Updated: Apr 28
Working with freelancers is a great way to scale your operations, especially if it involves activities that can easily be outsourced.
However, good freelancers will always be in demand, so they tend to move on sooner than expected. Consequently, companies find themselves stuck in this vicious and lengthy cycle - finding talents, training them, and eventually looking for replacements.
Could there be an alternative solution? Fortunately, yes.
If you represent a business that is looking to scale operations using freelancers or virtual assistants without experiencing the hiring and training hassle that comes along, a good agency will be of help.
In this article, we’ll talk about how to shortlist an agency and how to make the association work effectively.
When To Hire A Virtual Assistant Agency
Listed below are some situations when you might consider hiring a virtual assistant agency:
You don’t want to spend hefty amounts to employ a large in-house team, but you need more resources to increase the workforce.
You need to scale but don’t have the time and attention required to hire, train, and manage an additional workforce.
You don’t have a good enough infrastructure to train your in-house team.
You want to offload your in-house team without expanding it.
What To Look For When Choosing A Virtual Assistant Agency
Here are some preparatory steps we recommend when looking for agencies:
Identify Your Brand Identity: Understanding your values is essential before screening agencies. This will help you find the one that aligns with your vision and can effectively communicate your message to your target audience. For example, if integrity is one of your core values, you would want to look for it in your agency service provider as well. They’ll display their integrity by clearly telling you what they can and cannot help with rather than treating you merely as a cash machine and bluffing about their abilities.
Clearly Define Your Needs: Before vetting agencies, it's important to have clarity regarding what you're looking for in an agency. This includes identifying the specific services you need, affordability, and the desired outcomes.
Seek Recommendations From Industry Peers: Social media is no more just for entertainment. It’s now also the go-to place where people exchange information, knowledge, and decision-making advice. Reach out to your LinkedIn, Slack, or other social media communities to learn about recommended agencies and other managed service providers.
Once you have listed down your needs and collected details of a few service providers, start interviewing them. Our experience says that once you speak with a few of them, you get more clarity on what you want from them and what you don’t.
To make the vetting process simpler for you, we’ve put together some tips that will help you determine if you have found the agency partner you’re looking for.
5 Tips for Hiring the Right Agency:
1. Enquire about the working method: The way a supplier works tells a lot about their capabilities. One way to gauge if their methodology is reliable is to ask them process and performance-related questions.
Here are a few questions you can ask the agency and get a fair idea if they are good at their job:
What are your KPIs for projects of this nature?
What’s your review process like? Do you check everything or sample?
How does the hiring and vetting process look?
When you need to replace a VA, how do you do that, and how quickly can a suitable replacement be found?
Does the training happen in-house or externally?
How do you define that a VA could also perform as a team lead?
Do you have a customer success manager that makes sure the client’s needs are clearly communicated and monitored during the project lifespan?
2. Assign a trial project: A trial run is a safe way to test the waters before taking a deep dive. Not only can you assess the skill level of the actual people working on your projects, but also the ability to follow instructions and deliver within the promised turnaround time. The size of the trial project depends on the nature of the tasks you want to delegate.
Example 1: You want to outsource content writing
Start with ordering one article, and if it meets your expectations, go for 2-3 more pieces to see if the quality is consistent.
Example 2: You want to hire FTE (full-time equivalent) resources
When hiring an FTE virtual assistant(s), it’s essential to consider what kind of tasks you’re delegating. Let’s say you’re hiring a Data Monitoring Assistant, measuring them in terms of communication, regularity, response to data anomalies, etc., will make it clear in the first week itself if they’re the right choice for this role.
3. Check responsiveness and communication style: It’s a crucial criterion when screening an agency service provider or anyone in general. Responding to messages or emails and making necessary tweaks (the legitimate ones, of course) in a reasonable time are both important elements of this.
An even better indication of their reliability is proactive communication. Voluntary updates and sharing suggestions are some of the qualities they’ll display and indicate they care for your success.
4. Look out for unrealistic promises: A good agency will not try too hard to impress you by promising error-free work. Instead, they will give you a peek into how they minimize mistakes, their reaction to mistakes, and even share failure stories and their impact on their processes.
5. Customer success process: They’ll proactively ask you to share feedback, go the extra mile to improve on the required areas, suggest ways to make the best use of their service, and even modify the KPIs when needed.
An agency that values you will listen to your complaints and make sure to dig deep and fix the issues rather than jumping into apologies and promising “it will never happen again.” They won’t be hesitant to share their thoughts about how you can have better input for them to attain the desired results or even reject your complaints with a proper explanation.
How To Get The Desired Results From Your Agency Service Provider
Finding an agency that appears promising and passes the trial phase is the start of a new working relationship, and to ensure that your investment brings you great returns, you first need to set clear expectations.
It’s similar to hiring an employee - you hire a great candidate, but if you don’t tell them what you expect from them or how you will measure them, they will most likely be unable to achieve what you need.
Use these tips to get the desired results from your service provider:
1. Listen. Don’t assume they got it right: Provide the agency with enough information so they can understand and adhere to the desired workflow. Then, let them talk it through and hear how they perceive it. This step uncovers many false assumptions they might make, reducing the gap between your and their understanding of any project’s desired outcomes.
2. Streamline communication channels: Set up a desired and convenient channel of communication for day-to-day activities. Be regular at communicating, not only when you need to convey something or need help but also when they need you. Remember, smooth communication is a foundational requirement if you want such an association to work.
3. Provide clear and actionable feedback: Merely saying "this doesn't work" won't help if you want them to understand "why" it doesn't work. Understanding "why" is key to figuring out "how" to fix something. It will help rectify the problem at hand and strengthen the process, resulting in rare possibilities of repeated mistakes.
4. Show your appreciation: Your happiness will add tons to your service provider’s motivation and, ultimately, the actual talents doing the work for you. So, if you’re content with their work - express it. It takes less than 10 words and can boost their performance. Yes, that happens!
5. Measure and monitor: Convey the KPIs you’ll use to measure performance. The agency could be putting in a lot of hard work and still fail to produce desired results because they’re unaware of your priorities. An effective way to measure performance is to monitor metrics that matter the most instead of measuring everything, which leads to creating a waste of all sorts across the process.
6. Let the data guide them: Share past successes and failures so they can leverage what works and avoid making the same mistakes. Be it your experience working with different service providers or A/B testing results from your in-house team - don’t hesitate to share data that helps the agency recreate past success for you.
How Klarecon Helped a Client Scale and Solve Major Pain Points: A Case Study
One of Klarecon’s clients is a leading performance marketing brand whose joy lies in entertaining its viewer base of over 100 million with content specializing in pop culture, pets, real-life stories, and many other similar themes.
Although the client team was using freelance writers, they wanted a solution that would help them scale more quickly. They needed dozens of articles written per week, and hiring and replacing freelancers consumed so much extra time from their editors’ routine.
When Klarecon reached out and explained what they bring to the table - it sounded like a solution worth trying.
A significant reason the client preferred choosing Klarecon was that it eliminated their hiring and management overload, which is inevitable when producing over 600K words per month using dozens of freelance writers.
How the journey began
Klarecon educated the client on how it creates and manages capacity and solves the biggest issue - the instability of freelance resources.
To verify quality, they conducted a successful trial run.
Weekly content orders started with 2-3 pieces.
How it’s going now
Klarecon produces up to 7 times more content pieces weekly than it did during the initial couple of months.
Klarecon is currently working with the client's content team on a content strategy to engage global audiences.
They save a significant amount of time each week and can easily scale up and down at any time.
What made the relationship last
Active listening: The client is open to listening. Their willingness to listen when needed is something Klarecon fully appreciates.
Challenging assumptions: As an agency service provider, Klarecon worked on changing the incorrect notions, such as freelancers should bring overnight results. Whenever a mistake happened, it emphasized fixing the process instead of blaming team members.
Regular communication and feedback: Every issue, whether unpleasant or pleasant, was discussed openly, and a resolution was found. Klarecon created an easy channel for the client teams to share regular and clear feedback, which was used to avoid repeating mistakes.
Mutual respect: Both Klarecon and the client respected each other’s way of working and found a middle ground to ensure smooth task management and delivery.
Results and Transformation:
“After starting the collaboration with Klarecon, my and my co-workers' workload became much more manageable. It saves us a lot of valuable time! Adding to that is how easy the process of assigning and payment has become, thanks to the open channel of communication we get to enjoy.”
With Klarecon’s assistance, the client’s content scaling needs were met within 2 months, which usually would take around 5-6 months if done internally.
Revision requests have been as low as 0.025%, adding a layer of convenience for the client’s editors.
In addition, other content and creative managers handling different teams in the client company found assistance in short-term and long-term projects. Word of mouth played its charm, eliminating the need to repeat the vetting cycle that precedes hiring a service provider.
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