How to identify and choose virtual support

How to identify and choose virtual support
Enterprise Nation
Enterprise Nation
Enterprise Nation

Posted: Wed 9th May 2012

In her first post on outsourcing and virtual support, Sandra Lewis of Worldwide101 considered why small enterprises should think about hiring in virtual help rather than taking on full time employees. In part two, she looks at how you can get started.

You have been hearing about the many advantages of hiring virtual support - that you have global access to professionals in a variety of fields; that you can hire for a project or for ongoing support; that you do not have to commit to long term employment, pay benefits, or provide office overhead.  You are ready to try it out for yourself.  So, how do you get started? Just as you exercise due diligence in hiring a contractor to build your house or a full-time employee to help you run your business, similar principles hold true for hiring virtual help.

Posting your project

  • Be clear about your needs.  Do you need a few pages written for your website or an entire marketing plan?  Do you need a virtual assistant for a few hours a week, or to cover your office hours? It is good to start off slowly, but as entrepreneurs, we know the tendency while starting up is to try to do everything ourselves.  Think about what would be better outsourced to another - such as routine tasks that will free you up for more strategic work or projects where outside expertise will provide an advantage.  Then think about the qualifications of your ideal candidate - what skills, knowledge and experience should they possess?  Write your thoughts down!

  • Be clear about your budget.  It is possible to hire virtual help very cheaply, but as in most things, you are likely to get what you pay for.  An exception might be a new, untested provider who is bidding low in order to break into the market. Online freelance marketplaces like Elance, Odesk, Guru and many others allow you to post your project without specifying a detailed budget, enabling you to get an idea of the going rate by the proposals you receive. You may pay a bit more to use a virtual professional services company that selects providers for you, but make up for it in receiving guidance that allows you to get started quickly and avoid costly mistakes.

  • Carefully craft your job description.  The clearer you are about your needs and expectations, the better professional services companies can select providers for you. If you are using a freelance marketplace, providers will look at your project and decide whether or not to apply based on your description.  Choose an established marketplace or professional services provider to post your project - they will attract the best candidates.

Screening candidates

Once you have several candidates to choose from, use whatever tools are available to you to compare their qualifications with needs you identified during the first phase.

  • **Review recommendations.**  Providers associated with online marketplaces should have reviews from past clients that you can review. Professional service companies will also be able to provide such reviews.

  • Review work samples. In many cases, candidates may be able to provide samples of their past work. If they have not done so with their proposal, ask for them.

  • Interview candidates. At a minimum, an email exchange will give you a little more insight about the qualifications of the candidate. Some providers submit "canned proposals" that do not accurately represent their skills. Get them to answer some specific questions. Better still is a telephone or video interview (Skype is a good, free choice) that will allow you to interact with the candidate. Prepare some specific, open-ended questions ahead of time such as:

  • Tell me about a similar project you have worked on in the past.

  • What other projects are you working on at present? (to see if they are able to handle the workload)

  • What do you think qualifies you for this project?

  • How soon could you get started?

  • What questions / concerns do you have about the project?

  • Try out a small project. One of the distinct advantages of using virtual professional services is that you do not have to make a large commitment. Indeed, it is usually a good idea to try a small project with the provider to test their expertise and how well you work together.

We'd love to hear yours tips and ideas for how you have hired virtual support, so please don't hesitate to share them below! Good luck on your hunt for your virtual professional team!

About the contributor

Sandra is the Founder and CEO of Worldwide101, a virtual services company which provides admin and customer service for companies worldwide. Born and raised in France, Sandra has travelled and worked extensively in Asia, Australia, North America and  both Eastern and Western Europe. During her career, she has worked as operations manager for companies such as Regus and BuroServices, with a focus on supporting small businesses to be effective as they scale. She manages her entire team on four continents, on a virtual basis.

Special offer: $75 of free Elance credits with Enterprise Nation

Read Sandra's other posts about virtual support

More about outsourcing and virtual support on Enterprise Nation

Enterprise Nation
Enterprise Nation
Enterprise Nation
Enterprise Nation has helped thousands of people start and grow their businesses. Led by founder, Emma Jones CBE, Enterprise Nation connects you to the resources and expertise to help you succeed.

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