In this episode Josh talks with Gina Horkey about Virtual Assistants, what they are, why you would need them and what you need to know about hiring them.

Gina Horkey is a married, millennial mama to two precocious kiddos from Minnesota. Additionally, she’s the founder of Horkey HandBook, a website geared towards helping others and or become a kickass virtual assistant.

Gina’s background includes making a living as a professional writer, an online business marketing consultant and a decade of experience in the financial services industry.

In today’s episode you will learn:

  • What a virtual assistant is?
  • Why would a blue-collar local business want to go through the hassle of using a virtual assistant?
  • So what kind of things should I be thinking about hiring a virtual assistant to do?
  • When it gets into like advertising, should you consider that a virtual assistant job or consultant job?

Transcript

Narrator: Welcome to The Sustainable Business Radio Show podcast where you’ll learn not only how to create a sustainable business but you’ll also learn the secrets of creating extraordinary value within your business and your life. In The Sustainable Business, we focus on what it’s going to take for you to take your successful business and make it economically and personally successful. Your host, Josh Patrick, is going to help us through finding great thought leaders as well as providing insights he’s learned through his 40 years of owning, running, planning and thinking about what it takes to make a successful business sustainable.

Josh: Hey, how are you today? This is Josh Patrick. You’re at The Sustainable Business podcast. Today, my guest is Gina Horkey. Gina has a really interesting business. She used to be in the financial services world. She left and she opened up her own firm and she’s been training people how to become virtual assistants and how to set up their own business become virtual assistants. Her business is called horkeyhandbook.com. That’s her website. Today we’re going to talk about the wonderful world of virtual assistants and how a blue collar business can take advantage of them. So instead of me meandering on, let’s bring Gina on. 

Hey, Gina, how are you today?

Gina: I’m wonderful. Thanks so much for having me.

Josh: My pleasure. Let’s start out with the big stupid question I always have. Why would a blue collar local business want to go through the hassle of using a virtual assistant?

Gina: That’s a great question. Do you think that we can actually take a step further back and just define what a virtual assistant is? Would that be okay?

Josh: That’ll be great thing. Thank you for doing that.

Gina: You bet. We throw around the term virtual assistant and VA and in the United States especially when we heard the term VA we think of the Veterans Administration. We don’t even think of virtual assistant although it’s becoming more and more popular as an acronym. We like to define a virtual assistant as somebody that trades skills and time in return for paid from a small business owner that needs that help from afar meaning they can work really anywhere that they have reliable internet access which is usually pretty crucial to our work and a decent laptop. Most apps are really cloud based these days so you don’t even have to have a bunch of special software anymore.

Josh: So just out of curiosity, why would somebody want to use a VA that has a local business? Why not just hire someone from your backyard?

Gina: Yeah, I mean, the choice is yours, right? There are definitely benefits and I think drawbacks on both sides of the fence. The great thing with having this kind of worldwide economy is you can find a specialist if that’s what you’re looking for that can help you with that one thing that either you don’t have time to master, you don’t have an interest in learning, you know is necessary to your business. It just really opens up geographically who you can work with and you can find the best fit for the job rather than worrying about whose local to you in choosing the best candidate that might be able to make the drive into wherever your location may be. 

There’s a big difference between working with employees, having somebody in house that you have to supply teeth for and a desk and equipment and benefits and insurance potentially and all those other things versus working with another small business owner that is contracting with you. They’re self-employed. They’re covering their own overhead and expenses and all of that good stuff. That can be a pretty big difference just in the cost of working with somebody that’s a contract virtual assistant versus hiring an employee in house. Then I think there’s a big misnomer out there that you need to hire somebody full time that nobody’s looking for like part time worker to piece together like per project work or a couple hours a week or a month. 

And with virtual assistants, they’re looking typically to build a flexible business where they can work around maybe the needs of a growing family or potentially this is like a side hustle something that they’re doing in addition to their full time job or maybe this is their full time gig. They would just rather have the security of piecing together multiple clients rather than relying on one employer, which over the years putting all those eggs in one basket. It hasn’t always worked out for everyone.

Josh: No, I mean, today you’re seeing people go from something like 20 jobs over working career so ridiculous amount of jobs people have. I know my own kids who are about your age, probably. Well, my son’s in the army. He’s basically had one job, but it’s been several jobs. My daughter’s had like five or six jobs and she’s 32. She’ll probably had another five or six jobs at least before she’s done.

Gina: Well, that’s just kind of I think that change of the workforce. It used to be that companies were pretty loyal to their employees and in return employees were pretty loyal back. I think there are some disruption personally looking back at the recession and things like that where there’s not so much loyalty on both ends and so people are out for themselves. To some extent, profitability is a big concern of businesses and individuals are really thinking about, what do I want from my career and from my job these days? Instead of having to plug their life around their work. 

They’re looking to plug their work around their life. There’s kind of this remote or work from home revolution. Again, going after that flexibility. Personally, I think it’s a beautiful thing. I think we’re in this kind of time where there’s a throwback to entrepreneurship. While entrepreneurship isn’t the right fit for everyone, it can be a really good fit for a lot of people. It comes down to really having those skills or services that you can offer out to somebody else that needs help finding the right clients and the right fit because you can do work that you’re passionate about, that you like a lot or even love. You can actually choose to work with people that you really enjoy as well.

Josh: Yeah, that’s something which I find is really important is that when I’m looking for virtual assistant myself, we have three that work with us. I’m probably going to have a fourth come on pretty soon. Is that I tend to focus more on the values that we have in our company than the job itself and I have found that we have gotten really good VA’s because they identify with our values more than what the job is. 

Gina: I know a lot of entrepreneurs or people in the hiring position are using a lot of like personality tests assessments in order to find the right fit to. I think that that’s really interesting. You’re finding like the anagram or the Strengths Finder 2.0 some of those are being more largely used. We’re actually recommending to the virtual assistants that we train up that they figure out where they kind of fit in so they know what they bring to the table so they can have those conversations with clients. Here are my strengths. Here are the things that I’m actively doubling down and getting better at. Here are the things that maybe I’m average at that depending on who you are and maybe doesn’t make that much sense to sink a bunch of time and attention to the things that you’re just average at to try and increase that just a little bit versus the things that you’re already naturally gifted at. If you give that a little bit more time and attention then you can just excel and become the expert. 

Josh: Yeah, there’s a question is Strength Finders which I think fits in really well with this. That is, is it more important for you to magnify your strengths or improve your weaknesses?

Gina: I personally would choose Magnify and I would choose that for my kids, too. I thought a lot about this and parenting whether it be academics, sports, socialization. Personally, my parenting philosophy is that I want to raise really generous and kind kids above anything else. Hopefully, that’s what we produce here in our household. But if you think about it, a lot of parents will look at, “Okay, my child’s getting an A in science” and maybe I see an English so we need an English tutor. We have to get that up to a B or above. 

Well, they’re naturally gifted at science. Maybe it makes more sense to not necessarily get a tutor but enroll them in a program so that they can even further develop their knowledge in that area and see if that’s an area that they’re passionate about. What do you think?

Josh: Well, when I work with employees and I really want to keep this one employee thing is that if I’m magnifying my strengths, and I’m managing my weaknesses, I’m going to be way more successful when I’m doing that if I ignore my strengths and try to improve my weaknesses because we don’t have enough time to do both. And the truth is, why do I want to get all the way up to mediocre when I can be world class?

Gina: Exactly. And if you can hire out somebody that’s also world class or getting there of the things that you don’t do so well, or you don’t have that passion and drive in that all the better.

Josh: Well, absolutely. I mean, when you’re hiring people whether it’s a virtual assistant or someone in the next office, do not hire a clone of yourself because you already have yourself. Hire somebody who has strong skills in the area that you have weaknesses. In my opinion, that’s the best reason to hire virtual assistant because literally, you can hire a virtual assistant for two hours a week or three hours a week or five hours a week. If you have a project that only takes a couple of hours a week, you’re not likely going to get a good part timer who’s local, but you can find a great virtual assistant whether they’re US based, Filipino based, Serbian based. 

I mean, I have my preferences for countries. If you’ve been doing use a while you will also get your preference for countries depending on what it is. Now, Gina let’s just take a little sidestep here. I just want to go back to one thing you talked about which was really important and often gets glossed over which is the cost of a virtual assistant versus a W2 employee. I might be paying a virtual assistant $20 an hour and I might be paying the person who’s in the office next to me $18 an hour. 

Forget to physical space, forget the computers, and forget the cost of having them in my office. If I’m paying somebody $18 an hour who is a W2 employee or $20 to a virtual employee, I’m going to tell you that that virtual employee, $20 an hour is a lot cheaper than the real employee at $18 an hour. Because when you’re thinking about what an employee costs, you have to add 30 to 40% of their base salary as the benefit costs that you pay a W2 employee. 

Social Security, unemployment, workers compensation, forget 401k and all the other stuff. That’s all going to add up to about 30 to 40% of the base salary. So when I’m going out and I’m hiring a virtual assistant, it’s often the hourly rate I’m paying is cheaper, but the real rate is a lot cheaper.

Gina: Yeah, and I don’t know that cheaper is always what you should be after. I think when you’re looking at hiring whether it’s in person or using a contractor that’s virtual, you should always be taking a look at the ROI for your business. What’s your potential return on investment? Are you farming out things that free up your time so that you can do what you do best which is producing the widgets or being the salesperson or providing services to your customers or is it something that doesn’t really need to be done but it’s urgent and so you feel like this needs to be taken care of right now. Have you explored the eyes and higher metrics much in your past? The popular one? 

Josh: Never heard of it? What is it? 

Gina: Really? Okay, so it’s one of those core tile graphs and you have things that are urgent and important here. They’re not urgent but they’re important over here. Things that are not urgent not important. You should clear off your to do list and just forget about them.

Josh: It actually came out of Stephen Covey’s work the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. 

Gina: I think it backdates him a little bit though.

Josh: Could be well, at any rate, most people know that Grid through Stephen Covey. 

Gina: Okay.

Josh: So the answer is yes, I do know about it just under a different name.

Gina: Sure. Anyways, that’s how you should be prioritizing your to do lists and that’s how you should be prioritizing the things that you want to offload or delegate to somebody that that your team to help you to do what you do better.

Josh: And the other thing is there’s two quadrants I actually pay a lot of attention to which is urgent and important and not urgent and important. Urgent and important, always cost you money. Not urgent and important, you’re often making money. 

The reason is, when you’re doing something it’s urgent, important, you’re being reactive all the time. You’re being reactive, it costs you money. And when you do something as important, but not urgent is often proactive, which means you’re getting to do it before it costs your money. That’s where you make some real money.

Gina: Exactly, that’s what’s going to keep you separated from your competitors that’s helping you to release a new product, taking things kind of to the next level and scalability for sure. When it comes to average rate, so most of our students are here domestically in the United States, Canada, Western Europe, actually New Zealand and Australia tend to be really popular countries for people that take our online programs and the average rates are usually between $20 and $40 an hour. 

Like you said, that doesn’t have anything to do with any benefits like self-employment taxes and stuff like that. The rate that you’re paying is the rate that they’re getting. There’s no real can cost or anything like that as well, but that’s the research that exists right now. It’s pretty in line with what I’m seeing to. 

Most virtual assistants unless they live in an area has a significantly less cost of living. $20 an hour would be the absolute minimum if they were working for $15 an hour for example and they’re paying their own self-employment taxes and whatnot, it’s not going to equate to a very good hourly wage for themselves when they factor all that in.

Josh: So what kind of things should I be thinking about hiring a virtual assistant to do?

Gina: I would go back to if you do keep it to do list what’s been on that list for the last two weeks that would probably fall into that important yet not urgent category. The things that are the opportunity moneymakers for your business. I’d also take a look at the things that you just really don’t enjoy doing. There’s mental energy that we expend when we don’t do things that we know that we know we have to if that procrastination component. If you can get them off of your own to do list by delegating and training somebody else to take care of them, you might enjoy your work more. There’s other benefits to that as well.

Josh: But I mean again, I own a construction company. I know I should put together a marketing program. 

Gina: Okay. 

Josh: I don’t know the first thing about marketing. I get marketing and sales confused. I want to go and hire a virtual assistant to help me out and put together a marketing and run put together and run a marketing program.

Gina: Okay. So, there’s a couple of different layers with virtual assistants. The first one would be somebody that you would already have systems in place for a task that you complete on a regular basis ongoing or that one time project like you would know what would go into that. And so you’d be training them into what needed to be done so that they could take that over for you. What you described is more of a consultant that would be taking a look at your business, asking a lot of questions. 

They would be coming up with that plan and potentially implementing it as well. So when you’re looking at those two differences, let’s say you already had a social media strategy for your business. You are posting to Facebook on a regular basis and LinkedIn and you had all of this already carved out. You wanted somebody to take it over, come up with the things to post, make sure they were being done on a regular basis, do the comment moderation, all that good stuff. 

That would be kind of that first category versus you didn’t have any kind of social media presence at all. You’d be looking for somebody to come in and consult with you about that to come up with that plan. Then either you would implement it, you would hire somebody else to implement it, or you would hire them to implement it. When you take a look at that, that price difference is going to be, here’s more on the $20 an hour end here’s $40 plus an hour end. Does that makes sense?

Josh: Yeah, it does. It’s also a very good distinction there as a consultant versus a virtual assistant is a very different thing. A virtual assistant what you’re saying this makes sense to me already is not as highly skilled as a consultant. You have to have a system for them to run on.

Gina: Yeah, it comes down to semantics because people will call themselves different things. We have a whole lesson within our program on what to call yourself because virtual assistant is a term that’s becoming more popular. Sometimes people think that it only is with lower level admin tasks, but virtual assistants can be a really specialized as well. So it’s kind of a catch-22 to be honest. It really comes down to you knowing what you need help with. Then if you don’t quite know what you need help with and you need to make sure that you have somebody on the other end that’s asking you the right question that has some experience and proficiency with developing that plan for you. 

So social media is just one thing other people will farm out things like bookkeeping, because they’re not a numbers person or again they don’t want that to consume their time. There could be outreach stuff, so like public relations so if they need to get booked on podcast because that was a part of their marketing strategy or content creation. Maybe they’re adding a blog component or a newsletter to keep in front of their customers. Those are a few other ones. Affiliate program management, it could be maybe that brick and mortar store wants to take things online and offer an e commerce solution to their customers. There’s a lot of different things that could fall under that umbrella, but a lot of the most popular needs would be around social media, content creation. I think bookkeeping is definitely huge. Some graphic design as well. Those are some of the main players.

Josh: When it gets into like advertising. Would you consider that a virtual assistant job or consultants job?

Gina: Oh, I think it depends on their experience. They are definitely virtual assistants within our community that do paid advertising on platforms like Pinterest and Facebook. Google AdWords tends to be kind of its own thing. You want to know what’s really interesting is I think men and women are completely different and men will typically specialize a lot sooner. 

This is from my own experience and what I see in the marketplace. They’ll go with a more specific title. They might call themselves a Facebook Ads Manager versus a woman. She might go with virtual assistant and one of her service offerings would be that she offers paid advertising campaigns on the Facebook medium.

Josh: So which of those two avenues gets a better result?

Gina: I don’t know that one gets a better result than the other. I think when somebody specializes typically they’re going to have more experience. They’re going to have a higher level of expertise. You know that you need somebody that does Facebook ads, probably you’re going to hire somebody that’s a specialist especially if you have a larger budget. They’re going to dedicate to that specific thing. 

Josh: Okay, we have a few minutes left Gina, and this is a really big deal in my opinion, how do you hire a virtual assistant? 

Gina: So there’s a lot of different methods to go about finding somebody.

Josh: I’m asking you for best practices. 

Gina: Yeah, I mean, these are the three that I find that are most common and I think all three of them can work. The first is looking at your network, who you know that you think would be a good candidate. Some people like working with friends and family. Some people don’t. We’ll let that decision be yours, but you can put some feelers out there on social media yourself, like a Facebook post, saying, “Hey, I’m looking for some help with X, Y, or Z.” The second would be if you had your own audience. 

Let’s say you have a customer based, a newsletter, some of the best candidates can be people that are already familiar with your business. So if you’re sending out a regular newsletter, you might just put a PS that, “Hey, we’re hiring for this position. Go to this Google Form and if you’re interested then fill it out.” Then the third option would be going to people that have an audience of virtual assistants, somebody like myself. 

We have a free service that we can put you in touch with people. You go to a marketplace like a Fiverr or an Upwork or there are agencies out there as well that can do all of the management of pay and rates and all that good stuff. There’s a difference between contracting with somebody individually and contracting through an agency. There’s pros and cons to that as well. So I think it’s knowing what you want, knowing what your budget is, putting some feelers out there and one of those three methods. 

I like to then hire somebody for a test project or a paid trial because you don’t want to get married before if you’re the right fit. So if you can give them one project or a period of time maybe a two week trial depending on if the task is reoccurring in nature or not, you’ll be able to tell pretty clearly if that’s the right fit for you based on the quality of the work that they provide to you. That’s obviously going to be a paid trial or a test run for them. 

Josh: That’s actually really good advice and probably the biggest difference as far as hiring a virtual assistant versus a person next door, is it that paid trial doesn’t work out. It’s really easy to say, “Gee, I think I’m going to pass.” When the person is next door, you actually have to look at him in the face and say that and it’s a lot harder to do.

Gina: That’s very true. 

Josh: And by the way, either way, you should be looking at the person in the face on a zoom call if they’re virtual assistant, or having them come in your office if they’re a real assistant. In my experience, the biggest mistake I see people make with virtual assistants is a treat their virtual assistants differently than they do their employees next door.

Gina: Yeah, I think at the team, I run a virtual team of at least a dozen different virtual assistants. I personally like to get to know them personally and have a personal relationship in addition to our business relationship, not anything super full-fledged, but I like to know the people that are working with me and we have this joint mission which it sounds like you have for your own company as well. The more that they buy into that mission, the better work we’re going to be able to create and perform together.

Josh: Cool. Hey, Gina unfortunately we are out of time. I’m going to bet there are some people listening who would love to get in touch with you and find out more about what it is that you do. How would they go about doing that?

Gina: Go ahead and go to https://horkeyhandbook.com/ and our homepage will get you started. There is a tab in the top of the menu which is find a VA and you can use our free service there otherwise explore the blog. We have a ton of content about getting started working with a virtual assistant, hiring somebody, how much to pay them, how to write a job that all of that is free on our website at https://horkeyhandbook.com/. Thanks so much for having me. It was a pleasure.

Josh: Cool. I also have an offer for you, too. One of the things which I find is true for all private businesses and that is they never have enough cash. So we developed this program called Cracking the Cash Flow Code which helps you figure out where you are on the road to creating an economically sustainable business. And more importantly, what you need to be doing at every step along the way. You get it. It’s really easy. I put together a little graphic that shows about the five stages of success. And to get it you just go to https://sustainablebusiness.co/cashflow. That’s https://sustainablebusiness.co/cashflow and we’ll have that infographic on its way to you. It is Josh Patrick. You’re with Gina Horkey. You’re at The Sustainable Business. Thanks a lot for stopping by. I hope to see you back here really soon.

Narrator: You’ve been listening to The Sustainable Business podcast where we ask the question, “What would it take for your business to still be around a hundred years from now?” If you like what you’ve heard and want more information, please contact Josh Patrick at 802-846-1264 ext 2, or visit us on our website at www.askjoshpatrick.com, or you can send Josh an email at jpatrick@askjoshpatrick.com.

Thanks for listening. We hope to see you at The Sustainable Business in the near future.

Topics: small business challenges, outsourcing, sustainable business podcast, gina horkey, virtual teams, Sustainable Business, business scaling, Hiring, virtual assistants

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