The Dos and Don’ts of Working With a Virtual Assistant 

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Entrepreneurs and small business owners have a lot of tasks that can distract them from their main goals. Many of them hire virtual assistants (VAs) to help them stay on track and focus better. These VAs manage administrative tasks, schedules, and projects, enabling business owners to focus their time on their core priorities.  

However, the effectiveness of this collaboration extends beyond task management alone. It all comes down to making sure everyone talks openly, trusts each other, and agrees on what they expect. By following these principles, entrepreneurs can get the most out of working with a virtual assistant and build a productive partnership. 

In this article, we’ll delve into the essential dos and don’ts of working effectively with a virtual assistant, offering insights to help entrepreneurs maximize productivity and build strong, productive partnerships. But first, we need to define ‘virtual assistant’ and the benefits of hiring one. 

What Is a Virtual Assistant?  

A human virtual assistant, also known as a virtual personal assistant (VPA), is an individual who provides administrative, technical, or creative assistance remotely. Human virtual assistants perform tasks like traditional personal assistants but work from a remote location, often from home or a dedicated office space.  

The tasks handled by human VAs vary widely based on the needs of their clients. The common responsibilities include: 

  • Sorting, responding to, and organizing emails on behalf of the client. 
  • Booking appointments, arranging meetings, and managing calendars. 
  • Inputting and organizing data into databases or spreadsheets. 
  • Conducting online research on various topics as needed by the client. 
  • Booking flights, accommodations, and transportation for business trips or vacations. 
  • Creating and scheduling posts, monitoring accounts, and engaging with followers. 
  • Handling inquiries and providing assistance to customers via email, chat, or phone. 
  • Writing blog posts or social media content
  • Assisting with personal errands, such as shopping, gift-buying, or making reservations. 

Whether hiring virtual assistants for restaurants, law firms, dental clinics, or online businesses, it’s crucial to choose one from a reputable source. Dedicated online platforms are available, where you can review profiles and select a virtual assistant for your business. 

Benefits Of Hiring A Virtual Assistant 

These are the benefits to individuals and businesses, including:  

Cost Savings 

Virtual assistants are typically more cost-effective than hiring in-house employees because you only pay for the time they spend working on your tasks. There are no overhead costs such as office space, equipment, or benefits.  

Time Savings 

Delegating tasks to a virtual assistant frees up your time to focus on high-priority activities such as growing your business, generating revenue, or spending time with family and friends.  

Scalability 

Virtual assistants can scale their services based on your needs. Whether you need occasional assistance during busy periods or ongoing support, you can adjust the level of engagement with your virtual assistant accordingly. 

Access to specialized skills 

VAs have expertise in specific areas, such as administrative support, customer service, marketing, or graphic design. Hiring a VA enables you to tap into these specialized skills without having to invest in training or hiring additional staff.  

Flexibility 

VAs can work from anywhere in the world. This provides flexibility in terms of time zones and working hours, which is particularly beneficial for businesses with international clients or for individuals who require support outside of traditional office hours. 

Focus on Core Competencies

By outsourcing tasks to a VA, you can focus on activities that align with your core competencies and strategic goals, ultimately driving business growth and success. 

Reduced Stress 

Delegating tasks to a VA can help reduce stress and overwhelm, allowing you to maintain a better work-life balance and avoid burnout. 

Dos and Don’ts of Working with A VA

Learning the dos and don’ts of working with a virtual assistant is essential for maximizing productivity, fostering professionalism, and building strong relationships. Clear communication, mutual understanding, and adherence to agreed-upon guidelines contribute to efficient collaboration and cost-effectiveness. By avoiding common pitfalls and adapting to individual preferences, you can ensure a positive and successful working relationship with your virtual assistant. 

The Dos: 

Clearly Define Tasks and Expectations 

Clearly defining tasks and expectations is like drawing a map for your virtual assistant to follow. It’s super important for teamwork to flow smoothly. Imagine giving them directions without telling them where to go—it just wouldn’t work! That’s why it’s crucial to lay out the tasks, deadlines, and any special instructions clearly. This ensures that everyone understands what’s happening and prevents any mistakes so everything goes smoothly.  

Here’s an example: ‘Your task is to prepare a monthly sales report for the marketing department, due by the last business day of each month. The report should include data on total sales revenue for each product category, a comparative analysis of the current month’s sales against the previous month and the same period last year, and any notable trends or insights observed from the data. It should be in spreadsheet format (Excel) with visual representations like charts or graphs. Accuracy is paramount, with cross-checking against relevant sources. A draft should be sent for review by the marketing manager by the third week of each month, incorporating any feedback or additional insights.’ 

Communicate Regularly 

Regular communication is essential for a strong working relationship with your virtual assistant. It involves checking in regularly to provide feedback. This open communication helps prevent issues and keeps operations running smoothly.  

The choice of communication tool for interacting with a virtual assistant depends on preferences, task requirements, and collaboration needs. Common options include email for detailed communication and instant messaging for real-time chat. Other examples are project management tools for task management and communication, video conferencing for face-to-face discussions, and voice messaging for quick communication. 

Provide Feedback 

Feedback is like giving pointers to your virtual assistant—it’s super important for getting better at what they do. Just like giving tips to someone, providing constructive feedback helps your virtual assistant improve. Point out their strengths and areas for improvement, and be open to receiving feedback from them, too. This collaboration allows for continuous improvement and better outcomes.  

One effective tool for providing feedback to a virtual assistant is the Feedback Matrix. It involves dividing feedback into four quadrants: Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats (SWOT). SWOT analysis helps to acknowledge positive aspects, address areas for improvement, identify growth opportunities, and consider external factors impacting performance. 

Invest in Training 

Investing in training for your virtual assistant gives them the tools to excel at their job even more. Additional training helps them meet your specific needs better. Whether it’s learning new software or improving communication skills, training benefits both you and your virtual assistant.  

For instance, your virtual assistant handles customer inquiries and support. Providing them with training on advanced communication techniques, conflict resolution strategies, and the company’s customer relationship management (CRM) software not only enhances their skills but also enables them to address customer needs efficiently and effectively. This investment not only benefits the assistant by improving their proficiency but also contributes to enhancing overall customer satisfaction and operational efficiency within your business. 

Establish Boundaries 

It means defining roles, responsibilities, and limitations to respect personal time. Avoid contacting your virtual assistant outside of agreed-upon working hours unless necessary. This is crucial for a strong working relationship. 

For instance, specifying whether urgent matters should be communicated via email, instant messaging, or phone during non-working hours helps prevent unnecessary interruptions while promptly addressing critical issues. Furthermore, providing flexibility within boundaries allows for occasional adjustments to accommodate unforeseen circumstances or urgent tasks without compromising personal time. 

Use The Right Tools 

When collaborating with a virtual assistant, a range of business tools can enhance communication, task management, and productivity. Essential tools include messaging platforms for real-time communication and file sharing, collaboration software integrating chat, video meetings, and file storage, as well as video conferencing software for virtual meetings and screen sharing.  

For task management, project management tools help organize tasks and track progress, while visual collaboration tools facilitate task management through boards, lists, and cards. Cloud storage services enable file sharing and synchronization, and web-based office applications allow for collaborative document editing. Time tracking tools help monitor billable hours and project progress, while screen sharing and remote access tools enable efficient collaboration and support.  

Password managers ensure secure storage and management of credentials, and VPN services protect online privacy and enable secure access to restricted content. Utilizing these tools can streamline communication, collaboration, and task management with a virtual assistant, promoting productivity and efficiency in remote work environments. 

The Don’ts: 

Micromanage 

While it’s essential to provide guidance, avoid micromanaging your virtual assistant. Trust their skills and expertise to complete tasks independently. Constantly monitoring or questioning their every move can hinder productivity and breed resentment.  

To avoid micromanaging your virtual assistant, it’s crucial to establish clear expectations, provide necessary resources, and encourage open communication. Delegate responsibility, set milestones, and offer constructive feedback to empower them in their role. Respect their expertise, acknowledge their contributions, and support their professional growth. 

Assume Availability 24/7 

Expecting your virtual assistant to be available 24/7 isn’t fair. While they’re flexible, it’s essential to respect their working hours. Be mindful of their schedule and plan tasks accordingly.  

Let’s say your virtual assistant is based in a different time zone and works from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM. You realize that you have an urgent task that needs attention outside of their regular working hours due to a time-sensitive client request.  

Instead of assuming their availability 24/7, you approach the situation with respect for their schedule. You send them a message explaining the urgency of the task and inquire about their availability to assist outside of their usual working hours. Additionally, you offer to compensate them for the extra time spent or provide flexibility in their schedule to balance out the workload. 

Overload Them with Tasks 

Avoid overwhelming your virtual assistant with tasks. Prioritize based on urgency and importance. Overloading can lead to burnout and decreased productivity. Be realistic about their workload to ensure they perform at their best. 

To handle more tasks without overwhelming your virtual assistant, implement effective task management strategies. Communicate clear expectations regarding deadlines, scope, and priorities, ensuring your assistant understands and has the resources needed.  

Delegate tasks aligned with their skills, providing training and empowerment for independent decision-making. Break down larger tasks into manageable subtasks, set realistic deadlines considering the existing workload, and schedule regular check-ins to review progress and adjust priorities. Offer support and assistance as needed, fostering a collaborative and productive working environment while preventing burnout. 

Ignore Red Flags 

Ignoring red flags with your virtual assistant can lead to problems. Address any recurring issues promptly to prevent frustration and resentment. Approach problems openly and collaboratively to find solutions that work for both parties, fostering trust and maintaining a positive working relationship.  

Consistently failing to meet deadlines or deliver work on time may indicate issues with time management or workload capacity. Difficulty in reaching or receiving timely responses from your virtual assistant can hinder collaboration and lead to misunderstandings. Moreover, noticeable declines in the quality or accuracy of work produced may signal issues such as lack of attention to detail or insufficient training. 

Your virtual assistant may demonstrate a lack of proactiveness or initiative in taking on tasks or identifying opportunities for improvement. Signs of negativity, apathy, or disengagement towards their work or responsibilities may indicate underlying dissatisfaction or burnout. Furthermore, unpredictable or unreliable availability, especially during agreed-upon working hours, can disrupt workflow and cause frustration. 

Your virtual assistant relying excessively on your guidance or input for tasks they should be able to handle independently may hinder efficiency and autonomy. Another red flag is dismissing or reacting defensively to constructive feedback, which may indicate a lack of willingness to learn and improve. 

Maintaining professionalism with your virtual assistant is crucial. Treat them with respect, communicate courteously, be punctual for meetings, and meet deadlines. This fosters a positive working relationship and environment.  

Conclusion 

Collaborating with a virtual assistant can significantly impact the efficiency and growth of entrepreneurs and small business owners. Adhering to the outlined dos and don’ts can help establish a productive working relationship. Clear communication, a collaborative mindset, and mutual respect are fundamental to nurturing success with a virtual assistant. Prioritizing these principles can optimize business operations and yield substantial benefits for future growth and prosperity.

I'm Allison Dunn,

Your Business Executive Coach

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