I finally reached the point about 6 months ago where I needed to bring on a part-time virtual assistant. I was really excited, I couldn't wait to delegate tasks that were taking up my time but weren't actively making a difference in my business.

I was also sick of being burned out and tired…

So I did what any logical freelancer would do – I hopped on Upwork, listed the job and waited for applications to roll in… which they did, but NONE of them were suitable.

“How could this be possible”, I thought to myself?!

[Tweet “I hopped on Upwork, listed the job and waited for applications to roll in…”]

I'm sure you can guess where this is heading – my job post wasn't clear enough and it certainly wasn't providing me with any hope of finding a virtual assistant anytime soon.

So what did I do?

I went back to the drawing board and started again, but this time, I created a standard operating procedure/process (SOP) that outlined exactly what my VA would be doing on a day-to-day basis.

Because let's be realistic here if I couldn't clearly define this in my job posting, how on earth was any virtual assistant worth their weight in gold going to understand what it was I was looking for?

If you're in the same boat or are looking to hire someone in the near future, you need to create SOPs for everything that you plan to delegate.

Do this now and you'll save yourself a lot of time and headaches when you DO hire a VA.

[Tweet “If you're looking to hire someone in the near future, you need to create SOPs for everything”]

Tips to Create SOPs for Hiring Virtual Assistants the Right Way

How to create procedures when hiring virtual assistants. Learn what to include and what to delegate. Click through to read more.

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  • First, you want to list down everything that you do on a daily basis that could be outsourced to someone else. I found that using pen and paper to do this brought more ideas forward than typing it straight into Evernote. I definitely recommend you do this if you have no idea what you'll outsource. You can scan it into Evernote later 🙂
  • Once you've got everything down on paper, choose the top five tasks that take up too much of your time.
  • Next, you want to take each individual task and step out the process from start to finish. No step is too small to include here. At the end you should have a document that could be handed to someone that doesn't know your business; that could follow the document and complete the task for you. Evernote is great for doing this, so make use of multiple notebooks and stacks.
  • From here, determine if you need to create a screen share (video) of the task to clearly demonstrate what you need doing. I recommend that you do this for every task, as seeing someone actually complete a task leaves less room for error.
  • Create a shared Dropbox folder or Evernote notebook with your task SOPs for easy access by your virtual assistant.
  • Jump on Upwork or Fiverr and post a job for a VA, making sure that you list the tasks you want to be completed, with approximate hours required per week. Use the SOPs to provide details if needed.


From here, it's up to you to determine if a freelancer is right for the job.

When I eventually got my job posting right, I interviewed five virtual assistants via Skype. I spoke to all of them (no video) because there were some key things I wanted to determine:

  • How good their English was (speaking and writing)
  • How good they were at dealing with different types of technology
  • That they were a real person

[Tweet “When I eventually got my job posting right, I interviewed five virtual assistant's via Skype.”]

Out of the interviews, there were two candidates that stood out, and mistakenly, I went with the one that was cheaper.

Don't just focus on the cost of hiring virtual assistants

I assigned her a couple of tasks to do and never heard back from her for 72 hours. By that stage, I'd already been in touch with the other candidate who was a little more expensive but well worth it in the long run.

This second VA is brilliant. She has a willingness to learn, which is good because I tend to throw a lot of varying tasks her way, much of which are outside her initial skill-base. But she always completes the tasks and lets me know if she has any issues.

Another few key things you should do once you've hired your VA:

Have regular catch up calls – we jump on Skype once a month for half an hour just to cover how things are going and if Candice needs any extra support (or I need any extra support) or hours allocated.

Use a program like Trello to keep track of tasks – this works brilliantly for us and we can quickly see what's outstanding and if I'm dragging the line by not providing her with information, which can sometimes happen…

Respond to emails and Skype chats immediately – My virtual assistant is one person who I'll generally respond to quite quickly because she's doing things for me and if there is an issue, I'd like to get it resolved so that she can continue with the task at hand.

Treat your VA with the same amount of respect and regard as you would a close friend – this person is doing the things you no longer want to do, and sometimes those tasks are just plain yuck. I always let my VA know how good a job she is doing and when Christmas rolls around, I send her a  gift!

Working with a virtual assistant is one of the best things you can do for your business, but you need to make sure that you've got all your tasks and processes documented in a way that is easy to follow.

SOPs worked well when you were working a ‘normal' job, so why wouldn't you apply them in your own business?

Do you have your own tips for creating SOPs? Do you do something different? I'd love to know, so leave a comment below!

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Lise Cartwright
Lise Cartwright

Founder of Hustle & Groove and your creative business strategist. If you want to get notified of new posts just like the ones you see here, then make sure you join the awesome H & G community — Join Now!

    5 replies to "How to Create a SOP to Hire a Virtual Assistant"

    • Erika @ VACreatively.com

      Hi Lise! Thank you for the great article about hiring a VA, creating an SOP, and things to do once they’re hired. I think sharing your first-hand experience really takes the mystery out of it for others. Sounds like you have a real find in Candice and bravo to you for showing her your appreciation!

      One tip I would give those searching for a VA is to look at sites other than Elance or Odesk. While the most well-known, they’re not always the best place to find a qualified VA. My suggestions are: Connect with some VAs on Twitter or LinkedIn for a bit – see how they handle social media, how responsive they are, if they share/publish good content, their English/grammar skills, etc. Check out their website which will highlight exactly what their skills are and you won’t waste time seeing if they’re a good fit.

      You can also check out forums like VirtualAssistantForums.com or VA listings like VirtualAssistantville.com. I think you’ll find that VAs who own their own businesses (as opposed to those working for agencies or at bidding sites) oftentimes are more educated, experienced, and probably won’t need an SOP or training, thus saving you time.

      Just my 2 cents! Thanks again for a great article. I’m so glad I found your site. Love, love, love your About page! Much success to you always 🙂

      • Lise Cartwright

        Thanks for your comment Erika! Yes, Candice is amazing! I disagree with not needing an SOP for an experienced person, the SOP is needed regardless of experience because it is generally about the clients business. I have SOPs for 100s of tasks that I do regularly that I need to explain to someone in a way that enables them to hit the ground running without too much guidance from me. Most entrepreneurs will have SOPs for different areas of their business – it makes good business sense 🙂

    • […] only recently hired a VA to help with some of the tasks that take me the longest to do but that don’t net me any […]

    • Céline

      Hi Lise!
      I was once a VA and I evolve to a more based coaching and writing business because that’s where my clients led me to.
      (This was the personal part)

      And I really appreciate to read an article of someone who understands how to hire a VA a i.e. SOPs and time allocated and punctual meetings etc. Yes the more you know what you want from her the more likely you’ll find the good match and she won’t end up doing something you’re not satisfied with or approximate.

      As well, she can give good advice because she might do something similar for another client thus have a better process for the task.
      It is a human relationship with exchange so both parties feel fulfilled and run for the long term.

      And yes a cheap VA often results in a mediocre (or bad) VA because let’s face it, do you undercharge your talents ? Price is always a struggle to set but cheap is wether you don’t have good skills or you want to make volume and don’t take care of the client.
      Either ways is a no go because you’ll end feeling paying for nothing.

      Plus I’d like to add that VAs are also freelancers who need to earn their life. Their job is complementary to ours so thank you for saying you need to treat your VA as a friend or at least as your closest and trustful business partner.

      Thanks again Lise for your very good article as always.
      PS: sorry for my medium English, it’s not my mother tongue

      • Lise Cartwright

        Hi Celine, thanks so much for your kind words and for your input, I completely agree with that you said about being able to provide good advice because the VA may already be doing something similar, great point!

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