TIP #1 - My suggestion for someone looking to try out a VA for the very first time is too offer "pay as you go" terms...
Hire them for a week and tell them at the end of that week you will issue payment. At the end of that week if you are satisfied with their work then bring them on for another week. Rinse and repeat. etc. But, explain to them before you hire them that if it works out you will bring them on for another week if you are happy with what they do. This way they knoww they are investing their time for the long haul and if it does not work out they are not disappointed since you supplied the terms right up front.
If you feel that their quality of work is up to your standards then eventually start to pay them every other week leading up to paying them once a month. This way you KNOW what they are like to work with and can consistently see their level of work that they can perform.
I have used this process several times and it has worked to my tremendous advantage EVERY time.
In essence you are keeping them in the frying pan whereby they see you are serious and they know they are on temporary loan until you bring them on part-time/full-time until you are 100% satisfied with them.
TIP #2 - Offer a bonus system based on the quality of work that they do. By offering a bonus you offer a valuable incentive for them to work as hard as possible for you, but you need to make the bonus sizable enough for them to be *motivated* to keep up a hig h level of work. The bonus size should be kept into proportion to the number of hours you hire them to work for you.
I have just recently instituted a bonus system for my VA and I am incredibly happy with the level of performance my VA does for me on a consistent basis - read EVERY DAY!
IMHO it makes zero sense to me with this kind of arrangement to prefer to hire a company to get a VA for you. Naturally, the company will skim from their pay which means that you pay MORE in this kind of situation.
For me what was so attractive behind AOV was that they were supposed to hire candidates to work for you based on having them go through a process
whereby they are interviewing possible candidates FOR YOU. But, based on the seemingly relentless posts above this listing all of the BAD experiences people have this just does not seem to work out as good as it sounds
TIP #3 - take time to qualify and interview prospective VA's. Know what you want in a VA and see if they can perform those job tasks. If they can perform the tasks you want and if you feel comfortable with what they say they can do then give them a try.
TIP #4 - hire your VA to work for you while you have time off from your full-time/part-time job (unless you do IM full-time). By doing it this way you get to see what they complete and have them update you as you go along so you don't waste valuable time. Use gmail/gtalk/gchat to communicate with them and ask them to update you as they make progress. As they have completed a task have them just type in the URL so you can see it if for example they are updating your website.
TIP #5 - use Google docs to share important information together like usernames and passwords. I have my VA now update the google docs spreadsheet as new sites have new usernames and passwords so it is centralized and I do not have to scan through my emails to look for particular information I can just find instead at one single source.
TIP #6 - Trust is a major factor in hiring a VA. By working with someone overtime and seeing how they work as they are on "pay as you go" terms you build trust with your VA. As you each work together over time you should get more and more comfortable with each other work habits to the point where you can eventually give a task list and expect them to complete it even if you are not OL and cannot over see them for that time.
TIP #7 - You are the boss so know what you need. There will be no nonsense with tasks not getting done if you are on a schedule and you know exactly what you need to get done. Since you are the one paying the salary there is no excuses for dillydallying around and not getting stuff done (GSD)!
I hope this helps some of you out!