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Holistic Wealth

By Sharon Desjarlais, CC

About the Columnist
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Avoiding These Five Pitfalls

In this day and age of worldwide connectivity, it's easier than ever to find someone to help you grow your practice at a price you can afford. Want to hand off your client scheduling? Your blog posting? Your bookkeeping? Your website updates? Consider hiring a virtual assistant (VA). You can work with them by the month, by the project, or even just by the hour.

A good VA is well worth the investment. The first one I hired in 2009, turned out to be a major turning point that allowed me to pass $100,000 in earnings. But take it from me, hiring the wrong VA can cost you dearly. Like eating up hours of paid time researching subjects you don't need to know. Or building web pages on outdated themes that don't support new technology. Or swearing up and down that your clients were contacted only to find out that it never happened. So give yourself the gift of learning from my mistakes. And avoid these five common pitfalls when you hire your first or your next VA.

Hiring Someone Because You Like Them

Imagine you just had a great conversation with a promising VA. And it felt easy because you had so much in common. You both love kids. And dogs. And Yin Yoga. You may even have thought, "We could be friends." That's your sign to take a giant step back because you're about to make one of the biggest mistakes human resource managers in every field warn about: Hiring on personality, rather than by skill.

pitfalls - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark The solution to finding a VA who makes you money rather than one who costs you money is searching for someone whose strengths complement yours. Someone who brings skills and experience to the table that you don't already have. It's not that personality isn't important because it is. By all means, you want assistants who are team players. But personality shouldn't be the only hiring factor. In fact, it shouldn't even be the most important one. So don't let your judgment get hijacked by a great personality. This is the time to take a critical look at the qualifications this VA brings to your business. Because personality is not a skill set.

Hiring a Jack- or Jill-of-All-Trades

If a VA tells you they can handle everything from web updates to bookkeeping to copywriting, take that as a giant red flag. Because no matter how talented someone is, no one can excel at everything. And specialization matters. You wouldn't go to a podiatrist for a heart condition, right? That's why before you interview a VA, you want to get crystal clear on the specific type of help you need.

Start by making a list of all the things you need support with. Add the tasks that you don't know how to do yourself. And then add those that you don't like doing because they zap your energy and leave you feeling drained. Once you have your list, prioritize. Focus first on tasks that'll free up your energy to expand your practice (and your income). The practitioners that I coach typically hand off their online technical support and their bookkeeping first. And since those are clearly two different skill sets, they're usually handled by two different VAs. And here's a bonus tip: When you're interviewing a potential VA, don't start by telling them what you're looking for. Instead, start by asking them what they specializes in. And how they think they can contribute best to your business.

Hiring Someone Who Wants to Be a Coach

Let me be clear about this: a VA is someone you hire to help you carry out specific tasks in your business. They may be experts in their field. But don't mistake them for business coaches, business consultants or even business partners. And don't rely on them for your strategic business advice.

One practitioner I know recently hired a VA to manage her email list and communications. Unfortunately, her VA talked her into switching from an inexpensive, easy-to-use email management system to a highly advanced, complex system with a price tag of $200 a month. That was 10 times what she was paying before. The problem is, with a contact list of some 700 people, she didn't need all those bells and whistles. And she wouldn't for quite a long time. So we urged her to get back on track with an email system that matched her business and her growth plan for years to come. Now she's got an extra $180 each month to invest in other areas of her business that will get her closer to her goals. So by all means, allow your VA to give you the benefit of her expertise. Just make sure you're balancing that out with practical, proven business guidance you're getting in other ways.

Hiring Outside of Your Time Zone

Thanks to the Internet, you can select your VA from a pool of qualified candidates all over the world. Thanks to books like The 4-Hour Workweek, the VA industry in places like the Philippines is exploding. But when you're working with someone virtually, time zones are an often overlooked challenge to your workflow.

If you live on the east coast of the United States and your VA lives on the west coast, you're looking at a 3-hour time difference. So by the time your VA is up and working, your day is nearly half over. This can make communication difficult and seriously impact your turnaround times on even simple projects. That's not to say you shouldn't work with someone outside of your time zone. A VA in another time zone may be perfect for projects that don't require daily communication, or that have plenty of lead time. But if you're someone who likes to work on the fly, you'll want to look closer to home.

Hiring Someone Who Wants a Business Like Yours

Years ago, I had the pleasure of attending a workshop with Sonia Choquette, a spiritual teacher and author of numerous books including The Psychic Pathway and Ask Your Guides. And she told us about the time she hired someone who was "the perfect assistant." This woman was so enthusiastic about Sonia's work, and she really seemed to get it. And it was the perfect fit. Right up to the point when Sonia found out that her enthusiastic assistant actually stole her latest manuscript and tried to sell it as her own. While her story is unusual, we've heard plenty from other people who lamented hiring VAs who only worked for them long enough to figure out how to run their own businesses. And then their assistants left to compete with them directly.

So while it's great to have an assistant who loves your work, it's better to hire one who loves their work. Because as a practitioner, your business isn't just your livelihood. It's your lifework. Your mission. Your purpose. Your passion. And when everyone on your team does what they love and are naturally skilled at, everyone wins.

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