s phone number. At the very least, being able to send a quick text to set up an emergency phone call is important.

3. Will You Sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement?

It's really not fair to ask a V.A. or a freelancer to sign a non-compete agreement, but you can ask about a non-disclosure agreement. This type of agreement provides you with a degree of legal protection if your V.A. discloses information about you or your business. Don't hire a V.A. who won't agree to keep your secrets.

4. How Do You Charge?

Most virtual assistants charge by the hour. Confirm this, though, since some might work on retainer, charging a flat weekly or monthly rate. Also, find out how the V.A. tracks his or her hours. Ask about the tracking software, and how often you will be billed. Also make sure you understand what's included in the fees, and what tasks aren't included. You can ask to see the information in writing before you agree to anything.

5. Do You Have References?

Ask about current and past clients. Ask if it's ok for you to contact them for more information. Then follow up. You should also ask how many clients the V.A. has right now. If an assistant has a lot of clients, you might find yourself lost in the shuffle. Also, be wary of those who don't have very much experience if you need a specific skill set.

What questions would you ask a virtual assistant?