5 Top tips for working effectively with your Virtual Assistant

Jul 27, 2011 by

Michigan Virtual Assistant Conference

Image by cletch via Flickr

If you’re a small business owner you may find yourself spending as much time running your business as you do working in it.  This is where a Virtual Assistant can help, but if you’re not used to working with a Virtual Assistant what can you do to ensure that the relationship works?

Choose wisely

If you were searching for a new member of your office staff you wouldn’t just choose the first person you came across, and working with a VA is no different.  Look for someone who shares your values, understands your business and has the necessary skills to complement your business.  Then don’t be afraid to ask for reccommendations or testimonials.  If you choose the right VA it’s a great partnership, there is a connection there and it really enhances your business.

Give a clear brief

When you task your VA with a job, ensure that they understand what you require of them, ask them to repeat it back to you if necessary, or even have a briefing document.  This helps overcome any assumptions from either side on what the other is doing, and if your VA works with a team ensures that the procedure or process is clear.  Writing this or preparing it can often lead you to realise there are other areas you can delegate to your VA.

Use Deadlines

Never just say to a VA when you have time.  Your version of it’s not urgent may not be the same as theirs.  Give your VA a clear deadline on work assigned, remember your VA doesn’t have a crystal ball so cannot guess when things need to be done by.  Even if you consider a task non critical still assign a deadline.

Regular Reviews

In an office you would hold regular performance reviews, this should be no different with your VA, in fact it can be even more valuable.  Chatting over how things are working, or not working can make a huge difference. Mind you don’t just leave it till the review if you have any concerns, raise them immediately as your VA may not be aware there is an issue they need to attend to.  Your reviews are a way of looking at how you are working together and often your VA may be able to make suggestions that will improve the way your business is run, or suggest other ways they may be able to support you.

Be Realistic

You need to allow your VA enough notice to complete a task efficiently, whilst the majority of VAs will be able to accomodate the odd urgent request it shouldn’t be the norm that you give them everything last minute.  Give them sufficient time and information to enable them to carry out the task effectively.

Working with a Virtual Assitant can really make a huge difference to your business and your sanity, however, for some it’s a tough decision, to allow someone in, to trust them with your baby.  Please do give it a go, it can make such a difference, by all means start slowly, build the relationship, build the trust, then one day you will sit back and realise that this was probably the best decision you ever made!

What are your top tips for working with a Virtual Assistant?


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  1. I’ve been working with two VAs for over 2 years.
    I only wish I’d engaged them sooner.

    Other tips:
    Ensure your VA has more skills than you need initially. Your needs may evolve and you will find that you want to delegate/assign more tasks to them than on day one.

    Schedule regular times for skype/phone chats and even the odd face to face review meeting too. (Having said that one of my VAs is overseas and we’ve never met!)

    If there are various exercises to do then create a todo list and store this in a Google Docs or in Dropbox so that you can both update one master version.

  2. Helen

    Great feedback there Mark, especially the one about more skills you will need as your business evolves. Thank you

  3. Essential reading for anyone needing virtual help – thanks Helen. I’ve certainly found that my business is more able to grow having someone taking care of things that do not need my attention. It took awhile to get used to that, though – letting go. But goodness it’s so liberating to do exactly that – trust another person to do the job.

  4. Helen

    I’m just as bad at letting go but now I use my own VA as you say it’s very liberating!

  5. Hi Helen

    I particularly enjoyed this post because I could see it working on the “WHY you should use a VA” level as well as the tips once you’ve decided to 😉 …

    But sticking with the tips:
    As Brits I believe that many of us are not good at spelling out what we want and expect from a relationship upfront. And that only ever leads to tears later on. So my top, top tip would be:

    EACH lay the ground rules and make sure they’re really clear – you know how when you make a presentation?
    1 You say this is what you’re going to cover, what they’ll get out of it, blah, blah, blah
    2 Then you do/ deliver it
    3 Then you recap on the whole shebang

    We all tend to be reasonably good under those (maybe more formal?) circumstances don’t we? Strangely, much better than when we’re setting up a business relationship that we’re fully hoping and intending to be mutually beneficial for a long time to come…

  6. Helen

    That’s excellent advice, thank you Linda

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