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22 min read

How Virtual Assistants Can Help Take Your Business to New Heights

How Virtual Assistants Can Help Take Your Business to New Heights

Jess TysonJess is a speaker, author, and founder and proud Director of Calm at Don’t Panic Management. She literally wrote the book on how building a successful relationship with a virtual assistant can make all the difference in helping business owners get to the next level. Her life is often a whirlwind of wrangling her toddler, speaking at conferences (virtual and beyond!), researching productivity hacks, and meticulously making matches between overworked entrepreneurs and focused virtual assistants. You can find her on Instagram at @dontpanicjess, listen to her podcast at, and buy her book at

What you'll learn in this episode

  • What types of services a virtual assistant can provide
  • Common misconceptions about virtual assistants
  • How to determine if you should bring on a virtual assistant
  • What to look for in a virtual assistant
  • Red flags to look out for when vetting a virtual assistant
  • How solopreneurs can best prepare for hiring a virtual assistant to make it a smooth transition
  • How to find a virtual assistant

And so much more!

Connect with Jess Tyson

Resources Mentioned in the Episode

Favorite Quote: "We don't rise to the level of our expectations, we fall to the level of our training."

Want to share your experiences and learn from other one-person businesses? Be sure to join our community! It's free :)

Like this show? Click on over and give us a review on Apple Podcasts Thanks!

Full Episode Transcript

Jess Tyson (00:00):

If you think you might need a virtual assistant today, you already do. Cuz that means that there are things you're doing that you probably are not uniquely qualified to do and so they're taking away from the bottom line of your business.

Intro (00:13):

Bigger doesn't always mean better. Welcome to the One-Person Business podcast where people who are flying solo in business come first. Specific tips and advice to find success as a company of one. Here are your hosts, Joe Rando and Carly Ries.

Carly Ries (00:31):

Welcome to the One-Person Business podcast. I'm one of your hosts, Carly Ries

Joe Rando (00:36):

And I'm Joe Rando.

Carly Ries (00:38):

And if you're a solopreneur struggling to get everything on your to-do list done, Jess Tyson is here today to help you. Jess is a speaker, author, podcast host and founder and proud director of Calm at Don't Panic Management. She literally wrote the book on how building a successful relationship with a virtual assistant can make all the difference in helping business owners to get to the next level. Her life is often a whirlwind of wrangling her toddler and snuggling her newborn, speaking at conferences both virtual and beyond, researching productivity hacks and meticulously making matches between overworked entrepreneurs and focus virtual assistant. Jess, I need a nap just listening to everything you do. We're so excited to have you on the show.

Jess Tyson (01:25):

Thank you so much for having me and for the kind introduction. It's so great to be here with you.

Carly Ries (01:30):

I wanted to have you on because I think there are a lot of solopreneurs out there who don't even know about virtual assistants, or at least not the full extent of what they can do and how helpful they can be. So my first question for you is, what types of services can a virtual assistant typically provide?

Jess Tyson (01:48):

It's a great question because I think that the virtual assistant term has evolved a lot and also has many different definitions these days because there's Siri and that's a virtual assistant. And then go to your banking website and there's a virtual assistant there. And for me that is not the type of virtual assistant that I work with.

Joe Rando (02:09):

I'm glad because those aren't that helpful.

Jess Tyson (02:12):

No, they're not. Because they're not real people. We work with actual human beings, they're not robots. They provide everything from administrative assistant duties. Basically anything that an in-person office assistant could do from home or from a coffee shop or whatever. So, scheduling meetings, booking travel, researching, ordering supplies, ordering gifts, sending thank yous, all that kind of stuff, to data entry and research. And then also, Don't Panic in particular, works with a lot of marketing virtual assistants. We do things like social media management, blog post writing, email newsletters, and then also podcast production and video production. Again, it's all virtual, so it's not like we're coming into your studio and filming and doing that kind of video production. It's really post production.


I think that there is a misconception about what virtual assistants do and don't do. They really can do anything. I mean, there's also web design, virtual assistants, customer service virtual assistants. I feel like at this point, after living in a pandemic, we're all virtual now, so I almost want to take the virtual out of it. We're assistants, we're here to support the vision and the goals of all of our entrepreneurial clients. They're the ones with the ideas and we're the ones who get things done.

Carly Ries (03:46):

Absolutely. Jess, I I think it's funny that we were talking about serious virtual assistants and all of this robots. That leads me to my next question. What are some common misconceptions people have about virtual assistants?

Jess Tyson (03:59):

There are so many. Again, I think I would've answered this question differently if we had talked before the pandemic, because one of the biggest misconceptions was that people who work virtually can't get as much done as people who work in person. I would say that is true or not true based on the individual, not based on whether or not they're virtual. That was maybe a misconception, but now that we all have experience working virtually, I think it's clear that oftentimes we can be even more productive working virtually. That was part of whtarted this business. I was sitting in an office from eight to five and I was getting my work done in fewer hours than that and twiddling my thumbs. Wondering why I was still sitting here when I could be out enjoying the world and going to the beach and seeing my friends and things like that.


So I think that the misconception that people working virtually cannot be trusted or that they don't do as good of work or as efficient of work is the worst offender. But now we've sort of got through that, which is great. And then, there are some other misconceptions about or I don't know if they're misconceptions, but, assumptions that all virtual assistants are based in another country or, they're all based in India, for example. That was a common one, definitely when I first started. I'm not sure where the concept of virtual assistant began, maybe it was in India. By the way, I don't think there's anything wrong with the virtual assistants who are based in India but some people were like, "I could never get a VA because I need someone in my same time zone," for example.


Now, you can get a virtual assistant basically anywhere in the world. I would also say, a misconception is that you need someone in your same time zone because oftentimes you don't. It's just an old fashioned way of thinking. Similar to needing someone right next to you in the office. That might be a you problem where you aren't a great manager or you aren't great at giving instruction, so you feel like you need to look over someone's shoulder all the time. Whereas, a lot of these virtual assistants are really self-motivated and really detail oriented and they are perfectly capable of doing things with very little direction as long as they have feedback of course. I think a lot of the misconceptions are around what work they can do, how they work, and also, where and when they work. But again, I think now that we've all had the experience of working virtually, there are fewer of those misconceptions. And now, I think the misconceptions are more around, "I can't afford one, or I don't have time to hire one," things like that. I think a lot of that can be alleviated with the right partner.

Carly Ries (06:50):

Absolutely. In speaking of time to hire one, I think everything you've just said, both the benefits and misconceptions, paints a really good picture of what people can do. And so for our solopreneur audience, how does a person who runs their own business determine if they should bring on a virtual assistant?

Jess Tyson (07:11):

If you think you might need a virtual assistant today, you already do. Cuz that means that there are things that you're doing that you probably are not uniquely qualified to do. And so they're taking away from the bottom line of your business. You are the $1,000 an hour employee, if you can think of it that way. And your virtual assistant is often your 10, 20, 30, 40, $50 an hour employee, sometimes more than that too. But oftentimes the work that you are doing is earning your business exponentially more than work a virtual assistant can do. So you're actually losing money by doing that work yourself. You're better off delegating it and then you can work more on those higher level, higher revenue making tasks that are really gonna drive your business to the next level. So if there's anything that you think you can delegate, which I'm 100% sure if you're a solopreneur that there is, then that's your answer.


That means that you are able to. It may not mean that you are ready to, it may not mean that you have the budget to, but if there's anything that you thought, Oh, I really don't wanna do this today, or I'm really not good at this, or, I wish somebody else was doing this, that is your signal you are perhaps ready to hire. And then there is a process. I think that you need to go through your week and write down every single thing that you do and circle or highlight all the things that you either are not uniquely qualified to do or things that you don't like to do. Because all of those things are things that you can delegate. Then of course looking at your budget. From my perspective, some people say, I can't afford it, but I think you can't afford not to get help because like I said, you're losing money by doing $10 tasks when you should be doing $100 tasks. So looking at your budget and figuring out, maybe I can think of it as an investment, not something can I afford it, but am I ready to invest in this. That is going to allow me to earn more revenue because I am being given the gift of time by paying someone to help me.

Joe Rando (09:28):

It's a really interesting topic to me. If you're in a position where you have more work than you can really handle, you're turning away any work, isn't that a signal to say, okay, it's time to get somebody in to do the stuff that isn't my bread and butter.

Jess Tyson (09:43):

That is, but another signal that is though too, is maybe you're taking on work that isn't the best fit for you. You might also need to just get more specific about who you're working with. If all of your clients and everyone that you're working with really are your ideal clients and your best fit, then yeah, if you want to keep working with more of them and you want to grow. I think some people too, just grow without the intention of growing and then they get themselves in trouble because all of a sudden they have way too much work, more than they can handle and then they start dropping balls. So making sure you are intentionally growing, and that may mean turning business away, and it may mean getting more particular about who you're going to work with. So I think it could be two things. It could be either that you're not being particular enough with your business or that you probably already know my stance. I think everyone needs an assistant, so yes, I'm sure you do in that case anyway, but you also may want to look strategically at how you're growing and whether you're being intentional about that growth.

Joe Rando (10:47):

That's what we talk about all the time on this show is the idea of focusing on what you're good at, what you want to do, what you can get good rates for. And on top of that you have a situation where you could be, as you point out, wasting a lot of money because you are doing something that you're not very good at. And you could get someone else to do it at an hourly rate that's lower than you make and probably do it quicker as well.

Jess Tyson (11:14):

Exactly. I think you should hire people who are uniquely qualified to do what you need them to do. And like you said, it's not just about time and and energy, it's about efficiency. When you do get someone who is best for that role, they are going to do it better and and quicker than you would ever be able to do it. So you don't have to be good at everything. I think sometimes as entrepreneurs, we have a lot of ego. It's like, it's my business, it's my baby, I want to do everything and I can do everything, so I should. But no, you don't need to. If at some point it's going to affect your mental and physical health, which is what happened to me many years ago at this point now. I was trying to do everything and I was such a control freak that I tried to hold onto it for so long and I got really sick and my body told me, Nope, you can't do this anymore. So my goal now is to help people never get to that point where they get so stressed that they get sick. Let's help you not panic before you're panicking.

Carly Ries (12:25):

Well, Jess, I am sold. I'm sure many people in our audience are too. Let's say they're listening to this show, they're like, "All right, I'm doing this." What should they look for in a virtual assistant?

Jess Tyson (12:40):

Some people just go out into the world and like I said, they're kind of already panicking. They're like, "I just need help. I need help right now." Take a step back, take a breath, write a job description. Go through your schedule if possible. Figure out exactly what you need. If you just go out willy-nilly, trying to find anyone, that is not going to be a good fit. And I think that's another misconception, that these people are not like employees. But they kind of are. Even if you don't hire them specifically in that capacity as an employee, rather as a contractor or whatever else, they still are someone who's fulfilling a role and you can't expect them to figure out what you need.


You have to know what you need. So that's a first step really. Having this job description set and know what you want in someone. That way you can be more discerning and figure out what you're looking for. I think things to look for in any virtual assistant, no matter what you need them for, are being detail oriented. They are typically gonna be managing a lot of different tasks and a lot of different projects. So they have to be able to know where things go and how to push them forward, self-motivated. People who don't need a lot of direction, because usually you're not going to have a lot of time to manage them. If you're a busy solopreneur, you're doing a lot of things and you don't want to have one more thing. This person is supposed to be helping you and not holding you back.


So someone who can self-manage and project manage. I think, in this day and age, and again, we're all virtual now, that wasn't always the case, but someone who's a good communicator who can communicate with the written word. You might have people who are great on the phone, but a lot of what we do now is via email or via Slack or project management tool. It's a lot of written communication. So having someone who can communicate clearly in that way, I think is really important. I think it's just a skill that has kind of fallen by the wayside with the way our social media, TikTok world is going. I think it needs to be brought back. It needs to be one of those things that we continue to teach.


Then also someone who is honest and kind and maybe has a value deep in their heart that they enjoy helping people. The best virtual assistants that I've worked with are people that want to do the right thing and who always want to watch someone succeed. Because a lot of the work that we do as VA is thankless, we never get recognized for it. No one ever knows that we even exist sometimes. We work with these really big famous clients and most of them are very generous and very kind, and they will say, "Good job". Or they will say, "my assistant helped me with this", but some of them won't. So you need to find people who don't need that, who aren't motivated by outward, kudos, but who are motivated by just helping you get something done. By helping to see your business grow and seeing you become a calmer version of yourself. That is sort of an intangible thing, but I think you can find it by asking the right questions. It's sort of a personal value that I think is really important in assistants.

Carly Ries (16:06):

Absolutely. I'm actually gonna flip that question on it on its head a little bit because, unfortunately this next part, like when when you're working with somebody, sometimes you don't know that they're not gonna work out until a little bit later on. Are there any red flags that people can look out for during the vetting process that you've found to be true?

Jess Tyson (16:27):

Yeah, so I always ask, "tell me about a time that you worked on something that you were really proud of, and how did that go for you?" With that question, I usually want to see them light up, I want to see what they really enjoy working on, but then I also ask a question, "Tell me about a mistake you made or a time when you did something that was not in line with your manager's expectation, and how do you handle that?" With that question, I don't really care what the mistake was, I want to know how they handled it. I think a red flag is when they don't take ownership for mistakes. Mistakes are going to happen. I'm just gonna say that right now. There are always going to be some mistake at some point in the relationship, and that's because we're human, and that's fine.


But it's more about how did they handle it? Did they bring it to you right away? And did they apologize? Or did they pass the buck? Did they say, "Oh, well this wasn't my fault". A lot of times and I found this personally, things go wrong, and it really wasn't my fault. It was somebody else that messed up or something that was totally out of anyone's control happened. But because I'm the assistant and I'm sort of like being the train conductor, I am going to take responsibility for it. I'm gonna say, "You know what, maybe this wasn't my fault, but there are things that I could do in the future to make sure that this doesn't happen again. Maybe there is some sort of failsafe that I can put into place or some other process that I can put into place that is going to make sure that this never happens again.


And that's what I want to hear from someone. I want to hear, What are you gonna do about it? I want to find people who are solutions oriented, not problems oriented. I think that's a really big red flag that people don't always think about. Are they gonna be able to take ownership when something goes wrong? Other smaller things that are red flags are, if they've never been in an assistant capacity before. I think it's a really specific type of role. Like I said, you're really behind the scenes a lot. You're not getting a lot of recognition, A lot of times you're not getting a lot of training and oversight in management. So that can be a red flag if they don't know how to self-manage. Then if they have some other restrictions on their schedule. I always ask that, I don't need them to be available nine to five or 24/7 or anything like that.


I'd just like to know if they have any restrictions on their schedule. For example, are they a caretaker? Do they do other things, other hobbies, whatever outside of this work? Those things are typically not red flags, it's just good to know. But sometimes there are things that they're doing that are a red flag. If they're job hunting for full-time job while also trying to be your VA. Then the next question might be, "Well, do you think you can still do this work while you have a full-time job?" If the answer is no, for me at least, I don't want someone who is just going to be here for a couple of weeks. I want someone who's going to work with Don't Panic for years if possible.


And, we can't force that. We can't always know that. Things happen of course. I'm not saying that we need to try to pigeonhole somebody into staying forever, but I want to know, are they really interested in doing this as a career or is this just a backup thing for them? And that's something to ask yourself. Do you need someone who is gonna be with you for a while or are you fine just having anyone at any point? Maybe easier tasks you can delegate to anyone. You can have a different VA every week, but if you want someone who's going to become a partner and someone that you can nurture and grow, you might want to understand what their other obligations are and whether they do want to do this for the long term.

Carly Ries (20:22):

Jess, I feel like these answers are so helpful. I feel like you're just kind of guiding us through the journey of looking for the VA VI assistant and then hiring one. So I guess I'm gonna take you to the next part of the journey, and that is, let's say somebody hired somebody. They found someone they liked to be their virtual assistant. How can solopreneurs best prepare for hiring a virtual assistant to make it a smooth transition? Whether it's onboarding, best practices, setting up process. What would you recommend?

Jess Tyson (20:53):

Well, first of all, I'm really glad you're asking this because I think a lot of people think that it's all on the assistant to figure everything out and to prepare them when really there's a lot that the solopreneur can do before that to be prepared and to set their assistant up for success. They're not always thinking about that because they are just , "too overwhelmed, or I'm too this, I'm too that." So I think that, again, if you are considering you might need a VA, then you already do. But if you aren't quite ready to pull the trigger, the best time to do some of these preparation things is now. Things like making that list. Like I said, every time you do something that you think a virtual assistant could do, write it down. Every time you do something you don't like to do, write it down.


Every time you do something that's repeatable. Let's say you're doing it every day or every week, open up a loom. I'm thinking people probably know what this is, but if you don't use Loom, any other sort of screen recording tool. Record yourself doing that task and then just file it away. You don't need to use it right now, but just keep it. And that when you are ready to hire someone, you have that loom video ready to hand to them. Same thing with written documents, scope of work documents and SOPs. Write them down if you can. Everyone learns differently so if you can keep a video version of the task that you're doing and a written version of the task, that's going to be an amazing way to prepare for somebody to take over.


It's time that you're spending now, you know, 5 to 10 to 20 minutes a day or a week instead of when you are ready to onboard. Then you're like, "Oh my gosh, I have these 20 tasks that I need to teach them how to do. It's gonna take me 20 hours this week." You're doing it in incremental times over the course of weeks or months before you hire someone instead of trying to do it on the fly when you hire them. The other benefit of doing this now is that if you, let's say you hire someone and they're awesome and you love them, but for whatever reason it doesn't work out, okay, no problem. You still have these training materials that you made for anyone. You don't have to then reinvent the wheel when you hire a new person. I just think that this is something you should do with anyone, any employee that you hire, not just a virtual assistant. So those are just a few things you can do.

Carly Ries (23:28):

Those are so helpful. Well, I am just eating all of this up. I love all this information. So aside from going to Don't Panic Management's website, how can people go about finding a virtual assistant?

Jess Tyson (23:44):

Yeah. Well, thank you for that

Carly Ries (23:46):

That should be the first place, obviously

Jess Tyson (23:49):

Yeah. I will say though, I want to talk to anyone. I love talking about this. But Don't Panic isn't the best fit for everyone. So don't think there's anything wrong with that. I think it's most important to find the best fit for you. I would say one of the first things you can do, is go to your network and look at people who you idolize or you are wanting to be more like. Ask them "Hey, how are you running your business? Do you have an assistant? Do you have a team? What are you doing to get to this level that I want to be at?" They might say, Yeah, I have this great assistant, his name is blah, blah, blah, her name is blah, blah, blah, or it's this company.


Then getting that personal referral is the first place I would look. The other thing about doing this is it can be beneficial for both sides for you to work with the same assistant as your colleague or your peer. I've been in this situation. Actually, it's when I got my start. My first client was like, "I want to refer you to people because I want you to have enough work so that you keep being my virtual assistant. He didn't want me to have to go find another job or a full-time job and not work with him. He knew that he didn't have that much work for me. He had like 10 hours a week for me. He wanted me to find another 10 or 20 hours so that I could pay my bills.


That's the other benefit to going to your network and finding people through that is, you know everyone's getting help. The assistant is getting more work, the clients are feeling comfortable knowing that their assistant is going to stick around because they have enough income. So go to your network for sure. Go to different agencies if you want to go that route. And then LinkedIn. LinkedIn is always a great resource, but this is also why you need to have a specific idea of what you want. If you just type virtual assistant into LinkedIn, you're gonna get so many hits. But if you type in, social media virtual assistant, or you type in, content marketing virtual assistant or data entry virtual assistant, be more specific about the type of virtual assistant you want and you'll get better results. There are tons of agencies now. You could just Google it. A lot of people find us through Google, but I think there are more vetted ways that you can find people.

Carly Ries (26:24):

Yeah, absolutely. Just to piggyback off of that question, if people are trying to understand more of the process, do you have any resources that people could look at? Not necessarily for finding virtual assistants, but just for understanding more about the whole business? Or do you think LinkedIn blogs and all of that would do it justice?

Jess Tyson (26:45):

We have a little e-book on our site that you can download. If you go to Don', it's like our panic proof guide to the perfect VA relationship. And it's about the relationship, because I think that that is paramount. I think this work oftentimes is not rocket science. It's more about developing a relationship with someone that you can trust because it's about you feeling comfortable delegating things and you being able to find someone that is gonna be the right fit for you. So, that e-book I think is really helpful. We also have a workbook that you can download if you want to start moving your brain in the direction of potentially hiring somebody. You can find that at Don' It's a five week sort of program if you want to go through it that way.


You can also just do it however you want. But there's a psychological element to this because if you have been doing everything yourself for however many years that you've been in business, you're not in the mindset of delegation and you probably have a lot of control that you want to maintain over your business and for good reason. I don't think there's anything wrong with that. But if you can start thinking in a different way, considering what is my time worth? What am I best suited doing? How can I get in the habit of delegation? And then start considering, okay, can I imagine who this person is? What kind of traits am I looking for? Then everything we just talked about, what are the red flags?


What are the things that I need to look out for? It's a process. I really think it is a psychological process. It's not just, "Oh, let me go on LinkedIn" one day, or let me go on Upwork or Don't Panic Management one day, and then all of a sudden my problems are gonna be solved. It just doesn't work that way. So,  yeah, there are some resources certainly on my site and there's obviously plenty of other stuff on the internet. But I think that workbook and that ebook are helpful. Also, my book, it's a couple years old now. I am working on a second edition, but the book also has some hands on things that you can do to prepare yourself.

Carly Ries (29:08):

It is a great read. I will have a link to that in the show notes. Jess, I'm bummed. I'm actually coming down to the last question, but I feel like I could talk to you for hours. This has been so beneficial. I think our audience will agree.,So this is last question, and it's something we ask all guests. What is your favorite quote about success?

Jess Tyson (29:31):

I had to pick one that is somewhat related to my philosophy of success, which is that it's more about intangible things. So, the quote that I picked actually comes from a Greek poet, Archilochus, I had to look up how to pronounce that.


The quote, so it's an iteration of this quote. The quote from the poet was, "we don't rise to the level of our expectations, we fall to the level of our training.: And James Clear, who wrote the book Atomic Habits, says, "You fall to the level of your systems." And that's how I feel about this work and why it's so important. You need systems, you need ideas people, but ideas are not gonna happen without systems and processes. I think that being successful is about just putting your yourself, your pen to the grind every single day and just doing the work every single day. And that's how you are successful. It's not by having all these ideas, and it's not by having all these goals, it's by having either you or your team or your assistant or whoever, putting their head down and just doing the work. And I think that comes with having a really solid foundation and really solid process and system for everything.

Carly Ries (31:00):

Love that quote, and I love that it's unique to you and it just makes so much sense. Well Jess, thank you so much for coming on this show. How can people get ahold of you?


Jess Tyson


So my website obviously has a lot of resources. Don' Like I said, download that ebook, it's a great resource. The podcast is also there, the blog is there. You can also email me directly, Jess@don' I'm also around the internet at Don't Panic, Jess. I think my Twitter is still my maiden name, Jess Ostro, because there was already a Jess Tyson out there, so I never changed that. But I don't really use Twitter so yeah, email is good. Instagram is good. A lot of baby stuff on my Instagram. I'm in that stage of life with little kids, but I think it's also just kind of sharing what goes on in the life of a business owner. Because your business, like my business was my first baby, but my life is my life. It's not just what I do for Don't Panic. It's all related to everything I do in my life. So I like to share a lot about that and how it works and doesn't work and hopefully it helps people.


Carly Ries


Well, for somebody that follows you on the socials, you are very good about being transparent. All of your posts are so refreshing. I like the mixing of the business and personal and the way that you portray yourself. So very interesting for anybody that wants to follow. Well, Jess, I love having you on. Joe, I'm sure you can agree

Joe Rando (32:42):

Absolutely. This was great. Such a helpful topic for our listeners.

Carly Ries (32:45):

Yes. Well, we really appreciate it. And listeners, if you like what you hear, visit where you can listen to this episode,C losin others, and subscribe on wherever you listen to your podcast. We'll see you next time.

Closing (33:03):

You may be going solo in business, but that doesn't mean you're alone. In fact, millions of people are in your shoes running a one person business and figuring it out as they go. So why not connect with them and learn from each other's successes and failures? At Lifestarr, we're creating a One-Person business community where you can go to meet and get advice from other solopreneurs. Be sure to join in on the conversations at

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