The work of a real estate professional is full of time-consuming tasks and long delays between the closing of a deal and an actual payout. It’s estimated that for most deals, the time elapsed from contract to close averages 50 days. The pressures on time can make it hard for agents and Realtors to find their feet, with more than half of agents making less than $42,000 annually in salary and bonuses as a result. Especially in real estate, which employs so many “solopreneurs,” this situation cries out for a solution that, fortunately, is readily available to the modern-day business: Virtual Assistants — administrative support workers who do their work as online contractors.
How do you go about hiring a Virtual Assistant? Here are several useful tips that help you get the most out of this emerging trend in the online marketplace.
1. Identify the Tasks You Need to Delegate
There are a number of different methods you can use to work out the tasks you need to outsource. You can simply take the sticky challenge, writing down all the activities you undertake in a typical day and identifying how much time each of them takes. Which of these things are part of your unique skill set, and which can you delegate? If doing all of this with stickies sounds too messy, you can accomplish the same task with a spreadsheet or a scheduling app like Toggl. The specifics don’t matter as much as the exercise, which will help you identify where a Virtual Assistant can make the biggest difference to your business.
2. Put Together the Job Details
Once you’ve identified the tasks you need help with, you can budget for the position to make sure you know what rates you can afford and put together a job description. It should specify the number of hours your VA (Virtual Assistant) will need to work in a week (and for what pay), bullet-point the particular tasks they’ll be carrying out and specify what skill sets and training would benefit them. It’s also a good idea to put together the minimal tech specs they’ll need to interact smoothly with you, e.g., whether you expect them to have a functioning webcam for video conferencing and what kind of software and internet connection they’ll need. Just as importantly, think of the personal qualities you’re looking for: Ultimately this person is going to need to interact smoothly with you, so if they need to be hard-charging and self-motivated or you prefer someone who’s easygoing and collaboration-minded, don’t be afraid to say so upfront.
3. Choose High-Quality Outlets to Post the Job . . . and Vet Candidates Carefully
Upwork, Guru and oDesk are all solid venues for advertising for a VA. That doesn’t necessarily mean you can trust what seem to be positive customer referrals at face value. Were those clients soliciting work that’s genuinely similar to what you need? Are there samples of the work produced readily available? Is the contractor’s style of work and approach to tasks compatible with your needs and your schedule? A contractor can be good at what they do without necessarily ticking all the boxes you specifically need, so be sure you don’t simply hire the first respondent to a job ad, any more than you’d do this for someone physically working in an office with you.
Vetting candidates involves doing an interview, making sure the work and payment process is clear and agreeable to everyone involved and starting out with a small trial project to allow you to test the working relationship and confirm whether you’re a good fit.
4. As You Evaluate the Experience Going Forward, Remember It’s More Than a Cost
You can implement all manner of evaluative frameworks for engaging with your VA as you work together: Regular check-ins, the use of checklists and reports and the mutual provision of feedback are all important features of an online working relationship. Use whatever framework bests suits your personal style, but perhaps keep a skeptical eye on those who’d simultaneously tell you not to micro-manage and to mandate daily check-in calls — a competent online freelancer shouldn’t need more than a weekly check-in save for dealing with specific emergencies or checking in about incidental questions or concerns. However you’re evaluating your VA experience, however, remember that it’s more than a cost.
Your VA is an investment, the purpose of which is in part to allow you to be more productive and profitable. When you’re evaluating their work, always remember to look at your side of the ledger as well: Have you saved the time you were looking to save? Have you been able to apply that time profitably? Six months later, a year later, are you seeing financial dividends from the overall arrangement? With a good VA in your corner, there’s an excellent chance you’ll be able to answer “yes” to those questions.