SCORE Tip of the Week: How to Hire Virtual Employees

SCORE's CEO, Kenneth R. Yancey, offers advice for adding virtual employees to your small business team.

If you’re thinking about hiring virtual employees, you don’t need to hide the fact from clients or customers. In fact, most businesses today use some kind of virtual assistance on a daily basis, and most consumers would never know it (e.g., customer service). But how do you find the right virtual employee for your business? Here are some steps to take:

Get good references or meet face-to-face first. A quick online chat, a phone conversation or an email exchange are not enough to entrust your business to someone you’ve never met. Meeting in person is always preferable, but if that’s not possible, you should talk to as many references as you can. Check out the work the person has done on other, similar projects. Also consider instituting a probation period.

Use the right technology. The reason virtual employees are now viable is the amount of technology available that makes everything run smoothly. Start with a good online project management program so you can keep on top of your virtual workers’ progress without having to ask. You’ll also need some type of cloud storage system to store important files and documents so the latest version is accessible from anywhere.

Set realistic rules and expectations. An employee doesn’t know what’s expected of them unless you make it clear, and it’s advisable to put it in writing. Do you expect the worker to be available during working hours in the time zone where you are located? What kind of response time do you expect? Since you’re not in the same building you’ll need to work out a preferred method of communication (using an instant messaging program is also advised), or you’re asking for a lot of headaches.