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Tips for success when hiring a virtual assistant

Covid-19 has been the catalyst for a rapid growth in virtual business support needs and offerings. It’s brilliant! But be warned, it can also cause businesses to get burnt. 

 

What’s changed? The work landscape has changed beyond belief.

 

Prior to Covid-19 and being self-employed, I worked in a corporate role where I simply ‘couldn’t work from home more than 1 day a week’. And this was at a pretty progressive company as they ‘allowed’ most staff to work from home one day a week. But how quickly this attitude now seems archaic in the dramatically changing work landscape. 

The global pandemic has fundamentally changed the perception of remote work. There has been a seismic change in attitudes to the quality, value and efficacy of remote work and its ability to achieve the same results as the traditional ‘in office’ practice. 

These changing trends have had a strong and positive impact on the virtual business support industry. New businesses are popping up, businesses are diversifying their offerings and there is an increased uptake of services across the board. Even Seek has recently introduced ‘Work From Home’ as a location on the search engine, rather than just a filter. 

The world is on board for the remote office party. 

 

Evolving Perceptions

 

Pre Covid, there was a misconception that remote administration workers lacked skills and qualifications, or that all remote support was ‘dirt cheap’ and only supplied by poorly trained and even more poorly paid offshore workers. Fast forward to 2021 and clients delight in the expertise and experience our industry can add to their business. There is a broad and ever growing range of bespoke support options available to them, with experts available in every software or process imaginable. 

 

Changing Norms

 

In the ‘old’ working world, potential new clients often couldn’t fathom how virtual service offerings could work in practice. Now, it’s not about ‘how’ but ‘how soon can you start’. The small business world has opened up to the idea of remote contractors supporting their business. Businesses have realised they can engage experts, and simply pay for the hours needed. Small businesses no longer need the noose around their neck of a full time employee and their associated costs. 

New Habits

 

Nothing is a greater example of changing work practices, than the adoption of Zoom. Before Covid, I often had to explain to my clients what Zoom was and how it could be used. Now, even my aging parents know what Zoom is. Entering the public consciousness during the peak of the 2020 pandemic, Zoom recorded 200 million daily meetings in March 2020, increasing to 300 million daily meetings in April 2020. This is huge growth when you consider in December 2019, they were supporting just 10 million daily meetings. Zoom is now the backbone of the working world. 

 

For me personally, Covid-19 has presented vast business growth opportunities. 

 

There has been increased interest and conversions in my business. As a result I have scaled my team and now offer broader richer business support to a more diverse family of clients. This is a dream for me. 

 

But be warned. With an increase in chances inevitably comes chancers.  

 

There is always a catch, right? 

Unfortunately, perhaps as a result of unemployment or ‘being smart’ and capaitalising on a new trend, many ‘chancers’ are popping up. These individuals have limited experience, lack the appropriate skills and are often ‘winging it’. Sure, when people fall on hard times and need an income to support their family they will do anything. However, just because the ‘new normal’ has quickly just become ‘normal’, I don’t believe it means anyone and everyone can provide remote services. Business owners should still expect to hire someone who has relevant skills and can add measurable value to their business. They should be able to demonstrate past success and have a knowledge of the business’s problem and how to solve it.

My advice to you, if you are looking to hire virtual business support,  is to do your homework.

 

  1. Check potential hires out on Linked In. Have they gained relevant real-world work experience before starting their virtual business. Do they have recommendations from prior clients/co-workers? Do they have a professional photo? 
  2. Check out their website and socials. Have they put effort into their marketing? Sure, there will be exemplary individuals out there without these channels. But as a general guide, if most of this is missing, ultimately, so will their ability to help you! If they don’t have a website set up, it suggests they are just starting out, which of course we all need to do, but they may not be the right fit for your growing business at this time.
  3. Where possible, request examples of prior work, or request references. The Youtube generation is very good at finding out how to do anything, often at your expense!
  4. Need a specialist in a specific software? Don’t hire a generalist. There are virtual businesses for everything now, so find someone who lives and breathes that software and can show you how to get the most out of it.
  5. Don’t be blinded by price, you will pay in the long run. The age old saying of ‘if it’s too good to be true it probably is’ couldn’t be more relevant. Remember, price is what you pay, value is what you get. If you do opt to engage a lower price, ensure you request timesheets. If something only costs $30ph, but is taking 10 hours rather than the expected 2, you aren’t really winning!
  6. Communicate with potential hires a lot before committing. Communication style speaks volumes when hiring a remote worker. If they can’t be bothered with appropriate language,  grammar and manners in their first interactions with you, what care will they take with your business processes and communication with your valued clients. Also, they should be willing to invest time in a complimentary initial consultation with you, to understand your business needs and ascertain if you are a good fit. Rushed and pushy sales calls are not a good sign.
  7. When I am hiring new team members, I like to use somewhat tactical job advertisements. By including specific requests, anyone who doesn’t answer all those requests gets an instant cull. It is vital for a virtual contractor to have excellent attention to detail and be able to follow clear instructions. If they can’t do that in the hiring process, they won’t be adding the desired value to your business once they are onboard. 
  8. Try before you buy. Virtual support pricing and packages come in all different sizes. Avoid locking yourself into a costly retainer before you have even worked with your chosen person. Perhaps try a few casual hours, get a vibe for their work ethic, their output, their skill set. And go from there. 

Virtual support is the future

 

Before our lives got turned upside down by Covid-19, building a virtual team ‘sounded’ cool, but fast forward to today and it’s a necessity for businesses to survive in the current economic conditions. 

 

Not sure where to start with hiring virtual support? Flick me a message and I would be happy to point you in the right direction – no obligation. 

 

e: charlie@empiresupport.com.au

 

1 (Source: https://www.businessofapps.com/data/zoom-statistics/

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