Outsourcing to a Virtual Assistant: What You Need to Know

As your business grows, you’ll likely explore different team-building methods, including the possibility of outsourcing to a virtual assistant.

This is often touted on the internet as THE simplest thing ever to do, and if you do it, it will change everything. You’ll work two hours daily on the beach as a business owner, earning seven figures. 

If only it were that easy. 

The reality is that outsourcing to a virtual assistant CAN be done, but it isn’t simple. It takes time to find the right person, train them on all the administrative tasks, and build your SOPs and systems — AND it takes time to manage them.

This is why waiting too long to outsource to a VA can be a big mistake. If you’re already overwhelmed and swamped with work, adding in a new person who needs attention and guidance can feel like more of a hindrance than a help.  

So CAN you be successful with outsourcing to a virtual assistant?

You absolutely can! However, before you begin the process, you’ll want to have some things ironed out.

Let’s take a look. 

Refining the Hiring Process

If you’ve been in business for a hot minute, you know that hiring mistakes happen. 

One of the most common mistakes I’ve encountered when working with my clients on outsourcing to a VA is thinking you can find a unicorn — a.k.a. someone who can do literally everything.  They want someone who can handle calendar management, take phone calls, do customer support, draft social media, do light bookkeeping, and oversee email management. And on and on the list goes.

Bottom line? It’s unrealistic to expect outsourcing to a virtual assistant to be the magic answer to everything. Finding yourself a “jack of all trades” might seem easy, but you can’t expect someone to have such widely diverse skill sets.

Someone proficient with project management or strategic planning isn’t generally in the same job category as a virtual assistant. It’s also not going to be cost-effective, as you’ll be paying a higher rate than you would for someone who is simply a virtual assistant. 

If you aren’t sure whether you need to hire an OBM vs. VA, I recommend checking out this post to understand the difference between these two roles better. (Hint: they are not at all the same!)

When hiring, it’s tempting to focus on specific skills — like whether or not they’re familiar with a specific project management tool — and not worry about the other stuff. But friends, that is not a good plan.

Finding people who can deliver a consistent performance is one key to building a better team. I consider reliability and proactiveness at the top of the list regarding what to look for when outsourcing to a virtual assistant.

VA work often includes a lot of repetitive tasks, and you need someone who can get the work done on time every time. And these aren’t skills you can teach, unlike other important tasks that must be completed in your business. 

Fun fact: I’ve hired more than one amazing VA with NO experience. One of my best hires was my sister, who knew nothing about my business operations. She didn’t come to the table with years of experience in the online space. She DID bring reliability, great time management, and an ability to do high-quality work. 

All that to say, FIT is important. Technical skills or workflow can be taught, but soft skills are much harder to add in after the fact.

When creating your plan for outsourcing to a VA, here are four tips to consider: 

  • Be realistic. What does your business need right now and in the near future?


  • Hire for the role you really need. Don’t fall into the trap of hiring for what you think you “should” have or that someone else is telling you is essential.


  • Be willing to pay for the expertise you need. This is not the place to look for cost savings. Be sure you’re willing to pay for what’s actually needed.


  • Be discerning. If you’re desperate, it’s easy to think someone will be a miracle worker. If someone promises you everything under the sun, it’s probably too good to be true. 

Are You Ready for a Team?

For many small business owners, the idea of moving from solo to team is very exciting. In all that excitement, we sometimes forget that having a team means you need the right tools and structure. Yes, you’ll be offloading time-consuming tasks and freeing up valuable time to work on other areas of the business, but before that happens, you want to ensure you’ve got a strong foundation. 

Case in point — a common refrain I hear from my clients is that their team sucks up all their time. And that is a valid complaint! But, upon digging deeper, the issues come down to structural issues within the business.

If you’ve been around these parts for a while, you’ll already know that I am alllllll about documentation of processes and procedures. And if you start outsourcing to a virtual assistant, this will be critical to everyone’s success. You’ll want to have step-by-step processes that cover day-to-day tasks.

Also, you’ll want to consider how quality control will fit into those processes, as it can be time-consuming if you’re reviewing every single task or deliverable.

Next, think about how you manage workflows and tasks. What will that workflow look like once other people are in the mix? How will they find what they need? How will their work get assigned? These are questions you’ll want to answer before you hire. 

Another consideration is how you’ll manage a remote team. Even if you happen to find someone local to you, remote work is now the norm for both full-time and part-time employees.   

Obviously, the documentation I mentioned earlier will be essential in a remote work scenario. However, outsourcing to a virtual assistant also requires excellent communication. Connecting via video conferencing will be important, but you’ll also want to consider how else you can connect. My team uses Slack, but any instant messaging tool will do. 

Your goal is to make it as easy as possible to have seamless, hassle-free communication because good communication is a foundational piece of a strong team. 

Setting Team Members Up for Success

As a business owner, you want to be a dynamic leader. You want your team and business to be successful. Leadership skills come in many forms, and while they are all valuable, there are two that can make or break your team: communication and clear expectations. 

And part of being a great leader is leading by example

I mentioned earlier that outsourcing to a virtual assistant will require excellent communication, but defining what that looks like in practice is a must. 

Three common communication issues to try to avoid are:

#1. Jumbled threads. When you’re juggling multiple clients and projects it’s easy for things to get lost. Avoid jumbled threads — threads that start as one thing and morph into another — by staying on task. If you’re discussing Project A but need something for Project B, don’t include that request in the Project A thread; otherwise, it’s likely to get missed. 

#2. Making requests in the wrong place. If tasks are normally assigned via your project management system, don’t start sending requests via email or Slack. Focus on consistently leading by example and following the already laid-out process.   

#3. Separating discussions. Wherever a conversation starts, that’s where it ideally can continue. Discussing a project in email, moving to Slack, and adding comments to the PM system is confusing for everyone. It also creates a lack of context for the discussion when something is being talked about in bits and pieces. Just like with jumbled threads, this is a surefire way to have something important missed. 

In terms of expectations, I recommend the following: 

  • Expect what you pay for. If you decide to outsource to someone overseas for $5 an hour, you may not get what you need. If you’re paying 10 hours a month but need 15 or 20 hours, you can’t expect your employee to get it all done.


  • Set realistic deadlines. To be clear is to be kind, and your employee needs clear instructions on completing a task AND an exact time when it’s due. When you bring someone new in, have ongoing conversations about how long certain tasks take to ensure they have time to produce quality work.


  • Be consistent and clear with your expectations and feedback. If you’re not being clear on what needs to be done or not providing feedback so people can improve, things will never run as smoothly as you like. Your team is stronger when they understand exactly what you want and need from them and are provided with support and feedback to deliver it. 

Building a strong team is possible with the right people in place. My client, Alexia Vernon, experienced this firsthand through our work together. After going through a team realignment to support future scalability, we began working together to build her the right team. Alexia has created the work/life balance she craved while building her thriving and growing business. 

A Note On Outsourcing to a Virtual Assistant Overseas

After reading all of this, you may think that outsourcing to a virtual assistant overseas could solve all your problems.

Spoiler alert: It won’t. 

Now, to be clear, there ARE great virtual assistants overseas. However, the idea that this is a quick fix that will cost much less is ill-formed. 

Just because it’s cheap doesn’t mean it’s good. While this is the driving reason behind an overseas hire, it doesn’t account for the other “costs” that going this route will create. 

Typically, when dealing with overseas support, you can anticipate a considerably greater commitment of time and effort regarding management and training.

For several of my clients, we found that employing individuals from abroad often required two to three times the resources in terms of onboarding, training, and ongoing supervision. Depending on the hourly wages on both ends, this might not necessarily lead to cost savings.

One route some people choose when outsourcing to a virtual assistant overseas is using the services of an outsourcing company. I’ve personally done this a few times with mixed results. So it is possible to do this successfully, but a lot of it hinges on asking the right questions to ensure they meet your needs. 

To learn more about how you can succeed with outsourcing to a virtual assistant overseas, you can read this blog post

Set Yourself and Your Team Up for Hiring Success

As your need for support grows, outsourcing to a virtual assistant may become increasingly appealing. However, it’s important to recognize that while outsourcing can be a game-changer, it is not a magic solution. 

Outsourcing to a virtual assistant can be a valuable strategy for business growth, but it requires careful planning, realistic expectations, and effective management to reap the benefits successfully.

Are you looking for operations support in your business?

An online business manager may be exactly the help you’re looking for. 

Let’s talk!