you go on vacation or suddenly become
• Can you provide three to five references of business people for whom you
are currently handling their [support
process] for at least the last six months?
• Can you provide three to five
names of business people for whom you
handled a support process in the past?
It is critical to do this initial VA due diligence to avoid problems down the road.
Good VAs can be selective about whom
they choose to support and will interview
you as much as you interview them.
Use an independent contractor’s
agreement. Your professional relationship with a VA should be memorialized
in a written independent contractor’s
agreement that includes a comprehensive description of the support process
he or she will perform for you. Most
experienced VAs will provide an agreement if you don’t have one of your own.
Avoid large retainers. Some VAs will
ask for a retainer. You can agree to this
request if the amount is reasonable and
you can pay it by credit card. This last
part is important if there is a dispute.
You have a much better chance to get
your retainer back with the help of a
credit card company than if you had
written a check.
Once you have clearly defined the
kind of VA support you want, you are
ready to begin your search. There are
three primary categories of VA support
resources found on the Web:
• VA organizations. These are communities of VAs, such as associations
or groups. Many VA organization/asso-ciation Web sites allow you to post a
Request for Proposal (RFP) to solicit
responses. Some examples include IVAA
( www.ivaa.org) and IAVOA (www.
• VA staffing agencies. In this case, you
hire the staffing agency to match you
with an appropriate VA and then you
pay the agency for the work completed.
One of the largest is Team-DoubleClick
• Virtual service provider marketplaces (VSPMs). This is where you can
anonymously post your project or support request and have providers bid
for the privilege of doing your work.
These very sophisticated marketplaces
also give you the advantage of seeing how other business people rate
their work. The two largest are Elance
( www.elance.com) and Guru (www.
For a comprehensive list of VA
resources, visit www.virtualoutsourc-ing.org.
If the process of finding, evaluating
and hiring VAs seems a bit intimidating,
there are ways to mitigate those feelings. First, consider hiring a VA just for
some small aspect of your business to
get your feet wet. Just dip your toe in
and enjoy the freedom of not having to
manage an onsite person to get things
done. Soon, you will be diving head
first into the cool, clear waters of virtual support.
Hiring an executive-level VA is
another option. Think of this individual
as your “Virtual COO.” This special VA
can see the big picture of your business,
help you develop and execute a strategic plan to achieve your goals, and hire
and manage other VAs who will support various aspects of your business.
Since 1995, VAs have helped me run and
grow my businesses. This business model
has allowed me to focus on what I do
best, while virtually outsourcing the rest.
I have built a career that enables me to
earn more, work less and enjoy life without managing or training support staff.
If you are still personally handling
most of the details for your business,
you are working too hard and missing
opportunities to speak more. So what
are you waiting for? Within the next
few hours, a VA could be helping you
run and grow your speaking business.
Now, imagine that!
Michael J. Russer is the CEO
of Russer Communications as
well as an internationally
recognized speaker, author and
strategic consultant on
business productivity through virtual
outsourcing. His latest book, The Obsolete
Employee—How Businesses Succeed
Without Employees—And Love It, is the
first book written on the subject of virtual
outsourcing for small businesses. For more
information, visit www.russer.com.