perfect_vaBootstrapping your business was a major undertaking that required a lot of hard work, patience and skill. You probably thought that was the difficult part, but now you know you were wrong: the only thing harder than building something from nothing is running your now-successful business.

When you find yourself strapped for time – skipping lunch and multitasking in your sleep, are you? – you know you need help. But not just any VA will do: you need a business-grade virtual assistant perfectly matched to your business, your personality, and your needs. Thankfully, that’s not as hard to find as it seems.

Follow these four steps, and you’ll be delegating to a hard-working, affordable and highly skilled virtual assistant in no time.

Step 1: Make a Game Plan

This may come as a surprise, but the first step in finding a perfectly matched VA has nothing to do with the virtual assistant – it’s all about you.

You are the heart and soul of your company. You’re probably used to wearing many hats (or all hats, more like). You may be nervous about hiring a virtual assistant – someone who could have access to your calendar, your website, and even (eek) your email.

It stands to reason that this process is very much about you. So ask yourself:

  • What tasks do you need help with? Create a comprehensive list – everything from basic admin and customer service, to specialized project management, web design, and social media management.
  • What are your task priorities? After you’ve written your task list, slice and dice it into tiered priorities. What are your most important or pressing needs, and what can be put off until later, if required?
  • Are these tasks a one-time project or ongoing work? This will help you determine timing and budget, and will also influence the virtual assistant you eventually hire. If you’ll be working together for the long-term, you’ll want to “click” well with your VA.
  • How time-sensitive are these tasks? Does your virtual assistant have to keep the same hours that you do, or can her tasks be accomplished any time of day?

Step 2: Write a Help-Wanted Ad

First things first: even if you go through a virtual assistant company, hiring a VA is a very hands-on process. Working with a virtual assistant is the same as working with an in-office employee – minus the office space, employment benefits, and other office overhead. Point being, even if you don’t interact in-person with your VA, you will still have a very close relationship. Treat your virtual assistant search as you would any high-leverage HR activity.

At this point in the process, it can be helpful to pen a basic help-wanted ad. You won’t place it in the paper or online, but this simple writing exercise can help narrow down the qualities you’d like to find in your ideal matched VA.

  • What skills are required? Business-grade VAs are highly skilled in their fields, which can include web design, writing and editing, project management, accounting and more. Determine what specialized skills and skill levels your tasks require. Are any certificates, special licenses or legal considerations necessary?
  • Do you need a native English (or other language) speaker? For certain VA tasks, you’ll need a native or near-native speaker; for other roles, advanced language proficiency is all that’s required for daily communication.
  • How many hours per week (or month) will you need? This is an important aspect in determining your budget, but is also a key factor for any VA company worth its salt: they can’t give you more hours than they have available!
  • What’s your budget? Whether your budget is by the project, the month, the week or the hour, you must have a budget in mind for hiring your VA or VA team.

Step 3: Research, Refine & Recruit

Now comes the fun part! Once you’ve outlined your needs, it’s time to scour the web and hit up your network for VA recommendations.

Research every VA company and freelancer that piques your interest. Check out their online presence: for example, if you’re seeking design, marketing, or writing services, look for a clean website with dynamite marketing materials and a well-written blog. Seek transparency – a company that offers a free consultation and publishes its contact info. Check their recommendations and testimonials, which should be featured prominently on the company’s pricing or clients page. Do your due diligence.

Refine your favorites down to the choices that seem to be the best fit. Keep in mind that hiring a VA through a respected company reduces your risk: all company VAs have been tested and vetted, and the company’s reputation is on the line with every match they make. They have a vested interest in matching you with the most qualified, business-grade VA for your needs. At a bare minimum, work only with a VA company that offers a 100% satisfaction guarantee.

Contact the short-list candidates and set up an interview. Send along your help-wanted ad from Step 2. During your phone interview, ask questions – including open-ended questions. Build rapport. If you’re working with a VA company, make sure you also have a chance to speak with the individual VA you would work with one-on-one. Search for someone with whom you really click.

Recruit – or choose – the best candidate. This will be the VA who meets your required skill set, has the necessary availability, and can work within your budget.

Step 4: Hire

Congratulations, you’ve found yourself the perfect, matched VA! That wasn’t so hard, now was it? Now you can start to reap the fruits of delegating tasks to your virtual assistant and leveraging your time.