Our Guide to Working With a Virtual Assistant
We are always happy to suggest ways of working together, but the interaction between you and your Virtual Assistant (VA) should reflect how you work best. Verbal and written communication can both be helpful, depending on the nature of the interaction and its timing/urgency. So here are some related questions to consider:
- Do you like speaking on the phone?
- Would you prefer video calls, using Skype, Skype chat or similar software?
- Do you find it easier to exchange information via email?
- How are you best contacted when you are away from your desk/computer?
- Would you rather receive a detailed progress update in one communication or lots of short task-related messages/conversations?
Your Virtual Assistant will be able to adapt to whichever method(s) of communication you prefer, it’s just important to discuss this at the very start of your working relationship.
If your work is largely desk / computer based during the same hours your Virtual Assistant is working for you, we highly recommend using Skype chat – extremely useful for efficient and brief communication with minimal disruption and you can simply change your status to ‘Do Not Disturb’ if you need to be left alone.
One of the key benefits of employing the services of a Virtual Assistant, is that you only pay for the time worked by them, as agreed in advance in line with your budget. However this means your Virtual Assistant will also be working with other clients, so they won’t always be accessible at short notice. It’s crucial to establish expectations early on, in terms of your VA’s availability. For example:
- Do you want your VA to be available at specific hours of the day, on certain days?
- Will your VA be working on tasks with specific deadlines?
- Or will you be asking your VA to work through a monthly to-do list and give you weekly feedback?
Your Virtual Assistant will need information, advice and support from you, so it’s also a good idea to:
- Provide access to your diary (e.g. via Google Apps, ICloud or Outlook) so they know when you are contactable and/or likely to reply to their messages. Your VA can advise you on how to arrange this access, if need be.
- Arrange a regular weekly Skype call – a ‘checkpoint’ to review tasks and priorities. If you make this into a commitment that you both aim to stick to (schedule allowing) it will provide an important anchor in your working week. It’s also an ideal time for a friendly ‘hello – how are you?’ (Your virtual water cooler moment) this may only take 3 minutes, but it’s just as vital for building a professional rapport as it is in a shared office.
For the first month or so your VA will need time to get under the skin of your working world and working culture including the systems you want her to use and share etc.
Whilst all the MSPA team is experienced, efficient and adaptable, every new client presents new working practices and sometimes they sometimes introduce new systems to us that we haven’t used. Your VA may require system training. Training and on-boarding of your Virtual Assistant is billable time to you as the client.
4. Clear Instructions
Your Virtual Assistant will work hard and want to get it right first time for you. This will depend on you giving them clear instructions and timescales, and replying promptly to any queries they raise relating to any tasks. The best advice we can give is:
- Be as specific as possible, ideally giving step-by-step instructions at the beginning of your working relationship;
- Don’t expect your VA to be able to read between the lines or guess at what you mean;
- Wherever possible, give your VA examples to follow so that they know the end result you’re looking for.
If your Virtual Assistant needs to keep clarifying instructions with you, this will take up some of their valuable time (which you are paying for), so best to avoid any frustrations arising from this and be clear upfront.
Successful arrangements with Virtual Assistants depend on them receiving feedback from you. Like any other professional, VA’s like to feel appreciated so if your VA does something particularly well, please tell them. Any general message of appreciation will always have a motivational effect too. Constructive feedback is also really helpful, for example if you’re finding that changes need to be made after your VA completes a task; this is a effective way in which your VA can learn more about you, your business and your expectations, and deliver a better end result for you next time.
It’s important for your Virtual Assistant to feel involved in your business, so that there is some context to the work they do for you. In addition to the tasks you set, the time your VA spends on general catch-up calls, video calls, emails or texts with you will require a clear investment. However, follow this guide and you will create an excellent working relationship, whilst streamlining your business activity and the time (and money) invested in achieving a sense of teamwork will pay dividends.