5 Tips (Plus Bonus) to Finding the Best Virtual Assistant Agency for Your Business

There’s no sugar coating the challenges that come with hiring a virtual assisting agency to provide you with qualified, hard working VAs to help you in your business. With new firms cropping up every day that always promise prospective clients the world, it has only become harder to find the right online talent to help you keep your business on track.

Businesswoman using binoculars
photo credit: Chase Elliott Clark / Flickr

When you start to read up on what each firm offers, there are a lot of things you need to look for before signing up for a monthly service plan. No two firms are exactly alike in their offerings and price. Knowing what you need and what you’re paying for is essential to finding the right virtual assisting team for your business.

Here are a few important details to look for in a VA agency firm before giving them your credit card information:

1. Is there a satisfaction guarantee?

There had better be if you’re considering a monthly agreement, potentially costing in the hundreds or even thousands of hours, right? Don’t do business with a firm who doesn’t offer a money-back guarantee on the assistants they’re offering.

If the staff mostly consists of well paid, happy, hardworking and well trained people, no virtual assistant agency that cares about their brand and your satisfaction has anything to lose by putting their money where their mouth is.

2. How much time are you getting for your money?

Rates vary so greatly, you don’t want to get stuck paying $1000 a month for 32 hours of available work from a single VA when all you need them for is simple data entry work. At the same time, you don’t want to go with a company who claims they can put an accountant at your disposal for 50 hours a week at a low-low cost of a couple of hundred dollars.

Most reputable (and non-reputable) agencies will charge you double or triple the going rate when you need them to go over their weekly or monthly time obligation. This is why it’s vital to make sure you have a pretty accurate approximation of what you’ll require before selecting a package to meet your needs. Match your time and what you should be paying with the complexity of the work needed.

3. What training requirements fall on you?

There’s a lot of deception and double-talk in the virtual assisting industry when it comes to the education level of the assistant you’ll end up with. Everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, says that they have a rigorous training program and testing process all employees must follow. The training employees are given is often a joke, so you should always plan on some training.

To avoid excessive wasting of your time, look for those who promise they have staff who can hit the ground running with the specific type of work required of them, but always expect that there will be basic training required before your assistant is totally independent.

4. What are the turnaround times?

What you desire in terms of turnaround time for individual tasks should vary according to the complexity of the job. If you’re hiring someone to be your personal assistant to answer your phones and make calls, then you should expect they’ll do so on demand, as needed. If you’re looking for individual project/task completion like data entry, writing, graphic design, coding, etc.; an agency’s promised turnaround time per task is very important.

The more specific they are with their promised guaranteed times, the better their hiring and organization process likely is. A 500 word article about apple pie recipes is a snap for any decent freelancer to finish in a couple of hours, whereas a Wikipedia-quality article on automotive subsystems, complete with citations, could conceivably take days. Agencies with clearly labelled times for jobs of varying complexity should be preferred over those who promise ridiculously-fast turnaround times overall – or – those who offer an absurd time range for easy tasks (ie., 3 – 10 days for deliver for a simple logo design).

Partnership with a VA agency

5. What level and type of support do they offer?

It’s pretty hard to keep the wheels of your business turning when your virtual assistant just flaked out on you, and the agency that represents them is only available via email with a 12-hour or greater response time! Even worse, those who offer phone support, but are only available from 9 – 4! Even banks are now going 24 hours with their phone support, and if you’re like most entrepreneurs out there, you don’t always (if ever) do all your work during standard business hours.

At minimum, look for 24 hour phone and email support. The addition of an online chat feature is even better if you like to keep your phone lines free.

Bonus Tip: Become a detective for a day!

Don’t jump into any relationship with a virtual assistant agency, no matter how great their reputation may seem. If you have access to people who’ve used the agency you’re considering, pick their brain about the service they received. Ask them how knowledgable the VAs they worked with were, how reasonable the pricing was for the work delivered, how responsive the customer service was, etc.

If you’re relegated to mostly online research into the agencies you might be entertaining, don’t just read the positive reviews you read on the front page of Google (though disregard if there aren’t any at all!)

Probe deeper. Read testimonials. Completely read all the 20-page threads about the company on reputable forums and on trusted review sites. Ask your colleagues and business partners.

While not always the case, for the most part, a few negative reviews of a VA agency can tell you more about the service you’ll receive than thousands of good ones will.

Best of luck!