How to Hire and Work with a Virtual Assistant

How to Hire and Work with a Virtual Assistant

Lessons from a Digital Marketer Who Actually Does the Work

What can I expect when hiring a virtual assistant? What do they charge? How do I find one?

I get asked these questions a lot by solopreneurs who are beyond ready to add their first contractor to the team to help support their business mission. And a little nervous about the process.

It can be a confusing time and you want to make sure you find the right fit, ie: someone who will create less work and NOT more, be just as passionate about your business as you are…. and not surprise you with a steep invoice at the end of the month.

I’ve put together this article to answer your top 3 Virtual Assistant hiring questions and how to set yourself up for success. Plus extra resources for you to finally get help in your business!

But let’s make this quick and easy because I know you’re busy. I got you.

How to Hire and Work with a Virtual Assistant

How to Hire and Work with a Virtual Assistant

First, I’m in a position where I coach and mentor freelance virtual marketing assistants and specialists and I also help business owners find their next teammate. I’ve shared more than 2,000 job openings with my Digital Marketer’s Workgroup. This is the same backend business work I’ve been doing for 13+ years as a freelancer. I’m also running a team of 5 contractors so I know what it’s like on the client side too.

I’m here to make it easy for you as a business owner because I want to set you up for long-term success with the right, dedicated teammate, especially if you interview some of the all-stars from my Workgroup.

I speak on this topic as a guest on many podcasts.

So if you’d rather put in your AirPods and fold laundry, here are a couple of my most recent episodes to help you understand the hiring process:

  • Marketing #Unfiltered with Sophia Parra Episode 124: Who to hire, when to hire, and how to effectively lead a team without burning yourself out (Listen on Apple | Buzzsprout)
  • The Business Shift with Alayna Zenger Episdoee 34: Mastering Digital Marketing (Listen on Podbean)
  • Marketer for Hire with Sunny Logsdon Episode 5: Find Unicorn Marketing Assistants to Ensure Success (Listen on Apple | Her Blog)
  • Marketing with a Purpose with Monica Pitts: Virtual Assistants – A Unicorn Solution for Marketing Tasks (Listen on Apple | Spotify | Her Blog)

Any of these episodes will help you catch up!

VA Insight: Free Hiring Guide

Because you don’t need another dang, dust-collecting course, and this information is NOT secret, I’ve also put together a freebie to help you walk through this process of hiring and working with a virtual assistant. Grab it here. Everyone keeps telling me I should do a course on this. Nah. Just not gonna happen. So keep reading.

How to Hire and Work with a Virtual Assistant

These are my top questions from someone who is considering submitting a job opening to my community via HireaUnicorn.com

Question 1: What do Virtual Assistants charge?

Could you let me know what type of pricing/hourly rate I should expect and the minimum hours that would be needed?

Answer 1: It depends. But here are some general rates

Independent Contractors set their rates and provide the contracts, which you sign as their client.

When you submit a job to my network, you’ll see a variety of service providers and rates come through based on your job opening. 

Since we’re not talking about employees here, it’s important to realize what a contractor is. The IRS and Department of Labor make it very clear. Contractors come into your business with skills, their expenses, and the ability to make a profit. You cannot treat them like employees, requiring them to be at all meetings or paying for their training, etc.

They set their rates and payment processes.

For the typical, ongoing retainer agreement, they’ll decide what’s the minimum number of hours they will show up in your business and still bring value. It varies based on their client loads and services. For someone it could be 5 hours a week… or 5 hours a month… or 40 hours a month… 40 hours a week (👈 but careful that looks an awful lot like an employee!)

Good news: You do NOT need to take on the expenses and HR headache of a full-time employee. Many smart, over-educated stay-at-home moms, like myself, are looking for part-time work to supplement their family’s income and engage their brains. (Is this you? Go here now. Yes, click away from this blog and get in my world.)

Most will have a package of retainer hours you commit to each month with limited rollover hours. They will keep you informed of how many hours are left and ask you if you want to go over if there’s unfinished work.

It’s ok to talk about how the work is going, how your time requirement needs are changing, and grow with what the business needs.

It’s normal for a contractor to charge extra for:

  • rushed projects
  • quicker turnaround times
  • overtime hours
  • extra revisions
  • out-of-scope work

So what do they charge? I know you’re preparing yourself for that conversation but first let’s talk about the elephant in the room when it comes to hiring offshore.

Yes, you have a business to run and need to watch your contractor expenses and keep to your budget.

Some business coaches are teaching their students to hire a VA from the Philippines for 4 dollars an hour and dump all the work on them. (Biz owners actually brag about how much they’re getting out of them and how poorly they treat them too. Yuck.)

My friend Tasha Booth says, “Pay for the role, not the region.”

I’m stealing her saying because it accurately fits my sentiments when it comes to outsourcing overseas labor and paying them $4/hour.

Not cool.

Most of my business peers complain about their overseas VA because English is a second language, time zones can be a challenge and many require micromanaging.

Another thing to know: marketing work is more “valuable” because it brings in leads, sales, and dollars. You’ll pay the most for that especially when it requires an expert level of strategy, technical skill, and specialization. You’ll also pay more for someone who is experienced, has management skills, brings strategy to the table, and can write.

General rule of thumb for Virtual Assistant pricing:

  • Admin VAs: $15-25/hr
  • Marketing Assistants: $25-35 (savvy with algorithms, marketing ecosystems, messaging, but tactical NOT a strategist or copywriter)
  • Managers: $45+ (managing other contractors, project deadlines, and deliverables, NOT doing the work)
  • Creative Specialists: Copywriters, Designers & Tech Specialists $50+ or project rates only
  • Online Business Managers & Director of Operations: $55-100+/hr
  • Strategists: $100+ per session
  • Fractional CMOs: $2,500+/month
  • Ads Managers $1,500+/month

Pay attention to their contracts and ask these questions about billing and how they do business. They’re not trying to be sneaky, but some of us like to avoid talking price.

Here’s the deal…

  • Some freelancers will charge the retainer at the beginning of the month before the work is started. This is fair. You’ve kept them from saying yes to another client, make sure they get it.
  • Some require a deposit before the work is started. Most project rates begin like this: 1/2 up front and the other 1/2 due later, either midway through the project or at its completion)
  • Some freelancers will send an invoice at the end of the month and give a final report sharing the work accomplished and outcomes, along with a final tally of numbers and hours. This is fine when the work fluctuates or hours go over.

Whatever the agreement, the contractor dictates in the client services agreement/contract HOW they get paid: ACH or Credit Card. Most likely you will get an invoice in Honeybook, Dubsado, or Paypal.

I like to pay via ACH to avoid fees, but I also like credit card reward points with my AMEX Gold Business Card.*

🔥HINT: Send the invoice to your Hubdoc receipt tracker app, then save it by labeling it in your inbox so that at tax time you’re organized. My label is “Contractor Invoices | 2024” so they’re all together. Purge that label every seven years to protect yourself from an IRS audit.

It is normal to have a 3- or 6-month agreement depending on the work. An ads manager will require 3 months because they know it takes time to see results. You can renegotiate the contract when it’s up for renewal, but please do renew it if you’re continuing to work together; otherwise, you’ll be breaking the employee misclassification rules!

Want to make sure you’re hiring a go-getter and someone who will not just be a robot needing to be told what to do on your team? Here are three interview questions to ask during your next discovery call with a virtual assistant to make sure you’re getting the right teammate.

Subscribe to my YouTube channel for Online Marketing Techie Skills & Strategies for Digital Marketers

How to Hire and Work with a Virtual Assistant

Question 2: I’m not quite ready to hire. How can I set myself up to work with a Virtual Assistant soon?

I’m not quite ready to bring someone on, but what can I do now to set myself up and make this hiring process easier?

Answer 2: SOPs. Hate me or love me. It’s your systems that will make or break you.

Document how you do work in your business, especially for the tasks you want to offload.

  • What is your process?
  • What is the tech involved?
  • Where are the files located?
  • How long should the task take?
  • When do you do it?
  • Who else is involved?
  • Who takes over next?

I recommend tools like; Tango, Scribe, or even quick screen-recorded Loom walk-through videos that can do the trick.

FYI — I have a solid SOP training inside my marketing assistant training program so if you hire one of my Unicorn Digital Marketing Assistant School graduates ask them to help you with that.

You can be messy but still have enough to go off of. Having a workflow of how you do things and like them done, will make onboarding so much easier for a virtual assistant who is new inside your business.

🎧Unicorns Unite Podcast: How to Write an SOP Teammates Actually Use

New to standard operating procedures? Listen to my podcast with operations pro Nneka Roberts and grab her SOP template.

Subscribe: Apple Podcasts | Spotify  | Blog

How to Hire and Work with a Virtual Assistant

Question 3: Where can I find reliable, high-quality Virtual Assistants?

Where do I find a good VA who will care about my business as much as I do?

Answer 3: My Community!

Haha. Ok you have a few options, but I encourage you to start with my community of digital marketing assistants, specialists, managers, and strategists. Just put your job opening info into our free form and we’ll share it within my Digital Marketer’s Workgroup. I have many U.S.-based, English-speaking, self-starting smarty pants who are over-educated, under-employed military spouses, stay-at-home moms, and professionals (like me) who are looking for ongoing clients like you.

We’re helpers by nature. We feel passionate about being behind the scenes as an “intrapreneur” and helping our clients build businesses and impact the world through their mission. It lights us up.

This a free job-sharing board and NOT a match-making agency. Up to 10 contractors will reach out with their introduction, a Services & Pricing Guide, and a link to schedule a discovery call to see if you’re a good fit. No pressure. It’s up to you to request their portfolio, interview them, and make this crucial hiring decision for your business.

Bottom line: there are plenty of contractors who want to help you and only work part-time. Don’t assume anything about a work situation but start with what you need first and put your open position out there.

Other places to look:

  • Within your own audience: blast your email list, post on social and LinkedIn
  • Ask your business peers, we all have behind-the-curtain support people who are available or can recommend someone in their secret underground network
  • Post on marketplaces like Fiverr, Upwork, Freelancer, or hiremymom.com. You’ll pay a fee and you may NOT get the long-term teammate you’re truly looking for
  • Hire from a VA agency. Truth be told you’re paying inflated rates for subpar VAs. Note: the good VAs leave on their own and book out. They’re not always trained as you think they’d be. But this could help you get started quickly
  • Post in Facebook Groups where VAs are hanging out. Here’s mine: The Digital Marketing Assistant Lab. Just note that not everyone is trained by me in this free group.
  • Contract with a hiring manager to help you find someone. They generally charge you 5k.

Just make sure you have a hiring and vetting process in place and be prepared to be inundated when you do some of these options. Allea Grummert talks about this on my podcast. Go here to listen. She shares her process it’s very insightful for the business owner and the virtual assistant.

One more thing…

Virtual Assistant vs. Manager-Level Roles 

Where it gets dicey is knowing the difference between a VA and a manager-level role. If a VA is managing other contractors, deadlines for projects and outcomes, and tracking key performance indicators (KPIs), they are most likely at a Project Manager level. 

It’s cool because a lot of VAs will get to know a business and work their way up to be Online Business Managers or Project Managers. But don’t start off expecting this from someone you hire in a tactical implementor’s role.

Curious about starting your own service-based business from home?

This list is for you!

Grab my list of digital marketing-related tasks and services that online business owners are outsourcing and always need help with.

This is a goldmine of services you could be offering to your clients in your digital marketing VA business.

Question 4: What can my virtual assistant do?

What tasks can I give them and how much will they do?

Answer 4: It depends.

I gotta be direct with you, we get many ridiculous requests for job openings where the client wants EVERYTHING done in their business. It’s not always possible. You could get lucky and find someone who wants to be full-time with one client. But the reality is all virtual assistants have their strengths and weaknesses. We can’t do it all forever and do it well.

Try to bundle your tasks that are related into one specific role and job description with expectations and desired outcomes.

Plain and simple:

❌ Bookkeeping and video editing do not go together.

❌ Someone creative may not be the best, organized project manager in your ClickUp dashboard.

The Frustration Point

Many business owners are frustrated with their new virtual assistants because they tried to give a general VA crucial marketing tasks, expect them to be great at copywriting and creative assignments and have specialized tech skills + high-level strategy + management. They expect a VA to master their voice in four days. Manage your expectations, talk to your teammate about what they excel at, and hire other contractors and specialists to augment.

You may need to hire a specialist when it comes to:

  • tech & automations
  • copywriting
  • video & audio editing
  • graphic design & logos
  • website development
  • paid ads

I encourage you to download my hiring guide to walk through which tasks you need the most help with so you get clarity on who your first hire should be. Grab it here.

How to Hire and Work with a Virtual Assistant

Why Hire: Results of Delegating to a Virtual Assistant

All business coaches teach their students to get help implementing in their business so the CEO can be the leader and visionary.

It comes down to the Pareto Principle: a phenomenon that states that roughly 80% of your outcomes come from 20% of causes.

This means as a business owner you need to outsource the 80% of your business and work on the 20% that actually creates revenue and movement.

You do NOT need to be doing all the little piddly stuff, just because you can or want to save a buck.

In order for our business to grow, the gasoline you need to pour on is human capital.

Unload that work, delegate tasks, pull our of the weeds, so you can focus on product development, visibility, partnerships, sales and other things that are the 20% growth busters.

This reel makes that case👇

Recommended Books

For insight on freeing up your time and getting your business running smoothly with the right people I suggest reading:

Additional How to Work with a Virtual Assistant

Hiring Resources

The Takeaway

Virtual assistants can help online business owners manage their workload and increase productivity, allowing them to focus on more high-level tasks. By outsourcing administrative or marketing tasks, business owners will be able to streamline their workflow and free up valuable time to grow their biz.

Working remotely has been a game-changer for me! 

If you’re thinking about freelancing as a virtual assistant, I have lots of great resources to help you on your journey. I encourage you to check out my YouTube channel, my Unicorns Unite podcast, and other blogs here!

-Emily, Digital Marketing Consultant and Implementer

Emily Reagan is a mom of four, milspouse, freelance digital marketer and Virtual Assistant coach who has helped 400 go-getters, including military spouses, stay-at-home moms, and professional women learn in-demand skills and find flexible remote work as digital marketing assistants and specialists. She’s shared 2,000+ job leads with her freelance marketers & VA community.

Ask her any questions over on Insta @emilyreaganpr

“I help smart women learn the in-demand digital marketing strategies and profitable tech skills to get hired as a unicorn digital marketing assistant.“

3 ways we can work together:

Unicorn Digital Marketing Assistant School with Emily Reagan

1. Do you need to acquire digital marketing implementation skills and build your workflows so you can solidly put yourself out there for work? Check out the Unicorn Digital Marketing Assistant School. (It opens twice a year so jump on the waitlist now!… I also share job leads with my students so it’s a gateway for anyone who wants to build a freelance business that gives them flexibility and meaningful work). You can also choose to go through the self-study program now. Enroll here.

2. Already doing the work and have clients? But need more clients and a better referral network? Apply for our Digital Marketer’s Workgroup. This is a tight-knit community of freelancers like you, supporting each other. Plus I’ve shared 1,600+ job opportunities with this community.

3. Need to hire a Unicorn Digital Marketing Assistant? Submit your job opportunity here. I’ll share with my workgroups totally free.

Further Reading

How to Use Your Administrative Skills Online as a VA

In-Demand, Profitable Niches for Virtual Assistants in 2023

Types of Virtual Assistants

How to Brand Yourself as a Virtual Assistant

Yes, you really can work online.

Feeling overwhelmed and not sure how you can work from home and build your own online digital marketing business? Take a deep breath – you can do this. Start here with my list of 10 popular tasks that online businesses need help with the most!

These are the tasks that new clients are constantly asking for help with, and skills that they really need to find in a virtual assistant. Get access to this free download right now. Then make sure your own VA toolkit is up-to-date and relevant, and decide where you might need to invest in new growth and development for your biz.

More posts you won't want to miss:

Need clients?

Are you a marketing service provider?

Join the Digital Marketer's Workgroup

Free Training

Learn what you need to start a virtual assistant business

Join our FB Group

What kind of freelance work best suits you?

2-Min Quiz

Meet Emily

Emily Reagan is a jill-of-all trades when it comes to digital marketing and techie skills. She’s worked as a behind-the-scenes digital marketing implementor and strategist for a decade for online biz owner clients.

She’s a mom of four, Air Force wife, and founder of the Unicorn Digital Marketing Assistant School, where she teaches smart women the in-demand, highly-coveted digital marketing skills to get flexible, online work.

Recent Articles