Virtual Assistant: Do’s and Don’ts by Laura Licursi
Virtual assistants have been a great asset to many companies over the last ten years. From Fortune 500 companies to the solopreneur, a virtual worker is a cost-effective and efficient solution to extend your company’s capabilities in many different areas. Whether overworked employees to overscheduled business owners, everyone has tasks they can delegate to help them excel in their zone of genius.
I’ve been in the virtual assistant space for 23 years now; 18 as a virtual assistant after leaving my corporate job when I had my daughter and in 2015 when I opened a virtual staffing agency, Elite Virtual Assistants. I’ve seen it all (maybe not ALL, but a LOT), from both sides, and there are some do’s and don’ts that will help you either find success working with a VA, or help you realize it may not be the best choice for you.
Some people can’t wrap their heads around working with someone they can’t physically be present with. The best way to view the relationship is to think of a virtual assistant as a remote worker.
Before we dive into the dos and don’ts, let’s talk about some of the benefits of working with a VA:
- They work on an as-needed basis.
- You only pay for the time you use (depending on how the VA or agency handles billing).
- VA’s are subcontractors, so a big benefit is not having to pay for:
- Vacation time
- Office space
But, there are also some other things to consider when working with a VA, like:
- You can’t yell out your office door or stop by their desk every time you think of something you need or want them to do.
- Services are not on-demand. Depending on how many hours someone is working for you, there may be a lag in response time.
This brings me to a list I’ve created over the last 23 years on the do’s and don’ts of working with a virtual assistant.
Virtual Assistant DO’s:
- Make them part of your team – make them a priority. A good way to crush morale is to make them feel “detached” from you or your team.
- Understand that they hold an important role (and they should feel that way).
- Give them a company email address.
- Set boundaries. For example, when you’re available and when you’re not, or how much decision-making power they have. This is also helpful when you have a task or project to be done but need to stay within a certain range of hours or budget. (Think research tasks: if you need research done, always set a time limit with check-in points to gauge progress.)
- Set expectations. Be clear on what you expect from them and from your relationship. If you need certain tasks done with a 24-hour turnaround time, make sure they’re aware of that from the beginning.
- Know their availability. If your VA is only available 2 days a week and you need someone to work for you daily with quick turnaround times, this schedule would not work for either one of you.
- Be honest and transparent. If something isn’t working or done properly, address it right away.
- Have processes for them to follow to make the transition easier. You can do this by creating an SOP, or even something as simple as recording the flow of a certain task or procedure. (Loom is wonderful for this and very easy to use.)
- Have clear tasks and responsibilities ready for them to handle; don’t make it a guessing game on how they can help you.
- Set time aside to review their work and their hours, especially in the beginning, to ensure future success.
- Be responsive to their questions and requests.
- Look to future needs when choosing a VA. If you want someone to do data entry but later want them to turn into a salesperson, you may be hiring the wrong person and setting them up for failure.
- Ask questions. If you don’t understand why something was done a certain way, or why something took longer than you thought it would…ASK.
- Have a regular weekly meeting. It’s important to always have that conversation to clear up any miscommunication and to have a touchpoint for accountability purposes. Although having a good relationship with your VA is encouraged, remember that you’re paying for this meeting time, so think before spending half of it recapping your weekend.
- Keep lines of communication open at all times.
- Be patient.
- Track their progress. If you’re not tracking hours, be sure to have a project management system set up so you can gauge the progress of the work that is being done. This is especially helpful in the beginning stages of your relationship.
- Be respectful of their time. Setting meetings and repeatedly canceling them at the last minute is not okay. That is time they set aside for you and not another client or client’s work. Be prepared in this instance to be charged for missed meetings.
- Be reasonable. Your emergency is not your VA’s emergency. In most cases, virtual assistants will go above and beyond to help their clients, but understand that if something urgent comes up on your end and your VA is not available, it is not a cause for upheaval.
- Be unprepared. Whether it’s a meeting with your VA or not knowing what you want/need them to do, you’ll waste a lot of time (and money) trying to figure it out while they’re on the clock.
- Be unresponsive. Most of the time they are waiting on you for a response and can’t move forward until they get it.
- Be unclear. Many times we think we’re being clear, but we’re not. Even if your directions seem elementary, spell it out to make sure the message gets across.
- Be unapproachable. If your assistant feels afraid to talk to you or bother you, there will be a lot of miscommunication and guesswork to avoid having to interact with you.
- Change direction (and expect a refund). A good VA who has time planned for your work most likely is turning down other work to accommodate you. If you’ve changed direction with your plan or your business, see if there’s something else they can do for you to use the hours you’ve purchased. Remember, just as you have a business, so do they.
I’ve worked with hundreds of clients and virtual assistants over the years. This list covers some areas for you to think about before (or during) the time you’re working with your VA. Like any relationship, it takes open communication, clear expectations, and patience to have a successful partner to work with. Following these dos and don’ts will help you set some guidelines for a great experience for both of you!
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