Consider giving yourself a special treat this season; you deserve it.

I'm not talking about a new gadget from Best Buy or your latest

must-have find while you were out window shopping. I'm talking about

giving yourself the gift of time.


much as we try to conquer the world on our own, we often wish we had a

clone to do the rest while we do what we do best. This time of the year

is especially easy to become overworked and overwhelmed managing our

daily grind. Don't get lost in the hustle and bustle, invest in a

virtual assistant to help you tackle your to-do list one task at a time.


you never worked with a VA (virtual assistant), if you are considering

hiring one, or if you have had a bad experience with one, you

definitely have to read this article to find the perfect, savvy,

tech-friendly, professional virtual assistant in all of cyberspace. Let

the mission begin.

  • Assess Your Needs
    Before working with a virtual assistant, you should assess all your needs--personal or professional. It is important to develop a to-do list of what needs to be done and what you are willing to delegate to your VA. They can manage your calendar and schedule your meetings.

    They can complete your research tasks and data entry.

    They can even create an article like this. Intrigued? They can do

    virtually anything. Once you develop your list, create concise working instructions ready for your future VA to have a jump-start on all your tasks.


    great instructions, your VA can complete virtually any task with

    minimal guidance. Based on your list, estimate how much time you will

    need your VA each month and what you are willing to pay for their

    services. Most VA's require the purchase of a monthly retainer plan.

    They typically charge $15-$55/hr and give great discounts if you

    require their assistance for more than 10 hours per month. Once you

    figure out what needs to be done and how much you are willing to invest

    in a virtual assistant, you can begin your search.

  • Finding a Virtual Assistant

    a virtual assistant is fairly easy; locating a trustworthy, responsible

    professional is a task of its own. You have several options when

    searching for your right-hand time-saving, productivity-gaining partner.

    You can post a free ad on sites like Craigslist, search freelance sites such as Elance, Google the term Virtual Assistant and pick the top three search results, word of mouth, or do like me--tweet about it on Twitter.


    very specific about your requirements because virtual assistants all

    have different specialties and may not be able to accommodate to your

    requests. You don't want to hire a VA who specializes in transcription

    for a podcast project--although, you might find one who can handle

    both, like mine.

    Upon placing your ad or shouting it out on

    Twitter, you will instantaneously receive messages from inquiring minds

    worldwide. This is when you will begin round one of the elimination


  • Qualifying The VA

    can easily see which VA's are qualified and would be a great choice or

    those that simply won't work. Beware of emails with resumes attached- a VA is your business partner, not your employee and those sending a resume may still be in employee mode.


    can always ask for testimonials of their services as you would a lawyer

    or marketing consultant. Feel free to ask about their background such

    as work experience and education. If you posted an ad asking for very

    specific information, the VA should respond answering all your


    If they fail to do so, this can translate this and

    assume that this VA does not take the time to read basic instructions

    and will often forget minor details that contribute to the successful

    completion of any task. Also search for grammatical errors, you need a

    professional who can effectively write and convey their message in

    English. You never know when you may need your VA to write an email on

    your behalf; remember to look out for the clues to see if they can

    effectively communicate via email.

    Once you narrow your

    selection, it is time to dig in the details. Most VA's have an online

    presence, outlining what they can do, what they have done, and what

    they will do for you. You will find tons of clues on their website to

    guide you through the round two elimination process. Is their site

    polished and professional or does it look like a butchered template

    from the '90s seasoned with poor grammar?

    It sounds a bit biased

    to judge them on their site's appearance, but you have to take into

    consideration they are a business owner--their business is your

    business. If they have a strong online presence free of inaccuracies

    and errors, that clearly indicates they are committed and in this

    profession for the long-run. You need to search for a long-term

    collaborative partnership in order to fully benefit. Time is money; you

    don't have time to repeat this process. That is why it is important to

    find a VA that will fit perfectly with your needs.

  • Making The Selection

    now you should have 3-5 applicants that really stand out like a sore

    thumb. Don't let this be a time-consuming selection process--remember,

    your goal is to save time. Contact the applicants and arrange for a

    complimentary consultation.

    Look for more clues such as the

    response time to answer your email. If they take a while to respond,

    more than likely they have a full plate with more than they can chew.

    Most consultations are conducted over the phone, chances are you may

    never meet your virtual assistant face-to-face.

    When speaking to

    your VA, this is where the magic takes place in finalizing your

    selection process. Remember, always look for clues. Did your VA speak

    with confidence and have great phone etiquette? Were they timely and

    prepared for the call? Were they able to guide you through the phone

    chat and initiate the conversation? Did you feel a sense of trust and

    chemistry? Did the VA listen carefully and show interest in what you do

    by asking smart questions?

    You need a VA who demonstrates great

    skills and a strong business sense so they can manage your workload

    effectively. After the consultations, you should have the details in

    order to make your decision.

  • Finalizing The Contract

    you finally choose your savvy virtual assistant that compliments your

    budget and your day-to-day needs, it is time to get the ball on the

    roll. Contact your VA and let them know it is a go. If you need their

    services on a long-term basis, negotiate contract details such as

    billing, terms of service, and privacy.

    Once the document is

    signed by you and your VA, you are good to go. Be sure to clearly

    indicate your requirements and never leave room for assumptions. Your

    VA is your partner and their goal is to help you save time. It will

    take time to adjust but if you plan accordingly the delegation process

    should be a easy as 1-2-3.

    First assign the task(s) including

    all information and clear and concise instructions that will contribute

    towards the success of the project. Be sure to indicate your

    deadlines--most VA's need a 24-48 time frame to complete assignments so

    once again, plan accordingly. Also include your time zone to ensure a

    timely delivery. Provide your contact information and indicate the best

    way to contact you. Once you delegate the work, the VA will begin the

    task and update you of the status.

    Lastly, the work gets done

    and you didn't have to do it. It feels great when you actually have

    time for yourself. Maybe with the extra time you have created by

    working with a VA, you can plan for that much needed vacation--Oh,

    wait. Your VA can do that for you too!

Written on 12/12/2008 by Alex Shalman. Alex does for personal development what Chuck Norris does for the world, and he's got a very bad (to the bone) Podcast on self-improvement.

Photo Credit: *Susie*