Despite how quickly the Virtual Assistant (VA) industry is growing, there is unfortunately not yet an industry body for you to seek advice from when looking to hire a VA.
Consequently, many people that we have consultations with here at TWVA have no idea of what to ask to ensure the safety and security of their business so I thought it would be helpful to cover a couple of the key areas that I always recommend you check before completing the VA hiring process.
If the VA that you will be working with will be processing (ie using) any personal data for you or your Clients, they will need to be registered with the Information Commissioners Office (ICO).
It’s important to note that personal data is considered to be any information that makes a person identifiable such as their name along with either their email, telephone number, address or any other contact details. It is therefore very unlikely that your VA will not be considered a data processor and they must be registered with the ICO.
Don’t be afraid to ask for the VA’s ICO registration number on your initial consultation and check it at https://ico.org.uk/esdwebpages/search.
There are several insurances that are important to check whether a VA has before commencing work with them:
Public liability – this can cover legal costs and compensation payments if the VA you’re working with is held responsible for injury or property damage to you the Client.
Professional Indemnity – this should be held by businesses that give advice or provide a professional service to clients so, in theory, a VA falls into this category. The insurance can cover compensation claims if you have to sue your VA for making a mistake that leads to financial loss.
Cyber – this insurance should be held by your VA to protect them and their business from Internet-based risks, and more generally from risks relating to information technology infrastructure and activities. Although not essential, it’s becoming more and more important – in the Government’s Cyber Security Breaches Survey 2018, 42% of micro/small businesses identified at least one breach or attack in the last 12 months and you don’t want your VA (and therefore your data) to fall into these statistics going forward.
If your VA confirms they have these insurances, don’t be afraid to ask to see their insurance certificates.
If your VA will be in any way responsible for the figures showing on the financial records of your company or personal accounts (for instance they are responsible for raising sales invoices or entering purchase invoices onto your accounting software or doing bank reconciliations), they will need to be registered with HMRC for Anti-Money Laundering (AML).
It is important to note that if your VA is AML registered they are required to do background checks on you before commencing any work. This should include (but may not be limited to) checking your company details with Companies House and seeing suitable forms of identification (ideally photographic ID such as a passport) and keeping copies for their records.
Like the ICO registration, you can check their AML registration at the following website: https://customs.hmrc.gov.uk/msbregister/checkTerms.do
Once you have chosen a VA to work with and have done all the above due diligence checks where necessary, the next step prior to starting work together should be for your VA to supply you with a contract including terms and conditions.
These documents should flesh out everything you’ve discussed in your consultation (most VAs offer a free consultation by telephone or video conference prior to starting work together) and all the finer details about working patterns, confidentiality, holiday cover, payments and so forth. I wouldn’t expect any business owners to begin work with clients without a contract so if your VA does not offer this on agreeing to work together, it may be a red flag regarding the professionalism they adhere to within their business.
It’s important to remember that when working with a VA you’re hiring a contractor, not an employee so you shouldn’t be looking to seek references as such, more testimonials from previous or current clients of the VA that you’re in talks with.
That said, I would definitely ask for testimonials that are representative of the skillset you’re looking to make use of from your VA. You can also ask questions around the testimonial such as how long did you work with this client, are you still working with them, if not, why did they leave etc. I’m not suggesting that people exaggerate or falsify testimonials but it’s good to ask additional questions for peace of mind!
Here at TWVA, all our team members adhere to this unofficial code of practice so if you would like any further advice on hiring a VA or if you would like us to assist you with any of your business support, just give us a call us on 07760 222906 or drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.