Fully Booked VA Blog

5 Strategies to Work with a Project-based Virtual Assistant

A lot of business owners turn to virtual assistants to offer ongoing administrative support.

While this is the most popular way to start outsourcing to a VA, it’s certainly not the only one. If there are lots of new things you’re trying to do, or specific “systems” you want to start outsourcing, you may try hiring a project-based virtual assistant first.

A project-based VA is someone who will take on business tasks that revolve around a specific project-based outcome. The project can be a short-term, a one-time task (such as setting up and running the tech for a webinar) or a much more substantial project that will take some time (such taking your course currently on Teachable and moving it to Thinkific).

For example, a project-based VA might be someone who sets up a Facebook ads campaign, an automated email sequence or even preparing your ebook manuscript to be published on Amazon. You might hire someone to lay out the new printable you want to start selling, or you could outsource writing the copy for your next sales page.

The Benefits of a Project-based Virtual Assistant

There are all kinds of reasons why working with a project-based VA might be the right move for your business.

Money aside, hiring someone for one-off projects is a good way to get started with outsourcing, especially if you aren’t ready to make any kind of long-term commitment. Project-based VA work can be a one-time thing or an ongoing thing, depending on your business model.

That’s the beauty of working with virtual assistants – you’re able to outsource whatever you need, whenever you need it. There’s no one-size-fits-all. It truly is something you mold around your own needs, whatever they may be.

But how do you actually make it work without driving yourself (or your VA) crazy?

Here are some things to keep in mind as you think about whether or not it’s time to bring on a virtual assistant to help you grow your business.

1. Decide Whether You Want Strategy or Implementation

Many (if not all) of the projects you might want to outsource will come with a strategy attached.

What’s the goal of the project, and how are you designing it to meet that goal?

5 Strategies to Work with a Project-Based Virtual AssistantIf you’re savvy enough with your business (or you simply want to be the decision-maker) you will probably be doing all of the strategizing yourself.

If this is the case, you’ll want to find someone who can take your strategy and simply “build the thing” – they are the implementers of the plan that you come up with.

Implementation will save you tons of time in and of itself. There’s also the mental relief of having someone else pick up the burden of wrangling tech, testing things and doing some of the more mundane stuff that comes with online projects.

Outsourcing doesn’t always have to be strictly the implementation, though. There are VAs out there who can help you develop your strategy.

In general, strategy is going to cost you a lot more than implementation, but the value of an expert’s solid strategy could significantly bump your ROI.

The tricky thing with hiring a strategist is that you have to let go of your status as “knower of all things” in your business.

The VA, especially if they have solid experience and a track record of success, will most likely make suggestions for improvement after hearing your initial thoughts. There may be a way you think things will be done, but the VA may know a better, more efficient, or more cost-effective way to get to your goals.

You’re hiring an expert, so be prepared NOT to be the expert.

2. Get Clear on the Scope

As always, define the scope before you ever begin working with someone.

In the case of outsourcing to a project-based VA, you need to define the work to be done, milestones, check-ins, and reporting if applicable. There should be a final deadline, as well as an understanding of who is providing what and at what point(s) in the process.

Defining the scope is a critical part of the process. This is when you set expectations and work out payment terms. It’s when you draw up a contract and get everything straight. The fewer surprises you get along the way, the better!

3. Know What It’ll Really Cost

Speaking of money and expectations … it’s important to know, going into this process, that your expenses may include more than just the virtual assistant’s fee for the job.

That fee will cover the work of planning and implementation, but there are often other expenses that crop up.

You may need to cover new software, ad spend, the purchase of stock photos, new plugins for your website, or anything else. While some VAs have their own licenses for their project-based work, it’s not the VA’s job to pay for your software, your marketing, and your other resources.

You may already be carrying the costs of everything you’ll need for the project, but the software-and-other-expenses conversation is one of the conversations that needs to happen.

4. Ask for Experience (and Be Ready to Pay for It)

When you know what your project is, it makes sense to find someone with a proven track record in executing that kind of project.

As you approach your search for your project VA, make it a point to explain the project in a way that makes it clear what’s going on without getting too far into the weeds (for example, state that you need someone to migrate a website from Square Space to WordPress, or that you want to run a series of Promoted Pin campaigns).

As you evaluate the candidates, look at their portfolios closely for work that resembles what you need.

See what their testimonials are saying, and check for any that are specific to to the type of project you need done (as opposed to generic glowing praise).

If you can’t see any evidence of their experience, ask them directly. You might even want to request referrals.

If budget constraints are a major consideration for you, this might be an opportunity to work with a relative newbie. There are many virtual assistants who are looking to expand their skill sets. They’ve studied various types of projects and are simply looking for the opportunity to practice their skills.

If you can find someone you’re comfortable with, you may be able to help someone launch their project-based career while receiving excellent help at a discounted rate.

Taking that approach may be risky, but it may be a risk that pays off. The key is to do your homework, get a feel for the candidate’s overall competence as well as any relevant experience or training, and see if you can agree on terms that mitigate the risk enough to make it worth it to you.

5. Plan for a Flat Rate

Many virtual assistants charge an hourly rate for their services, especially when they’re in ongoing roles like social media management and customer service. Project-based virtual assistants, however, tend to charge per-project flat rates.

Flat rates for project-based work make a lot of sense for a few reasons:

  • The work is finite, and the scope is clearly defined, so it’s a “clean” arrangement.
  • There are no surprises on the invoice, so you can plan your budget accordingly.
  • Fees are based on the value of the work (this comes into play significantly more as the complexity of a project increases).
  • You can calculate the expected ROI of projects before making a hiring decision to know whether or not it’s worth the investment right now.

One thing to keep in mind when you’re working with someone who charges project-based fees: you will be expected to pay for at least some of the work up front.

It’s not reasonable to expect your virtual assistant to do all the work before you pay them – that’s not how project-based work operates.

When you look over the project proposals that come in, you’ll get a sense of how payment milestones are structured. It’s not uncommon to have a 25-50 percent deposit due at the beginning of the project, before work starts. It’s also fairly common to make milestone payments along the way (if it’s a lengthy project).

Last but not least, many project-based virtual assistants will (rightly) require full payment before turning over their work.

This is in keeping not only with long-standing business practices but with things like copyright and intellectual property laws, which generally say that your VA’s work doesn’t become yours until you’ve paid for it.

Payment terms are one of the things you’ll need to hammer out as you discuss the scope of the project and come up with your terms of doing business together. Oftentimes, it’s best to let the virtual assistant take the lead in these discussions, since they’re the ones who do this frequently.

Do your research behind the scenes and make the decisions that are best for your business, of course, but don’t be afraid to let the VA lead the conversation if you aren’t sure how things work in this part of the universe.

Set Yourself Up for Success

The decision to bring on a project-based virtual assistant, like all business decisions, needs to be carefully considered before you make a hiring decision and start pumping more money into the project. Using these strategies, a solid approach to finding good candidates, and some good old common sense will go a long way toward you finding the right person for the job at hand.

Ready to get started? Our VA Finder will put your project in front of a huge pool of qualified applicants.



Gina Horkey

Gina Horkey


Gina Horkey is a married, millennial mama from Minnesota. Additionally, she’s the founder of Horkey HandBook and loves helping others find or become a kickass virtual assistant. Gina’s background includes making a living as a professional writer, an online business marketing consultant and a decade of experience in the financial services industry.

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