As the popularity of the solar business industry rises every year due to the falling cost of solar power and the increasing environmental crisis, it is no wonder that entrepreneurs are venturing on ways to expand their business. With that expansion involves the hiring of workers to keep the solar business running while top-tier managers can focus more on the big picture of the company.
Through globalization, this opened up opportunities to not only get talents from local areas but all over the world. Having a Virtual Assistant (VA) work for you remotely costs cheaper than having someone work for you locally. Let’s say, it costs 4x cheaper, but with the same skillset and experience. With first-world currency having a stronger claim compared to other countries, the exchange is greatly felt by both workers and employers. This results in a win-win situation for both.
But how do you effectively make use of this kind of resource? And where can you get this kind of talent?
Tasks you can Delegate to your Virtual Assistant
Having the job title of Virtual Assistant has a lot of gray areas to cover. The title itself is just too broad since VA’s can do a lot of things depending on their skill sets and experience. That just proves how flexible and able a VA can be with their job.
Here are some of the tasks a VA can help you in your Solar Installation Business:
- Bookkeeping and Accounts
- Marketing – Advertising, Market Research and Branding
- Administration – Email Management, Scheduling and Appointment Setting
- Sales Assistance & Customer Service
- Data Entry
- Social Media Management
- Web Content Writing – SEO and Generating Blog Topic Ideas
Where to Find Virtual Assistants
With a lot of platforms to look at over the internet, it’s kind of hard to narrow down your choices on where to look for your Virtual Assistant. Luckily, I have here some recommended sites that will help you in your search.
Here are some of the best sites that will help you get the best Virtual Assistant for your solar business:
- VaVa Virtual
- Fancy Hands
- Virtual Staff Finder
- Time Etc
If you’re a start-up company looking for more skilled workers, this site is for you! Virtual Assistants from this company are equipped with bookkeeping, social media marketing, branding, graphic design, web design, and more. You can even customize your package with them by just choosing the services you need, tailoring it to your fit.
This company offers experienced workers who have a minimum of 3 years of experience in digital marketing. The price of their service may be higher compared to other companies, but it’s totally worth it. You will definitely get what you paid for.
If you need simple tasks done asap, then this company is for you. They offer live assistance on requests that can be done on a maximum of 20 minutes. Standard requests are also available, but most are for coordinating with 3rd parties, communicating back and forth, or research. If you want fast, think fancy hands.
Being the leading site for freelancers (with more than 12 million), you can find all sorts of virtual assistants here. Hiring a virtual assistant on this platform is made easy for the employer. You can just post a job ad or search for resumes on this site. They also have their own billing system and time-tracker which is really employer-friendly. Upwork definitely gives you an easy breezy experience from finding a virtual assistant to hiring one.
If you’re looking for cheap and want tasks done fast, then Fiverr is best for you. Fiverr was originally named because of its cheap cost – only $5 – for each simple task done. It now has a wide array of services with different costs depending on the difficulty of the task. This site is best for those who want to have tasks done on graphic design, music & audio, and data entry.
What this company sets them apart is the personalization it offers to the employees. They will match you with a virtual assistant that fits your wants and needs and even who’s complementary to your personality. If you’re looking for a virtual assistant that’s for the long-term, then better visit this site.
Experience is definitely their advantage. Their assistants have a minimum experience of 5 years with a range of different skill sets. They offer monthly plans for 10, 20, 40 or 60 hours of assistance. And if you haven’t used all these hours up for the current month, then it will just be carried over next month. This really sounds fair to the employers. If you’re looking for someone who would constantly help you on a project, then this site is for you. Cost may be pricey, but definitely worth every penny.
Hiring their personal assistants is exactly like what their company name entails. It’s magic! They are literally just a text away to every whim you have for a project. Whether it may be about research, data entry or delivering goods to your home, Magic’s personal assistant will be there for you like a 24-7 personal concierge. Their services are also not costly since they charge per minute, rather than for a monthly subscription. If you just want to crash that quick to-do task, might as well contact Magic to do the work.
How to Interview Virtual Assistants?
Hiring a Virtual Assistant might be the most important and tedious task an employer will do. You’ll be hiring someone who you’ll be “cloning” to do the work for you, so it’s important that you choose who’s a great fit for the role and your solar company.
As I personally believe in, “Hire slow, fire fast!”. Better to be meticulous on the hiring process, rather than regretting it afterwards.
Here are is a sample outline of questions that will help you in interviewing a Virtual Assistant for your solar business:
- What made you decide to be a Virtual Assistant?
This is an open-ended question that will help the candidate talk more about himself/herself instead of the usual “Tell me more about yourself”. This also helps to have a casual atmosphere and release the tension between you two at the beginning of the interview.
- What are your interests? Or what do you enjoy outside work?
This question helps to have a flow of continuous casual atmosphere between you two before you get on to the critical ones. It also connotes that you are genuinely interested in the person. You might be surprised what your candidate is up to! He/She may be managing his/her own business on the side. This information might come in handy for you in the future.
- What are your strengths and weaknesses?
As an employer, you have to know what skills you want to have for your virtual assistant. This question helps you gauge the candidate’s skillset and know if he/she is fit for the role. If the candidate tells you that he/she doesn’t have a weakness, or doesn’t know what his/her strengths are, then better move on to the next one. You need to have a virtual assistant who knows what he/she is good at and accept constructive criticism and learning for his/her weaknesses. Better to have someone who has a great attitude at work with a mediocre skill set, rather than having a skilled employee with attitude problems. Remember, skills can be easily taught, but attitude is something that is difficult to change.
- What tools do you use in your work? What’s your favourite?
This question is applicable to those who have experience working as a Virtual Assistant. Be sure not to share any tools you use at work and let this be an open-ended question. This helps you assess whether they are familiar with some tools or not because a candidate who really wants to land the job would just agree with you even though they don’t have any knowledge about it.
- Can you state a situation wherein you proactively addressed a client’s need?
Having the initiative is an important attitude you might want to have on your VA to keep your solar business running. You don’t want someone who just sticks to the set tasks and not doing more or beyond what’s expected. This question helps you test the capability of the candidate to solve a problem without the need of you addressing it.
- You’re working on an urgent deadline and something bad happens e.g your computer crashes, or your internet goes down. What’s the first thing you do?
Most of the candidates would say, have a back-up internet connection or run to the next coffee shop to continue the work. But I think the first and most important thing a virtual assistant should do is contact the employer and give an update about the situation. Proper communication is very crucial to an employer and VA work relationship. Internet, being as your only mode of communication, will either bear good or bad correspondence.
- Do you currently have another client? What are your schedule restrictions?
This helps you check if the candidate can be committed and focused on you. If you’re seeking for someone who’ll just be working part-time with you, then certain scheduling should be done beforehand, if you don’t mind him/her working with other clients. But if you want a virtual assistant who’ll work full-time with you, then having someone work for others will entail divided focus and commitment and later on give dissatisfaction for your part. It’s best to be clear about what you really want and expect at the interview.
- Do you have any references I can contact?
To make sure that the claims of the candidate are true, contacting some of his/her references is definitely worth a shot. If the candidate is hesitant about giving some references, then better move on to the next one because he/she might be lying about the claims he/she made at the interview. This also gives you a clearer vision of the work ethic of the candidate on his/her previous employer’s point of view.
How to Manage Virtual Assistants? (Tools and Best Practices)
Now that you’ve hired the right VA for you, it’s time to manage them effectively.
Here are some of the best tools and practices on how to manage your virtual assistant:
- Have a Time-tracker
Having a time-tracker helps in documenting how much he/she spends on tasks that have been done by your VA. This gives you an overview if your employee is being productive or slacking off from work. It’s good to trust your VA, but it’s also best to verify.
Recommended Tools: Toggle, Hubstaff, Time Doctor
- Keep your file in-sync with File Sharing/Storage Apps
Since you’ll not be dealing with each other physically, almost all of your documents and files will be in a form of data or something that’s intangible. It’s best to have synced file-sharing or storage application with your VA’s to ensure the smoothness of data retrieval and sending. Just make sure to make it secure, such as having a 2-step verification and early phishing detection, to name a few.
Recommended Tools: Dropbox, GSuite, Huddle, pCloud, LastPass
- Be organized
Since your virtual assistant will be handling a lot of tasks for your company, it’s best to have a project management tool to make your team organized. This helps you schedule tasks properly and effectively at a given time. This will surely give you and your team an overview of the bigger picture of what will happen in the long run.
Recommended Tools: Trello, ClickUp, Taskworld, Asana, Basecamp
- Document your processes and create SOP’s
Uncertainty is something that will always be present in the digital world, and that also goes with VA. Human as they are, you won’t be 100% sure about how long your virtual assistants will stay with you. To lessen the blow of having a VA go MIA all of a sudden, documenting your processes and creating SOP’s to be sent to your next VA will surely help in the moving on process. It also skips the hassle of doing the 1-on-1 training all over again. Better to be prepared than having to start all over from scratch.
Recommended Tools: Loom, Zapier, Snagit
- Communicate often and effectively
Establishing rapport with your VA is important to have a harmonious work relationship. Weekly meetings and daily updates are recommended to ensure this kind of environment. Choose a communication medium that suits you and your virtual assistants. Make sure that you are on the same page here to avoid miscommunication and misunderstanding.
Recommended Tools: Skype, Viber, Line, Hangout, GroupMe
- It’s advisable to pay them weekly or bi-weekly
Payment terms should be discussed first hand to avoid confusion. Weekly or bi-weekly is the most advisable term for both parties at the start of work. After 6 months or so, you can move on to having a monthly payment. Just be sure to communicate this well with your VA so that both of you are good with this kind of setup.
- Have them sign a contract
To establish trust in both parties, having a signed contract agreement is the best start. This lets your employees know the authenticity of your company. Having the contract also gives you an assurance that your employee will be accountable with his/her mishaps due to unethical work practices if that ever arises.
In the fight against the climate crisis, Willie Jiang believes that content marketing can push the energy revolution along at a faster pace. Having helped countless brands grow their organic traffic by 10X and became the CMO of SolarFeeds.com, he is sharing his insights with the solar energy industry. Read his story here