Productivity / Outsourcing

Five tips for working with a Virtual Assistant

I came to the realisation that my business could not keep growing if I was the only person working on it. I was running out of time and energy. It was at this moment I began to explore the idea of engaging a Virtual Assistant.

15 November 2007 by

If you are not sure what a Virtual Assistant (VA) is, Kathie M. Thomas has written a great article called Working virtually: A definition.

I engaged my Virtual Assistant four months ago and in that time she has become an invaluable resource and contribution to my business – she even babysat my business for four and a half weeks when I went overseas on holidays.

Many people I have spoken to have shared stories about their difficulties making their VA relationship work well and have asked me how I got so lucky.

I can tell you luck has had nothing to do with this! Here are five tips for creating a successful and productive relationship with a Virtual Assistant.

1. Be clear about what you want your Virtual Assistant to do

The first thing I did was a brainstorm of all the activities I currently did that I would like someone else to do. I then compiled a list of all the things I wasn’t getting done which fell into two categories:

"The first thing I did was a brainstorm of all the activities I currently did that I would like someone else to do."

  • things I would like my VA to do for me
  • things that I wanted to do when I had more time (thanks to my VA taking on existing work).

This allowed me to find a Virtual Assistant that had skills and experience to match my requirements.

2. Articulate your personal quirks

As a soloist so much about the way I worked was inside my head – such as how I like my day structured, what my response times to enquiries are and how I word my email correspondence. Having someone else to work with meant I needed to articulate all of these things, which is easier said than done!

Want more articles like this? Check out the outsourcing section.

3. Be explicit with instructions and deadlines

This may seem to be stating the obvious but it never ceases to amaze me how many people issue a request for work to be done without a deadline attached. Then they get annoyed when the work is not completed when they want it! Deadlines can be as specific as ‘Wednesday 3pm’ or as general as ‘by the end of this week’, just ensure you have one.

You also need to be explicit with instructions as it reduces the chance of miscommunication or error. Remember, much of what you do is habit and you can’t assume someone else will think the same way you do.

4. Agree on work flow processes

Spend time in the early stages of your working relationship agreeing on work flow processes. How will you share information? How will you ensure things don’t slip through cracks or get double handled? How will you issue instructions – verbally or in writing? Will you send requests as they happen or save them up in batches?

Discussing these things up front will minimise the chance of things going wrong.

5. Be willing to let go

I am a self confessed control freak. The most challenging thing for me was to let go of tasks and trust my VA to do a great job. I didn’t want to drive my VA crazy by always checking on work and timelines. To help soothe the control freak within me, we created processes which ensure I am updated regularly on the progress of work.

Having a Virtual Assistant can be a wonderful addition to your soloist business. Take the time to create the structures that will support it being a great experience for both of you.

Have you had any experiences of your own?

Linda Anderson

is a Certified Professional Coach dedicated to helping people live bold and rewarding lives. Linda has an energetic and direct style of coaching which suits people who like to be challenged.

Comments

  • Yani Lacaba

    Great advice, Linda. I agree with the item on number 4. This is the common mistake that is being encountered in an employer-employee relationship. You are also correct that written instructions can be given verbally but a written set of instructions will always do you good. Tiring, yes, but a black and white will always be better.

  • King R. Hebra

    nice tips

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