10 Tips for Working with Virtual Assistants

Many entrepreneurs and small business owners have decided to forego the hiring of standard employees and instead enlist the help of virtual assistants for their needs. The benefits of using virtual assistant services have been proven time and again, but working with on-demand help can take some getting used to. Although with the right systems in place and a healthy amount of communication, your relationship with a virtual team can help take your business to the next level.

We’ve got 10 tips that will guarantee your success with your virtual assistant team.

Communication is Key

As with any relationship, quality communication is one of the most important factors for success. It ensures that everyone involved accurately understands each other and allows for an avenue to express thoughts and concerns in a safe environment.

Good communication takes time and active effort, so it can be easy to let it fall by the wayside. But regardless of how clear your instructions for a task may be, virtual assistants are likely to have questions at times. Being available to answer questions and address concerns alleviates stress and helps to reduce mistakes in the long run. This is especially true if there is a strict deadline on a task – every minute that goes by can feel like a lifetime when you are waiting on someone to answer your questions!

Of course it would be ideal if you and your team were on the same page from the beginning, but working together to develop quality communication skills can save you a lot of time and headache in the long run. Over time you’ll get better at it – and they’ll get better at it too! You’ll send fewer back and forth emails, and the relationship will strengthen. Eventually, it’s likely that you’ll fall into a cadence where you both just sort of understand each other; but until then, make sure to answer your emails or instant messages when help is needed.

Be Clear in Your Instructions

This seems like an obvious note to add, but you’d be surprised at how often people sort of assume that virtual assistants are mind readers – no joke! And while most of the time they’ll be able to figure out instructions for a task, it’s a lot easier if the instructions are clear from the beginning. Putting it simply, the more information you provide upfront, the less they’ll have to ask you for later. Here are some tips for sending in clear instructions:

  • Be honest and upfront about your expectations for a task.
  • Empower them by letting them know the tools they’ll need and for what purpose they’ll be completing it.
  • Give a general idea of when you want the task to be completed; otherwise they’ll be tackled in the order they’re received.

Being clear initially will of course take more time than simply sending a request like “Please draft out a new blog post for my site”, but it will save all the added time for clarification (“Do you have a specific topic in mind? How long would you prefer it to be? Will the post be from your perspective or third person?”).

If it’s a recurring task or something ultra-specific, sending a quick training video can really help too. There are a number of free-to-use screencasting services that allow you to take quick snippets of video instructions that you can send as links or downloadable files. This makes it easy for your virtual team to understand the task and train others to do so as well.

As with good communication, good instructions can help save time and alleviate stress for the virtual assistants tackling your business needs.

Specify Urgency

If you have a task that needs to be done by a certain time, you’re going to have to specify this when sending in the task. More often than not, virtual assistants work with multiple clients at a time, and address tasks in the order that they enter the queue. If there are no other urgent tasks before your task, it is likely that it can be bumped to first in the order of importance if we have a heads up.

Your team will be more than happy to treat certain tasks with more importance than others if it’s necessary and they’ve got the time to spare, but if they don’t know it’s high-priority they can’t give it the extra attention it needs.

Something as simple as an added “ASAP”, “Urgent”, or “Important” can help them understand your expectations and needs regarding a task, and helps to avoid anger and frustration down the road when something doesn’t get completed on time. Just remember that not every task can be urgent; be cognizant when you’re marking tasks with high importance and try to do it when it’s truly needed.

A big component to the structure of teamsourcing is that your virtual assistants can have any number of clients at any given time, which means that they can be working on any number of tasks and projects at one time. Try to keep this in mind when you send something to your team so that you can have realistic expectations. In general tasks are completed by the end of the day, so try to plan accordingly.

Create a ‘System’ for Working with Your Virtual Assistant

Want your new team to access your website to add content? They’re going to need the login. Want them to manage your email account and create meeting invites for you? Gonna need that password information, too. The more tasks you want your team to take over for you, the more information they are going to require – so empower them with it!

One of the easiest ways to do this is with a password management system (such as LastPass, Dashlane, and 1Password) so that your virtual specialist can readily access the information. You can also use a CRM where projects (and credentials, if you don’t have a management system setup) are stored (we don’t recommend using a shared document for security purposes). This way they aren’t pinging you for a password or the name of your first pet each time you give them a new task; they can simply check the resource and are done.

Be Kind

This may seem like a given, but be patient with your new team. If they’ve agreed to work with you as a client, it’s because they genuinely care about what you do and want to help you do it better – treat them like a member of your own team because, well, they are!

It might be frustrating if a situation arises where your virtual assistant accidentally sends an email to the wrong customer, or forgets to adjust for differences in time zones when scheduling an important client meeting, but if it isn’t a repeat offense it’s likely that it was a simple mistake. Instead of losing your cool and yelling, use the mistake as a learning opportunity. This will not only reduce the likelihood of the error happening again in the future, but it will also strengthen the relationship you have with your team, since they’ll be able to trust you as a source for information and not one for insults or anger.

The simplest way to think about it is like this: if you were in their situation, how would you want to be treated? It’s likely that you’ve made a mistake at some point in your life, do you remember how people treated you? Were you empowered to learn from your mistake, or was your confidence shaken down by destructive language and pointed blaming? If you exercise the Golden Rule with your team (and in life!), you’re likely to have a lasting and meaningful relationship based on mutual respect and care – it’s a win-win! Your virtual team applies a culture of excellence, not perfection, since the latter is unrealistic.

Let Them Know If You Have Trouble With Technology

Everything a virtual assistant company does is on a computer, so technology is at the center of it all. If you have difficulty with certain technology – especially if it’s the ones they use regularly to collaborate, communicate, or otherwise carry out tasks – let them know ahead of time. They can set up a time to train when it’s necessary, or find alternatives where they’re available.

Proper use and understanding of technology is synonymous with efficiency and productivity in a virtual environment, so this aspect of working together is extremely important. Chances are your new team will already have a good collection of programs, applications, and various other technologies that they use, but they’re also likely to be great at learning new ones. If you have a CRM or tool that you prefer, let them know. Likewise if they make a recommendation about a certain tool, be open to exploring it with them. You may just find something new and useful you wouldn’t have discovered otherwise.

Let Them Know Your Personal Schedule/Availability

This tip is especially relevant if you utilize your virtual assistants to schedule your appointments and meetings, but can be equally as important when it comes to the best times to get ahold of you, when you don’t want to be disturbed, if you’re going to be out of town, and much more.

Just like you know that your team of specialists will be available between the established working hours of their day, it is best if they know when you’re available for appointments or communication.

Sharing calendars is often the best way to achieve this, especially if you’re already having the assistants manage it for you. Keep in mind that anything that may have you out of the office (such as doctor appointments, school pickups, or lunch) is useful for your team to know, so that they can understand when there are good and bad times for scheduling. A simple “Blocked” or “Do Not Disturb” marker on the calendar is perfect for letting them know.

Be Responsive

You ping them on instant message or shoot a quick email and expect a response right away, but can they do the same with you? Business is busy, and we understand this, yet it can be stressful when your team asks a question about a task that was sent in with urgency and aren’t getting an answer. A quick acknowledgment in the moment – a simple “In a meeting”, or “Away from my computer, be back soon” – can let them know they’re on the right track and simply need to wait a few minutes.

With meetings, client calls, errands to run, and everyday life interruptions this one isn’t always easy, but do your best to respond to questions or comments from your team so that they can complete your task and move onto the next. They do their best not to reach out unless it’s absolutely necessary, so if there’s a note from them it’s probably something important. And, if there are times when you absolutely cannot or will not respond, let your team know so they can expect this ahead of time and won’t be bothering you when you’re not available.

Trust Their Judgement

Another important component of teamsourcing is being a diverse group of specialists. Virtual assistant companies hire a unique team of people with a wide range of specialties. They hold themselves to a high standard and strive for absolute satisfaction each time they work on something for a client, so you can expect a certain level of quality in their work – it’s something they’re proud of.

Part of being a specialist is having a certain level of prior experience and understanding when approaching a project. Each member of a virtual team is an expert in their field, so they have a good idea of what they’re doing. It can be easy to want to babysit a task from start to finish, but trust that they will get it done right, and they’ll prove it to you with the results.

Clear, step-by-step instructions are great for projects, especially if you’ve got something very specific in mind. However, if there are areas in your guidelines that are hazy or require a bit of creative interpretation, have faith that your team will do so with a high level of care and attention to detail. If they’re met with constant nitpicking and micromanaging it doesn’t ever allow them to build up a relationship of trust with one another.

Be Organized In Your Own Business/Life

Much in the way that you expect your virtual assistants to be well organized when conducting their business, doing so with your own work environment will ensure that they can carry out tasks better, understand instructions easier, and help you in the best way possible:

  • Keep calendars with meetings and personal activities that might conflict with your ability to do work together.
  • Use a CRM or general place that you keep documents, resources, or anything else they might need.
  • Have a good idea of what you need from your team ahead of time so they can reduce the back and forth and complete tasks efficiently and on-time.

 

Being organized helps reduce stress, increases productivity, and it will help you and your virtual assistant company work well together. If it’s something you need help or advice on, let them know and they can set you up with the right systems to get you into a flow that’s easy to follow.