What should I know before hiring a virtual assistant?
June 2, 2014 8:49 AM   Subscribe

So I've decided I make enough to put someone on my personal projects full time and I'd like to go the virtual personal assistant route. And I was wondering what i should know. What should a monthly salary be? Are there certain countries it's trickier with? What duties are best served? Transcription? Research? First drafts? I've tried googling but it seems like it's either four year old esquire articles or certain larger sites that have done enough SEO that everything points back to them. So it's time to ask the experts: the hive mind.
posted by rileyray3000 to Work & Money (4 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
It's really hard to answer the question as you pose it. Where do you live? Where do you want your virtual assistant to live? Same country, different country? What skill sets do you want your virtual assistant to have?

One way to go about pricing this is write down a list of projects you want outsourced to your virtual assistant and then go on oDesk and eLance and figure out what the going rate is (onshore, offshore), etc. for each service.

Then put an ad up, see what responses you get, negotiate a salary, make sure your contract has an option for you to back out at any time, etc.
posted by dfriedman at 3:41 PM on June 2, 2014

Response by poster: Well what I do is largely creative work. What I'd be looking for is to basically hand it off to an assistant to do the research when I go to bed and wake up with it done. So ideally someone on the other side of the world.
posted by rileyray3000 at 3:57 PM on June 2, 2014

Can you post a short list of maybe 5 actual tasks you would ask the assistant to do? There's such a range of services that your question is too broad to answer now.
posted by viggorlijah at 9:49 PM on June 2, 2014

I have used about a half dozen or more virtual assistants from Elance. One thing that I learned very quickly was to be incredibly specific about what I wanted, where I expected the assistant to find the information, and how long I expected it to take. Otherwise, I had to have many back-and-forth conversations to clear up minor points and it was sometimes frustrating because I felt like I could have done it myself with less time and trouble (this was not necessarily the assistant's fault, it was something that I got better at with time).

One issue that I had with several assistants (they were all from India) was that I noticed a reluctance to tell me if something wasn't completed or couldn't be completed in the time I estimated. If a project would go over a deadline, my assistant would just "disappear" offline for awhile and then pop back up 6 hours later and ask for more work, without mentioning the former project. I would ask about it, and he or she would say that it was 10 minutes from being done (it was not). I would be clear from the start that if something cannot be completed in the time stated, to tell me as soon as possible and give an estimate of how long they think it will take.

My company always paid by the hour (or a set amount of money per project), not a "salary".

If you are asking a virtual assistant to do creative work or research, make sure that they have exceptional skills both reading and writing in English. I'm not sure how elance works in regards to confirming qualifications, but you may want to give a small assignment at first to test out their skills, and then pay them for their time and move on if it is not the quality you expect.

Good luck!
posted by amicamentis at 1:02 AM on June 3, 2014

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