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5 Tips for Working with a Virtual Assistant

Are you new to working with a Virtual Assistant (VA)? Not sure where to start, what do to, or how to move forward?

If you’re not sure you’re ready to hire a VA, read our articles ‘when to hire a virtual assistant‘, ‘three key indicators; when to outsource‘, and ‘four benefits of outsourcing‘. If you feel you’re ready to hire part-time support, I’d recommend you read ‘five considerations before hiring a virtual assistant‘, and ‘five types of virtual assistants‘. The later article will help you identify the type of VA you need as this is important to identify prior to searching for your support person.

Here at Bauhinia Solutions, we support our clients on a retainer basis, starting at 10 hours a month to a maximum of 50 hours a month. Not all virtual assistants work this way, some people prefer to work remotely with one person on a full-time basis, or two business owners splitting their time 50/50 or 60/40.

Whether you’re looking to work with a VA on a part-time basis, or looking to hire a full-time support person, to help you work effectively here are five tips to working with a virtual assistant:

Tip 1: Be Patient

With yourself, as well as your newly appointed VA. As with any relationship, there is a ‘dating period’ where you are getting to know each other – your likes, dislikes, communication style, etc. You need to allow time for your assistant to familiarise themself with your business, your industry, your working style, and vice-versa.

If you’re working with us I remind clients that the first couple of weeks to a month, we might ask more questions than usual, and this is our way of 1) getting to know you, 2) gathering all the information we need to support you efficiently and effectively, and 3) identifying your communication and working styles.

The timeframe for getting to know you will vary based on whether you’re working with someone who is local to you, speaks your native language, is familiar with your culture or the culture you’re working within, and how long they have been working as a virtual assistant. It may take longer if your native language is not the same, or if you’ve hired someone based in another country who has a different cultural environment.

Tip 2: Communication is Key

When you first start working with a virtual assistant, communication is key and therefore, we recommend a regular call (phone, Skype or Zoom) to touch base, delegate work, and for your VA to ask questions. Having a regular call, initially, will also allow you to get to know your assistant, and for your assistant to clarify how best to work with you.

One thing to remember is that we are not mind readers (though it would be fun if we were), so this means talking through your to-do-list – getting it out of your head and into a task list so we can sort through it, and identify how we can best support you. We call these ‘brain dumps’. Not only is remembering your to-do-list taking up ‘headspace’, but you are also relying on yourself to remember what needs to be done, and when you’ve got more important aspects of your business to focus on, you really need to let those tasks go.

If you have your to-do-list in your inbox or on a notepad, it makes it a little easier for us because you can easily forward your email, or take a photo of your notepad and send it to us. As we get to know you and your business, you may not need a weekly call and delegating via email becomes easier.

Whether we’re speaking to you regularly or not, responding to emails or WhatsApp messages allows us to continue to move forward with your support tasks. If you don’t respond, it does often stop the flow of work, and while we might reach out a couple of more times, we don’t like harrassing people and will, at some point, pause the work until we hear from you.

Tip 3: Provide Deadlines, if Needed

Deadlines directly impact your time and your VA’s time. They force you to organize your tasks in order of priority so that you and your part-time assistant are working on tasks that move you closer to your most immediate goals.

If you are working with your Virtual Assistant on a full-time basis, and they’re not highly experienced, some training time is required to ensure they understand what is expected of them. Be sure to make allowances for this training when setting your deadlines.

If you are working with your VA on a part-time basis – much how we work with our clients –  (a set amount of hours per month), factor in some extra time on your deadlines for the ‘getting to know you’ phase. Keep in mind when working with a part-time VA, they will likely have other clients to attend to so work won’t be turned around immediately.

These factors are vital when setting deadlines so you can ensure both you and your VA understand what can realistically be expected.

Tip 4: Documenting Processes

It is strongly suggested that some time be set aside to document standard operating procedures (SOP’s) for your business. Although this can be a tedious task, it will save a substantial amount of time in the long-run. Your SOP’s will come in handy when a VA is replaced, goes on leave or has to delegate tasks. You don’t want to have to spend hours on retraining when a simple SOP document can be utilised. This is especially helpful for regular tasks ie: weekly or monthly newsletters or recurring orders.

There are multiple software solutions available to help you manage the documenting processes. At Bauhinia Solutions, we use Teamwork Spaces, however, you could use Word, Google Doc, or something a little more fance, such as SweetProcess. For us, Teamwork Spaces allows us to assign team members access to a client’s SOP as needed e.g. your Client Manager goes on leave and someone else on the team steps in to support you.

By documenting your regular processes and sharing your to-do-list, you won’t have to constantly think about ‘what needs to get done’ or ‘what’s coming up next’. This will allow you the room for a more focussed and productive approach to your business.

Tip 5: Be Kind

While this tip may be a given to some, experience has taught us that even the best of us can overlook it at times. Over the years we have dealt with clients who have name called, spoken down to us or even sent early morning ranting emails because we’ve not actioned an email that was sent at midnight. At times, we have even been yelled at because a client is having a bad day.

We are all human and have all been guilty of being unreasonable at times. When dealing with your own VA, we implore you to be realistic about your expectations and to take every opportunity to be kind and understanding. This does not mean you need to tolerate incompetence, but kindness and firmness are not mutually exclusive.

Virtual assistants are people, too! They will always be more likely to do great work for you if you treat them with respect and kindness.

Virtual assistants can wear many hats on your behalf. They can relieve you of all the repetitive, administrative, and clerical tasks associated with your chosen industry, or they can be assisting you to marketing your business on and offline. These 5 tips will allow you to take full advantage of a VA’s skill by avoiding the common pitfalls many people make.

Take your time and do your research to find, hire and manage the right virtual assistant for you and your business. Find the one that will result in the best returns on your investment. You can save hours upon hours a week that will free you up to work on growing your business or even spending more time doing what you love.

Virtual Support Specialist, Hong Kong

If you are looking to hire a virtual assistant, consider the Bauhinia Solutions team. We have years of experience on our side, and have all the processes in place to save you time, frustration and money. If interested, organise a call with me to discuss your business support needs.

Written by: Nicole Graham


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Established in 2007, Bauhinia Solutions is a boutique virtual business support agency with a team of dedicated and experienced business specialists, administrators, and virtual assistants.