As an entrepreneur, it’s natural that you want to handle every aspect of your eCommerce store.
But as your business grows, it becomes crucial to focus on the areas that provide the highest return on investment for your time.
If you’ve been getting bogged down by day-to-day operations, and want to free up time to focus on growth, then hiring a Shopify virtual assistant could be just the ticket.
Because as Jim Rohn says:
“Time is more valuable than money. You can get more money, but you cannot get more time.”
So, in this guide, we’ll break down exactly what you need to know to attract the best VA’s to your business.
Sounds good? Let’s jump in!
If reading ain’t your thing, don’t worry! We’ve got this post in video form too:
If you’d prefer to have things down in writing, let’s keep going with the blog post!
What is a Shopify Virtual Assistant?
A virtual assistant for Shopify (also known as a VA) is a remote worker who helps you run your business more effectively.
In contrast to freelancers or contractors, virtual assistants are usually generalists – meaning they have a broad knowledge of many eCommerce processes without specializing in any area in particular.
This broad knowledge makes VA’s perfect for managing the day-to-day operations of your eCom business.
Most commonly, virtual assistants handle time-intensive tasks like customer service and order fulfillment, although many also have other skills such as social media management and copywriting too.
Typically, a VA is the ‘first hire’ for Shopify store owners because they’re a super cost-effective way to get the help you need without breaking the bank (plus, their services are tax-deductible!)
Sure, giving up a part of the business you worked so hard to build can be challenging – but if you want to grow, at some stage, you’ll need to start delegating tasks.
Hiring a VA is the best way to practice the skills of delegation, management, and hiring without much risk – all abilities you’ll need to become a successful business owner.
What Tasks Can You Outsource to a Virtual Assistant?
Shopify store owners typically hire virtual assistants to undertake administrative tasks.
Usually, if you’ve got a repetitive task, you can offload it to a VA. As long as you can explain it clearly – most VAs will be happy to learn how to perform it.
That said, virtual assistants aren’t just useful for repetitive tasks, though – you can find plenty who have a range of skills from sales to graphic design.
Here are some of the most common things a Shopify VA can help with:
- Customer Service: Dealing with customer emails, calls, and messages
- Social media management: Creating posts, curating content, and engaging with your social audiences
- Research: Studying competitors, looking for new products and trends, compiling resources, etc.,
- General Store Management: Importing products, writing descriptions, organizing collections, fulfilling orders, creating sales offers, etc.
- Administrative Tasks: Basic bookkeeping, researching & booking appointments, venues, flights, hotels, etc., for you and your employees.
As you can see, having someone handle these tasks takes a lot of your plate and puts valuable time back into your day.
When is the Right Time to Hire A Shopify Virtual Assistant
As you scale your business, managing customer requests and fulfilling orders can start to take up an excessive amount of time.
Deciding to hire a virtual assistant comes down to one thing: opportunity cost.
For example, if you spend an hour per day answering customer emails, could you spend that time doing something more productive if a VA managed it instead?
Or put another way – could you do something that would generate more revenue than the cost of paying your VA for that hour?
If you answered yes, then hiring a VA probably makes sense.
That said, Shopify entrepreneurs often jump the gun and hire VAs a little too early.
As a general rule, if you haven’t been managing your customer service and fulfilling orders for a decent period of time, it’s best not to hand that responsibility over to a VA yet.
The reason? Because when you’ve been in the trenches, you’ll be able to create concrete guidelines and set appropriate standards for the VA you eventually hire.
Plus, dealing with customers one on one gives you a unique insight into how to communicate with them, which in turn will strengthen other areas of your business.
However, if you do find yourself getting bogged down every day, always struggling for time, and constantly wishing you didn’t have to answer emails – then, by all means, try hiring a VA for a couple of hours per week.
If you find your newfound free-time is reaping big rewards for your business, then you can fully outsource the remaining admin tasks you have and focus on what you do best.
How Much Does A Shopify VA Cost?
Like any job, there’s a wide variety of price ranges for hiring virtual assistants.
In general, US-based virtual assistants will command a higher fee than those from countries such as the Philippines.
A VAs skillset will also significantly impact their fees – the more skills they offer, the higher the rate.
Fees are typically quoted on an hourly basis, although fixed-rate contracts and monthly retainers are also standard.
As a ballpark guide, you can expect to pay an overseas VA around $5-12/hr for basic work such as customer service and order fulfillment.
For a US-based equivalent, it’ll run you more like $10-20/hr, depending on the VA’s experience.
If you’re looking for a high-level ‘executive assistant’ for your business, you can expect to pay $20-50+/ hour.
It’s also worth factoring in the time you’ll need to invest into training and managing the relationship alongside the fee when making a final decision.
How to Hire The Best Shopify Virtual Assistants
Hiring a virtual assistant is a decision you shouldn’t take lightly. Just like hiring an employee, you want to make sure they’re adequately vetted and able to work to a high standard.
The first step in hiring a customer service oriented VA starts with you – you must document the tasks you want them to complete in a way that’s easy to understand.
1. Document Your Processes
If you have to train a VA on how to use various tools and platforms, you might end up creating more work for yourself.
That’s because hiring a virtual assistant is never as simple as it sounds. There’ll invariably be things they don’t know how to do and problems that crop up.
The best way to minimize such issues is to have a comprehensive set of documentation to draw on when things go awry.
To enhance comprehension, ensure you include gifs, screengrabs, videos, and clear instructions when creating your documentation.
It’s also worthwhile creating a series of customer service phrases for common scenarios so virtual assistants can streamline the customer support process and prevent things from getting lost in translation.
To become a master delegator, create a flow-chart of action steps that anticipate frequent customer service situations -e.g., “If a customer’s package doesn’t arrive within seven days, send response #14. If the package doesn’t arrive by day 14, issue a refund.”
Lastly, carefully consider the tools you use to run your business (ex. Gorgias, Mailchimp, Buffer, etc.) and how proficient potential virtual assistants are with them.
Virtual assistants who’ve got experience with the platforms you use will make your life a lot easier than if they have to start from nothing.
2. Choose a Platform
There are several places you can find great virtual assistants to help you run your eCommerce business:
- Upwork: The internet’s largest talent platform with thousands of quality VAs to choose from. Making payments is easy, and the hiring process is very smooth – our top-pick for hiring your first VA.
- Fiverr: a low-cost marketplace where you can find decent virtual assistants at rates as low as $3/hr
- Onlinejobs.ph: A great value freelance marketplace focused on freelancers based in the Philippines
- FreeeUp: A service that pre-vets virtual assistants and only allow top-tier applicants into the network.
Peruse through each site and decide which is the best fit for your business.
For this tutorial, we’re going to focus specifically on using the Upwork platform.
3. Create a Virtual Assistant Job Description
A well-crafted job description is crucial to attracting the right kind of talent. Think of it as your first filter for narrowing down your search.
When writing your description, include:
- Job details: working hours, rate of pay, list of tasks they’ll be performing.
- Must-haves: fluent English, specific experience, etc
- Apps and Tools: The software (e.g., helpdesk, email marketing) that you run your business on
- Nice to haves: Bonus skills and talent an ideal candidate would have
- Company bio: Let freelancers know a little bit about your business
Here’s a virtual assistant job template you can steal:
VA Needed for a Fast-growing Shopify Store (LONG TERM JOB)
If you have perfect English, experience in Shopify, and can provide support via live chat, phone & email, we need you.
This is a LONG TERM stable job with a lot of room to grow and get performance-based bonuses and raises over time.
– 8h/day 6 days a week (Sundays off)
– Ability to work in US business hours
– Fast training (1 month) with a base salary
– A fixed monthly rate of $500/month ($400 during training)
Candidate must have:
– Perfect English, written and verbal
– Experience with Shopify
A big bonus will be:
– Experience with (Your help desk)
– Experience with Timedoctor (+ other tools you use to collaborate)
– Copywriting capabilities
– Email marketing experience
– Please write “Banana” when you apply
– Aliexpress fulfillment experience (oberlo & dropified)
– Design (PS) knowledge
– any other thing you can think of (please list it in your application)
We’re looking for a quick learner, team player, and most importantly, an honest person we can work with for the next few years at least. We’re a fun company that never deals with discipline, it’s either we have fun together, and the job gets done, or we don’t work together 🙂
One bonus tip is to include a line that says something like: “Please write “Banana” when you apply”.
The reason is that some applicants copy and paste their application into 100s of various jobs – you want to filter out these folks and focus on those who took the time to read your job description.
On Upwork, you can also include screening questions. Use these to zero-in on the best applications:
4. Search for Qualified Candidates
On the basic plan, Upwork allows you to invite up to 15 candidates to your job.
This is super powerful because if you know how to search for the right talent, you can massively speed up the hiring process (as well as finding the best candidates)
An excellent place to start your search is to set your budget to $10/hr (or less) and filter by freelancers based in the Philippines.
Virtual assistants from the Philippines typically have an excellent standard of English and are prepared to work for cheaper rates than folks based in the US.
Use keywords like ‘Oberlo’, ‘Shopify’, and Dropified’ – or whatever keywords are relevant to your business.
Upwork will present you with a list of virtual assistants to choose between. Look at their reviews, profile descriptions, and experience – then just hit ‘Invite to job’ if you think they’d be a good fit!
Keep going until you invite at least 15 stand-out VAs to your job post. Leave your post live for three to four days.
By the time you return, you should have a nice list of well-qualified virtual assistants waiting for you.
5. Run Interviews
Next up, it’s time to run interviews.
Use your screen questions as a guide here – choose the top three candidates and reach out to them to arrange an interview via Skype, Zoom, or directly on the Upwork platform.
Here’s a list of questions that you can ask when interviewing candidates:
- What’s your core expertise as a VA?
- Tell me about your experience with Shopify/eCommerce?
- Are you familiar with any customer satisfaction metrics?
- How many clients are you working with right now?
- What’s your availability/working schedule like?
- What essential skills or traits schools a VA have?
- Do you have any wifi or electricity issues?
- You have a deadline today, but your laptop crashes. What do you do?
- What are your interests outside of work?
- What are your goals?
Asking questions like this should give you a clearer picture of the candidate’s motivations and talents.
Record each interview so you can watch it back before making the final decision about who you want to hire.
How to Manage Your Shopify Virtual Assistant
Once you’ve hired the right virtual assistant, the next most crucial step is to manage them effectively.
The first step is to set them up on your communications channel – whether that’s Slack, email, Skype, or Google Meet.
Next, you’ll want to bring them up to speed with your processes and systems.
1. Remember to Protect Sensitive Information
Trust is the foundation of all great working relationships. And in 99% of cases, lots of trust will develop between you and your VA.
But when you’re sharing access to your accounts for the first time, it’s wise to grant your VA access to only the essential information they need to get the job done.
In Shopify, it’s easy to set up a limited staff account and choose a range of permissions while keeping other areas of your account private.
Most other platforms like Facebook, Gorgias, and Zendesk will allow you to add staff accounts too.
For tools or software that you use as a single user, LastPass is an excellent option to share passwords with VA’s, without actually exposing them.
Besides protecting your private information, it’s also wise to have your virtual assistant sign a non-disclosure agreement.
Since VAs typically work with multiple clients, the last thing you want is for them to have free reign to share sensitive information with competitors.
2. Use an Accountability System
Remote work means it can be challenging to know how much work your VA is doing.
Similarly, given the irregular nature of a VA’s tasks, it can be hard for them to accurately track how many hours they’re working.
An accountability system helps provide transparency and fairness for both parties.
One of the best ways to keep everyone on the same page is to hold a weekly meeting with your VA or team of VAs where you can cover everyone’s responsibilities and tasks for the week and answer any questions they may have.
For a more quantitative approach, If you’re working in UpWork, they have a feature that lets freelancers track time via a desktop app.
If you’re working outside of Upwork, a tool like Timedoctor or Toggl can help keep everyone in the loop about billing and workload.
While screen recording tools can be a bit invasive (former freelancer’s opinion!), many eCommerce store owners require VA’s to use such software.
The best advice is to use screen recording as a last resort – when a VA’s billable hours seem way out of kilter with the work they have to show for it.
When Jeff Bezos started Amazon in his garage, he managed the entire business himself.
He sourced the books, built his website, shipped orders, and dealt with customer service.
Nowadays, he doesn’t do any of that.
The truth is, giving up a part of your business can be a nerve-wracking and challenging experience for many entrepreneurs.
But in many ways, the process of growing your business is a process of letting go.
Hiring a VA costs money. But it also puts time back into your pocket.
And those are hours you can spend on the things that matter most – whether that’s coming up with brilliant new ideas for your business or enjoying more time with your family and friends.
Shopify Virtual Assistant FAQ
1. What is a Shopify virtual assistant?
A Shopify virtual assistant is a remote worker who helps with various tasks related to your eCommerce business, such as:
- Customer service
- Social media management
- Store management (order fulfillment, product description, etc.)
- Data entry & research
2. Is a virtual assistant worth it?
A virtual assistant is worth it if you are:
- Already familiar with running every aspect of your store (customer service, Social media, etc.)
- Continually wishing you had more time to focus on ‘bigger problems’
- Free from immediate cash-flow issues
- Unable to relax/have any work-life balance
In general, if you think a virtual assistant can free-up time that you spend, generating more profit than their hourly wage, then it makes sense to hire them.
3. How much should a Shopify virtual assistant get paid?
Pay is dependent on experience, skills, and location. That said, a ballpark figure for an overseas virtual assistant is $3-10 per hour or between $500-1200 per month.
4. How to pay your virtual assistant Shopify?
If you hire your VA via a freelance platform like Upwork or Fiverr, you can pay them using a credit or debit card directly on the platform. Outside of platforms, most virtual assistants accept Paypal, Transferwise, or Western Union.
5. How do I monitor my virtual assistant?
Some tools you can use to monitor your virtual assistants are:
- Time Doctor: Allows virtual assistants to log hours
- Trello: Helps give an overview of tasks and their progress
- Slack: Useful for keeping in touch and getting instant updates
- Upwork: Upwork allows VAs to track hours & uploads screenshots
6. How to let a virtual assistant work in my Shopify store without giving them the password?
In your Shopify dashboard, go to Settings and click ‘Plan and permissions’. There you can set up a staff account, choose the access permissions you want, and send an invite to your new virtual assistant.
7. How to find a virtual assistant with Shopify experience?
Platforms like Upwork and Fiverr are the best places to look. Search these sites using keywords like ‘Shopify’, ‘Oberlo’, ‘Ecommerce’, and ‘Dropshipping’ to find the best VAs for the job.
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