With the Internet and global connectivity, it is becoming more common for entrepreneurs, business owners and other individuals to utilize the services of a virtual assistant. However, in order to effectively maximize the experience of working with such an individual, there are several steps that can be taken. This article will address those steps and discuss why it can be a viable option to work with a virtual assistant.
What Makes a Virtual Assistant “Virtual”
A virtual assistant is someone who offers “virtual services” in the field of administration. This individual works remotely and the majority of your communication with the assistant is completed online through email, texting or on the phone. Some individuals hire virtual assistants from another state or even another country and they never meet in person. Additionally, virtual assistants are not freelance consultants with expertise in a specific field of study like IT or marketing. These assistants provide the same services that an administrative assistant would in an in-house position at a business.
The following list details the most effective way to work with a virtual assistant.
See also: How to Choose Your Virtual Assistant
1. Implement Contract Guidelines
It is important that early on during your working relationship clear guidelines are set into place regarding what work you expect to be completed. Establishing concise guidelines in the beginning will ensure that miscommunication will be limited throughout the working process. The best way to implement these guidelines is to create a work contract between you and the virtual assistant. Your contract type and details depends on whether or not you hired this individual through a virtual assistant agency or this person is a freelancer. The agency will most likely have their own contract that needs to be signed by you when you hire one of their assistants. The individual freelancer may have a contract template that he or she uses. However, there may be more flexibility in working with an individual person.
2. Communicate Details Explicitly
Since you will not see this person every day (or ever)—and most of your communication will be done online—it is imperative that you communicate details explicitly. You cannot expect your assistant to read between the lines and know exactly what you meant. This is especially true with a new working relationship. Both you and your assistant need to get to know the specific communication style that works best for your work situation. Make certain that all tasks and responsibilities are written down in document format, such as in a task list, so the virtual assistant can refer to them when completing all assignments. Implement an online task management system like HiTask or Todoist to help your assistant keep track of assignments and what you expect completed on a daily basis.
3. Preferred Communication Method
It is important to establish a consistent routine early on so that you and your assistant get into an effective professional rhythm with regard to ensuring that all assignments are completed on time. Generally, email is the preferred method for communicating with your assistant since you have more flexibility with regard to sending longer messages than texts. Speaking on the phone is great, but items discussed can be forgotten. An email can be referred back to by your assistant to review your instructions. If you work better with personal contact, call your assistant on the phone and follow up each call with an email detailing instructions. The process also depends on how much time you have to be delegating tasks and giving instructions. Once the basics are discussed and your assistant begins handling tasks for you, the communication level will most likely decrease. You both will hopefully fall into a productive routine.
4. Task Management Plan
After tasks have been scheduled and instructions provided, you need to follow up with your assistant to ascertain how well the work is being completed. You don’t want to be a micromanaging boss. However, you need to be involved in the task management process, at least in the beginning of your working relationship. Make sure that you and the assistant are clear regarding the timelines that have been set for project completion. Let your assistant know that if a problem arises and a task cannot be completed within the established deadline, he or she must let you know immediately. Additionally, it is vital that you communicate with your assistant after the project has started so that you can ensure that there are no major issues and everything is being completed as planned. Another important task management factor is that you should allot extra time for tasks to be completed. This way you won’t run into complications if a task cannot be completed on time. Expect to experience an adjustment period as you both become accustomed to the working relationship. Be patient and open to communication as you see this process through to an effective working relationship.
Working with a virtual assistant to complete administrative tasks is not for every entrepreneur or business owner. However, for those who choose to utilize such an assistant—and stick with the process during the initial adjustment period—they will see many benefits. They will have more time freed up to work on high-level projects that only they can complete, while the administrative tasks are completed by their assistant.