How Founders Can Save 20+ Hours Per Week With A VA

Every founder should know how to find, vet, and work with VAs

This is going to sound fake but I save over 20 hours a week by having a team of high-performing virtual assistants who I delegate tasks to relentlessly.

It may be closer to 40 hours.

And they’ve been a huge part of how I’ve scaled this business to a $100,000 month in August after just 6 months.

The best part? Assistants aren’t just for Fortune 500 CEOs anymore — each VA costs less than $10,000 for an entire year.

They play a part in everything — partnerships, company ops, growth, organization, and even the MVP-stage product experience of Megaphone (my new creator marketplace product).

In fact they’re responsible for helping me put together lead magnets like this one that led to over 15,000 of you finding this newsletter.

So this week I’m breaking down how to find, vet, work with, and pay VA(s) 👇

🤝 A Message from Athena

Athena is the perfect partner for this week’s piece — they provide amazing (yet very affordable) full-time executive assistants to help you unlock your potential and 10x your delegation.

They support you across your personal and professional life so you wake up to inbox 0, don’t have to train someone across the world (they have 100+ playbooks), and never wait on a customer service call again. Their top delegators save almost 600 hours per year.

And you’re invited!

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Every Founder Should Have a VA

Where to Find VAs

Option 1: Done-For-You Subscription Service

These take the hassle of payment and employment out of your hands — you pay the service (rather than the VA directly) a flat rate and then they pay the VA out of that. The VA is technically employed by the agency (though you often get to pick from a curated set of candidates who fit your use case).

A good part of this model is that the companies typically are great about replacing any bad fits and there’s no long term commitment.

Example: Athena

Option 2: Placement Service

More of a traditional hiring model, just applied to VAs.

You pay them a placement fee once and then just pay the VA’s salary each month. The one-time payment is nice but these services typically require a longer upfront commitment.

Example: Shepherd

Option 3: DIY Open Marketplace

Exactly what it sounds like. You use some search criteria and filters to sort through thousands of candidates based on required rate of pay, experience, and more.

These often have tests that candidates are encouraged to complete to show off their skills relative to other candidates.

This is the most time consuming approach (often by far) and success relies on your ability to ascertain which candidates will perform well on the job.


How to Assess VAs

Even if you use an agency, I still highly recommend doing an assessment of each VA you hire yourself.

Remember: if you want to maximize the value your VA can provide, they’ll need full access to your email, social media, logins, and more — maybe even your credit card, Stripe account, and bank account.

Even though they’re surprisingly hard to find by Googling, I’m sure there are horror stories about people getting scammed by fake VAs who offer to work for free/cheap.

As a result, I recommend doing both of the following before hiring them:


Meet the VA for a video interview. If I’m being honest, I haven’t always done this and it hasn’t caused any issues. But it’s a good step if you’re at all worried about turning over some of the keys to someone you’ve never met.

It’ll also give you a feel for their personality and what it might be like to work together.

Trial Period or Test Project

This is just a good tip for hiring in general (or even finding a cofounder) — never start working with someone without testing out what it will actually be like to work on a project with them first.

For VAs I typically set up a small assessment based on what I plan to have them do.

For example if they’ll be handling company ops I have them do data entry or ops work. If they’ll be more of a personal assistant then I ask them to book some of my upcoming travel.

When I’m assessing how they do I’m looking for:

  • Do they ask questions about the things they don’t know, or do they make assumptions?

  • What is the quality of the questions they ask? Are they easy to figure out, already mentioned, or legitimately unclear?

  • Do they update me along the way with how it’s going? How clear is their communication?

  • How many hours does it take them to complete each part?

  • Do they complete the task?

At the end of the trial, I rate their performance from 1-5 based on:

  • Communication

  • Speed

  • Instincts

  • Reliability


Here are a few ideas for what a VA can help you with:

  • Full inbox and calendar management. Never open your email (yes, really)

  • Let you build true MVPs of your product — learn more, faster because you don’t need code or even no-code tools. Megaphone’s first backend was literally VA ops

  • Manual data entry tasks that you would probably keep putting off if they were on your todo list

  • Create a morning briefing that’s ready when you wake up with what’s on your plate for the day

  • Book travel, restaurants, itineraries, and even help out with gifts

There’s a lot more VAs can do but, remember, your VA is there to help you. A common mistake founders make is to get stressed out that they don’t have 40 hours of work to give their VA each week right away and, as a result, they create unnecessary work just to take up their time.

Don’t do this.

The right thing to do in this scenario is either just be ok with that or open up access to your VA to others on your team (see below).

How I Work With VAs

Create a VA Pool

In your team’s Slack or Discord, create a channel specifically for your VA(s).

At the start, only add yourself to it. Establish a format of sharing requests with the group:

  • Project name

  • Recurring or one-time

  • Estimated size (XS, S, M, L, XL)

  • Area(s) of the business the project is in

  • Loom video explaining in more detail

Instruct your VAs to publicly claim tasks by commenting when they’re posted. This way it’s never ambiguous who has ownership.

As you gain confidence that your VA(s) are increasingly efficiency and adding value, allow the rest of your team into the channel.

Give the VAs a way to prioritize these tasks (the easiest way, if your VA(s) have access to your employee directory, is by employee seniority) and then inform everyone that they can begin posting requests for the VAs to own.

Area Ownership

Over time, it may make sense for some VAs on your team to specialize on certain areas or tasks. Maybe one of them becomes the Executive Assistant to the CEO or founding team, while another focuses exclusively on data entry related to marketing.

If you’re going to have the same tasks occur many times, why keep training new members of the team to do it?

You Don’t Need Meetings

I communicate with all of my VAs entirely through Slack and Loom. I have never had a meeting with them, and I’ve been working with one of them for this entire year.

Not only does this save both of us a ton of time, but the recordings can be shared throughout the VA team in case someone new starts taking on a task.

Here’s a great list of Loom best practices from Sam Corcos that can help.

Be Overly Detailed

The first time you work with a VA it’s almost guaranteed that you will underestimate the level of detail you need to give in your instructions.

As fully remote members of your team, VAs have no larger business context and things that may seem intuitive to you will not to them.

Don’t ask them to look at something and put together a spreadsheet. Tell them explicitly what columns go in the sheet and where they should pull in data for each one from.

Ask for Samples First

As you and your VA are learning each other’s preferred styles, it’s a good idea to ask for partial samples of projects before they do the entire thing. This is especially useful for larger, time-consuming projects.

You’ll need to do this less as you trust them more and as they learn your preferred style.

Give Clear Feedback

Mistakes happen. One of my VA’s cost me almost $2,000 once by mixing something up.

As with any other team member, understand this will happen and give clear and constructive feedback for how they can ensure it won’t happen again in the future.

What’s a Fair Pay Rate?

This part is a bit controversial. The world hasn’t really aligned on a standard way to pay people in the post-pandemic, remote-friendly marketplace.

Some argue VAs should be paid the same rate as someone doing the work if they were based in your HQ.

Others, like Nick Huber, make the pragmatic case that you should optimize for what’s best for the company’s bottom line:

Personally I agree with Balaji and Sriram on this (below). A free hiring market will, over time, set its own rates based on supply and demand. In the meantime, work with the person you want to hire on a rate that makes it work on both sides.

The one thing that remote work doesn’t solve for is a way to more easily work with people in other timezones, so Balaji makes the case that paying a premium for that (along with competence, of course) are the only things that make sense:

I recently hired an engineer via micro1 to help me build Megaphone and chose someone based in Brazil over others in India, Pakistan, and Nigeria. While timezone wasn’t the only factor, having working hours that overlap has been helpful.

📚️ Founder’s Library

🤯 Sam Corcos, a YC-backed founder, put together an insanely in-depth guide about working with VAs.

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