Through my time as Cofounder of Zirtual.com (one of the first virtual assistant startups), founder of Avra (a remote-first recruiting firm), and then Head of Talent at Magic (the largest virtual assistant platform), I’ve been involved in the process of hiring tens of thousands of assistants, across almost every industry, experience level, and geographic location.,,
If I had a quarter for every time someone asked me for a recommendation for a good virtual assistant, I would have a pool full of coins to do laps in Scrooge McDuck style.
At Mahway, we provide our portfolio companies with assistants from day one to help support the CEO and founding team as they scale up. We also provide access to a highly vetted pool of assistants (hand-picked by yours truly) for LPs and advisors.
Successfully hiring a Virtual Assistant, and successfully integrating a VA into your workflow, are two different things. This is my attempt to curate 15 years of experience into something digestible that will help more people leverage VAs and help professional VAs deliver excellent results.
Step 1: What type of Virtual Assistant do you need?
As with most things in life, having a clear end goal will make hiring and working with a VA far more productive and enjoyable. To me, there are three major buckets of virtual assistance. Other resources will sort seven, even twelve, but at the end of the day if you’re looking for a ‘virtual assistant who builds websites’ or one who ‘does bookkeeping’ just keep it simple and go hire a website developer or a bookkeeper.
Administrative Assistant (AA)
This type of Virtual Assistant manages various administrative and daily tasks such as:
- Data entry
- Answering emails
- Writing documents
- Basic research
- Scheduling + calendar management
Cost: $ to $$ (depending on location)
Executive Assistant (EA)
This type of assistant has experience working with executives, navigating complex relationships, providing white-glove support, and being able to ‘stand in’ for their executive in certain decision-making processes. Examples of what differentiates an EA from an AA:
Degree of Responsibilities: EAs typically handle more high-level responsibilities compared to AAs. This can include tasks that significantly impact an executive's performance and the company's operations.
Professionals They Work Alongside: EAs primarily support senior executives or high-level management in a company, while AAs might support multiple individuals or departments, offering more general administrative support.
Autonomy: Executive Assistants tend to work more autonomously and often implement strategic improvements across various areas. On the other hand, Administrative Assistants usually require specific directions for their tasks.
Typical Responsibilities: Administrative Assistants commonly handle tasks like recording memos and minutes, and organizing files. Executive Assistants, though sometimes overlapping in duties with AAs, generally take on more specialized tasks related to the executive's specific needs.
Cost: $$ to $$$ (depending on location)
Operational Assistant (OA)
This is an assistant who thrives in making order out of chaos and optimizing workflows through technology. Tasks and projects they can handle would be:
- Building and automating processes
- Creating databases
- Optimizing workflows through APIs
- Testing out new technologies and tools to improve their team’s operations
- Creating documentation
- Leveraging AI and AI-powered tools to improve outputs
Cost: $$ (depending on location)
Next up, crafting a job description…
Eliminate > Automate > Delegate
Studies show, that roughly 20% of a person's input results in 80% of their output. What is tragic about this is it means most of us spend the majority of our time on things that create minimal impact.
By getting clear on your Highest and Best Use of Talent, and that of your team, you can better understand
There will be two buckets of time spent that was not the highest or best use for you.
- Things that shouldn’t be done by you (e.g. they could be delegate to someone else with 80%+ fidelity, or could be done by technology, we call this automations
- Things that shouldn’t be done
- Look at your previous month’s calendar, notebooks, Notion, or whatever tool you use for tracking work. Try to break everything into four buckets (go by your gut here, you don’t need to overthink it)
This is often the hardest part, look at everything you’ve spent more than 5 minutes on in the past month, what actually does not need to be done? There will be more of these than you think, but you probably won’t catch many of them on your first pass.
- Example: Sending out a weekly recap letter that no on reads, if you’re using a system like OKRs and tracking them consistently on a platform that everyone has view-access to, you can just kill the weekly email and tell collaborators to check the tool for updates.
Ideally monthly, or at minimum quarterly, carve out at least one hour for this, with no distractions, to go through the previous period and see what you did that doesn’t NEED to be done
There are two places you delegate work that needs to get done, but
things that can ‘assigned’ to computers, AI or other technologies. An example would be using a Calendar App like Calendly versus managing scheduling yourself, or having your assistant handle it.
If you’re newer to this practice, I’d suggest assigning things to your admin or support staff like so:
- I need this end result, but before you do it yourself, please do some research to see if there are ways to automate this - it could be straightforward like a tool (e.g. Calendly for scheduling) or multi-step (e.g. input X into ChatGPT, copy answer, then plug into tool, use an API to automate)
ROTI: Return on Time Invested
High return on time invested:
- Thinking time refers to uninterrupted periods when your mind is allowed to wander freely, enabling you to generate new solutions, establish connections between unrelated ideas, and create action plans using pen and paper. This can be done using an iPad without internet connectivity or a Remarkable device if necessary.