th1 (3)One of the biggest decisions you will need to make early on in you VA plans is what type of VA firm you really want. There are 2 avenues you can go.

The first one is as a sole VA. This will allow you to take on a certain number of clients/hours and you are done. It will allow you to live with a set amount of money per week or month.

The other is to build a Team VA Firm. This will allow you to either partner with someone with skills different from you to broaden your services or just an extra hand to allow a growth in your client base.

We personally have opted NOT to take on any jobs that we were not skilled at doing. We felt that this allowed us the flexibility not to being tied to a particular person or being held ransom.

If you decide to go via a TEAM route, if is best to start looking for the people you want to align with now BEFORE you are too busy and can not find the time needed to hire and train the right person.
Some things you will need to do to make sure your TEAM is going to run smoothly.

1. Training and Policies: It is important that you set aside the time now to decide what are your policies and work ethics and have those written down. Talk with your partners and go over holiday schedules, vacation policies, days/times off, turnaround times and anything else that is important to your business. Do not just expect to send a piece of paper or an email and think that you are covered. Talk with the person over the phone or Skype and make sure you have an open line of communication.
2. SOP- Manuals are boring- but are very important. You can write the manuals, screen shoot the manuals or make videos. We personally have videos of each of the tasks that we assign to a VA. They are hosted on a part of our server and the person and see them anytime. Whatever means you choose make sure the VA knows they are there and that they are updated on a regular basis. If you are doing manuals via pdfs or screen shots, then it is important to make sure all of those manuals are in a common area that all VAs can access and update.

3. Time Tracking– It is important that you look and either buy or use a free time tracker. We personally use Togle for our time tracking needs. We also use Easy Time Tracker as well. Both have Free and Paid versions with different options. Whatever the case- it is important to be clear with your VA on how you want time recorded. We personally require them to enter the Client name/ date/ description of work and time. This needs to be sent weekly to us so that we can re-bill our clients.
4. Pay– You will also need to decide how you are going to pay your additional team members. Decide early on whether you want to do weekly, bi monthly or monthly. We usually bill our clients weekly and pay our Team every 2 weeks. This allows us to collect from the client first before pay. If you are doing monthly, you may want you VA to report the time on a weekly basis so that you can budget the pay at the end of the month.

5. Structure– Before hiring a VA you will need to decide how you want then structured in your business. You can hire them as a sub-contractor or a strategic partner. Obviously this will depend on the person you are hiring to determine which is a better option. If you each are solo VAs it may make more sense to “partner” on an as need basis. This would allow each of you to cover the person should you need a backup person. It would also mean splitting the client fees or deciding on another form of compensation. (ie bartnering) If you only need help for a limited time, than hiring a sub-contractor maybe a better way for you to hire.

6. Hiring (sub-contracting) Most people always ask- where do you find additional VAs. There are a number of forums that you can advertise for help. There are also groups like VA Networking and IVAA that have job boards or network areas to post for assistance. If you are short on the funds, you can always search Odesk or Elance for additional help. Just remember to interview and ask for references from anyone that you decide to consider before hiring.
7. Trial Period– Be sure to ask your potential sub if they offer trial periods at a discounted rate. This will allow to you properly test the skills. It is important that the person knows how to do the job and not just say- sure I can do that. Also it is also important to make sure that when looking at Odesk and Elance- that you are hiring the person that you are talking with and they are not just passing the work to a 3rd party or someone else in the company
8. Managing the Crew– There are several ways to help you manage VAs and tasks. We personally use ZOHO project manager. Although at this time, we are not so big that we take full advantage of this package at this time. This will allow you to keep all of the tasks in one area and allow you to assign a task or for a VA to pick a task to do. It is important to decide how you want to run the task management. There are 2 ways you can manage this-

  • By the VA taking over a particular client or
  • By you assigning tasks directly and the VA has no client relations

9. Firing- At one time or another you will need to let a person go. This can be for nonperformance or simply because there is not enough work /clients at the time. It is important to make sure you have open lines of communications with you team members and make sure if they are not performing that you give them a chance to correct the problems or if there is not enough work- see if they are willing to sit in the wings and assist when you have the extra work.

 

We would love to hear your comments, experiences and questions. Please let us know what you are thinking….

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