When you first start your product based business you’re usually a solopreneur – meaning, it’s just you. Packing orders, customer service and social media are just a few of the things you have to juggle on your own which can sometimes lead to missing out on other things you want or need to spend more time on. Sound familiar? Then you might need a VA. 

A VA (Virtual Assistant) is a freelancer that you pay to help with tasks that you can outsource, without having to hire an employee. It can be a great way to help you get some time back for your business and life in general. 

I recently spoke with Melissa Gauge, founder of Spare My Time about how and when you should consider using a VA for your products business. 

erg Product Consultant podcast

When’s a good time to hire a VA?

Like a lot of things, the right time is sooner than you’d think! Melissa suggests that you should start working with a VA before you actually need one. When you start feeling pressured it’s much easier to feel unmotivated and handing over tasks to a VA to keep the momentum going might feel like too much. 

Of course this may not work for you right now and Melissa kindly gave me two exercises you can quickly do to work out if it will be efficient and economical to outsource any of your asks to a VA. 

Exercise one – work out what your own hourly rate is

If you already charge an hourly rate then this is a simple task to start with. Other product business owners may not have an hourly rate so in this case you simply take the figure you want to earn in a year and divide it by the number of hours you want to work. 

 The next step would be to look at how much it would cost a VA on an hourly rate and work out if it would make sense for you. For example if you’re earning £31.25 an hour, and a VA costs £25, then you should look at outsourcing tasks that aren’t revenue generating. If your hourly rate is £20 an hour, or lower, then it might not be the right time to start outsourcing.  

Exercise two – Write a task list

Take your time to gather a list of every task that you do within your business. Once you have your list, go through each task and take out which ones are either urgent, revenue generating or only you have the skills to do and this will then leave you with a list of jobs you can outsource. 

How much does a VA really cost?

The average cost for a VA in the UK for admin is £25 an hour. Think of this cost VS an employee in terms of the fact that they are self sufficient. They will have their own computer, and you don’t have to pay any fixed costs unlike an employee. (Think holiday pay, etc.)

VA’s have a multitude of clients at once and this brings a depth of experience and knowledge to your business also. In a lot of cases VA’s will be quicker at tasks than you will be and their experience can help you streamline processes and systems much more efficiently than you working them out yourself. 

Some VAs charge by the hour, which might work best if you only have a few tasks to outsource, but others charge in blocks of time. Melissa suggests you have a conversation with a few different VA’s to see what would work best for you. 

What can a VA help with? 

In a nutshell every VA is different and there is a very broad range of skill sets in the VA world. It depends on what your business is to start with and then what you want to outsource.  

Here’s a quick list of some tasks a VA might be able to help you with as a product business: 

  • Admin
  • Bookkeeping
  • Social Media
  • Product Analysis Research
  • Packaging Research
  • Wholesale Research 
  • Outreach 
  • Customer Service 
  • Uploading Listings onto Amazon, eBay etc.

The list goes on and on…

I know you can probably do all of these yourself, but by outsourcing something to somebody whose specific role this would be means they don’t have any distractions and they are focusing on that one task for you, without getting waylaid by other things. 

How do you find a VA? 

Once you’ve worked out what tasks you need to outsource you’ll need to find the right VA for your needs. Recommendations go a long way and you can ask other product business owners in your industry but be mindful that the tasks they outsource may not be the same as you so keep an open mind. 

Another place to look is on Facebook groups. Facebook has plenty of freelance groups where you can post your needs and ask for people to get in touch with you if they are the right fit. 

Of course you can also take a look at Melissa’s agency and see if any of her VA’s suit you –  By using an agency you’re not only covered legally but also they match you to the right VA which eliminates the worry of finding the right person. 

As a side note Melissa mentions in our chat that if you’re hiring a VA keep an eye out for IR3 legal legislation coming in soon. IR35 is all about how many hours you hire a VA for and tax so it’s worth reading up on, if you are looking to hire a VA for the same amount of hours as an employee.  (If you’re just looking for a few hours a week, don’t panic, this probably won’t apply!)

How to work effectively with a VA 

After finding your perfect VA the next step is to work on a really productive relationship with them. Melissa’s top tip for this is to be clear! Communication between you and your VA is key in building a solid relationship. Make sure your instructions are precise and you give clear deadlines. Keep talking to your VA on a regular basis, don’t be afraid to ask for updates and be precise in what you need to avoid going back and forth. 

Educate your VA on your business and take some time to write detailed instructions on systems. Providing this at the start of your relationship means they can always refer back to them and get on with the task in hand. 

Ask questions, i.e. have they used Shopify before? Are they familiar with uploading products to Amazon? As mentioned above VA’s have a very broad skill set and a lot of experience so don’t be afraid to ask them what they can do. 

In summary

Outsourcing may seem scary at first but if you sit down and work out how much time you could get back from hiring a VA it will seem a lot easier! VA’s have a wealth of experience from working with multiple clients at once and they can bring experience, speed and new ideas to the table, which can only be a good thing!

If you’d like some more advice on hiring a VA then you can find and contact Melissa at SpareMyTime.