The What, Why & How Of Hiring A Virtual PA For Your Accountancy Practice
The following article was originally posted on rudijansen.com. You can read the original here.
One of the biggest challenges practice owners face is time, or a lack of it to be more specific.
And this lack of time is caused, in part, by not wanting to let go and delegate certain tasks to other people. That’s fine, it’s part of the journey and something that you get used to over time. It comes easier to some people than others.
But often, one of the obstacles facing us when it comes to delegating work is that there isn’t anybody really to delegate to...
Which is where hiring a virtual PA might be a solution for you.
What is a virtual PA?
A virtual PA is exactly what it says on the tin. A PA that works for you virtually.
Now this could be somewhere else in the UK, but more often than not it means somewhere else in the world (the Philippines is my favourite place to hire Virtual PA’s. They’re highly skilled and have a great work ethic).
Some of the things Virtual PA’s might be able to help you with are:
- Diary management e.g. arranging and rearranging appointments
- Email management e.g. responding on your behalf
- Booking travel and accommodation
- General admin duties
- Even low-level client work that can by systemised properly
- Marketing duties (posting social media etc)
- Bookkeeping (for your own business)
I’ve personally hired 4 virtual PA’s over the years, 1 of them UK based and 3 of them from the Philippines. They’ve worked for me in different capacities doing a mixture of the things I’ve listed above. I also know that a couple of the members of my coaching & mastermind programme right now are using them and getting good results.
Why hire a virtual PA and not an in-house one?
Maybe you’re not looking for somebody to fill a full-time role.
Maybe you don’t have any spare office capacity for another person.
Or maybe you’re just looking for a lower-cost alternative to hiring in-house.
For me, it was a combination of the above.
How do you recruit, train and get the most out of them?
So, down to the nitty gritty.
Maybe you’ve decided that a virtual PA might be what you’re looking for to help free up some of your time and delegate tasks to. Great! Or perhaps you just want to find out more about how the process works.
The next thing to look at is where you recruit them from, how you train them and how do you get the most out of them in the long-run?
1. Have a clear idea of exactly what you want to use them for
You need to be sure about exactly what they’re going to be doing before you hire them. It’s hard to write a job description for a role that you’re uncertain about.
For example, if you’re looking for somebody who can do some work for you across different pieces of software, then you’re going to need to find somebody who can get to grips with new tech and software fast.
And if you’re looking for someone who can pick up the phone and speak to your clients, then your job description will include ‘great communication skills and telephone manor’. This might even impact your decision re. hiring UK based or overseas. I have to say though I’ve had Virtual PA’s in the past from the Philippines who have a better standard of English and telephone manor than some of the UK ones I’ve interviewed…
It’s also worth adding in that if you are hiring from outside of the UK then you want to find a Virtual PA that can work UK hours. You’ll want to include this on the job description. Most companies (including the one I reference below) are able to do this, however it might cost a little bit more, although still much cheaper than hiring a UK based one!
2. Recruit them from a reputable company
If you’ve made the decision to hire a UK based one, then this shouldn’t be too much of an issue.
A simple google search or Linkedin search should help you find a couple of worthwhile websites to start looking. It’s also worth checking out PeoplePerHour. People are reviewed on there so you can make a judgement call based on that.
But if you’ve decided that you want to hire a Virtual PA from another country, for example the Philippines, then you might be unsure about where to start looking.
There are loads of places, but one I’d recommend having used it in the past is Virtual Staff Finder. I was so impressed with their process that I recommend them to anybody looking to hire a Virtual PA from the Philippines.
All you need to do is send them an accurate job description (what we looked at in step 1) and then they will conduct telephone interviews, aptitude and personality tests, online exams and even do reference checks on your behalf. Only once they get through the above do they make it through to your shortlist for an interview with you.
Other options include: Onlinejobs.ph, Upwork and Virtualstaff.ph. Although I can’t vouch for their process.
3. Systemise everything
I guess this is the same when hiring normal employees, but it’s even more important when your hiring a virtual one.
There’s going to be a puppy training period, so it’s essential that you have everything systemised properly to make things easier and help speed up the learning process.
If something has a system, then it’s easy to see where people are going wrong if tasks don’t get completed properly.
For example, if one of the things you want to delegate is your email inbox management, then think how you can build a system around this. For me when I did this, I set up an @Action folder which was for emails I absolutely needed to see an action. Anything else was either deleted, archived, or responded to on my behalf and categorised with a colour that tells me automatically what happened to that email.
Some general tools I like to use for systemising include:
- Loom: great, easy to use tool for creating training videos sharing your screen
- Sweet Process: online checklist creation software (create a Loom video for each step on the checklist!)
- Asana: use this for creating template projects with tasks in order of how to do them.
4. Start slowly, touch base frequently and expand gradually
The final step is where most people go wrong…
Their new Virtual PA starts, and they offload a pile of work straight away, catch up with them only once or twice and then wonder why things are working as well as they could. So here’s my process for you:
- Start slowly – give them a couple of things to begin with. Once they are comfortable with these and know how to do them, start to add more. It’s worth adding that when I hire a Virtual PA I look for speed of response from day 1. They might be starting slowly, but if they can’t get up to speed fast, then they might not be right for you.
- Touch base frequently – like I mentioned above they will go through an initial puppy training period, so you need to speak to them frequently. Initially, I like to touch base daily for 15 minutes. This then moves to weekly. And when you touch base with them you want to cover these 3 points:
- What did they do yesterday/last week?
- What are their priorities today/this week?
- Clear any niggles/obstacles (both ways)
- Expand gradually – once they get into the swing of things, then you can start to expand the work that you give them gradually. The beauty of hiring somebody virtually is that you can ask them to do more or less hours based on what you need.
Could it work for you?
So, there you have it.
Hiring a virtual PA could be a solution for freeing up some of your time and delegating some of your low-level tasks to.
By following the process I’ve outlined above, and allowing time for it work, there’s no reason that it couldn’t work for you, if you want it to.
P.S. When you are ready, here are 3 ways I can help you increase your profits, work fewer hours and build a practice that gives you freedom:
1. Download a free digital copy of my best-selling book, The Highly Profitable Accountant
With more 5* reviews than almost any other book written for accountants, this 223-page step-by-step action guide will give you all the tools, systems and case studies that you need to get yourself off the treadmill and into a life of choice and freedom. Click here to download your copy today.
2. Register for the Practice Growth Blueprint online training.
In this training I share the exact 9-step system me and my clients use to grow, scale and fine-tune our practices whilst working fewer hours. Click here to register your seat right now.
3. Apply to join my BlackBelt Mastermind & Coaching Programme
If you would like to work with me directly and join a growing community of likeminded practice owners (on 4 continents and in 7 countries) then you can apply to join my programme here. Simply book yourself in for a complimentary 20-minute discovery call and we’ll figure out if the programme is right for you. Still unsure, check out some of my client success stories here.