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Hiring a virtual assistant: 7 Steps that online course creators need to take

As a learning entrepreneur, you start out as the creator, marketer, support specialist, and sales rep. However, once the business grows, you need to focus more on the things you alone can do – main on course creation tasks — and there is a case to be made for hiring a virtual assistant. 

For example, you need to maintain a solid presence on social media. There are apps that help with scheduling posts, but you still need to create them, which takes time. Furthermore, online courses come with some time-consuming activities such as answering questions from learners and community engagement. Your learning management system (LMSs) automation features will shoulder some of these tasks, but you still have to get more hands-on from time to time. 

What are the benefits of hiring a virtual assistant?

A hiring decision should never be taken lightly, especially when you are an entrepreneur with limited resources. In this case, finding the right virtual assistant is the best investment. 

If you are still wondering what a virtual assistant can do, the answer is: basically anything. From business-related tasks to virtual errands– such as waiting in line to schedule an appointment with the IRS, a virtual assistant helps you unload your to-do list. Here are some more advantages to hiring one: 

  • You step away from the repetitive tasks and focus more on the creative aspects of your business. This will allow you to grow your portfolio and income; 
  • Your virtual assistant can be located anywhere in the world. If your customer base is globally dispersed it is helpful to have a virtual assistant working in another time zone, so there is someone available to engage with customers all the time;
  • Virtual assistants are individual contractors and their rates are not prohibitive – the median hourly rate is 13 dollars. You also don't need to hire them full-time and you can work out what is best suited for your business;
  • You avoid burnout. This is possibly the most important benefit. As the saying goes, "You can't pour from an empty cup," so make sure you don't get overwhelmed and save your resources for moving your business forward.

Read more: Which parts of your online course can you outsource?


What to look for when hiring a virtual assistant? 

Before looking for a virtual assistant, you need to figure out precisely what your business needs. There are two types of virtual assistants – general and specialized. 

  • A general virtual assistant can take over the repetitive tasks, which are integral to the smooth running of the business but not necessarily focused on expanding it. Scheduling social media posts, data entry, managing meeting requests, and sorting emails are some of the tasks you can assign to a general virtual assistant. 
  • A specialized virtual assistant has a specific set of skills such as online marketing, video editing, project management, customer service, sales, etc. Their rates are higher than those of a general virtual assistant, but they will help grow your business. It's preferable to look for people with experience in your industry, organizational skills, and basic knowledge of the platforms and tools that you use. Their portfolio, references, and customer testimonials are also highly relevant.

Read more: 5 Freelance marketplaces that can help you boost your e-learning business


Where to find a virtual assistant? 

There are several platforms dedicated to connecting freelancers with potential customers. You can browse to see which one is best suited for your needs. LinkedIn is also a good option for finding a virtual assistant – a quick search shows over 71,000 results for virtual assistance providers. If you prefer recommendations, you can advertise the position on social media. Keep in mind that you need to have a detailed job description before you even begin the recruitment process. You will have a contractual relationship with your virtual assistant – they need to know what you expect in order to give you a time and money estimate.

How to hire a virtual assistant?

Once you have weighed the benefits of hiring a virtual assistant and you have a budget, you can begin the hiring process.

1. Map out the role and responsibilities

Make a list of all the things you have to do – daily, weekly and monthly – and see which of those you can outsource to a general virtual assistant. If you opt for a specialized virtual assistant, it's better to assign outcomes instead of tasks. So, if you have hired a knowledgeable virtual assistant to handle your social media accounts, set them a target of subscriber increase, engagement, shares, mentions, etc., instead of simply completing tasks on time. 

2. Document the tasks and outcomes

Be specific about what your virtual assistant has to do. Since there is a good chance that you won't meet them in person, good communication is essential to an effective professional relationship. You can't expect your virtual assistant to jump right in and know what to do and what to do. You have to spell it out, preferably in writing, to be used for future reference. 

A specialized virtual assistant should know their field better than you since that’s why you hire them in the first place. Set specific goals that they need to reach – for example, you want a 15% increase in click-through rates on your blog or 20% more enrollments for a course.

Pro tip: you can use your expertise to create a mini-course to train your virtual assistant. In this way, they’ll have what they need to start. 


Read more: 9 Tips for working with freelancers to grow your online course business


3. Ask the right questions in the hiring interview

The best way to conduct virtual assistant interviews is through video. Here are some questions to ask when hiring a virtual assistant:

  • What is your primary field of expertise?
  • How long have you been a virtual assistant?
  • Do you have experience with online learning?
  • How many clients do you have at the moment?
  • What is your availability (number of hours, days of the week)?
  • What are your favorite means of communication?
  • What tools do you use/need to get your job done?
  • Do you use sub-contractors? (This question is fundamental if your work involves sensitive information)
  • Do you have any questions or concerns about the job?

Of course, they don’t necessarily need experience in the e-learning field, especially as general virtual assistants, but it can be a bonus for specialized ones.

4. Test their knowledge

The best way to determine if a virtual assistant is a right fit for you is to put them to the test. Depending on what you need them to do for you, this can be as simple as creating a weekly schedule for you or showing that they know how to use your project management tool of choice.

If the job description is for a specialized virtual assistant, you'll need to design a more detailed assessment. For example, if you hire someone to help with digital marketing, ask them to plan a Facebook campaign for one of your online courses. If your candidate should help out with social media, you can ask them to build a teaser campaign for a course launch. Apart from evaluating their presentation skills, look for how they set objectives – how realistic and attainable they are.

5. Decide on the partnership terms

At this point, you’ve already chosen a virtual assistant. The contractual terms need to be clear and both of you need to agree to them. This is where you ask for a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) if needed. You may also consider including a non-competition clause. If your virtual assistant has experience in e-learning, your competitors could seek them out, and it's important they don't share your strategies or customer lists. Establish the payment method and amount. If you pay them per hour, make sure to clarify how they will be counted. Determine how you will evaluate performance and mention if there will be performance bonuses. 

6. Have a trial period

This should not be difficult since virtual assistants are generally hired on a month-to-month basis. You can schedule the trial period for a particular project if you are unsure about sharing all your information with someone who may not be in for the long haul. You can see firsthand how organized your virtual assistant is, how they handle multiple tasks and how they communicate. Keep in mind that the trial period works both ways, and the virtual assistant may very well decide that they don't want to work for you so make sure to keep your side of the agreement.

7. Start working together

If you made it to this step, congratulations, you have a virtual assistant!. It's a big step for an entrepreneur, and it opens up a world of possibilities. Find the best tools to stay organized and keep the collaboration optimal. Communicate often, celebrate success, and adjust when situations call for it.


Read more: 6 Tips for giving constructive feedback to freelancers as a knowledge entrepreneur


 Conclusion

A virtual assistant is a valuable addition to your e-learning business. You can hire one to take the tedious tasks off your plate or help your business grow in a specific area that you don't have much expertise in or simply don't enjoy. Knowing what to look for when hiring a virtual assistant results in finding a trusted partner who can prevent you from burning out and allow you to have more time for the creative aspects of your online course business. 

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