I miss Paula.Paula was my administrative assistant at the second to last J.O.B. I ever worked and, truth be told, she did it all. I just bungled along making decisions, solving problems, attending meetings and Paula took care of business.Since I left that job many is the times I’ve said to myself, “I need a Paula.”Despite my glaring need for someone to help me get the work done, it took me years to hire my first virtual assistant for my entrepreneur program.For a small business owner, hiring someone to help can seem like a pipe dream but it is a wise one. When you concentrate your time and energy on doing what it is you do well and outsource business services or hire someone to do the rest, you maximize your progress toward the success you want.However, for the small business entrepreneur, this step into management can be intimidating and expensive. As with all business initiatives, it is best to start small and have a plan.Here are some steps to get you started.Step One – Take InventoryKnow what it is you do each day.Begin by keeping track for a week or two of all the tasks you are currently doing that could be done by someone else – or the tasks that you are not doing that should be done.Personally I was spending time learning online tools to help me get my message out. This learning curve kept me comfortably hidden away in my office instead of out meeting and following up with my target market. Finding someone who already knows how to use these tools was an obvious and overdue move.Step Two – Set a BudgetTo begin, set a very small budget. One you can afford over time.If you are at an early start up phase, it is possible that your financial business plan, does not allow for additional expenses. If this is the case, consider finding money in your budget. Can you eliminate certain subscriptions, additional phone or cable service?To verify that your budget is realistic, review the tasks you believe you can delegate and document your processes or, in the case of tasks you are not doing, imagine the process.As a natural introvert, I found I was falling short on the necessary follow up to my face-to-face networking. I originally envisioned my assistant as a new Paula, making efficient and effective phone calls to arrange follow up meetings with potential clients but, as I followed my own business coaching advice, I discover other small business services that I desperately needed.To clarify my vision in a written request for proposal (RFP) I made some educated guesses about what my ideal follow-up process would look like: how many leads I would provide each week, how long it would take for my new Paula to follow up by phone, how often she would have to call to make contact.I kept asking, “What would happen next?” By asking this question over and over I developed my process to the very end: the point where the prospect signed or I gave up. Once I had a clear picture of the steps, I could estimate the number of hours I would require.Step Three -Check RealityAdjust your wish list to fit your budget.Hourly prices for virtual assistants range widely. For American or “on shore” help expect to pay $20 to $40 dollar an hour; outsource your tasks overseas, “off shore”, and hourly wages are surprisingly low but come with time zone differences and language issues. Knowing the details of each task will help you make decisions to fit your budget.Step Four – Ask for HelpWrite up a request for proposal (RFP)Review the tasks you believe you can delegate and determine what role you would like your assistant to play. If you have documented your processes, your RFP will be easy to write. If not, you may want to download How to Describe a Task available for free on my website.Once you have your RFP prepared, post it at some or all of these sites. Then sit back and wait for the offers of help.International Virtual Assistants AssociationElance.comVANetworkingTwitterFacebookAs it turned out, after just a few weeks, I found many other uses for my virtual assistant. So far she has done much of the technical work for my In the Trenches newsletter and web site maintenance for my other business. It is a learning process and all is not perfect but I am amazed at what’s been accomplished in just one month. I would not have been able to do it on my own.Now, given my changing requirements, I need to revisit my initial RFP; repost to Elance or other sites and see if I can’t find a specialist who needs less direction and can work quicker and/or cheaper.I am still looking for Paula but a least I am no longer trying to BE Paula.