Hiring a virtual assistant might seem like something you only do once you’re “more successful” or have secured that next “big gig”. Yet if growth and work/life balance are high priorities for you in 2017, getting some support could actually be something you consider sooner rather than later.

There’s no denying that working for yourself is great—you have full control over your creative pursuits, time and projects—however, this also means you have to manage everything. You’re CEO, you’re sales and marketing, you’re payroll and personal assistant. Over time, all this extra stuff can actually get in the way of doing your best work and the speed at which your business grows. So investing in a virtual assistant (anywhere from 4-10hrs per month) can be smart decision in the long run, for both you and your business.

Last year, I was feeling overwhelmed and sleep deprived, working long hours yet never getting enough of quality time to focus on growing my business. Something had to change fast, so I hired fellow Peep René to be my virtual assistant – and in turn, completely shaking up the way I worked and managed my business, for the better.

When hiring a virtual assistant, finding the right match is vital, so here are my tips on things to consider when hiring a virtual assistant (VA), especially for the first time:

1) Determine where you need help

Before you get started, determine exactly what you need help with, where your skill gaps are and where you’re losing time each week that could be better spent on more higher paid work. If you’re no good with numbers, hiring a VA to compile your expenses each week would take this pain away for you. If you’re spending too much time each week updating your website, get your VA to do it and focus on creating amazing content instead!

Audit your business from top to bottom, namely your current processes and systems, and be realistic about what’s broken (don’t be shy, we all have them!). And remember, your new VA will have solid tips on how to fix and streamline these processes. Utilize that. René provided me with great tips straight away to help me get started!

Before hiring a VA, there were moments like this!

2) Find the perfect match

You’re going to be working very closely with your VA, so it’s best to find someone who is a good fit for your work, your personality and your time zone. Share your goals, expectations and how you see things working together in detail. State the tools you’re using, what you wish to use, and any key projects you need help with (and timelines). Determine pricing (monthly vs hourly) and when you both will be available to communicate (and will expect replies). Being as clear as possible from the beginning will ensure you find the right person to work with.

There are many ways to find a VA: through sites like CloudPeeps, Facebook Groups or through local networks in your city at coworking spaces or meetups. Once a candidate has been chosen, a video call is recommended first. Before we started together, René and I had an online call (for about 20 mins) to discuss my situation very openly, understand each other’s experience and expectations, and basically get a feel for each other. We immediately knew it felt right!

3) Communicate often and openly

Just like you do with your own clients, be sure to keep the communication open and ongoing. Create a meaningful list before you start to brief your new assistant with as much clarity and depth as possible. Use a tool like Slack for regular contact (and get off email!), and for task management, Asana or Trello, for keeping track of tasks, questions and progress.

When I initially started with René, I openly admitted that there may be some transitioning for me, as I became used to delegating items and planning ahead for another team member. Being open from the beginning provided a solid foundation for us to grow from, and set a clear understanding on what we both hoped to achieve from the working relationship.

4) Get your systems in check

Now I’m guessing you already have systems in place for your business, but with a new person onboard, it’s time to rethink how these are currently working and streamline as much as possible.

Slack works great if you and your VA are in different time zones. Locking in a monthly check-in over Zoom or Skype gives you some personal face-time and a chance to look back, debrief and move forward with clarity. Use Asana for task management and don’t forget to set up a clear contract, confidentiality agreement and payment process as well (though if you use CloudPeeps, this is all covered within the site!).

I set up a personal email address for René as well, so she could manage all my calendar and meetings through my own domain and keep it all in-house. We always use Google Drive and Dropbox for file sharing and avoid email at all costs. Thanks to René, I also have slowly started to remove any tools or systems that are no longer of benefit for my business (or the best use of my time).

5) Be accountable

Lastly, the biggest shift I saw in hiring a VA was the way it changed how I view myself and my business. Now I’m way more conscious of what I’m doing and how best I can utilize René to get things done better and faster. My sense of “priorities” and what I can (safely) let go off and delegate has changed as well, a shift that has allowed me to grow personally and into a more strategic mindset.

As a fellow freelancer, I’m also more accountable to ensuring I’m a good “boss” and don’t confuse or let René down. I’ll admit though, I’ve not got it all figured out yet but my eyes are definitely more open than before — and with the positive and can-do attitude of René’s onboard, we’re working at it together to get things right 🙂

Always positive and patience in our Slack, thanks René!

Hiring a VA can change your freelancing business, and life, for the better. It can encourage you to (want to) manage yourself and your business better, while also giving you much-needed insight into how you can do things better. I’d recommend you hire a VA today, start clearing that backlog that’s been there since last year, finally get onto those ‘on hold’ tasks, and ultimately, learn to sleep better at night again. I know I am.

Ready to hire a virtual assistant? Join CloudPeeps to set up your business, post a job listing or search to check out Peeps who are currently available. If you’re a VA looking for work: join the community to find new clients and manage your business.