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How to Hire the Best Virtual Assistants for Your Agency and Grow

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Updated on:
February 18, 2024
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If you’ve ever had a rough patch at work, you’re not alone. Too much workload is the No. 1 cause of burnout at work, and UiPath has discovered that two-thirds of office workers believe repetitive tasks take up their day.

This might sound like your job as an agency owner or manager. You always have more data to analyze, leads to follow, and KPIs to track. But the minutiae of data entry or ensuring all the tasks are moving on schedule prevents you from focusing on doing what you love.

That’s where VAs for agencies (virtual assistants) come into play. They are extremely skilled professionals whose sole job is to make your life easier by offloading tasks you don’t have time or experience to perform quickly.

However, you may have had a negative experience trying to hire a VA online only to find that they couldn’t effectively do the job you asked. While that’s certainly a possibility, the reality is that there are close to 100,000 virtual assistant job openings on Ziprecruiter alone. That means that other agencies out there are actively looking for virtual assistants.

So, what makes this position so lucrative? Let’s find out.

VAs for Agencies: When Needs Must

Agencies need to juggle a lot of information. Clients. Reports. Current trends. Newest research. Even with the advancement in AI, a human is still required. They need to carefully comb through the information AI assistants spit out and create useful content for the company to use.

Let’s look at the most common needs of many agencies that a virtual assistant can perfectly slot into.

Calendar Management

At its core, the virtual assistant role is a somewhat natural extension—and evolution—of the traditional personal assistant role done in person. While a virtual assistant can’t fetch your coffee and dry cleaning, they can manage your day-to-day tasks pertinent to the business from afar. Take, for example, managing your calendar schedule, such as appointments, meetings, and travel arrangements.

With the advent of online apps that provide seamless calendar integration, such as Bonsai, you can give a VA access to your calendar and let them manage or schedule your team’s day according to your needs and member availability.

Communications

A virtual assistant can be an excellent bridge between your employees and clients. They can manage your business email account, ensuring you get forwarded the most pressing questions while removing all the spam you undoubtedly receive as a business. Additionally, if they are in a different time zone than you, they can give the impression of round-the-clock responses and answer your client’s queries or provide updates.

Organization

Keeping your files and documentation organized is a skill in itself. The advent of cloud storage means you can steadily digitize your critical company records. It also allows you to send digital versions of agency contracts to your clients and keep your project files on an online drive.

If you work on projects that require extensive collaboration between team members, a virtual assistant can keep track of document versions and store them separately for easy archiving.

Research and Reporting

One of the most critical parts of being a business owner is to have a solid business plan and clearly defined business goals. Without them, you risk making ambiguous moves that won’t grow your agency and can land you in financial trouble. In fact, poor planning and tracking are some of the most common reasons businesses fail within the first few years of their existence.

But, you often don’t have time to crunch the numbers on your projects and bookkeeping to determine whether you’re in the green and your agency KPIs are on track with your goals. Luckily, if you have highly efficient CRM and project management software, that information can usually be found somewhere in your databases. Then, all you have to do is have your VA input more necessary information based on the trends they can spot and compile them into a readable report.

Toss in the wonders of AI-assisted data processing, and you can save hours of your valuable time. VAs for agencies can be highly skilled and educated people. But you’ll need to set aside a larger budget for the role and more time to find the right fit for the company.

Proofreading and Project Finalization

Sometimes, all you need is a second pair of eyes to ensure that the projects you send out to clients are up to snuff. This is not a particularly resource-intensive task, but your mind might be set to different things. Having another person look over your materials can offer a different perspective and prevent errors from poking through your team’s work.

If you have a well-structured project pipeline—courtesy of software that tracks your tasks efficiently—you can create a comprehensive finalization checklist for your VA. They can go through and ensure all the client’s requirements are considered. Then, it’s just a matter of sending the finished product, and your agency has nailed yet another project.

Project Management

Properly managing your team’s projects is usually a full-time job on its own. It’s so important that 59% of project managers work on more than one project at a time, and 89% of organizations have a project management office.

If you’re a small agency, you likely don’t have the budget or the necessities for a full-time project management position. Luckily, you can find VAs for agency work who are skilled in management (sometimes even with a degree in the field you’re working in). They can work part-time for your business to ensure all team members are on the same page for every project you’re currently running.

Lead Generation

You might need a helping hand with trying to find the next big client that will take your agency into the mainstream. If your website is generating some traction, you can have your VA track down those leads and input all the relevant contact and company information in your CRM software. Once that’s done, you can let your sales team handle the rest.

Recruitment

When you make a new job ad on LinkedIn or other online job boards, you’re likely getting a lot of applications that don’t seem connected to the role you actually posted. If you don’t have the resources for a full-fledged HR department, you can have a virtual assistant comb through the applications. They’ll eliminate the chaff and create a database of promising applicants. You can also provide them with a rough job outline, and they can do some recruiting themselves or perform the initial screening test.

Additionally, once your VA has been with the team for longer, they will probably pick up the ins and outs of the company culture. They’ll understand the specific requirements for your roles that aren’t in the official job description. These VAs can be effective advocates for your business and ensure that you get the talent that will mesh with both the technical and cultural aspects of your company.

Product Testing

If you’re trying out new advertising agency project management software, it’s often a great idea to test out all of its features. This is especially important before fully committing and getting all your team members on board. To avoid the productivity loss of having your employees get acquainted with a system you might not even use, you can test the software with a virtual assistant. They will be able to report whether features work as intended and how well the tool handles collaboration (hint: Bonsai is excellent at it).

Then, when you do preliminary testing, your VA can help you sort out any integration issues and provide more curated assistance and training for your team members. This frees up your time to ensure that the new system operates well and doesn’t interrupt your existing project pipelines if they are being transferred over.

Social Media Marketing

Not having a social media presence in the digital era is one of the biggest mistakes you can make as a business. But, you might not have all the know-how to operate the newest “in” social media platform. Luckily, plenty of VAs for agency work are skilled and experienced in social media marketing and are there to help.

You can offload most of the social media and website outreach work to them and stick to what your team does best: helping your clients get results.

E-Commerce Assistance

If your agency is running an active e-commerce platform, then you will need to keep a close eye on inventory and product listings to ensure that people can find your products and buy them. With the state of e-commerce in constant flux, you need a dedicated person to analyze the market and ensure that your products are on the top webpage results.

VAs can also handle customer service, especially if you make use of the fact that they live in a different timezone and can respond when the rest of your team is out.

How to Find VAs for Agency Work

There are a few main routes to take when sourcing a new VA for your agency:

  • Job advertisement boards (LinkedIn, Indeed, ZipRecruiter, Glassdoor)
  • “Gig” boards (Upwork, Fiverr, Toptal, Jooble, People Per Hour, etc.)
  • Social media
  • Virtual assistant and outsourcing agencies

Each approach comes with its own set of benefits and challenges to overcome.

Job advertisement boards are perhaps the most “traditional” method of finding a new virtual assistant. However, most job boards are tailored to the U.S. market, with LinkedIn’s remote work job description options being a bit lacking. If you want to find a native U.S. virtual assistant to ensure you’re in roughly the same time zone, it’s one of the best options to go. As a bonus, most boards have a streamlined and heavily regulated application process that can immediately flag the best candidates and simplify recruiting.

Gig and freelancer websites are perhaps the first thing that comes to mind when you want to hire people outside of your country. Most of the popular websites have plenty of people ready and willing to be a virtual assistant for you. Their scoring, ranking, and review systems can give you a glimpse into their work even before you hit that “Contact” button.

Still, there’s no real screening system in place to ensure that you’re getting a great candidate, so you might end up spending a few weeks trying one VA after another. On the flip side, newer freelancers are more willing to work for less money if they don’t have a developed profile to get into the field.

Social media screening follows a similar pattern to word-of-mouth recommendations. You might be able to get a rockstar VA through some of your acquaintances. But, chances are most of the people you know are not going to let go of their VA if they can help it. Instead, they are more likely to give you hints on who not to hire.

Lastly, there’s the option of working with a virtual assistant agency. It’s one of the most consistent options since agencies keep close tabs on all the VAs that work with them. They can also more readily recommend people who match your business needs. Agencies do take a cut of the profit, so the VAs hired through an agency will likely cost you more than if you were to find an independent freelancer.

While this might make it seem an unattractive option if you’re on a budget, keep in mind that good agencies usually have a proven track record for a reason. Their pool of talent is also much deeper than what you’ll be able to chance upon on gig sites.

In the end, it’s all about the budget you have for the role and the needs of your company. The responsibilities of VAs for agency work can vary greatly. So, it might be a bit challenging to find the perfect fit on your first try if you go the independent route. But, if you clearly outline the job requirements and invest a bit of time into getting to know each other, it can be a worthwhile investment.

Should You Hire U.S. or Foreign VAs?

There’s an ongoing debate on the pros and cons of hiring foreign virtual assistants compared to using native Americans to do the work.

The most commonly cited benefit of foreign VAs for agency work is that they are, on average, much cheaper than their U.S. counterparts. If you are diligent in finding an independent freelancer, you can pay as little as $2 per hour for a foreign VA from the Philippines. This figure is a bit of an outlier, but you’ll usually need to spend less than $10 an hour on non-specialized VA work from a foreign country. This is a fraction of the minimum wage in the U.S. and is only made possible by other countries having drastically lower living costs.

However, this doesn’t mean that virtual assistants from other countries are not as good as native Americans. In fact, over half of them have a university degree and often have additional skills that make them highly sought after.

As an added benefit, if you hire a virtual assistant from across the globe, they will have different working hours than you. If your business needs don’t demand full cooperation with other team members in real time, a virtual assistant can answer urgent client requests in the off-hours. Ultimately, this means keeping your business running throughout the day.

Other countries also usually have different holidays from the U.S. So, a foreign VA—for example, from the Philippines—can keep track of your projects while the rest of your team is on holiday. They ensure to stay in touch with your international clients when the rest of the office is closed.

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On the flip side, you may run into timing issues if your agency needs to have a virtual assistant online with the rest of your team. While remote work lends itself to keeping odd hours well, it’s not a sustainable business model for many people. You may end up paying a foreigner more if you require them to work at night.

Also, while most countries have adopted English as the business language of choice, not all VAs are highly proficient at it. They may fail to spot some nuances of the language that natives are used to. Consequently, you may encounter a communication barrier that can slow down your work and prevent you from purveying industry-specific concepts to an untrained VA.

Tips for Finding the Best VAs for Agency Work

If you have decided that hiring a VA is the right fit for your company’s needs at the moment, here are some tips to make the process smoother.

1. Clearly Outline Your Goals

If you give the VA a blanket statement on what they’re supposed to do in the company, it’s more likely to confuse them. Your other team members may also be unsure about who’s responsible for what part of the task. Create a defined list of tasks or assignments the assistant should complete or participate in. In addition, it helps to communicate their responsibilities to the rest of the team so you’re on the same page.

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2. Document Your Work

Even the best VA in the world won’t be able to help you much if you don’t have a good project management system in place. Without a proper platform for documenting your daily tasks and clear collaboration tools, a VA will spend much of their time figuring out what to do. Ultimately, this will cost you more money.

3. Make a Contract

A virtual assistant usually handles important company information, so it’s important to protect your company’s privacy with a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) and confidentiality clause. Even if you’re inexperienced in contract law, you can look up contract samples and see how you might need to change them to suit your needs.

4. Invest Some Time in Training

While a virtual assistant usually doesn’t do the kind of high-stakes work your star employees do, they are still a vital part of the company. Don’t skimp out on training them on proper project documentation procedures, or you might be setting both them and your company back.

5. Don’t Be Afraid to Cut Ties

While you might get lucky and land a great VA for your agency on the first try, the process can sometimes take a while. Even if you work with an agency, the person they initially send might not meet your team’s requirements. It would help if you started off slower with a few test tasks before giving the new hire more responsibility. If things are not working out, it might be better to end things early and start looking for a new VA.

6. Use Collaboration Software

The easiest way to ensure your new team member is on the right track is to have a unified project management platform. That’s where Bonsai comes in. With the ability to track your client relations, tasks, schedules, and even bookkeeping and invoices, Bonsai is a holistic job management solution to grow your business. You can give your new VA access to your client and project boards and help you coordinate the team. It’s also possible to assign projects to the assistant directly through the platform and keep track of their billable hours.

You can start with a 7-day free trial on Bonsai today and get your new VA onboarded in minutes.

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