Building Your Virtual Team with Ashley Torres

Apr 25, 2022

Today's episode features superstar virtual assistant and online business manager Ashley Torres, who's here to talk about how to build your virtual team, including:

  • How to know when you need extra support
  • The most common types of support
  • The differences between an admin VA, tech VA, and online business manager
  • How to decide between hiring an employee or a contractor

Ashley is an experienced Virtual Assistant and Online Business Manager specializing in supporting neurodivergent (ADHD and autistic) service-based entrepreneurs to systemize their businesses, manage their teams, and give them back time to focus on growth.

Mentioned in this Episode:

 JACOB RATLIFF: Hello, and welcome to the Client Attractor Show, where we talk about concrete tactics and strategies that you can use to attract your dream clients. I'm your host, Jacob Ratliff, and I'm here today with Ashley Torres, who is an experienced virtual assistant and online business manager specializing in supporting neurodivergent service-based entrepreneurs, to systematize their businesses, manage their teams, and give them back time so that they can focus on growth. Ashley, I am super excited to have you here today. I'm really pumped for this great conversation that we're about to dive into.

ASHLEY TORRES: Thanks so much for having me, Jacob. I'm really excited to be here and talk with you today.

JR: Of course, of course. So, today's topic: We're going to be talking about building your virtual team. So, Ashley, just to get started, can you tell us a little bit about what we're actually talking about when we say a virtual team? What a virtual team is, really, and who needs to be thinking about creating one.

AT: Yeah, definitely. A virtual team is different than a physical business team in that it is anyone who's helping to support your business. So, when I say I work with entrepreneurs who have virtual teams, that doesn't mean that they have three or four full-time employees; it could be that they have a 20-hour-a-month VA or a copywriter who comes in and helps with launches on a part-time basis. It's pretty much anyone that provides a service that helps support your business. 

AT: And I think coaches or entrepreneurs who are looking towards either growing or maybe not even necessarily growing their business; maybe they just want to cut back the amount of time that they're working on their business—they should be looking towards building a virtual team.

JR: Certainly. You mentioned that there are several kinds of situations; that could be you're really focused on growth and you want to grow your business, or you just want to free up some more of your time. How can entrepreneurs tell when they're starting to hit that breaking point, when they need support? What kind of common situations do you see where you see an entrepreneur or small business owner, and you're like, “Oh, wow, you need some support”?

AT: Yeah, definitely. I think a key one is time. If you feel like your time is completely maxed out, or even if you feel like your business could be generating more income, but you don't have the time in your day to put towards income-generating activities—that's definitely a time where you could use support. Maybe there's a certain area of your business that you hate, you dread, you don't want to do, or maybe you're not good at it. A lot of people bring on copywriters because sales writing isn't their forte. I think there are a lot of different reasons, and it also depends on what you can afford and your budget for help. But I think that looking towards support is always a good move, and planning out what you might need next is always helpful as well.

JR: Yep, absolutely, because it's kind of the thing where whenever you solve one problem in your business, well, suddenly you have another problem to solve, so it's really important to be looking to the future and saying, “If I get the support I need now, what comes next? What does that mean for my business as it grows or as I continue?” There are a lot of different roles that can go into a virtual team and a lot of different types of virtual team members. Could you speak a little bit about what those different types of positions are in a virtual team, or where they could be at least?

AT: Sure. I think that most entrepreneurs will probably start in the virtual assistant (VA) realm, looking for support with their admin, maybe their customer service, a little help with the back end or the tech of their business. It's often where people start noticing that they need the support, or even bookkeeping, things like that. There are a lot of different types of VAs. I generally put them into two pockets, which is either admin VA or tech VA. 

AT: Those of course, break down into a lot of things. Some people are specifically bookkeeping; some people only do customer service or social media. That's kind of the VA part. Then, of course, there are social media specialists, help with marketing; some people hire launch strategists. I think at the point when you start to build a team that's got about three team members on it or more is when people start to look to the higher position, so managers. What I do as an OBM is to help manage those teams and those back-end processes. People will hire marketing managers to oversee their launches and their sales departments.

JR: You mentioned work as an OBM. Could you define what that is for us and what that stands for?

AT: Yeah, definitely. An OBM is an online business manager. They, essentially, are managing your people and your processes and, essentially, the day-to-day of your business, so it allows an entrepreneur to step back from being involved in the day-to-day work. The OBM would own things like your project management tool; they would make sure that those daily tasks get done; they could oversee a launch by assigning all the tasks to VAs or other people who are helping with that. They also do things like tracking your key metrics, so if you're someone who's not already tracking all those numbers that are important to see your growth, they would do that for you.

JR: Got it. So, we've talked a little bit about how to know when you need support and how to roughly figure out what type of support you need. I’m curious: once we know those two things, and you have clarity on that, what comes next? After that, how do you actually find the right VA or find the right OBM, and what questions should you be asking? How do you not just find, but also keep a good VA? Those are two very important pieces of it.

AT: For sure, and I think that's where a lot of people get stuck. They know that they need help, but then looking to find the help can be very overwhelming, or some entrepreneurs have hired before and feel like they've gotten burned, and they're nervous about hiring someone. I would say, well before even hiring, I would recommend that everyone, every coach, entrepreneur has an org chart created. That's an organizational chart that can be aspirational. If you're looking towards your business in a year or two years, what would the roles on the team be? I often look up organizational chart templates for coaching or for certain industries, but it's good to have that because you can identify on that chart who your priority next hire’s going to be. 

AT: I would always say to hire strategically and know where you're headed. Once you get to that point where you know who you need, what you need, I recommend always starting with your network. There are plenty of really good VAs or other positions. I was listening to your episode with Helen Ryan recently, and she was saying how she only works on a referral basis. I think there are a lot of great service providers who work primarily on a referral basis, so you're definitely going to want to start by asking around, posting on your Facebook, seeing if anyone knows someone. That's always a great place to start. 

AT: After that, I would recommend posting in some Facebook groups where people might know people who can help you. I would recommend that you're always being really specific in what you need because there are so many people who are looking for positions, and if you're not really, really clear in what you need them to be able to do, you won't know if they're the right fit necessarily. Also, there's a big difference between hiring someone, a virtual service provider, versus an employee. You're not going to be looking for a résumé and a cover letter, but you're going to be booking a discovery call, finding out more about what they offer. They’ll be coming with their own expertise, in a sense, so following their process a little bit and getting to know what they do is really helpful.

JR: Yeah, and you touched on a really important distinction, which is that usually with a VA or OBM, you're not hiring an employee. That is a super, super important distinction, and like you said, this OBM or VA is going to have their own sales process because it's not just you qualifying them; they're also qualifying you. It's not just you as the client interviewing them; they're also figuring out is this someone I can help? Is this someone I want to help? That's really important. They have to like you, and you have to like them, because that relationship is so important.

AT: Definitely, yeah. That's a big distinction. Also, they come with their own experience of working with other clients. In these situations, I think also getting testimonials from them can be really important, I would say, because I've seen people looking to hire and they're asking for a cover letter, and when you're hiring a service provider, I would say learning more about who they've helped and seeing some of their testimonials would be more important than getting a cover letter or résumé from them.

JR: Absolutely. When you're on a call with someone you're thinking about hiring as a VA, what questions should someone be asking in that conversation?

AT: I would definitely start by asking about them, what their zone of genius is, what they enjoy doing. Then, you can start to bring up the types of help that you need support with; maybe start mentioning some of your softwares that you use and things like that to see if it's a fit, if they're familiar. You can also ask them about what their general packages are because that's pretty important. Every VA packages their work a little bit differently. 

AT: I also really like when people ask some personal questions too because, like you said, fit is really important. This is someone that you're going to be talking to pretty often and working with, so just asking some questions, maybe about who they are and what they enjoy doing, is helpful as well. And towards the end of the call, definitely ask them what their other process looks like moving forward, like, what would they be sending you? What can you expect? Make sure that they have, of course, the time and availability for the amount of help that you would need.

JR: Yeah, and actually, you bring up a really good point right there about the time and availability for the help that you need. It’s easy to go into the conversation and think, Okay, I need to hire someone for 10 or 15 hours a week. For a lot of VAs, that is honestly kind of overkill, in some ways. Can you talk a little bit about productivity levels versus hourly pricing and how those two relate?

AT: Definitely, yeah. I think that's a big thing. When I've started working with someone as a VA in the past, they often think that they need you for 10 to 20 hours a week, and as a VA, my most common packages that I would be selling were for 10 to 20 hours a month. I think the workflow is just really different. In the beginning, you could definitely use some more hours as you're learning to work together, but I think that most of us will come in with an idea of how long certain tasks take us. And you should definitely ask for their recommendation, once you tell them all the tasks and all the things you need help with, ask them how long they think that that will take them. 

AT: For me, I started out working at a certain speed, but I got faster with time, so I started selling packages where my hourly rate went up, but my time commitment went down because I was learning how to do tasks a little bit more quickly for my clients. I think it's definitely worth getting their input because they'll probably steer you in the right direction. They don't want you to be paying them for 10 hours of work a week when there's not enough work for them to fill that amount of time.

JR: And you know, to get a quality VA, you're really looking at $30 an hour minimum, right? And that can seem like a lot. You might be thinking, I can just hire someone to come as an administrative assistant into my office, pay them $15 an hour, and get twice as much work out of them, but you're not usually getting twice as much work out of them just by paying someone less and getting them in for more hours. Like you said, a VA comes in with a very specific set of skills and expertise of their own, and that's not to mention all the money you're saving just by virtue of having an employee around the office who might just be sitting around doing nothing.

AT: Definitely. I saw a statistic that said that an average nine-to-five employee has three-to-four hours of full productive time per day, so it's definitely a little bit different. One thing that is getting pretty popular is that we're moving towards more of an expert-based economy, where people are looking to hire people who already know what they're doing. When you hire, like, an admin employee, the assumption is that you're going to train them in what they need to do, whereas, if you're hiring a virtual assistant, for the most part, the assumption is that they know how to do these things already. 

AT: Although there, of course, will be some time with them getting to know how you do things, but they come with their own skill set, which is part of the value. You're paying them for three or four hours a week, but they are fully focused on you for those three to four hours a week, like those are full focus hours as opposed to full-time employees who maybe not every minute of their day at work is completely on.

JR: Yep, absolutely. That was a big, important perspective shift I had to make when I hired VAs in the past. Just for context, Ashley and I have worked together for a little over a year now, so of course, she comes with my highest, highest recommendation as a VA and as an online business manager. I'm kind of curious; you mentioned that there are these roughly different types of VAs: an admin VA, a tech VA. Is it generally, in your experience, better to hire separately for those roles or to try to find someone who fits all or checks all the boxes?

AT: That's a great question. I would say a tech VA is really useful if what you need is technical work. If you're looking for website maintenance, if you're looking for your CRM being optimized, maybe some SEO help, things like that. I think for those hard skill things, you're going to want to find someone who is an expert in that. I see a lot of companies will have one tech VA and one admin VA who does more general work, who would help with administrative tasks but also dip their toes in customer service, managing your inbox, things like that. 

AT: I think that it's generally good to have an admin VA, who can take on multiple tasks. Then, if you're finding that you need help with things that are out of the realm of what your admin VA can do, then you can start looking for people who are more specific in what they offer.

JR: As someone who has worked with a VA pretty extensively, one of the things that always comes up for me in the back of my mind is, when you're building your virtual team, whether that's one person or more than one person, being really focused on thinking about it as an investment. Thinking about it as an investment is thinking about Okay, how is that investment going to pay off?

JR: For example, one of the things that I tend to gravitate towards in my business is focusing my online or my virtual team on tasks that are going to do one of two things: either directly generate revenue, or free up space on my calendar so that I have a greater capacity to directly generate revenue, because those are the two pathways to getting a significant return on investment from your virtual team. Honestly, that's kind of the whole name of the game, to leverage that to make more money and grow your business.

AT: Definitely, and I see a lot of entrepreneurs who are really hesitant to hire help because their positions are not income generating. I've had clients before who have tried to measure my success and income generation, and I've had to explain that, if you're trying to measure VA success based on how much your income is increasing, that's not exactly what they're doing. It can be hard to make that investment, but like you said, the second point is that freeing up your time to make income is hugely valuable for you, and there's so much potential for profit in that.

JR: I want to build on that really quickly. Say, actually, I hire you to do some admin tasks to free up time for me to focus on revenue-generating activities. In that case, it's on me to actually use that newfound time to generate revenue. It's not on you; it's not on the VA. I think that part of what you're getting at there, Ashley, is that if you're going in there, and you're freeing up someone's talent and putting a whole lot more time on their daily agenda, well, it's on them to actually leverage that in the most effective way possible.

AT: For sure. Another point, I guess, is that if you are focusing your VA or someone in your virtual team on income generation, you might want to think about offering commission. We've been in that situation before where I've helped you with income-generating activities, and that helps incentivize and helps compensate for that, so that you, hopefully, will start to see the results that you're looking for. That's something that I think a lot of VAs are open to. You might think that they're just admin, but they might be open to helping you with sales or things like that in order to kind of get some commission.

JR: Oh, absolutely, and it's not even just about incentivizing; it's about prioritizing that long-term relationship that you're having with members of your virtual team. With a VA or an OBM, there's not a whole lot of training, like we've said, compared to hiring an employee, but there's some sort of learning curve, and when you find the right person, you want to hang on to them. You want to keep that working relationship for as long as it's a good fit for both of you. 

JR: I'm kind of curious, actually: what recommendations do you have for entrepreneurs and small business owners in terms of how to prioritize that relationship? Maybe it's just things as small as little bits of etiquette, like you mentioned about following their discovery call process, for example. What things have you seen that have worked really well to keep that relationship strong?

AT: For sure. I primarily—and this can be, I guess, interpreted however you'd like—but you want to do what you can to be their favorite client because you know that they have multiple clients, and they, of course, prioritize the work how they need to, but there's something in being friendly and being one of your service provider’s favorite clients. In terms of etiquette, I would say something that really helps is assuming best intentions, assuming that if there's a mistake or something goes wrong, that maybe that was a miscommunication that your team member didn't understand; maybe there was something on your part that didn't come across correctly, 

AT: I think it becomes really difficult if your first instinct is to assume that somebody is not doing their work or ignoring the task or things like that. Definitely come in assuming that they have the best intentions and that they want to help your business. And talking to them like they are more than a subordinate to you was a big one, I think. Communication is really key with these relationships because, like you said, it's a relationship that you want to keep, especially with virtual service providers. They have other clients, and if they're not enjoying the relationship, and if they don't feel like it's a good fit, as well as with you, they can find another client. You're not their full-time job.

JR: Absolutely. That makes perfect sense. So, as we start to wrap up our conversation today, could you talk a little bit more about what it is you do and how people can find and connect with you if they'd like to?

AT: Definitely, yeah. I support primarily entrepreneurs who are neurodiverse. I would define that, generally, as entrepreneurs with ADHD or autism. I find that I can do really well in supporting those entrepreneurs because I kind of understand how their brain works. I can help them a little bit in a coaching aspect as well with breaking down overwhelm and things like that, but my work is primarily going into those businesses and taking over the back end. I will manage their processes, I'll manage their teams, and just help them so that they can really be the visionary in their business and really sit into that CEO role, as opposed to being in the day-to-day of everything. That's my work. Sorry, was there a second question to that?

JR: No, that's perfect. Where can people find you online if they're interested in connecting with you or exploring what it would look like to work together?

AT: Definitely. I am in the process of launching my new website. By the time this episode is released, it will be up: You can find me there. You can find me on Facebook as Ashley Torres, although you might get multiple results; it’s a pretty common name.


JR: I will link to all those below: the website, Facebook, LinkedIn, all of that.

AT: That's awesome. Perfect. Facebook, LinkedIn, my website—send me a message. I'm always happy to have a conversation. I enjoy helping people find virtual team members. I have a great network of people, so honestly, if you're looking for someone, always feel free to shoot me a message. I love helping to support people in my network. So yeah, reach out.


JR: Perfect. Well, thank you, Ashley, so much for joining me for this conversation today. It's been really great and enlightening for me as well.


AT: Yeah, this has been awesome. Thanks so much, Jacob. I appreciate you having me on.


JR: Of course, and thank you all for listening. This has been the Client Attractor Show. I'm your host with our guest, Ashley Torres, and I look forward to seeing you for our next episode. Take care.

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