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Five Tips for Getting the Most Out of Your Virtual Assistant Service Experience


Barnaby Lashbrooke

Founder and CEO of Time etc, author of The Hard Work Myth

9 minute read

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Whether you’re starting your company or you’re a seasoned entrepreneur with a fully loaded calendar, chances are you don’t have time to do every task yourself. That’s why many business owners in a similar situation turn to virtual assistants as their most important hire. Unfortunately, where many fail is throwing their virtual assistant in the deep end, not communicating and not playing to their strengths.

Doing that means the relationship and results with your virtual assistant are doomed to fail. If you’re keen to avoid that and make the partnership run like a well-oiled machine, here are five tips for getting the most out of your virtual assistant service experience.

Why You Should Prepare to Hire a Virtual Assistant

You’re busy and need someone to lighten the load — that’s where virtual assistants come in. Overall, this is the best outcome for you as it means you can hand off the important yet repetitive tasks while focusing on more pressing business matters to help your company grow.

You should also prepare to hire a virtual assistant if you want to get the benefit you need. First, decide what it is you want to achieve. Save time? Handoff tasks permanently? Save money by decreasing operational costs? Whatever your chosen benefit is to reach out to a virtual assistant, hiring them can make this happen.

Perhaps the biggest reason why you should hire a virtual assistant is it helps you avoid failure. You only have so much time in the day and so much brain space. Sure, it can feel tempting to do everything by yourself as you’re in the mindset of “It’s quicker if I do it,” but that’ll eventually lead you to fail down the line.

Virtual assistants help relieve you of the tasks that don’t necessarily need your focus. Your business might be your baby, but you’d only hold it back by trying to wear every single hat.

See: The Ultimate Guide to Finding a Virtual Assistant

What Happens if You Don’t Prepare

If you don’t prepare or put the effort in with your virtual assistant, it’s only going to end in one way: failure.

You can’t plan a poor onboarding, you can’t not communicate and you can’t expect them to just get on with it. You’re relying on them to help you and they depend on you to set them up to help grow your business. Choosing to neglect them won’t impact the virtual assistant; it’ll only negatively impact your business in the long run.

There will also be a lack of engagement and the virtual assistant won’t be to blame for being disengaged either. You want them to buy into your business and your vision and the way to do that is to communicate regularly and check in with them. You want your virtual assistant to understand your business’ trajectory and having that engagement means they’ll be just as dedicated to helping you achieve your goals.

Ultimately, the benefit you were chasing when hiring a virtual assistant is something you won’t achieve. You’d waste your time and also the virtual assistant’s time. Prepare their onboarding, communicate regularly and put the effort in to make the relationship a success.

See: Five Essential Tech Tips For Getting Started With A Virtual Assistant

#1: Be Clear on Who You Want

To save you a lot of time and effort on sitting through countless interviews, be clear on who you want as your virtual assistant. It might be tempting to rush the process so you can bring one in as soon as possible, but that can be counterproductive.

Take a moment to think about personality. What sort of traits would you want your virtual assistant to have? Fun, chatty and an extrovert? Or would you want someone who is introverted and just gets the job done? Decide on what personality will work well for you and keep in mind that this is someone you’ll regularly work with. So, note down the key personality traits you need so the interview process makes it easier to filter out the best-fit virtual assistants from those you don’t see it working out with.

Then consider their background. Do you want someone skilled in a particular area and you plan to utilize their strengths? Or even someone straight out of education who you want to give an opportunity to? Figure out what your background deal-breakers are to help make your decision easier. It’ll be a good idea to work out the tasks you plan to offload. If anything in those tasks requires some specialism, find a virtual assistant skilled in that area.

Next up, be clear on what experience you’d like from your virtual assistant. Do you want someone that needs an opportunity and can do the basics? Or, do you want someone proven who has passed rigorous tests for a service provider to have them on their books? These experience virtual assistants tend to be the go-to for many entrepreneurs as they’re self-starters who have been around a while and know what’s involved.

What skills does your virtual assistant need? This is critical if your business requires a particular skill-set that not everyone can get to grips with right off the bat. However, be realistic with your expectations, too, as not everyone will be an expert in your niche like you are. Find out the skills a virtual assistant has or can pick up quickly.

The most important part of being clear on what you want is to relay this to your provider so they can find you the ideal virtual assistant. Without doing this, you’ll end up with a bad fit, whereas the fix was simple — speak to your provider.

#2: Be Clear on What the Virtual Assistant Will Do

The second tip to get the most out of your virtual assistant service experience is to be crystal clear on what they need to do. The last thing you want is your virtual assistant to sign on and you’re either too busy to speak to them or both sat twiddling your thumbs on what their main job will be.

Effort is key. Take the time to carefully craft a compelling and engaging job description. Be clear on the role and highlight some of the tasks the virtual assistant can expect to work on. Doing this means:

  • You’ll attract the best virtual assistant candidates
  • You can measure success and ensure expectations are met
  • You can offer accountability
  • You promote greater productivity

A job description doesn’t need to take hours out of your day. While you might be busy, taking a little time out to write a detailed job description will benefit you in the future.

Another thing to take into account is to look at the job description from a long-term perspective. It’s clear you’ll think about what you need doing immediately. However, while you think about their responsibilities on day one, also consider how these might grow in the future. These responsibilities need to be clear so nothing comes as a surprise down the line. Explain what the role is right now and what it will evolve into over time.

#3: Delegate the Right Tasks

To get the most out of your virtual assistant service experience, make sure you delegate the right stuff to them. That means handing off tasks that currently waste your time and take the focus away from business-critical matters yet don’t need specific experience to do. The more skills they need in a particular area, the more time you’ll have to spend with them so the virtual assistant gets up to speed.

It’s likely you don’t have time as a luxury. You don’t want to spend those valuable minutes upskilling someone on tasks you’re better off doing yourself. Think simple and think repetitive. Over time, these are the tasks that’ll save you hours.

The issue is many entrepreneurs make the critical error of delegating the wrong tasks. For example, they delegate tasks to do with sales and marketing. While it can seem like a good idea, you don’t want a virtual assistant to outreach and win your business — they shouldn’t bring in new business for you or help you market your business, even though it can be tempting to utilize them in these crucial areas.

Instead, find tasks that don’t directly grow your business but need doing. So, they’re just as critical, but they aren’t directly impacting the business growth as they should be tasks that save you time. Although, it is easier said than done as the default tends to be delegating essential tasks virtual assistants shouldn’t be taking on.

To help you delegate tasks more effectively, utilize the Eisenhower matrix as a tool to use.

The Eisenhower matrix is a decision-making tool designed to help you prioritize your tasks based on how urgent and vital they are. It’s split into four quadrants or sections, which looks like:

  • Section 1: Important and urgent
  • Section 2: Important but not urgent
  • Section 3: Urgent but not important
  • Section 4: Not important, not urgent

The premise is simple: Make a list of all your tasks and sort them into each section. To help you decide which tasks to delegate to your virtual assistant, always start with the tasks that need completing daily, weekly or monthly. Too many important and urgent tasks on your virtual assistant’s plate isn’t effective delegating.

#4: Explain the Task Information

What most people are guilty of when working with a virtual assistant is skipping the explanations. Any task you delegate to your virtual assistant is one you need to thoroughly explain, regardless of how much time it takes. Again, down the line, it’s a bigger time-saver with fewer questions and better results. Without explaining how to complete tasks, you’ll get poor results and you’ll become frustrated.

If you want the tasks completed to a high standard, instructions are vital. You can’t expect results and perfection if you don’t take the time to explain what’s required. Without it, you can only be frustrated at yourself as, in hindsight, you’ll realize instructions before starting a task would have helped.

You don’t need to do anything spectacular with the instructions either. You don’t need fancy presentations with quirky transitions. A simple one-page Google Doc for each task will suffice. Make sure to include instructions, step-by-step guides and any access details they’ll need in the document.

Remember, you’ll need to do this less and less over time as the virtual assistant becomes more experienced in completing the task. However, it’s essential to begin with.

#5: Be Patient and Available

Another error many people make is assuming a virtual assistant needs no help and that you can shut them out, leave them to it and the results will speak for themselves. It doesn’t matter how talented a virtual assistant is; this approach will never work. Instead, you can get the most out of your virtual assistant experience by being patient with them and also being available.

In the early days, you need to be extra patient and also be available to communicate. This isn’t going to be a partnership that lasts one week — a virtual assistant is yours for the long run. As they become more familiar with you, your business, your tasks and your processes, you won’t always need to be around, but the expectation is that you’re on-hand in the early days.

Before you even discuss the tasks, introduce yourself. Get to know your virtual assistant and build a rapport with them, so you get a feel for how you both work. Overall, be available to communicate on the phone or via email rather than leaving them in the dark with nobody to turn to.

In some cases, you might need to help out on specific tasks if required, just to offer a walkthrough, so the virtual assistant knows what to do. Remember, this is one big learning curve, so you need to be tolerant and patient as they get up to speed with everything. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking it’s a waste of time and you’re tempted to skip this step.

They want to help you and your business. The benefit is your business grows, so invest generously in helping them. Don’t drive your virtual assistant away because you were impatient and unavailable. You never know when you might lose someone who could have been precisely what you needed.

Bonus Tip: Sell Yourself

This might sound funny, but just like any new work relationship, don’t forget to sell yourself. Just look at what businesses do when posting job descriptions when they’re on a recruitment drive. They don’t just list the best bits of the job; they showcase the benefits, the culture and all the fun, exciting aspects of working there. These are the things that tempt people to accept a job offer.

The same applies here. Don’t forget to sell yourself and why you’re someone they’d enjoy working with. First impressions count, so explain why a virtual assistant would want to dedicate their working life to helping you achieve your goals. Set yourself apart from the rest and stand out as being someone worth helping and you’ll attract the best candidates who want to support you.

Many overlook this. Virtual assistants don’t want to work with unapproachable people and don’t sell themselves as someone who would be a joy to work with. Create that atmosphere for them and remember, virtual assistant relationships are like any other — it’s key to long-term success.

Following these tips will put you in a good position to get the most out of your virtual assistant service experience. But first, you need to source where you can find the best virtual assistants that will help you achieve your goals.

A little plug (and a huge shortcut)

Getting the most out of the virtual assistant experience is one thing, but a bigger challenge is finding the right one. You can’t overlook this as the right fit is critical to your growth. Pick the wrong personality, show no attention or being unclear means the process can fail from the get-go. Don’t rush the decision; find one that fits your company culture, communication style and industry.

That’s where we can help.

At Time etc, it’s our mission to help you find the perfect virtual assistant for you and your business. Our ecosystem is full of talented and experienced virtual assistants that work to the standard we expect. We know how critical it is to find the right virtual assistant, so we carefully match you to the most relevant assistant based on the personality traits, skills and experience you need.

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About the author

Barnaby Lashbrooke is the founder and CEO of Virtual Assistant service Time etc as well as the author of The Hard Work Myth, recently recommended by Sir Richard Branson. Barnaby is a Forbes Columnist on productivity and is also an accomplished entrepreneur, selling more than $35 million worth of services.

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