Tips for Hiring a Virtual Assistant for Interior DesignersFeb 18, 2022
Many interior designers work all by themselves, doing their best to juggle the various tasks they need to accomplish to keep up with their business. As a solopreneur, you might find yourself feeling overwhelmed when the clients start rolling in.
Just this week, I mentioned to my interior design students that when you go out on your own, you are responsible for everything from marketing and business development to designing and documenting a project. So many designers feel overwhelmed, especially at first.
As your business grows, so does the work. Inevitably something falls through the cracks. From follow-up emails to researching new products, you may quickly realize that you need help but don’t have enough work or revenue to hire another designer, even a junior designer. One fairly inexpensive solution is hiring a virtual assistant to complete your interior design firm's simple administrative or marketing tasks.
How can an interior design virtual assistant help your business to grow? Let’s take a closer look at how hiring for this critical position can benefit your business.
Benefits of Hiring a Virtual Assistant
Before we dive into the specifics of how you go about hiring a personal virtual assistant, it is essential to discuss what your business can gain from having this important role. What are the benefits of hiring a virtual assistant, and how can they help scale your growing interior design business?
First and foremost, hiring a virtual assistant will save you time. When working solo, you might realize that your time is a hot commodity. You must finish so many different tasks to keep your business running smoothly.
It might quickly become apparent that there aren’t enough hours in the day to get everything finished. As a result, you might be working overtime (without pay) just to take care of the necessities.
A virtual assistant for interior design can help you regain control over your schedule. You can assign them low-level tasks that take up a lot of your valuable time—time better spent working directly with clients.
Closely related to the idea of saving time, you will find that hiring a VA means that productivity is likely to increase, as well. This is because you will now have another person to depend on for some of your tasks, exponentially multiplying the amount of work you can get done on a given day.
One of the best advantages of hiring a virtual assistant is that it leads to reduced labor costs compared to hiring a full-time employee. In most cases, your new VA will work as an independent contractor.
This means that they handle their own taxes, insurance, and benefits. So, unlike a full-time employee, you can avoid paying for sick days, benefits, and holiday pay.
What Can a Virtual Assistant Do?
You may wonder how a VA can assist you in running your interior design business effectively. You might be so used to taking care of everything on your own that it can be hard to picture handing the reins to someone else. However, you will quickly realize that a competent VA handles many assignments that save you valuable time.
A few of the things you might enlist a VA to help with include:
- Researching for products or representatives
- Tracking orders and making phone calls to vendors when needed
- Writing follow-up emails to clients or vendors
- Research building permit requirements and call building departments with simple questions
- Handling phone calls
- Managing your email or calendar
- Making travel arrangements
- Administrative tasks (entering receipts, billing, setting up accounts or meetings, etc.)
While administrative work (like the tasks listed above) is the first thing interior designers think about when hiring a VA, there are other things that they may be qualified to help with.
Many VA candidates also have some experience with marketing. You can use them to help write marketing copy or manage your social media platforms, freeing up time to interact with your clients.
Developing Processes for Your VA
If you think you could benefit from hiring a virtual assistant, it may be time to start detailing how you want some of these extra tasks to be finished. You should have a straightforward process for each of the tasks you plan to hire, making it easier to explain to a new employee how to do things the way you want them done.
While it may take some initial investment of your time and resources, developing processes around your tasks will be essential. Once created, you will have these processes forever, even if you need to hire another virtual assistant in the future.
In addition to setting expectations for the processes related to your business, you also need to set some clear expectations about communication. For example, will you communicate via video chat about what needs to be done each day?
Maybe you will coordinate a phone call once a week to check in on the progress being made. You will want to explore so many communication options while finding what works best for you and your VA. Using project management software may also be useful in assigning tasks.
If you are sure that hiring a virtual assistant is the right move for your growing business, it is time to discuss the logistics of having a VA. What can you expect to pay for highly qualified talent that can help you scale your interior design business?
Most interior design virtual assistants are paid on an hourly basis. This wage structure means that you can hire someone just for the hours you need them.
In addition, you can set the number of hours per week without making it a huge commitment. Instead, pay for only the hours you end up using each week. You will also have the flexibility to increase or decrease hours during certain times of the year without wasting money.
In terms of what you can expect to pay your new virtual assistant, the average pay rate varies just as it would for hiring a full-time employee. Experience and expertise play a large role in how much a potential VA will charge your interior design business. Decide in advance which tasks you want to delegate to a new employee.
Here is a quick breakdown of what you can expect to pay:
- Administrative tasks (clerical work, data entry, research): $12-$20 per hour
- Marketing or customer service (phone calls, follow-up emails, social media management): $20-$35
- Advanced work or consulting (content management, project management, web development): $38-$50
Hiring a virtual assistant is just as important as hiring for any other role in your business. You will not want to settle for someone who charges a low hourly rate but cannot actually provide you with the services you require.
Make sure you work with someone who speaks the same language and completely understands the tasks they need to handle. Also, keep in mind your time zone. It may be important for the person to be available during your hours of operations.
Questions to Ask When Hiring a Virtual Assistant
Because hiring a VA is just like hiring for any other role, you may want to interview a few candidates to find the best match for your interior design business. If you have no experience hiring employees, you might not know what questions to ask when hiring a virtual assistant.
Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- What is your area of expertise?
- What experience do you have working in this field as a virtual assistant?
- What are your strengths and weaknesses as a virtual assistant?
- What is your preferred communication method?
- How do you stay organized when you have multiple active projects?
- What type of schedule do you plan to keep for this position?
- How many hours are you available to dedicate to this position?
- How many other clients do you have?
- What type of businesses or professionals have you worked with as a VA?
Any question that you might ask a prospective employee is fair game during the hiring process for a virtual assistant. Identifying their strengths and weaknesses will help you decide whether the two of you can work well together.
Getting to know their personality through an initial interview is also crucial because you will be working very closely with this person. Don’t be afraid to ask them what they like to do during their free time. This is a great way to connect on a more personal level.
Where to Look for a Virtual Assistant
You are prepared with the processes your business needs. You have budgeted for a qualified VA and set up an interview template. The next step is finding a great place to look for your new interior design virtual assistant. Fortunately, there are plenty of online marketplaces where these independent contractors can apply for a posted job.
Two of the best sites for hiring a VA are Upwork and Fiverr. On Upwork, you can specify areas where you want your new assistant to live, such as the United States only or in a specific time zone.
You will post your job on the platform and watch as the proposals come rolling in. This allows you to determine what they charge, their experience, and credentials before ever setting up an interview. You can also see how others have rated them as a VA through their success rate.
Fiverr is similar, allowing you to filter through all of their VA talents until you find someone you think might be worth a second look. You can then reach out and connect with them to see if they would be a good fit for your business.
Be clear about your expectations and what you need from a virtual assistant before posting a job or contacting a potential VA.
You may also find VA specialists on LinkedIn. I have been contacted by salespeople from various hiring agencies asking if I am looking for a virtual assistant. Be sure if you go this route that you ask many questions about the business's qualifications and the assistant who will be working with you.
I recently went through one of these sales-pitch meetings and found that I would not have a say in who my assistant would be; rather, they would assign me someone. Additionally, even though the person would be available during my hours of operations, English was not their native language. I quickly decided that this was not a good option for my business.
Scaling Your Business with a Virtual Assistant
Delegating is an important part of business, especially if you’re a one-woman (or man) show. You shouldn’t do everything yourself but reserve your time and energy for the most important tasks and delegate the rest.
If you finally realize the importance of hiring a personal virtual assistant, it is time to take the leap to add one of these important people to your solopreneur team today.
They can assist with administrative tasks as well as marketing. For more information on simple ways interior designers can drive more website traffic, see our full article here.
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