Virtual assistants can be incredibly useful to your real estate investing business. I truly believe that the ability to successfully delegate (including knowing when and what to delegate) is key to the success of any business venture. Leveraging others’ time allows you to focus your precious limited time and energy on the most profitable activities in your business.
Earlier this year I hired a virtual assistant for the very first time and while it wasn’t a complete disaster, frankly it was pretty bad. The good news is that there is always something to be learned even from rotten experiences, and I’m pleased to be able to share my lessons learned with others who may be considering hiring a virtual assistant to help with their real estate businesses.
Lesson #1: Talk to references!
Before hiring a virtual assistant, ask the assistant for references whom you can speak to. Even if you are looking to hire from one of the outsourcing websites (e.g. eLance.com, Guru.com) like I did and the person has a few positive comments, follow up with those past/current clients! Perhaps you can feel comfortable if they’ve been hired 20+ times with outstanding feedback, but it’s always a great idea to speak directly to others who have worked with the person.
Lesson #2: Yes, sometimes you really do get what you pay for
I intentionally chose to start off with small assignments (handling my internet ads to market deals and build a buyer’s list). My plans were to start small and — if things went well — expand her responsibilities to include the majority of the online work for the business because she had the right skills and experience. We never got that far.
The truth is that my U.S. based assistant’s rates were very inexpensive compared to other assistants I’ve spoken to. Looking back on the experience, I believe that impacted both the quality of work and the level of communication. Sometimes you get what you pay for.
Lesson #3: Fire sooner rather than later if things aren’t working
As I mentioned earlier, I thought that things were going to be great with my assistant because she had all the skills and experience I was looking for. Within the first month of working together, it was apparent that there were going to be issues with communication primarily but also with quality of work. A mentor of mine frequently says “The top 3 things needed in a successful partnership are #1 communication, #2 communication, and #3 communication.”
I kept thinking it would be “cheaper to keep her” and that I just needed to give it time to work itself out. Unfortunately it still didn’t work out after multiple attempts of providing feedback.
I should’ve ended the relationship after that first month and moved on rather than waste so much time hoping for the needed improvements.
Lesson #4: Try out two virtual assistants at one time and then hire the best one
I’ve never done this before, but I’m strongly considering hiring in this way after my last debacle. Basically you do a trial run with two different assistants (and provide them with very similar work) and see which one seems to work the most effectively. After the trial run, simply hire the person you think is the best fit for your team. Sure, it will cost you double the money at first to have two people working, but its for a very short amount of time and can save you plenty of money and headaches in the future.
I hope you found these lessons learned to be useful! I am looking forward to finding the right virtual assistant for my business, and now that I’ve had this rotten experience, I know what to look out for and how to do things differently.
For those of you who work with virtual assistants, do you have any success stories or tips to share? Please comment!