What is a virtual assistant?
It’s funny, when you work as a virtual assistant(VA) for so long and you are completely involved in that world, it’s easy to forget that to a lot of people the term Virtual Assistant is completely alien. Well, that or they just think of Alexa or Siri!
Many business owners we’ve spoken to over the years have mentioned that it was a networking peer or business coach that recommended they hire a VA, but up until that point, they had not even realised such a service existed.
They may have been struggling with their workload for some time but perhaps are not in a position to commit to taking on an employee. Little did they know that there was a perfect solution to their problem in the form of a virtual assistant.
By definition, a virtual assistant is an independent contractor who provides administrative, creative or technical services for business owners and professionals.
Ultimately, a VA, relieves some of the pressure that a business owner may experience due to an increased workload.
Why work with a virtual assistant?
Time is money! As business owners, this sentence hits home even more. We all know how precious time is. It’s not like it’s replenishable. Once it’s spent, there is no getting it back. What we choose to do with our time in our business can literally mean the difference between making more money and not.
How often have you used your time completing a task with zero ROI? Too often I bet. Would it not make more sense for you to be spending your time on tasks that actually generate a return and move the needle forward in your business?
Hiring a VA can help you to make better use of your time. For example:
- They support you to focus on what you do best – is your expertise best used doing back-office tasks or serving clients with your knowledge?
- They support you to focus on business growth – with less time spent IN your business, you can spend time ON your business, making plans and setting goals for the future.
- They support you to focus on family first – with some of the mundane tasks off your to-do list, you will free up some of that admin time to spend with family or friends instead.
- They support you to focus on YOU more – running a business can be all-consuming. You are never really off. By delegating some of your workload, you might just be able to find a slot of time to do something for yourself for a change and hit the reset button.
Best practices when working with a virtual assistant
Communication is Key
Though it may be a priority to keep emails and phone calls to a minimum, regular communication, particularly in the early days is vital. We recommend a weekly call – phone or video – to discuss work in progress, ask any questions or highlight issues. You can also use this time to add to a to-do list or as a brainstorming session to come up with new ideas.
If you would prefer more regular contact regarding a certain project for instance, be sure to let your VA know. You should agree before beginning work as to what level of communication is expected or needed.
Be sure to review any work completed by your VA and provide feedback where needed. Let them know if there is anything you would like done differently.
Establish Working Hours
Most tasks assigned to a VA are back-office tasks which can be done outside of official office times and scheduled into the VA’s working week in order of priority.
It’s up to the client to set a budget on time spent on specific tasks or to be used in a week/month. If this time is not sufficient for a VA to complete the task or if the time allowance is close to being used up before a task is complete, the VA should notify you before proceeding further.
Most tasks will be scheduled out at the beginning of the week, however, as urgent or new tasks come up during the week they should be dealt with on a priority basis for each client.
Bear in mind that a VA is not the same as an employee and will have several clients to care for. If you need your VA solely available to you during specific hours, those hours will need to be booked in advance and in most cases paid in full regardless of work completed.
Provide Clear Instructions
Ensure that whatever brief or spec is provided for a task, that the instructions are clear, concise and easy to follow. Give as much detail as possible and let your VA know the outcome you hope to achieve from this task.
Show examples where possible or refer to which standard operating procedures your VA should follow for this task.
Document Key Processes
Creating a file or folder with standard operating procedures will not only benefit your working relationship with your VA, but will also be a permanent resource for you to reference or forward to any other VA’s or employees that may come on board as your business grows.
Procedures can be documented as tasks are completed. In the short-term, this will take up a lot of time, but in the long-term, it will be of huge benefit and will become the Holy Grail of your business.
Tasks can be recorded using simple text documents or through video recordings and screenshots. Be sure to include the name of the task and its purpose.
Templates can also be created during this documentation process to include anything from standard forms sent out, a list of FAQs from customers, email reply templates, etc.
Set Up a File Share
Depending on the task, it may be important for your VA to have access to certain files, materials or passwords. File-sharing can be set up easily through the use of cloud-based servers and systems – reference tools examples in the next section.
Be sure to only share the files you are happy for your VA to have access to. These files can be updated by either party so that new information is available as required.
Make Use of Technology
There are many tools that can be used to help both you and your VA create an easy working relationship. Most are available on desktop as well as on mobile. Some of the most common tools are:
- Google G Suite – to manage email, calendar, file sharing and more.
- Dropbox – for file sharing
- WeTransfer – to transfer large files easily
- Trello – planning and project management.
- Asana – planning and project management.
- Slack – instant messaging for teams.
- WhatsApp – text/voice/video communications
- Zoom – video communications/screen sharing and recording system.
- Evernote – organisational tool for to-dos, creating notes, voice memos, scanning of documents and more.
- LastPass – Secure sharing of passwords and logins.
Allow for a Learning Curve
As stated earlier, in the short term tasks may take longer as systems are set up, procedures are documented and questions are asked. Inevitably mistakes may be made that need to be corrected. This is why communication will be key. Once initial teething problems are worked through, however, this will improve and in the long-term, a strong and trusting relationship will evolve.
Each client’s needs are different so it will be up to the client and VA to talk through what they may need and adapt their relationship as required. Make sure your VA understands your business, your customers and your goals so that you are both working together with the same mindset.
If you are now feeling a little bit more confident in how it looks to work with a virtual assistant, be sure to check out our online directory where you can browse from a selection of talented individuals offering virtual assistance to busy entrepreneurs and professionals.