How to work with a Virtual Assistant

I’ve been working with a Virtual Assistant (VA) for the past 4 months and thought that it would be useful to share my experience. I know others who have used VA services and struggle to make these work effectively, which leave them frustrated. Quite often, it’s not about the VAs but how you work with them.  I've used my  VA to: 

  1. Perform research on a range of topics

  2. Proofread blog posts and other documents

  3. Transcript video to text

  4. Book meetings and add events to my diary

  5. Complete administration around induction of new Coaching Clients

  6. Investigate complex travel arrangements and provide options

  7. Manage social media

  8. Manage first-line support for questions around Coaching

The advice I give in this blog post is independent of where the virtual assistant is based and irrespective of whether he/she works as part of a company or an individual freelancer. 

Top ten tips: 

1) Set up accounts for your VA that are specific for him/her and don't share your own personal accounts.  That way, you can change VAs with minimal disruption to your business:

  • Access Office 365 (your email, diary and calendar)

  • Access online shopping sites such as Amazon

2) For all repeatable tasks, create a set of standard operating procedures with as much detail as possible.  Remember, in the early days the VA isn’t going to be as fast in his/her work as desired until he/she has completed the task several times.

3) Be super explicit, and make sure you spell out specifics even if they are apparently obvious. For example,  when asking a VA to set up a meeting be explicit on the time zone.  All the issues which I faced were related to instances when I was not explicit.

4) Meet your VA over Skype to get a good read of his/her level of competence and communication skills, and start building a rapport with him/her.  Don't be afraid of asking for a different VA if you are not satisfied with the services of your present VA.

5) Ask your VA to consider the task, and ensure that he/she understands it properly and asks questions before beginning the task.

6) Where possible, ask the VA to complete 25% of a task and then check whether it is proceeding in the right direction.  If the task is repeatable, for example, downloading 20 items of content from the web and reformatting them into MS Word, ask the VA to do 2 items and wait for feedback from your end before proceeding further.

7) For every task in your task manager, ask yourself the question, "Could my VA do this task?"

8) Be kind. Yes, you are paying for a service, but people make mistakes in the same way as somebody who sits next to you would do.

9) For complex projects, pick up the phone and explain the project to the VA. Let him/her ask questions and at the end of the call, ask him/her to reiterate details of the task.  This will save a significant amount of time. 

10) Use to find a VA service. Read the reviews and give a few services a trial before making the final decision. I'm currently using, and I'm very happy with the service they are providing to me and I intend on outsourcing more tasks in the future. 

If you would like to use then you can get 10% off your first month by using the code: NICKP10

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