The Ultimate Guide to Hiring, Managing, and Firing Virtual Assistants
21 min read
As an employee who has had to hire, manage and discipline employees at previous jobs, I’ve gained experience in how to manage and deal with that as a leader. I’ve also learned and experienced how to fire a virtual assistant which is something every employer will have to do at some point in their careers. I wanted to create an ultimate guide to managing and letting go of virtual assistants for new employers to begin building their dream team of employees!
Unfortunately, sometimes there’s a point where you need to know how to fire a virtual assistant. When I ran into this problem, there wasn’t a definitive guide on how to do so amicably, and I learned on my own how to do so without disrupting future endeavors or burning bridges.
I also decided to include in this post ALL that you need to know from where to find them, how to hire them, how to manage and be a good leader, and – alas, how to fire a virtual assistant!
What are Virtual Assistants?
What they are
Wikipedia defines a virtual assistant (VA) to be a self-employed person who gives professional administrative, technical or creative assistants to clients remotely.
This is true!
They are people that simple work from home, often managing their own virtual assistant business by providing clients with the ability to complete whatever tasks they need done in their own business.
What they are not
The word “virtual assistant” can bring to mind a lot of things if you aren’t sure exactly what they are or haven’t experienced working with them. The first thing people tend to think of (at least in the US this seems to be a misconception) is some sort of tiny hot, muggy closet where we are keeping people against their will to work for us.
Fortunately, that’s not the case! VA’s are genuine, real hard-working people who really want to do the best for their clients, and often are simply wanting to work from home just like we do to be closer with family, avoid the commute – all things that we do as well.
Why outsourcing isn’t shady
The second thing that comes to mind when people think of virtual assistants is that we are robbing them of their rightful pay. Let’s take a lesson in economics here for a moment.
The average pay of a minimum wage worker in the United States is $7.25. Virtual assistants range from different countries around the world, which means that their country’s minimum wage is going to be vastly different around the world.
The Philippines is a common country used by US workers to hire from. According to minimum-wage.org, their approximate yearly minimum wage is $2053 US Dollars.
For every one USD, there are 52.44 PHP (Philippine Piso’s). This means that for each PHP, it is $0.019. Crazy, right? You’d think we are vastly underpaying our VA’s.
Fortunately, this isn’t true. Their economy is completely separate than ours, allowing us both to benefit. The virtual assistants are working for their money just as hard as we work for ours in our country. The only difference: The country’s economy.
So, when you are ready to tell your inner circle that you’ve hired a virtual assistant, expect them to balk, but then hop in and let them know that you are not being unfair and taking advantage of them! After all, you don’t get to decide the dollar amounts between countries. If you were to travel to Mexico, you would accept the difference between the money, and would likely not go around paying the US dollar amount to your restaurant waiters.
What are some advantages to using VA’s?
They take on tasks that you don’t have time for anymore as an entrepreneur
You don’t have enough time in the day to respond to all of your Facebook comments, keep track of all of the emails, or to spearhead new projects before they have officially been vetted. This is why VA’s exist!
If you choose a Filipino VA, they speak English and it’s easy to communicate
The reason why we commonly use VA’s from the Philippines is that the native language is English and it’s easy for them to understand more complicated tasks such as lead sourcing.
VA’s reduce your labor costs
I definitely couldn’t afford to hire a virtual assistant at $8+ per hour. The tasks that I would be hiring for would cause me to go out of business in no time flat!
They run by themselves!
You can get a VA to work with you on your time, or let them work on their own time. Some VA bosses prefer to do all of their work during the day, and allow their employee to do things during their time (in the evening in the US). This can be beneficial because you can have certain things completed by the time you are awake and ready to work again. Some supervisors do it opposite – and require that their VA’s are awake during US working business hours. It just depends on what kind of work needs done and what works best for you.
You can step back and work ON your business and not IN it
This is important! You need to be able to outsource your work as quickly as you can in order to scale any business.
You don’t need to hire an expensive company to do marketing, graphic design, social media review, research, lead sourcing, etc
Find what you are weakest at in your business and hire someone to do it for you! Taking the time to learn what you are needing done may be detrimental to your business and may be too time-consuming to do. Think about this before you invest in learning whatever it is you are currently focused on.
What are some disadvantages?
Depending on where your VA lives, the time difference may need some premeditated planning to get over this hurdle. As mentioned above, you could either:
- Plan to have them work during their own time, if that’s what they would prefer, and have your finished results waiting for you by morning.
- Plan to hire a VA that can work during US office business hours, to get your customers taken care of, and allow direct open communication with them during the workday.
As each VA may have their own language that they speak, it’s easier to go ahead and hire a VA that speaks your native language. We hire from the Philippines in order to solve this problem, since they speak English fluently in that country. However, you can still run into small snags while communicating.
The key is to be patient, and make sure to word your tasks with very clear instructions, simple statements, and avoid using descriptive jargon or idioms (a nonliteral expression of an idea) that may be culture-specific such as “lets touch base next week” or “back to the drawing board” (unless you’re really using a whiteboard to brainstorm with your VA)!
It may take a few tries to find one that works for you
Your hiring process needs to be spot on when you are looking for a virtual assistant. Have you ever heard the saying that employees don’t quit jobs, they quit bosses? This is what you want to keep in mind when hiring. Make sure that you get the right results and test your applicants before you hire them (scroll down to the hiring section of this post to discover how to do this).
I was very lucky in that the very first VA I hired was perfect for what I was doing, and he has been with me for over a year now! I’m so thankful to have him and wouldn’t know what I would do without him! I attribute this to my professionalism during the hiring process, and a little bit of luck 😉
You may still end up hiring someone that just simply doesn’t work out
That is unfortunately just part of the process. Cut your losses and move on to find the right VA for you.
You can’t ensure that they are working
To solve this problem, you can either use a screen capturing tool, a company that does that for you (such as Upwork) or simply trust that they will do the work and return the results to you. If you aren’t seeing results, you know to look into the issue further, just like any other employer at any other company. I encourage you not to worry so much about this and focus on other areas of your business instead. Although part of your new job after hiring a VA is to manage, you don’t want to micromanage. After all, that is why you hired them – to take some things off of your plate, right? 😊
What to do before you hire a VA
You need to lay the groundwork before you hire your VA
- What role will they play?
- What tasks will they complete?
- When will they work?
- How much will you pay them?
- Will you pay them bonuses or other benefits?
- What happens in an emergency if they can’t work?
You’ll also need to create a training process so that they can go back and read or find the answers to their questions when they are still learning the process.
Write up a hiring process
Create a hiring structure and org chart
It’s important to have an org chart. This way, they will get to know and learn how valuable they are as a cog in the machine you call your business.
This can help improve their workload by giving them importance to their work and allowing them to make decisions based on particular hurdles they may run into (instead of going to you, they can direct their question to Susan who runs the second process in the org chart).
HOW TO DO THIS: You can make this as simple as drawing it out on a whiteboard or paper and sending it over, or you can make it more professional by using a graphics editing software such as Canva, or a colorful mind map.
Paying your VA
Pay starting rate for virtual assistants
The starting rate of pay seems to be a bit controversial. I have heard that some people start their VA’s off at $1.50 an hour, while Upwork requires a starting wage of $3.00. Often, you will be hard-pressed to find a VA that will accept less than $3 an hour, especially if you are using a freelancing company, as the VA may have to pay the fees out of their wages to use that company.
A lot of times on the hiring sites, you will see that the VA states their starting wage to be $5+/hour. I think $5/hour is an average rate. I prefer to start with at least $3 an hour, and as the difficulty of the task goes up, the more you should pay them.
As such, if your VA is doing well and exceeding your expectations, you should be increasing their wage during review times.
Pay structure and bonuses
Next, you need to determine the pay structure.
You don’t need to pass this information along to your VA, in fact, I encourage you to not do so as a business best practice.
However you do need to know how often you want to give them a raise, how much of a raise, and if you plan on giving them any holiday pay, vacation PTO, and any extras in between.
I recommend giving holiday pay for those important holidays.
In fact, I asked my VA to give me all of the holidays that he would prefer to take off and list them in order of importance.
Since he is part-time and I allow him to schedule his own hours, he gets to make sure he has that time off for his family.
I am aware of these, and make sure that I don’t make any project due dates coincide with these, out of respect for him and his family.
It’s important to note that you need to know the culture in the country that you are hiring.
For example, the Philippines has something called the 13th Month. This is a mandatory obligation that companies have to pay their employees.
It is essentially paying your employee one extra months’ worth of pay. Head on over to EComparemo to calculate a pro-rated amount for your 13th Months pay.
Making sure your VA gets paid
Make sure to determine how they are going to get paid.
Services such as Upwork do this automatically, while other VA supervisors tend to use Paypal and pay their employee every week, or every two weeks.
Be sure to settle this up front in your hiring process as well.
In case your VA has an emergency and can’t work
In your training documents, you will want to include a stipulation for them to follow if they have a computer or PC emergency, any natural disasters, or personal health emergencies.
Often in the Philippines, they may have strong hurricanes or storms that knock out their internet for days on end. If your VA suddenly seems to drop off the face of the planet, consider this before you let them go.
They may not have a choice and likely feel very bad about not being able to get back with you. Be patient and give them some time to get back with you.
My recommendation for this stipulation in their training documents is to tell them to contact you right away with what happened, and when they expect to return back to work.
Write up training documents
Now you should start to write up your training process.
The easiest way to go about this is to write a list of tasks that you would like them to complete.
Then, start going through the processes and writing down the exact steps you follow.
Programs to use to write training documents
You can use Google Docs to do this, or systems like Process Street or Asana for checklists. You will want to add as many photos as possible to get your message across while documenting your training processes using a screen capture program such as Greenshot or the Snipping Tool included on Windows. Macs have a built-in screen capture keyboard shortcut to do this.
The other option is to create videos for your training processes. The disadvantage to using video training is that if they need to find a quick answer, they will have to click around to find the right answer. My suggestion is that you choose only a few videos to do, to avoid that problem. A good free tool to use is the Screencast Chrome Extension. The free trial lets you record up to 10 minutes at a time.
If you document and write down your businesses training processes, you can use the template over and over to train other new employees that you add to your team! Do this very well, and you only have to do it once!
The Hiring Process for Virtual Assistants
Where to find Virtual Assistants
You can find places to hire Virtual Assistants on Facebook groups, Fiverr, Upwork or Onlinejobs.ph. There are also a lot of bloggers that use virtual assistants, and if you are a part of a blogging group, you could opt to post in a community, who likely knows someone that is hiring or a company to refer you to.
- Virtual Assistants Facebook Group
- Virtual Assistant Tribe Job Board: https://www.facebook.com/groups/275348265972185/
- VA for Hire and Pinterest-Friendly Content for Bloggers
Pro: You have a community to rely on, with many options available to you
Con: You have no way of vetting any of their past work or seeing any true ratings by past employers
Pro: You can see a sellers cancellation policy to see how happy the customers are
Con: Strict terms in not talking with your VA outside of Fiverr. If you find a good VA, it’s likely that you won’t be able to move outside of Fiverr to stay in contact with them.
Pro: Free for you. The payment system is automatic – set it and forget it. Easy to give bonuses, you can see their work history and their chat system is fairly versatile.
Con: Fees for your VA each time the payment goes through – a percentage goes to Upwork themselves for the service
Onlinejobs.ph – monthly subscription
Pro: You only have to pay once, and then the VA is all yours, without any hindering from the service itself after hiring.
Con: If you are looking for one VA, there is a monthly subscription. You will need to pay one month and then cancel your subscription. However, there are no fees taken out because you have to pay the VA on your own terms, likely through Paypal. This can be a pro or a con, depending on how you look at it. Upwork, for example, charges fees to the VA for using the Upwork service.
For what your job description should look like, the interview process, your test task to your applicants and the onboarding process, head on over to this article here
How to Manage Your Virtual Assistants
Here are some tips for managing and working with your VA:
Be gentle and patient
Try to give a few tasks at a time, or if they struggle with English, one task at a time, to avoid confusion. Use clear communication and don’t use language or euphemisms that they may not understand.
Take the time to learn the cultural differences
Do some Googling just to learn about their culture. I think a lot of times it’s hard to understand their world because we are so into our own world.
Taking the time to learn what their work culture is like in their country and why they want a job as a virtual assistant can really help you connect with your VA – leading to a productive team environment.
Get to know them
Speaking of creating a productive team environment, you want to create a team mentality with your VA’s – especially if you have more than one. Introduce them to each other, get them to know one another so they can lean on each other if you aren’t around.
Ask them about their favorite holidays, their family, and what their life is like – just like any other employee. Create opportunities to learn about them, it is helpful for them to also know a little about you so they can understand more about what will help you.
Keep it interesting
Make sure you are conveying to them what you expect, and what good tasks and bad tasks look like. Keep it interesting by holding contests or showing them what your goals are. Having an overall view of their cog in the business machine is very helpful. Keep them engaged! Give them tasks they favor and try to avoid the ones that they hate – their work will be better off that way.
Also, keep in mind that you don’t want to set them up for failure with badly organized tasks. I try to give as much information as I can (maybe sometimes too much) by describing almost exactly what I want. Anything I’m not sure on, I give them the responsibility of deciding – because I trust them to do so.
Reviews, Raises, and Bonuses
Remember that you should be giving them raises and bonuses throughout the year, if possible. Paid holidays and birthdays are great for employees that you know you will work with long term. I always make sure my VA’s have their birthdays off to do what they want if they so choose.
You should also make sure you’re scheduling reviews to go over their performance. Are they performing well? Are they liking their job? What could we do to make it easier? These are all essential to good leadership.
How to Fire a Virtual Assistant
The last question remains: How do you fire a virtual assistant? And how do you know when you should let them go in the first place?
Let me tell you a little story.
When I was employing two virtual assistants, there came a time where I had to let one go, as will inevitably happen in your business. I was at a point in my business where I had to decide if I wanted to continue down the path I was headed, or pivot into another more fulfilling direction. I chose to go the direction of happiness and that led me to have to let this second virtual assistant go.
To me, it’s important to be gentle and kind when handling conversations such as these. I began the conversation by thanking him for all of his hard work and the projects we had worked on, and let him know that we had to discontinue the project.
I then let him know that he was more than welcome to reach out to me if he needed anything in the future and wished him luck. It’s kind of like a band-aid that you want to pull off quickly, and hope that it doesn’t hurt too much! He was very understanding, and it was over amicably – which is your overall goal with these conversations. Be professional. You are a boss, and for many virtual assistants, you are setting the tone for their view of people in the United States.
So the things that I would recommend for firing a VA:
- Realize that you are interacting with a real person
- Ethical standards
- Keep it clean and professional
When Should You Let Your Virtual Assistant Go?
- When you’ve been patient, and tasks are continually being missed
- When the employee stops keeping in contact with you on a regular basis
- When the work isn’t being done properly despite your clear and direct instructions and training
- When they clearly hate the work and as such their results are poor
- When the time it takes to assist and keep the assistant performing well is taking too much time out of your schedule – they may not be right for the job
What To Do Before You Have the Conversation
- Change all of your passwords that they have access to, namely email and software that you use
- Copy or move all files out of shared folders
- Remove access to shared Dropbox or Google Docs folders
- Come up with a severance agreement – perhaps you can give them some leeway when it comes to ending their contract. Giving them some extra time to find a new employer, or to finish any projects shows you are professional and respectful of their work
- Determine if you are going to give feedback to their account on Upwork, Fiverr, VA hosting company – I would! Most VA’s will be kind and understanding of their situation – but realize that the virtual assistant community is very competitive and they rely on your reviews and feedback to maintain their business.
So there you have it – your ultimate guide to hiring, managing, and firing virtual assistants is all right here!
Virtual Assistants are a fantastic way to step out of your business and scale it. In fact – many entrepreneurs may argue that one of the first steps in scaling is to fire yourself as quickly as possible.
I have to say – I’m inclined to agree. The importance of seeing an overall view of your business instead of the tiny monotonous tasks taking up 150% of your time is essential.
You can’t see a large view of your business and identify problems as quickly as if you could working on your business and not in it.
To do so, you really want to focus on getting a Virtual Assistant as quickly as possible.
Work on writing your processes, hiring your first virtual assistant, start to become a great leader to your employees, and treat them right.
They will, in return, respect you and give you high-quality work.
You’ll start to grow your amazing team of VA’s that can help you grow that business!