A Step by Step Guide to Hiring a Virtual Assistant for Your eCommerce BusinessDecember 12, 2018 - Holly Cardew
As you grow and scale your eCommerce business, you’ll realize you are probably doing a variety of tasks that are extremely monotonous and you could be doing better things with your time. Such tasks include maintenance of your website, processes, reporting, scheduling or reordering products. Often, these jobs do not require a particularly high level of creativity or out-of-the-box thinking, they are process driven. These repetitive tasks like this can be delegated.
The best way to free up and focus your time on the growth and strategy of your business is to hire a virtual assistant or virtual employee to complete these process-driven tasks.
Yes, in the beginning, you will feel that you are not as productive as you want to be because you will be focused on training someone up, however, this is a huge investment in yourself and your business, not just now, but for the future too.
In this guide, we’re going to walk you through exactly how you can plan, source, and hire the perfect virtual assistant for your eCommerce business.
Why you should delegate tasks to a Virtual Assistant
As a business owner, you only have so much bandwidth.
You may pride yourself on multitasking but by dividing your attention across so many things, you risk suffering from exhaustion, and eventually, burnout.
Even if some tasks come second nature to you, say, responding to customer queries or coordinating shipments, you’ll find growing your business a much better use of your energy than mundane duties.
Instead of expending your time on repetitive tasks, you can hire a virtual assistant or a remote employee to lend you a helping hand. That way, you’ll be able to transfer a huge chunk of your to-do list to them, allowing you the time to concentrate on the more critical aspects of your business, like coming up with more revenue-earning strategies and improving marketing campaigns.
What is a Virtual Assistant (VA) and what can they do for your eCommerce store?
A virtual assistant (VA) is a remote team member who specializes in handling administrative tasks. They are similar to an executive assistant or a secretary, except that they do the bulk of their work online.
A lot of Virtual Assistants are generalists, so you can trust that they’re skilled in doing things like processing orders, managing inventory, making and answering calls, and all sorts of clerical work.
There are also VAs that specialize in a specific niche, like marketing or SEO. For example, a marketing VA is well-versed in blog writing, social media management, and video editing, so you can assign them a slew of marketing-related duties, but not administrative tasks.
Most Virtual Assistants are freelancers or self-employed, so a lot of them take on multiple clients at the same time. Depending on your mutual agreement, you can work with a VA for as little as an hour or two per day or as much full time. It all depends on the tasks that you need them for.
How much does a Virtual Assistant cost
As with everything, you get what you pay for.
Virtual assistants vary in the way they charge their services, and you’ll find that it’s usually commensurate to their experience. Newbie VAs tend to charge lower, and more often than not, more experienced VAs demand higher wages.
It also depends on how they charge. A lot of VAs prefer charging by the hour, but there are some who opt to charge per task or per project. For repetitive administrative tasks, it might be a better option to pay by the hour so you can expect quality output.
With that being said, VAs charge anywhere from $4 to $100+ per hour (USD). If you have the patience to search high and low for a VA that can cater to the tasks you need them to do, you will undoubtedly find one that can adhere to your budget. Just keep in mind that these people have overhead costs, too. Like you, they also pay for equipment and services like their internet connection, a laptop, electricity, etc., so you also have to consider that when negotiating a rate.
1. Create a list of tasks that can be outsourced
Prior to even starting your VA hunt, you first have to settle on what you’re actually willing to outsource. Ask yourself, where you could use the extra manpower in your business?
Perhaps you need someone to answer customer queries, or maybe you want to hand over the task of bookkeeping to someone else. If you’re having trouble listing down tasks, you can first start with the ones that are repetitive. So any recurring duties you have on the computer or on the phone can be handed off.
Here is a possible list of tasks that you could delegate to a virtual assistant or virtual employee:
- Customer service
- Cold calling
- Processing orders and sending invoices
- Coordinating shipments
- Managing inventory levels and ordering new products
- Accounting and bookkeeping
- Formatting and uploading blog posts and newsletters
- Social media management
- Email newsletters
- eCommerce store maintenance
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
- Graphic design
- Data entry
Related: If you need more information on Instagram marketing for your eCommerce business click here. You can give this guide to your virtual employee.
2. Pick the platform to promote the role
There are a number of platforms you can use to find your next virtual assistant. They all specialize in different areas depending on the type of work you are looking for.
Freelancer allows you to post a job, and have freelancers from a wide variety of roles bid for the job you’ve posted.
Cloud peeps is a platform that works with experienced freelancers; they have ‘peeps’ in a wide variety of roles focusing on digital marketing.
Zirtual specializes in connecting employers with U.S based Virtual Assistants.
Online Jobs PH is a great way to connect with a freelancer in the Philippines.
Upwork is a great way to source new talent in a variety of roles, and you are able to manage payroll through their time-tracking app.
Look at your needs for your business to help decide which platform, and the candidates within, are most likely to meet your needs.
3. Create a job description
Once you have decided on the tasks you would like your virtual assistant to complete, create your perfect job description.
It’s important that you have a well-written and specific job description before finding a VA. After all, a Virtual Assistant is almost like an employee, so treat the hunt as if you’re hiring a member of your team. A good job description is key to finding the right fit. Make sure you include the following:
- Tasks that need to be achieved every week – The more detailed you can be the better
- List of software and tools they will be using to complete the tasks – This could include Google Drive, Dropbox, Email, social media planning tools, eCommerce platforms etc.
- Hours expected to work each week and what time – You may want them online at a particular time. You should state this.
Quick tip: I always include a random task or question at the end of the job description to make sure that they have actually read it. This can be as simple as “reply with a smiley face in the first line of your application”.
Here is a sample job description template you can use to look for your next assistant:
We are looking for a proactive virtual assistant to help run and manage [insert what you need help with here] at [insert brand / eCommerce store name].
Your weekly tasks will include:
- [task one]
- [task two]
- [task three]
- Have fun
You should have knowledge of [enter skills here], be comfortable using software such as [insert tools here] as well as be fluent in English (verbal and written).
In the first line of your application, please tell us what 4+3 is. If you do not respond to this question, you will not be considered, as we will assume that you have not read the job description.
Looking forward to hearing from you! 🙂
By creating a clear and concise job description, you can ensure that you will attract applicants who are right for the job and be able to weed out the ones who are not.
4. Post the position and review applicants
Now you have chosen the platform and have your job description, you are ready to post and review the applicants.
On freelancing platforms, many candidates will simply copy and paste the same application text to as many positions as possible. Avoid these applications, and focus on the applicants who have taken the time and consideration to create a unique message specifically to you. After all, you want someone who has attention to detail.
This attention to detail and a true drive to be the right candidate for your posting will shine through, as you will be working with an applicant who is truly motivated to join your team.
In this example, you can see that the applicant clearly read the post, and applied with the necessary information.
You can quickly delete any applicant who has not answered the quick question you put into the post.
Quick tip: Much of the best talent will not be actively looking for a job because they are already working. You should also invite people to apply to your job.
5. Interview candidates to find the right team member
After reading through the applications you received, you should have a list of 2-4 candidates that you want to interview.
A 15-minute initial call is sufficient to find out if the person is the right fit for your business. You can conduct these calls via Google Hangouts or Skype.
Quick tip: Provide an exact time you want the call and see what time they turn up. Are they early, on time or late. Even by 1-2 minutes, this shows they are not prepared.
Key questions you’ll want to ask the applicant before moving forward are:
Have you worked in this type of environment before?
This will help you understand if the applicant is experienced in the role that you are looking for, or if they will need more help and training.
Please note that sometimes people may have not had experience but they are quick learners.
What are your career aspirations?
This is a key question to ask for multiple reasons. First, you want to hire a virtual assistant who is hoping to progress in their career in an area similar to the role you are hiring for. If they are interested in progressing, they will be more motivated to learn how to excel in their role and exceed expectations.
Additionally, this is a great question to ask your virtual assistant, to show them that you’re interested in getting to know them as a person. By asking them about their goals, you show that you are invested in them having a great experience when they join your team. If you choose to hire this person, you’ll have the knowledge to help them progress in their career, so they are less likely to leave for other opportunities.
What do you do in your spare time?
This is a great way to get to know someone and see if they are the right cultural fit with your business.
You will find that people who are entrepreneurial or do something to sell a product or make money in their spare time, tend to be more proactive and independent to sort issues out when they don’t know how to do something.
What are your strengths?
This is a great way to find out if the applicant applied to the position because they are truly interested in the role, or if they are simply looking to find work.
If you like the applicant, but they happen to have a skill set that is outside what you are looking for in the role, you can consider other options. You may be able to find another area of your business that this particular person could assist with.
If you are hiring for a customer facing role, you’ll also want to monitor the interview to see how friendly they come across in conversation and how comfortable they are in.
When you’re hiring someone to interact with your customers, their level of enthusiasm during the call will reflect how they will speak to your customers too.
More questions to ask:
- What is your preferred method of communication?
- What timezone are you in and what is your availability?
- What are your core skills?
- What will you do in a situation wherein you may not know how to complete a task?
6. Giving the candidate a trial run
Before diving in head first to give your virtual assistant a complete orientation, you may want to start them off with a simple trial task. Starting a new hire with a trial task is a great way to get a feel for how you two will work together.
You can opt to have the virtual assistant complete a specific task by a certain deadline or give them 1-2 weeks to perform a number of set tasks. Do let the applicant know that this is a trial period, and keep communication with them high so they are aware of how they’re performing. If the applicant falls short of meeting deadlines, or cannot do the work to your expectations, it is best to go back to the drawing board and interview more candidates.
Training new employees can be expensive and time-consuming, so by providing trial tasks, you’ll be able to ensure that you are investing your time into an employee that you see staying with your company for some time.
7. Training your new virtual assistant
Training is an essential part of cultivating an amazing relationship with your virtual assistant and also making sure that they are set up to succeed in the business.
Videos are a great way to quickly train new hires. You can create training videos with Screenflow, an inexpensive tool that allows you to record actions on the computer.
Training videos allow your new hire to go back and view it if they need to refresh their memory and make sure that they are completing tasks accurately.
In situations where you may want to share your computer screen to work through issues together you can screen share with your virtual assistant by using Google Hangouts screen sharing feature, or Join.me which is a free tool for video conferencing and screen share.
Create separate training guides for the unique tasks you would like the virtual assistant to complete so they have a thorough understanding of how to execute their work exactly as you would like it done. If necessary, create a weekly schedule that the virtual assistant can follow to stay on top of deadlines.
8. Nurture the ongoing working relationship
It is important to keep your virtual assistant engaged with your company mission, vision, and values.
Virtual assistants often work from home, so they can become disengaged if you do not make the effort to include them in your company culture. Aim to meet with your assistant on a regular basis to keep them included in the direction of your company, help them feel encouraged to do a great job, and provide them a relationship with you and the rest of your team.
By doing this, you form a culture that helps even remote employees feel connected and helps virtual staff feel welcome to ask for help when they need it.