There are only so many hours in a day. No matter how efficient you are, how early you start your day, and how late into the night you work, you – as a lone working freelancer – will only be able to clear a certain number of hours of client work. And much as we all love billable hours, there’s so much to be said for at least trying (even occasionally) to have some kind of work life balance where you get time to do occasional, lovely and non-work related things.
If you are determined to remain working as a solopreneur without support, there are ways that you can scale your business (for example, by developing a paid-for membership community, by increasing your prices, etc.), but one of the simplest ways to grow your business is to reach out to fellow freelancers and build yourself a dream team.Here are my top tips for growing your VA team:
1 – Put out the call! We’re incredibly lucky as a community to have first-hand experience of working with other professional VAs and freelancers – just think how many different people you’ve worked with over the last few years! As a result, it’s definitely worth reaching out to your peers and in trusted groups to ask for recommendations for talented associates. You can also use platforms like the VA Hub (from the APVA) on Facebook to reach out to people with a particular skillset or level of experience. One thing I can say from personal experience is that if you are putting out a job post on Facebook, it’s worth looking to see whether the respondents have actually listened to your list of requirements or request for preferred method of contact, as – even though it’s lovely that people can be enthusiastic about potential opportunities – it’s handy to see if they are the sort to read messages and requirements carefully before taking action!
2 – Speak to them! No matter how fabulous their CV is, when you are growing your team you need to know that you can talk with your new team member positively and effectively. Do they share your values? What’s their availability like? Do they sound confident and knowledgeable about their particular ‘zone of genius’? A good team works well together because they share a common goal, have strong skills and are able to communicate effectively, so spend a little time getting to know them to start building this essential rapport.
3 – Consider Accreditation – it can be hard (and time-consuming) to find out whether an individual has a professional and reliable VA business set up already. However, if they are APVA Accredited, we’ve already checked all that! We’ve checked to see whether they have professional indemnity, public liability and cyber insurance, that they are registered with the Information Commissioner’s Office, that they know all about GDPR and AML (if relevant), and that they have positive testimonials from clients (as well as numerous other criteria). To see our full list of accreditation criteria, visit: https://www.apva.org.uk/membership-criteria/. Working with an APVA accredited VA can help provide peace of mind that your new associate has everything in place to protect their customers – and them – without you necessarily having to check all of this yourself too.
4 – Make sure you have an associate agreement in place – It’s incredibly important that your associates understand what is expected of them and how the professional relationship between you and them will work. Make sure to outline their role, the agreed payment level and payment terms and other important information like quality standards, etc.
5 – Consider a trial period – The first time you work with an associate, you might find it a little challenging to relinquish control over tasks that you have traditionally completed all by yourself, so why not ask that their first task completed on behalf of your business is finalised several days before the customer expects the work to be completed, giving you the chance to take a quick look at the work and ensure that it meets your exacting standards. If it does – that’s great! This process should help you to feel more relaxed about tasks going forwards, but if it isn’t (which can occasionally happen), speak constructively to your associate and see whether the issues can be resolved before the final due date.
6 – Speak to them (again) – After working with an Associate on a single project or for a specified period of time (for example, a week or a month), why not reach out to them to see what they feel about the professional relationship? Do they feel positive about the communication and working processes? Is there anything that they think could improve the situation? Do they feel a little micro-managed? It’s not always comfortable (or easy!) but try to have a positive and constructive conversation so that you can a.) continue to work together but even more effectively than before or b.) part company in an amicable fashion if the working relationship isn’t quite the best fit for your business (or theirs!).
7 – Put contingency plans in place – If you do manage to successfully grow your business by expanding your team, it’s important to make sure that you have plans in place that ensure the business can continue to run if you or a member of your team is unwell or on holiday. For this reason, make sure that you consider these eventualities and introduce systems that allow for the workload to be shared in the event of absence, as this helps to ensure that customers receive their required work and remain satisfied with the service even if you are down a person (or more) for a short period of time.
If you are looking for an Associate VA to help you grow your business, why not reach out to the community of VAs in our VA Hub on Facebook, or consider working with an APVA accredited VA to deliver high quality customer care and service to your clients? APVA are here to help!