virtual employee

By Eleonora Israele

Hiring an employee is never easy. Not only do they have to have the right skills to match the job at hand and agree to the pay that you’re offering, but they also need to possess a certain level of chemistry to work well with you and your existing staff. If you’re looking for a virtual employee, then an added dose of trust and polished communication skills are required for the challenge of working offsite. Here are some common mistakes to avoid if you are in the market to hire a virtual employee.

Not Having the Right Tools Ready

Hunting for the right virtual employee is a Catch 22: you’re overwhelmed with work and need help because you don’t have the time to accomplish everything. However, this then means that you need to spend time that you don’t have exploring jobs boards, researching what tools are available to work with an off-site employee and learning how to use them. Putting in the time and effort now to incorporate these technology tools into your daily routine will eliminate stress and frustration later on. For example, I’m a Google super fan because of its shareability. Before you hire additional help, transfer your Excel spreadsheets to Google Sheets, set up a Google calendar and upload vital documents for the task into a Google shared folder. You’ll see when your employee makes edits or additions, you’ll have a shared calendar for scheduled check ins and team meetings and all the documents can be accessible in one place. These types of tools don’t have to be difficult to be valuable.

Failure to Write Down Your Shopping List

No one person is great at everything, so it is important to know exactly what skills are needed to perform the specific tasks that you have in mind. For example, you may just need someone to answer calls, take down messages and send those messages to your email in box throughout the day. There are low cost call centers that offer these options. Or maybe you need someone with the ability to do data entry, schedule appointments, and respond to basic email inquiries. This would fall more into line with a virtual assistant. Let’s say you have highly specialized tasks or projects; there are freelancers that focus on social media marketing, blogging, web design, graphic design and more. You can hire these professionals short or long term based on project length or budget parameters. Knowing what your needs are, how long the project will last and what type of professional you require will help you to know where to look, how to adjust your budget and get you the positive results that you’re looking for.

Not Expecting a Generous Learning Curve

No matter how great your virtual employee is at the task you hire him or her for, there will always be a learning curve, and probably a longer one than for an in office employee. It will take time for this new staff member to familiarize themselves with your unique business model or product, communication style and expectations. You should start seeing improvements and get into a rhythm within two to four weeks. If it takes longer than that, it might be time to cut bait.

To ensure success, create clear samples and standards for what you’re looking for and outline your expectations. For example, you should have a detailed step-by-step process to direct your virtual employee, samples explaining how emails should be written or a script that tells exactly how you expect phone calls to be answered. Furthermore, many times you get what you pay for. A newer virtual assistant may cost less because they don’t have the experience or education of a more expensive one. Again, assess your needs and goals and plan accordingly.

Thinking Virtual Employees Need a Micromanager

Your best bet is to hire someone who is an experienced, professional virtual employee, preferably if they have worked in your industry. They’ll know how to do their job so that you can focus on doing the more important things required for managing your business. Of course in the beginning you’ll need to check for quality control and monitor that the tasks are being completed, but if you continually check in you’ll just be wasting you time and money and your virtual employee will resent the lack of trust. Consider asking for a list of the projects accomplished each day or a detailed timesheet that explains the tasks and time it took to complete each one at the end of each week. This will help to bring confidence that the jobs are getting done and that your money is being well spent.

Focusing Solely on Skills and Not Personality

You won’t be chatting on break or having office holiday parties together, but as with any employee, attitude and personality are almost as important as skill set. They still need to be flexible to adjust to your procedures and communicate well with you and the other staff, clients, or peers that they’ll be in contact with. Many outsourcing companies have lower rates but are located in another part of the country or overseas; this may be great for your wallet, but you might want to consider cultural or communication issues you may encounter or even difficulties working in a different time zone may cause.

Hiring a virtual employee has immense benefits and can free up your time and schedule so you can focus on the important tasks that only you can do. Avoiding these common mistakes can allow for a smooth transition and the potential for your business to become more efficient. So what could you accomplish with the right virtual assistant?

Eleonora Israele is a Business Manager at Clutch, responsible for business process outsourcing and voice services. Clutch is a Washington, DC-based research, ratings and reviews platform for B2B services and software.