Running and growing a small business comes with challenges, and one of the top challenges I see is the tipping point of needing help. 

You have a steady flow of work coming through the business but are doing everything yourself. 

The dream of more balance, working fewer hours and picking up your kids every day from school is a distant memory. 

Burnout keeps showing up in small doses, and you’re tired – in fact you’re exhausted.

This “success” lark isn’t all its cracked up to be. 

You know you need to do something about it, but what? Get a VA?  A Virtual Assistant – that’s what everyone tells you you need, and it will solve all your problems. 

But you’re busy, and you just need some help right now—someone to get on and run with it. 

For most people, it feels like you are adding to your problems—getting a VA is something else to manage and figure out. 

And you are right; if you don’t plan and prepare for working with a VA it will only add to your stress, and you will waste your time, and money, and add to your stress levels.

Why? Well, firstly, answer these questions:

  • Do you know what you want them to do?
  • Have you figured out roughly how many hours you need a VA for? 
  • Have you budgeted for the expense in your cash flow? 
  • Have you got processes in place of how you want things done?
  • Can someone else easily access all the files and software you use? 

I guess the answer is “no” for all or most of these questions. Don’t worry; no busy business owner has these things figured out when beginning the “VA Hiring” journey. That’s why you are reading this blog right?!

The average rate for a UK Virtual Assistant is around £30 an hour, so doing some groundwork will help you prepare for this unknown territory and ensure it is a well-worth investment for you and your business. 

This blog will help you prepare and get yourself in the best place to hire your first VA. 

Step 1 – The brain dump

The first thing you should do when considering hiring a VA is do a brain dump of all the different tasks you do in your business. 

Put them into groups and think broadly about everything you must do. Create groups that make sense to you.  For example:

Clients                                      Back office                               Marketing 
Sales calls 

Arranging meetings

New client proposals 

Setting up new clients 

Doing the client work

Get testimonials 

Emails 

Bookkeeping: 

 – Save receipts

 – Add to Quickbooks

 – Invoicing

 – Chase payments

Blogs, newsletters & social media:

 – Research

 – Writing

 – Images

 – Proofreading

 – Posting/sending

Step 2 – what needs to go

Look at your brain dump and honestly decide;

  • What do you hate doing?
  • What is not your skill set? 
  • What takes up too much of your time/headspace?
  • What three things could make the most significant impact to you right now? 

Step 3 – what could be automated? 

Some tasks may be better suited for automation than human delegation. Identify repetitive and rule-based tasks that can be automated using technology. This will allow your VA to focus on more complex and strategic activities and will save you money in the long run. 

Look at your list and identify things that could be automated, even if you don’t know how to do it. 

Examples of things that could be automated:

  • Booking meetings – set up something like Calendly 
  • Emails – set up filters and rules to manage your inbox more easily 
  • Taking payments – get set up on accounting software and services like GoCardless and Stripe

The process of hiring a VA may be in phases, and investing in advice and setting up automation before hiring a VA could be better. 

It’s important to recognise that VA’s are too individual and will offer specific services and have particular skill sets and experience. Don’t presume they can do everything. You may need more than one or work with other people “ad hoc”. 

Step 4 – Requirements list  

You should now be able to see what you want to:

  • Automate
  • Delegate

For the things you want to delegate, you can now write your “brief” – a document that outlines all the things you would like someone to do, a job description if you like. 

Doing this will help you to find the best person to help you. This should also include any helpful information such as frequency, approximate numbers, and additional support you need or information you want to share. 

For example, it could say things like…

  1. Weekly Accountability & Support – discuss upcoming deadlines, and projects and keep things moving with me. I want a wingwoman in my business and to be part of my team. I want to achieve stuff together. 
  1. Accounts – Invoicing, chasing and adding expenses to Quickbooks
  2. Producing and sending out my monthly newsletter (via Mailerlite)
  3. Proofreading – I’m dyslexic so need someone who is understanding, supportive and can pick up on grammar/spelling mistakes etc. (I’m not easily offended) 

You could also mention your budget here, too. They can then tell you what is possible for the budget you have available. 

Step 5 – processes 

OK before you scroll on. Trust me on the value of this section. It’s an important one. 

Processes are basically the steps you need to do to perform a task. 

They may also haunt you from your employed life or they must be complicated, long works of art. Processes are not just for big organisations. They are really valuable for any business. You have processes already; they are just not documented. 

I know you don’t want to think about this extra step and just want someone “to do the work” but let’s think about it logically – how can they? It’s your business, your tools, your way – how can they “just” pick it up without some help? 

They might do it their way, but I bet you would then micromanage and say, “No not like that”… or I may as well do it myself if it wasn’t “right” or you need to explain it every single time. 

So, to avoid problems or the avoidance of delegation, start documenting some of your key processes (that you identified as “to go” in step 2) while doing the tasks. 

Fast, free and super easy ways to document processes

Voice Typing 

Dictate the steps using free software like voice typing in Google Docs. Talk through it, do a quick check and edit, save – job done! You can use this for anything in your business – emails, blogs, social media – a great overall time-saving tip. 

If you don’t use Google, just find a “voice to text” or voice-typing app you prefer. 

Record videos

  1. Fire up your meeting software (Zoom/Google Meet) 
  2. Get everything open to do the task 
  3. Start the meeting 
  4. Press record
  5. Screen share  
  6. Do the task 
  7. Give helpful commentary and guidance (not too much though!)
  8. Save the video and name it “How to do X”
  9. Done! 

It will feel strange at first, and you might have to pause or do it a couple of times to get it “right” but don’t stress it; it doesn’t need to be perfect. 

Does it make sense? Could someone else follow it? Yes – brilliant, job done! 

Other software like Loom and specific process generation software like Scribe can be used. 

Scribe is a great tool. It’s a screen capture and documentation tool. It records processes to auto-generate step-by-step guides, complete with text and screenshots.

But, what is important here is not getting bogged down in the “best way to do it” or making them perfect. It’s about getting some basic processes together to start working effectively with a VA. They can be refined and improved in future – a job for your VA. 

Step 6 – Make a plan for what you need to do

You now have some handy guidance on what you need to do to start this journey. Here is a quick checklist

  1. Do the brain dump 
  2. What needs to go?
  3. What could be automated? 
  4. Set up the new tools or find someone to help you
  5. List the top 3 processes you will tackle writing first, AND do it! 
  6. Put together a requirements list you can share with potential VAs
  7. Think about your budget 

Get some help

If you’ve read the blog and thought – well, that’s all well and good, but I just feel really overwhelmed and I don’t know how to do this. Don’t worry; I can help you unpick all these stages and get you “VA Ready”. Get in touch to discuss how I can help you. 

Book a virtual coffee or email me at hello@beckystevenson.co.uk

Not ready for that? Let’s connect on LinkedIn or sign up to receive advice straight to your inbox.