Ep 120 | What to Consider When Hiring a VA with The Savvy Tasker

A lot of times people feel, like saying like, you just have to do it yourself if you want it done right. But that actually backfires. A lot of times, there's only so many hours in a day. And so I always tell people, if you develop SOPs “standard operating procedures,” which a VA can also help you do for your business or organization, then anyone can almost do any task in your company or business, and they can do it exactly how you would do it, exatly how you want it to be done. So that way you are not overwhelmed. That way, you can focus on other things. You can save time. You can focus on your mission, and you can actually scale. You can scale and grow your organization. – Akilah

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In this episode, I’m joined by Akilah, whom I hired as my VA. She is the founder and CEO of The Savvy Tasker, which she founded to help small business owners and organizations get a jumpstart and not go through the painful and tedious process she went through. Join us as she shares some useful tips on how you can hire a virtual assistant for your organization, from figuring out what duties you can offload yourself with, where to find a virtual assistant, the onboarding process, and how to collaborate with your VA.

What you will hear in this episode:

  • Akilah’s inspiration behind becoming a VA
  • What are virtual assistants and how can they support your organization
  • How to figure out what you need before opting for a virtual assistant
  • How can people research and find VAs
  • Recommendations after finding VAs
  • Onboarding process and partnering with a VA
  • Why VAs are more flexible when it comes to budget
  • Other benefits of working with a VA

Want to skip ahead? Here are some key takeaways

[09:22] Tips on how to figure out what you need before opting for a VA. Track your time and look at what you’re spending most of your time on. Figure out the things you can do only and make a decision.
[13:17] Where to find a virtual assistant. Referrals are the best way, followed by doing your research online on different platforms. You need a VA you can trust.
[16:10] Recommendations after finding a VA. Schedule time with the person/company you’re thinking of hiring and ask them a list of questions to help identify if they are the best fit. This will help you identify if they are a good fit for your organization.
[24:08] Use a VA to help you set up systems. Utilizing technology to help onboard your VA. This helps to seamlessly bring a VA into your organization. Communication is key to working with a VA.
[26:25] Why Virtual Assistants are more flexible with budgets. There’s no long-term commitment like in employment. VAs only work as little or as much as needed.


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Akilah Mabounda

Akilah Mabounda

Founder, The Savvy Tasker

Hi there! My name is Akilah, and I'm the founder and CEO of The Savvy Tasker.

I started The Savvy Tasker to help small business owners and organizations like yours get a jumpstart and not go through the painful and tedious process I went through.

I knew I wanted to create a platform centered around helping those making an impact. For the last five years, I've been helping other small business owners scale their businesses and organizations to more than they ever dreamed of. Let me take the load off and help you reach your goals. Learn more at https://www.thesavvytasker.com 

We love creating the podcast. If you like what you learned here please give us a tip and help us offset our production costs.

When you leave a review it helps this podcast get in front of other nonprofits that could use the support. If you liked what you heard here, please leave us a review.

Full Transcript

[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] Hey everybody, Sami here with another episode of the Digital marketing therapy podcast. Today I am talking to you about saving time. And who doesn't want to save time. I, I am all about it. I have been really for the last two years wanting to pull the trigger on hiring a VA or a virtual assistant and just haven't done it, haven't done it. I don't know, I was just afraid to let go of control, afraid to bring somebody in my business. Thought it might take me too much time to train them. I mean, all of the things, but I finally did it. Because what was happening is my podcast is my most important creation piece. It's what I love to do. But I was not getting it done in a timely fashion. I was typically doing show notes like the day before the podcast was going to go live, sometimes the morning of. My emails weren't going out to you guys consistently. And I just felt like the quality of what I was doing wasn't as strong as it could be. And we also just had big plans for what we wanted to do with the podcast. 

And so in order to do that, I needed to bring somebody in that could help me with my show notes, somebody that would hold me accountable to getting content created in a timely fashion, all of the things. So, I did it, I hired Akilah and her team at The Savvy Tasker. And so, I thought it would be good to have her come on and talk a little bit about what VAs are, virtual assistants. What they can do for you. Because you might be saying we only have a podcast, I don't need to hire somebody. But there are so many different things that they can help you with. And so that's what we're talking about in today's episode.

And Akilah is the founder and CEO of Savvy Tasker, and she started it to help small business owners and organizations get a jumpstart and not go through the painful and tedious process she went through. She knew she wanted to create a platform centered around helping those making an impact. For the last five years, she's been helping other small businesses scale their businesses and organizations to do more than they ever dreamed of. Let her take the load off and help you reach your goals. I have loved this conversation. I have loved working with Akilah. And obviously, every single relationship is going to be a little bit different. And it's supercritical that you find the support for your specific needs. And we're gonna dive deeper into that in the episode. But I hope you'll take a listen if you've been thinking about hiring somebody, whether it be virtual or in your office, whether it be local or overseas. There's lots of stuff in this episode for you to consider. Okay, and she's got a great resource for you that you'll learn about more that we've got linked up for you in the show notes as well. 

So, with that, let's jump into the episode. 

But first, this episode is brought to you by our private Facebook community. So join us at facebook.com/groups/thefirstclick. This is all like-minded nonprofit professionals that are really trying to get more visibility online, work through their business, get some digital marketing, more visibility, more donations, and have your digital tech work for you, as opposed to working hard to make stuff happen. Okay?

So, I really hope you'll join us in this group, it is free, we have a lovely conversation every single week in there. And, you know, we just need your voice, we need your story. We need to know more about your organization and what you're up to so that we can all learn together because there is enough. For all of us, there are enough donors, there's enough work, there's definitely enough work to do in the area that you serve. So, I hope you'll join us facebook.com/groups/thefirstclick. 

But for now, let's get into the episode. 

[INTRO] You're listening to the digital marketing therapy podcast. I'm your host, [Sami Bedell-Mulhern]. And each week, I bring you tips from myself and other experts, as well as hot seats with small business owners and entrepreneurs to demystify digital marketing and get you on your way to generating more leads and growing your business. 

[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] Hey, everybody, please join me in welcoming Akilah to the podcast. Akilah. Thank you so much for joining me today.

[Akilah] Thank you, Sammy. Great to be here. I'm really excited to speak with you today.

[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] Yeah, me too. And at the time of this recording, we've been working together for what about two months now. And so, I thought it would be great to have you on to kind of share our experience working together kind of the hiring part of it all and kind of the communication piece. So, I'm glad we get to share kind of our experience with everyone, and I know you have a lot of great tips and ideas for folks when it comes to hiring a VA. But before we kind of jump into all that goodness, oh, kind of why did you decide to become a VA like what is that what was the inspiration behind that?

[Akilah] Yeah, that's a great question. So originally, I started working as an executive assistant in traditional corporate environments, and the dynamics of my family changed. And my heart really pulled me home, to be with my family, but at the same time to still make a living, and to do what I love, which is working with great clients like yourself. And so, I took my skill set that I normally would use in an everyday office environment and started working online remotely, virtually. Even before now, when so many people working remotely, I was already working with clients, virtually online. And I love it because I can work with different people, different industries, and really help them grow and make an impact in their business or organization. 

[Sami Bedell-Mulhern]  Yeah, and, um, let's talk a little bit about, like what a VA is, because you're right, it's definitely been around long before we were all working remotely. The concept of a VA is not something new. But why don't you just kind of share with people like what a VA or a virtual assistant is, and kind of the wide variety of skills and tools that you can hire VA to help support you with?

[Akilah] Yeah, so a virtual assistant, which many people refer to as a VA, so you'll hear that term VA. We are independent contractors or freelancers we are not hired on as employees, although sometimes that does end up happening. But we typically assist clients remotely. Hence the word virtual. And we have a wide range of expertise, from administrative to technical to creative. In particular, with different nonprofit organizations, we can help to manage email. And we can help to provide any type of assistance with donor engagement, we can help with video editing with CRM management, with managing social media platforms, which is so important nowadays to have a presence on social media having that online presence, so we can help with scheduling posts and monitoring the activity, customer service with maybe different inquiries or questions that you would get developing FAQs. Also, just taking back that time, which for all of us, I feel like is the most valuable asset that anyone has is his time, right? And so, we help you really get out of that getting, we help you get out of that day-to-day activity, those lower-level admin tasks. We help to get you away from that. 

[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] Yeah, I think they're great. And I think the key thing that you're bringing up, and I want to stress that, like, what we're talking about today is specific to a VA-type relationship. But this could also be somebody who's in person in your office as well. But the key thing that you're bringing up is there are so many different types of skill sets and things that you can hire a VA for, that it's really critical that you understand what you need before you enter into that kind of relationship and start hiring and looking for someone. So, I know for me, I started with making a list of like, what are the things that only I can do? And then what are the things that I know that I want to take off my plate, right? So, by podcast, only I can record the podcast, right? It would be weird to hire somebody to be my voice like that wouldn't make sense. But there are tasks around my podcast, like the promotion in the show notes and things that I can hire. And that was critical in how I went about, you know, my job posting in my interview questions and kind of connecting with people. So, I guess I would love it if you would share maybe some of your tips or thoughts on how people might want to go about really figuring out what they need before they even start to talk with the VA.

[Akilah] Yeah, that's a great question. So one of the things I always encourage people to do is to track your time. So we use a lovely time tracker called toggle yet we use it and yeah, it's amazing. So I always suggest taking one of your busier days during the week and just track your time from when you open your laptop or computer to when you're ending your day, make sure you notate all of the different things that you're doing that you're working on, whether it's answering emails, whether you're in a meeting, whether you're scheduling something, talking to donors, whatever it is that you're doing, keep track of it on toggle recorded, that way you can go back, you can look at it and see where you're spending most of your time. And then something similar to that you do look at what is something that only you can do that you could not possibly give to a VA, and then all those other things that you most likely can. That is a good starting point for you to develop a list of things that you can hand off to someone else.

[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] Yeah, well, because I know I've been wanting to hire a VA for a couple years now. But I think what was holding me back was also that control piece or like, the thing that I tell myself or told myself all the time was, it'll just be faster if I just do it myself as opposed to training somebody. And I so I think it's also getting out of your own way, and kind of opening yourself up to support and help.

[Akilah] Yes, I agree with that. A lot of times people feel like that saying, like, you just have to do it yourself if you want it done right. But that actually backfires. A lot of times, there's only so many hours in a day, right. And so, I always tell people, if you develop SOPs (standard operating procedures), which a VA can also help you do for your business or organization, then anyone can almost do any task in your company or business. And they can, they can do it exactly how you would do it exactly how you want it to be done. So that way, you are not overwhelmed. That way you can focus on other things, you can save time, you can focus on your mission. And you can actually scale you can scale and grow your organization. 

[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] Yeah, I love that. It's so true. So, you know, so once you've really figured out exactly kind of what you want that to be, how does somebody go about? And I want to make sure that I pull bring this point up too because when we get in as we go into how do you find a VA? And how do you kind of figure out the hours and time and all that and budget. The beautiful thing about a VA versus bringing somebody onto your team is the hours are way more flexible. So you can enter into a relationship that's not requiring you to you lose that time constraint of Well, I have to hire somebody for 20 hours a week or 40 hours a week and in order to, you know, make it valuable enough for them to support me. And so, maybe talk a little bit about how that's a great benefit. But then, you know, kind of why understanding some of those pieces is also important as you go into the hiring process. And then maybe like, you know, I know how I found you, but like, how are they? How can people go about maybe starting to research and find VA is that they need? A lot of questions.

[Akilah] That's okay, so to answer your latter question about finding a VA, to meet your needs. Referrals. I always say start with referrals start with everything is about trust, right? You go to people that you trust, you know, maybe you get your hair cut by someone that you trust because your best friend recommended them. Or, you know, you go to that mechanic with your car, because you've been going to them for years, you trust that person. Right. So, referrals to me are the best way to find a VA. So, if you know someone that is already utilizing one, I would definitely start there. Besides that, there's a lot of different platforms that have virtual assistants on that you can find you know, searching online, you just have to be really careful because obviously, you don't want to waste time you don't want to waste money. And sometimes there are VAs in other countries that are a lot less expensive. But what people don't understand is that number one using someone like the savvy Tasker where us base VAs, we speak English fluently, you know it's our native language, we're on the same time zones. So, if you need something done at a certain time, if someone is 12 hours ahead of you 15 hours behind you, whatever the case may be, that can pose a challenge for you So, really referrals. Number one, I would start with second, doing your research online is another way that you can find a VA.

[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] Mmh. Yeah. And then also understanding I think, you know, like you mentioned, sometimes VA is do end up being on staff for a company that I know for me, one of my criteria was, I knew I wanted to VA to do social media for me. And I knew that I wanted somebody that would be able to expand in their responsibilities with me. And so one of the things that I loved about you and your team was that because it wasn't just you, I knew that no matter what my social media would be covered, and I knew that, you know, there was an opportunity for growth and expansion of ours. So, I think understanding where you are now, and where you hope to grow, is also really critical when you're doing that research and asking for those referrals.

[Akilah] Yeah, yeah, I agree. Um, you know, there's also another step that I always recommend is, schedule a time with that person that you're thinking of hiring or that company, ask them a list of questions, which I have a list of questions that you can ask the virtual assistant, to help you identify if they're the right fit for you, to help you identify if they can, the different ways that they can assist you and your company or your organization. They will brainstorm with you during that call to help to see what they can take off of your plate so that you can focus on those other things that they absolutely could not do for you. Like record the podcast. Yeah.

[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] So this isn't meant to be like a super promo about Akilah. But I'm just sharing my experience because that's the only one that I have with you guys. So, by all means, like, make sure you do your own research and find your own fit, because her skill set might not be what you need. But one of the things that I loved so much about our onboarding process, once we decided to work together, and we started going was like, I'm used to the one, I'm used to being the one who's kind of in charge and is like, okay, this is what we're doing this is you know, where we're going, this is the strategy. And what was so refreshing was, not only were you taking things off my plate, but you weren't even requiring me to do anything you just got started. And so I think that was a really nice kind of step forward to really emotionally allow me to remove myself from those tasks and focus on other things, which is great. But I want to talk about kind of the onboarding process in the partnership because I think it is very much a partnership, we both have to do our parts in order for it to work. And so while you did a great job about just taking those things and running with them, that didn't mean that I also didn't have an active role to take. So could you maybe talk about some of that, and how, you know, having that right communication with your VA is really critical to getting the work done well, and making sure that everything is happening effectively. 

[Akilah] Yeah, so I am really big on communication. And if you are thinking about hiring a virtual assistant or developing a virtual team, you really have to, in the beginning, you have to really be clear and concise on how you're going to communicate. And that is one of the things that I asked at the very, very beginning. How do you prefer to communicate with me, with me, and my team. And it sets it really sets the foundation for a successful working relationship. You know, when someone feels like they're handing a piece of their business or company to someone, they're very protective. It's like their baby, right? So, I really tried to ease things and really try to make everything seamless. And any VA that you hire, just not just speaking for myself or my team, but just anyone one of the questions you need to ask them or make sure that you know they ask you is how will you guys communicate with one another? What are those expectations? Is it a weekly meeting or phone call? Is it through slack? Is it does it have to be through zoom? video, no video, what is it, and that way, you guys can really start off on a good note. You can begin your relationship on a good note and find out what do they need from you? What will they need from you every month to get their job done? You know, do they need constant access to you every single day? Or can they communicate with you maybe one time a week. And I really think that'll, that sets the foundation for, you know if you guys are going to work together well, and also, we don't want to add more to your plate, right? So, we don't want to overwhelm you and overload you. And so really, in that initial onboarding call, we try to pull everything out of you that we'll need so that we avoid doing that.

[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] Yeah. And then I think understanding that there is that training and ramp-up period. So you know, it's not going to everything you get back is not going to be perfect and done perfectly the first time around. And so that's on me, or you, as the business owner, to really be direct and clear and say this is what's working. This is what's not this is, you know, how we want to do things, it's gonna take a little bit of time, just like it would any employee that's in your office. And so I think, I think that's critical in an ongoing process for me, as the owner to be very direct and clear on how because ultimately, it is still my name, it is still my organization that's out there public-facing.

[Akilah] Oh, yes, I couldn't agree with that more. Because just like you said, with the regular employee, people get a probationary period or something like that, generally, it's really no different with a virtual assistant, we're getting to know each other's working styles or workflows, the expectations, what you're looking for what you're not looking for. So I always suggest just be open, be direct, communicate, communicate, communicate. We don't take anything personally, we're learning, we're learning you were learning your business, your company, your organization, how you do things. And so you know, just checking in regularly, clarifying things that are unclear. A regular call, just as many details as you can provide to us, will help us to assist you better.

[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] Yeah. And one of the things for me, that I have found that has been super helpful, is really the accountability. So, whether like I said, whether you're hiring somebody to support you in your office, or you're hiring a VA, that accountability for the things that I know, I need to do in order to get my business, like you said earlier to scale up. So, for me to have the space to be able to do that. You know, my podcast is my main hub. And that was some of that was one of the pieces that was really slowing me down. And having you step into the role and say, in order for me to do my best jobs for you, I need everything for the next month by the 10th of the previous month was like, holy crap. But you know, right. And so now the things that we've been developing and pushing out because of that have been great. And so I think it's also making sure that you hire somebody to do tasks that are critical for your ability to scale how you want to not just to take busy work off your plate that maybe you shouldn't be doing anyway. But then also showing up for that person so that they can do their job well for you. So, the systems that you talked about and things like that.

 And, and so I'm curious in some of your clients that you've worked with, kind of what would that look like? And I know, this is like a terrible question, because you can't really answer it. But like, what might that look like if you were going to bring a VA in to help you kind of set up those systems as well as pull it through compared to like, just having somebody that steps in and just jumps right in and does the work?

[Akilah] Yeah, so I would suggest really use utilizing technology utilizing something like loom. For example, I love loom to create videos. I do it all the time for my clients. If there's something that I need them to do, that I cannot do for them because it's directly related to maybe some personal information or something. I create a loom video for them. Which something really short or they can watch. And it's really clear and concise and it shows them, you know what they need to do. Just not being afraid to ask questions to give that regular feedback, whether it's good, not so good. You know, as a working relationship progresses, you just want to make sure that your VA is meeting your satisfaction. We want to make meeting your satisfaction. So really just evaluating what they're doing, you know, looking at the time, how much time is it taking them to do certain things? Are they meeting the deadlines, just really communicating at the end of the day, you know, you don't communicate, then you, you can't really expect for them to meet your needs.

[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] Right? I know, and it's, um, it's tricky at times, I think, to really understand kind of the ebb and the flow of the of the work. And you mentioned kind of time it takes and so the other thing to think about is different vas will bill in charge in different ways. Some are project-based, and some are hourly-based. And so I think that's also a great way for people to consider their budget, but also to really kind of test the waters and say, Okay, well, we're going to start out with working on this particular project. So maybe we are just going to start working on our SOPs. And then we're going to kind of determine how that working relationship goes. But that's also the blessing of working with the VA is there's no long-term commitment.

[Akilah] Yes, that is something that I always really, really stress to people is, since we're not employees, we can work as little or as much as you need us to, you might only need five hours per month of support. Or you might need 50 hours per month of support, whatever you need, we can handle that you don't have to worry about all of those different things that you would have to consider if we were brought on as an employee. And so no time is wasted. You know, we keep track of our time, if that's how we set it up together. And so you'll know that we're always utilizing it and being productive.

[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] Yeah, cuz it's great, because if I go into a launch, and I'm like, Okay, I'm going to need you guys a little bit more in the next couple of months, then I have that ability to do that if you're going into an annual campaign, or Giving Tuesday, or whatever a big event, like to have that flexibility is great because you're not just relying on my business to generate your income. So, therefore, it's easier to be more flexible, which I think is wonderful.

[Akilah] Yeah, I mean, the, when you're hiring a VA, you know, your whole thought processes, I need to save money and time. But how do I do that, right? As you feel like you're spending money on a VA, when in actuality, you're saving, because you're getting that time back, and you can focus on something else, right, and then versus hiring an employee versus bringing someone in, you know, nine to five, or whatever the case may be, you know, you're not playing those employment taxes, you're not paying for downtime, right? All of those different things, you don't have to purchase office equipment, you know, all those traditional things you'd have to do if you brought on an employee. So a lot of times you're saving, like up to three times the cost, you know, of hiring a VA versus a full time, part-time employee.

[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] Yeah, well, one of the last things I kinda want to touch on is kind of one of the benefits and perks that I didn't necessarily think of, and I don't really hear a lot of people talking about, but obviously I am. I mean, there's two of us in our business. But it's largely me that runs the strategy, everything. And I know a lot of the listeners are in smaller nonprofits, where there's not a large team. But one of the perks that I've experienced in working with you is just the fresh set of eyes and the questions that you asked about my business, things that I have maybe kind of let kind of go or not really engaged with. Then also kind of the creative new ideas that you bring to the table. And so even if you're in a smaller organization, and you're like why, you know, I can't hire somebody right now. It's Yes, the time saving and the ability to scale but it's also to have that other person that you can bounce ideas off of because it can be kind of lonely when you have a small team and you're like, Oh, I got this great idea. And you have no one to kind of talk it out with and figure out how it fits into your plans, and then also somebody else to kind of hold you accountable to say, well, but we're doing these things right now. Like, do we really need to do that right now? Which you haven't had to do with me yet, but I have a feeling at some point. You probably will say something like that, to me. That was just a benefit that I kind of hadn't thought of before. We kind of entered into this relationship.

[Akilah] Yeah, for sure I, when you when we onboard with our clients, we ask a series of questions. And a lot of times it kind of stirs up some emotions in people because maybe it's things that they haven't thought about, or it's things that they've been avoiding answering. And they really have to sit down and put pen to paper and really work through these questions. And like you said, it really helps us to learn about them, and to be able to come up with the best ideas, the best workflows, whatever it is, it helps us to provide the best possible service for them and their business or organization.

[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] I love that. Well, Akilah, you have given I think, some great things for people to think about when it comes to the whole process from before you hire to working in that ongoing relationship. And, and I know that we'll put some of the tools that we that you talked about as well in the show notes, which you can find at thefirstclick.net/podcast. But Akilah if people want to know more about you and the Savvy Tasker, I know you've got a freebie for everyone, how can they find all of that?

[Akilah] Yes, so they can just go to thesavvytasker.com. And I will be providing a very awesome resource for everyone that will help you to see the different ways that you can utilize a VA’s services in your organization, the different services that we offer. And it's really just a complete guide to hiring a virtual assistant.

[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] That's awesome. Well, thank you so much for sharing that resource. And thank you so much for joining me on this episode. We'll have to do another one like a year from now. Yeah that will be awesome] if you still want to work with me. 

[Akilah] Thank you, Sami, I appreciate it.

[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] Big, big, big thank you to Akilah for being on this episode. I am so grateful and thankful that she took time to share her experience that I got to share mine. I hope it was helpful and useful. Like I mentioned, the tools will be in our show notes at thefirstclick.net/podcast. So check those out. For sure. Please make sure you subscribe wherever you listen, we come to you every single Tuesday. And don't forget to head on over to thefirstclick.net/Patreon if you're liking what you hear and you want to dive a little deeper with some worksheets and some opportunities to ask us questions live. Okay. I appreciate you all so much. I hope you're having an amazing week and I will see you in the next one.


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