While there are several key issues you need to think through before hiring a VA for your maternity leave, there is also the actual hiring process. I thought I would walk you through, step by step, to actually making a hire.
This is the process I have used myself, and supported clients in implementing. You can tweak and adapt it to meet your needs.
1. Make list of tasks that need to be covered
You can start by doing a general brain dump of all the repetitive tasks you do. Sort them by what actually needs your oversight versus things that could be handled by someone else if you simply document how you have it done. Those are the things that you can completely hand off, and will be included in the job description.
2. Decide on a budget
There is no magical number here, so I suggest identifying a range. You can estimate based on an hourly wage of what it takes to get the work done (i.e. review your list above to see how many hours per week or month of work) or you can also identify a number based on your profitability and what makes sense with the rest of your business expenses (i.e. take a look at your P&L sheet a determine a range).
3. Write a detailed job description
You cannot be too detailed here! Cover the ins and outs of the type of professional you are looking for. Include all the tasks from your initial brainstorm even if it seems like a lot so you can cast the net wide for someone who may have the skills to meet most if not all of what you need done. In your description include a summary of your business, and what your working and communication style is like. Include details about the pace of the work and what expected turnaround time would be for tasks.
4. Send the job description to a few trusted people who can give referrals
This approach deviates from what you may have seen out there in Facebook groups – dozens of replies to a short post saying “I’m looking for a VA.” Personally, I did NOT want to sort through dozens of candidates. I sent emails to three people who I know had a strong connection to VA networks or had mentioned they were quite happy with their own VA. Gathering candidates through referral process only, as opposed to putting a general call out or using groups or other online sites, has made me feel more comfortable because I trusted the references and could speak candidly to people who have worked with a particular VA before reaching out.
5. Specify application period and process
After gathering referrals I then emailed the job description to a handful of VAs writing out how to follow up if they were interested. I specifically asked potential candidates to review the job description and send me back a proposal. This was a test run of sorts — I wanted to see if they were detail oriented, responsive to my described needs, and what their communication style was like. If the proposal was strong, I scheduled an interview. (Note: there was actually one candidate who built a proposal that was totally different that the tasks I described needing! As in, nothing that I wanted was mentioned. Needless to say, she was not offered an interview)
6. Interview top 3 candidates and do a test run
Since I already had proposals gathered from candidates, the interviews allowed to me to ask detailed questions about certain tasks, as well as get to know the interviewee for a short period of time. I also did a test run, where I asked them to complete a certain task, paid them for their time, and was able to evaluate our communication, workflow and the potential for a longer term working relationship.
After the test run, I knew which VA I was going to go with, so I confirmed she was interested and let the other two know I would not be needing their services. I asked to set up a contract for 3 months of services, and since I was the client, the VA handled all contract details from her end. I want to emphasize that there should be a contract in place, and it is typical for the VA to handle this, since you are a client for them.
If you use this process for yourself, I’d love to hear how it goes!