So you think you’re ready to scale your wedding business, start outsourcing tasks, and eventually grow a team (even if small but mighty)? Doing so usually sparks one of two feelings for a business owner: extreme excitement or terrorizing fear. You’re either ready to get someone onboarded now so that you can stop doing that thing you hate doing, or handing off tasks to rely on someone else to do is completely nerve wracking.
You shouldn’t find yourself waking up in the morning dreading having to manage all of the things in your business. You started this journey because you love what you do, right? When your task list gets so full that you have to pump yourself with caffeine at all hours of the day just to keep from going crazy, it’s safe to say that it’s time to find an independent contractor to outsource tasks to.
Another common name for independent contractors is a Virtual Assistant (VA for short). Keep reading to learn all about how to hire a wedding industry Virtual Assistant for your photography business, planning business, or whatever sort of wedding professional you are!
How to Prepare Your Business to Hire a Virtual Assistant
There are a few steps that need to happen before you start your search for a VA. You should get clear on what tasks you need to delegate, refine the details, and identify the hiring criteria.
DECIDING WHAT TASKS TO DELEGATE
If you’re rattling your brain trying to figure out what role(s) you need to delegate to a VA (a.k.a. what the scope of work is), start simple. What do you dislike doing the most and what do you never have time to give attention to? Maybe your email inbox is getting out of hand, but you dread the thought of having to go through and clean it up, or you simply don’t have the time to reply back to customer inquiries.
Perhaps, even though you have amazing ideas for social media content, you just don’t have the time to write posts or get them scheduled. Or maybe you really need a bookkeeper to help you sort through all of your income and expenses to get you organized for tax time. No matter what you need done, there’s someone out there who will do it!
REFINING THE DETAILS
Once you’ve gotten clear on what you need taken off of your plate, you should then refine the details, including:
- Your preferred communication tools/methods
- Where you can be flexible + where you can’t or won’t be
- Whether or not you’ll need to hire more than one Virtual Assistant – Different VAs will have their own zone of genius. For example, copywriters, social media strategists, and customer inbox managers don’t all specialize in the same thing. Try your best to group similar tasks together to help pinpoint if you’ll need to hire multiple VAs. There’s rarely ever, if at all, a sort of “catch-all” unicorn Virtual Assistant.
- Your business goals – Where do you want outsourcing to take your business? (i.e. more free time, doubling your income, lead generation, larger following, etc.)
- Your budget – Decide the maximum amount you can spend each month, then go a little lower for your budget. There’s a chance that, if this is your first time hiring a VA and you aren’t knowledgeable on common rates, your budget may be too low for the scope of work you need. This allows you to have a cushion just in case.
- Whether or not you’d be willing to train someone – If the situation arises where you may find someone whose personality you click with, but they aren’t proficient in an area you need help with or a tool that you use, would you be willing or able to train them
IDENTIFY YOUR DECISION CRITERIA BEFORE YOU START LOOKING AT CANDIDATES
Now, you should think about the criteria that’s going to help you determine whether they’re a good fit for you and your business before you start looking for candidates. Generally, we care about…
- Competence in the key area(s) you need help/assistance. Sounds obvious, but you’d be surprised how often we get distracted by things the other person can do and hire them for reasons that aren’t our primary need.
- Easy to work with. (available when you need them, flexibility or adaptability, etc. for both you and any clients or partners they will interact with.)
- Cost. We are investing money usually to solve a time or competence issue we have, so we do need to balance the cost against the value we get from hiring someone to help. Most often, we don’t hire assistance that we should because we don’t really understand the value of the work that we’re getting covered AND what else we can be doing with our time.
- Objectives that align. If you’re hiring for an assistant sort of role (like a Lead Planner or Assistant Planner, for example), you don’t want someone who wants to learn from you then compete against you– or worse, take your clients.
- Personality type. It isn’t uncommon nowadays to want to know someone’s personality type thanks to tests like the Enneagram or Myers-Briggs. There’s no problem with asking for this info on the application.
Where to Find Virtual Assistants
You have tons of options when looking for places to cast your net! We most definitely recommend starting your search within your own network of other wedding professionals. Let it be known that you’re hiring and explain what you’re looking for. Word-of-mouth goes a long way, and there’s nothing better than getting recommendations from people you trust!
Instagram and Facebook groups will also be your best friend because there are groups for literally everything. Instagram is already the #1 platform among wedding pros due to it being so visual, so that would be an amazing place to look for talent! If you want a Virtual Assistant, you can pop in a virtual assistant group– same for bookkeepers, graphic designers, photographers, etc. You can also ask in wedding pro groups for recommendations.
You can also put it on your website by creating a careers section and listing the position(s) there. Just be sure you’re using this in combination with posting on social media and/or asking your network because, unless you usually get super high traffic to your site, it isn’t the best avenue to try solo.
What the Average Onboarding Process Looks Like for a Virtual Assistant
We’ve hired multiple VAs and other independent contractors throughout our experience with growing and managing teams. There’s a pretty common “standard”, you could say, for how the hiring and onboarding process works across the board, from the initial inquiry to the discovery call to onboarding. But remember, everyone has their own preference and process. There are also some things to be aware of and keep in mind throughout this process, which we’ll cover as well.
THE INITIAL INQUIRY
If you’ve created an application and posted it in various places for VAs to fill out, that’s totally fine! Otherwise, you’ll likely be completing a contact form either on their website, portfolio, or wherever they may have it. From there, they’ll decide if they think you’ll be a good fit to move forward and book a discovery call with. If so, they’ll email you the scheduler link. Sometimes, VAs skip that vetting process and allow you to book a discovery call straight away, which is just fine.
THE DISCOVERY CALL
The discovery call is sort of like an interview, but it isn’t the sort of interview you’d have with a potential employee. Remember that VAs and other types of independent contractors are business owners, not employees, so they’re interviewing you at the same time to ensure you’re the type of client they’d like to work with. Check out this post for more details on the differences between independent contractors vs. employees if you need further clarification.
Discovery calls are usually 30-60 minutes, and if the conversation is flowing nicely, it can be easy to lose track of time! We’d recommend recording the call so you can refer back to it later, or take notes during.
- Ask how they prefer to communicate (i.e. phone, email, text, a voice-messaging app like Voxer).
- Ask about their schedule. If they have children, for example, they likely have schedule restrictions (like they don’t communicate after 7pm or they’re unavailable from 2-3pm as they pick their kids up from school, etc). You’ll need to know what their schedule is like to decide if it will align with your needs.
- Be sure they understand the full scope of work you need done. If you think you may need to hire multiple contractors, at least gauge how much of that scope they would be able to do.
- Get clear on their rates and how payment works for them. They may prefer to work hourly where they track their time and send invoices based on that amount at the end of the month, or they may prefer package retainers where there is a fixed price and the first invoice is due before work begins. This is subjective to each contractor and their preference.
- Related to the above, be willing to hear them out if it turns out your budget may be too low for the scope of work you expect done. Though it may be disheartening to hear, it will serve as a learning moment. It’s possible you could find a contractor who’s willing to start out at a lower rate, and then increase as they assist you in your business and you’re able to generate more revenue. This conversation may take place either during the call or afterwards.
- Get clear on the date you’re hoping for them to start working with you.
- Ask any questions you feel will help you better determine if they’re a good fit for you. Some examples would be:
- How do you respond to criticism?
- Do you work better following directions or do you like having the freedom to do things as you see fit (i.e. “fix” something or implement a small change if you think it would produce better results)?
- What’s your schedule like?
- What type of work are you best at?
- What type of work do you prefer not to do?
- If I asked you to perform a task that you later realized you weren’t sure how to do, what would your first move be?
- What would you do if you realized you weren’t going to be able to meet the deadline on a project?
THE ONBOARDING PROCESS
- Thoroughly review the contractor’s proposal and contract to make sure it reflects what was discussed on the discovery call. Ask any questions during this time.
- Once everything is signed and, if applicable, the first invoice is paid, communicate clear expectations on what the contractor should start on first (if there is no training needed).
- Be sure to maintain responsiveness and follow communication expectations. Do not push boundaries and often refer to the contract if you need to be reminded of the terms of your agreement.
The Most Important Thing to Remember
You need TRUST! We know it can be scary, especially if you’re a perfectionist, to delegate tasks to someone else. However, the key to a long lasting and sustainable relationship with your contractors is to trust them, and also let them know that you trust them. It can make a world of a difference in how your team members feel about working with you just as much as how you feel about working with them.
OK, we know we said “the” most important thing, but there’s also one more: Know that everything is learnable. How to be a good leader, where to find talent, interviewing, all of those things can be learned over time. Nothing is going to be perfect on the first go-round, and you’ll grow your team building skills as time goes on. All you can do is learn as much as you can, and then dive in head first embracing that things will go astray!
We’re so proud of you for getting to the point in your wedding business where you’re ready to hire help! This is a sign that your business is growing and moving in the right direction. If you want more hands-on help, be sure to apply for our Building Your Team Intensive where we dive in with a small group of business owners over 12 weeks, walking you through all of the nuances that go along with prepping your business, yourself, and your mindset to build a strong, dependable, and efficient team!