When working with a Virtual Assistant it’s crucial to understand the delicate balance between the technology and the person on the other side of the computer. A Virtual Assistant is like any other resource for your business – they help to support, maintain and grow your operations. But if you want your Virtual Assistant to develop and thrive with you and your business you need to nurture the human aspects of your working relationship and transcend the systems and processes necessary to work remotely.
1. Provide Clear Instructions
Not providing clear and concise instructions for tasks is a large reason why new virtual assistants do not work well with entrepreneurs. The best automation tool that I created with my company was an operation manual that details every task a Virtual Assistant may need to do. This takes quite a bit of time up front, but it’s well worth it on the back end with saved time and fewer mistakes.
2. Use the Right Tools
Using the right tools can really help speed up the process of communicating with and training a new Virtual Assistant. Examples include tools like Dropbox or Evernote for easy access to files and information, Jing or Screenr to create online video tutorials for quick, on-the-job training and Trello or Asana for managing and staying up to date with tasks and tracking progress together.
3. Be Patient
It takes time to get into a groove with Virtual Assistants. Give one task out at a time, and manage each task at the beginning. Make sure you use clear instructions and are polite and gracious!
4. Document All Your Communications and Processes
Document everything. Schedule daily one-on-one meetings. The key is to effectively communicate with your virtual assistants. More often than not, it’s not that the Virtual Assistant isn’t capable; it’s that the process is broken. Invest the time into communicating at a high level, and you’ll reap the rewards.
Also, keep a shared folder with notes that outline various preferences and processes (e.g., scheduling, travel, setting up blog posts). This makes it easy to bring a new Virtual Assistant on board. Each time you assign a repeating task, ask the Virtual Assistant to document it for future reference.
5. Be Realistic
Test your virtual assistant with a variety of tasks, some simple and some complex, and get an idea for what he or she is capable of doing without constant chaperoning. There are practical limits to what a virtual assistant is going to be able to accomplish without ever meeting you or seeing your business. This isn’t your 1950s assistant sitting outside of your office.
6. Delegate Routine Tasks
Virtual assistants are great to leverage your time, but to maximise them, you need to honestly assess the value of your time and the tasks that are diminishing returns. As a rule of thumb, anything repetitive and routine should be delegated to an assistant. In theory, routine tasks should be easy to pass off with a few typed sentences of instruction.
7. Let Them Ask Questions
Virtual assistants often want to impress in the beginning by “just getting on with it” and not asking important questions about a project’s requirements. I tell my Virtual Assistants that I prefer honest and open communication, and they should feel free to ask for clarification or guidance at any time without feeling stupid. This saves time for everyone in the long run, and tasks rarely need to be redone.
8. Set Explicit Instructions
Upfront communication and repeatable processes are key. In the beginning, provide a couple helpful examples, have them complete a handful of tasks based on those examples, and provide feedback for continuing on.
9. Foster a Friendly Relationship
When you work virtually and converse mostly through email there can be a tendency to forget about pleasantries and ‘get down to business’ when you’re communicating with your Virtual Assistant. Make the time to ask about their weekend, their family and other things that are important outside of their work life. Fostering a friendly relationship with your Virtual Assistant will encourage trustworthiness and honesty.
10. Encourage Natural Ability
Find out what your Virtual Assistant enjoys doing and actively try to encourage these talents. If your Virtual Assistant has an eye for design, get them to create some images for your brand, if they are a people person get them engaging on social media. By creating a job role that includes tasks your Virtual Assistant enjoys and is good at you’ll have a happier, more fulfilled and motivated assistant.