Adventures in hiring a virtual receptionist!

DSC_7051I’ve written many many times about the importance of picking up the phone and calling back prospective clients quickly.  You also know that I also think it’s very bad form for therapists to be picking up the phone while in session with a client.  Eventually you reach a point where those two needs come into conflict and you find that you need to hire someone to help you.

If you’re like me, you don’t like the thought of hiring employees.  It may sound strange to some, but I really like my small business and having complete control over it.  Honestly I spent a long time avoiding and dreading someday having to hire someone to help me.  Well, it finally got to the point where I was just so busy that I needed to hire someone that could answer the phone and schedule in new clients for me.  This is when I decided to look into a virtual receptionist.

If you Google “virtual receptionist” or “virtual assistant” you basically just get a whole bunch of companies selling packages, not individuals.  I looked at these companies but I couldn’t find a package or offer that fit what I was looking for.  I also liked the idea of working with an individual as opposed to a big company.  So I decided to try to find someone on LinkedIn.  This also didn’t work.  I contacted a few people and no one got back to me.  I also found that a lot of people don’t even have their contact information on LinkedIn, so I couldn’t even contact them.

The next thought I had was kind of scary: Do I dare put up a job listing on Craigslist?  Would it be a waste of money?  Would anyone even respond to the ad?  Would I get scammed in the process?  I finally decided to just go for it and put up my ad.  If you’re interested in what I wrote, here’s a copy of it:

Are you a momprenuer, semi-retired, or home-bound person looking for some part time work? Do you have experience with secretarial work, customer service, or being a receptionist? Do you have basic computer skills? Do you have people skills and a sweet-as-pie personality? If you answered yes to all these questions, then I’m looking for you!

I’m a mental health counselor in private practice here in Boston, MA. I am looking for a virtual receptionist. Basically, I just need someone to answer the phone and schedule new clients into appointy (an online scheduler like google calendar). My pre-existing clients will have my cell phone number and will not be calling you. This will be for new and prospective clients only. On a busy day you could expect to get about 5 calls. I will train you regarding how to respond to the calls and can provide a script on how to answer common questions you will get.

A compassionate person with experience working in health care or a mental health setting is a plus!

I was only offering $400 per month.  Not much, but for the amount of work the person would actually be doing, it probably averaged out to about $15/$20 hour.  So not bad for a retired person looking to make some extra cash.  I figured if 5 people responded to my ad then that would be pretty good.

Well, within three hours my inbox was absolutely flooded with people wanting the position.  Looking back I think I should have put “no college students” in the post, because I was getting a lot of those and I just didn’t think a college student would be a good fit granted that they’re actively trying to build a career and I was more looking for someone that was a stay-at-home-parent or other homebound person.  You may disagree with my logic there, and that’s totally okay too!  But all in all, I was really impressed with the quality of applicants.  There were so many people that had tons of experience working as a receptionist in a medical office and even mental health setting, so that was great.

Next I started calling people.  I actually called without warning because I wanted to make sure that yes this was someone who could answer the phone and also how they answered it when they thought a stranger was calling.  After talking to some people, I narrowed it down to two people that were both really strong candidates.  Through this experience I also learned a lot about the hiring process and what people could do to be better candidates and do things better in interviews.  It was an interesting experience to be on the other end of the hiring process and I’m sure to pass on the knowledge I gained from this to any clients who might be trying to get a job.

I had resisted for so long hiring someone.  Honestly the idea of having an employee is pretty scary to me.  I liked the idea of just having myself to worry about.  But eventually it came down to the realization that hiring someone meant being able to do more of the clinical work I enjoy doing, instead of so much administrative work.  Eventually we all become so busy that we have to make that choice: Do I want to spend more of my time doing counseling or do I want  spend hours on the phone?

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My name is Marina Williams and I am a licensed mental health counselor with a private practice in Jamaica Plain, MA. This website is my professional website devoted to my activities as a therapist. If you are interested in finding out more about my private practice, please visit my other website


Do you want to make an appointment for counseling or supervision? Interested in having me speak at your event? Have any questions or concerns? Feel free to contact me at 774-240-5550 or