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How To Get Your Virtual Assistant Started


Barnaby Lashbrooke

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

13 minute read

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As the world continues to spin, digitally speaking, virtual jobs are becoming more and more mainstream. In fact, it’s becoming a common practice to hire virtually, without ever meeting the person you’re hiring face-to-face (not counting Zoom meetings!)

Virtual assistants are no exception to this.

While onboarding a new employee virtually, especially an assistant, may seem a bit cumbersome and unnatural, it’s really not much different from hiring someone in person at a physical location where they’ll clock in to fulfill their tasks each day.

In this chapter, How To Get Your Virtual Assistant Started, we’re going to outline the steps and criteria necessary to successfully welcome your new virtual assistant. We’ll cover the critical details, such as setting expectations, delegating tasks, and how to keep things lively and productive.

We’ll also get into the things you should avoid—such as task dumping.

Once you familiarize yourself with the steps, you’ll be fully prepared to take on your new employee.

Why Hire A Virtual Assistant In The First Place

Whether you’re running an empire or a small business, at some point, you’re going to need some help.

In today’s digital world, many of us operate out of our own homes, a coffee shop, or even a rented workspace. In this case, you may not have the resources, physical or otherwise, to hire an in-person assistant.

However, you still have hundreds of emails to reply to, client concerns to address, production to oversee, appointments to keep, and the list goes on.

That’s where a virtual assistant comes in handy.

Regardless of how specific or general your needs may be, having a virtual assistant (or two) available comes with some significant benefits.

Those benefits include:

- Total flexibility in terms of time, tasks, and payment methods
- Cost-effectiveness, since you only have to pay for the services you require versus a salary
- More time to focus on growing your business rather than non-core tasks

See: Virtual Assistant Vs. Freelancer: The Best Ways To Outsource


Getting Your Virtual Assistant Started: A Definitive Guide

Once you decide to hire a virtual assistant, the next critical step is the training process. It’s important to think of this training as an investment since it’s something that takes quite a bit of time and effort to get right.

It’s also important to remember that your virtual assistant is a human being—not a ready-to-go software program. The entire purpose of taking the time to train them properly is to ensure that they understand how your business works so they can execute their tasks with high-level efficiency.

Training also enables you to build a trusting relationship with your virtual assistant, which is essential considering you’ll be depending on them to handle crucial day-to-day aspects of your business.

For some of you, hiring a virtual assistant will be your first step to scaling your business. Therefore, training also promotes the change you need to go from a one-man (or woman) band to a team. In a sense, when you train your first virtual assistant, you’re also training yourself to become a stronger leader.

There are three primary steps you’ll need to take to get your new virtual assistant started properly, which are outlined in this chapter as:

- Creating an efficient onboarding process
- Delegating tasks effectively
- Fostering a productive environment

If you follow these steps to the last detail, you should have no problem training your new virtual assistant to become a valuable part of your team.

Step 1: Creating an Efficient Onboarding Process

In both real life and online, the employee onboarding process is essential. It sets the tone for how things are done under your leadership. It’s also critical to the learning experience of your new virtual assistant since it provides the necessary guidelines for them to do their job properly.

Lastly, it demonstrates whether or not this person is a good fit for your business.

Here’s how to create an efficient onboarding process:

Define their role and responsibilities

The first thing you need to do is acknowledge exactly what you need a virtual assistant for. The typical roles and responsibilities that virtual assistants take on include:

- Managing email accounts
- Managing social media platforms
- Scheduling appointments, meetings, and managing travel activities
- Writing/managing blog content
- Financial admin
- File storage and organization
- Data entry tasks
- Customer support
- Managing your work schedule

Once you know what you’ll be needing from your virtual assistant, you can clearly communicate to them exactly what their scope of work will be.


Set expectations

As a leader, it’s your responsibility to set the expectations for your new virtual assistant.

Setting expectations includes:

- Determining when you will send out payments*
- How much you will pay them*
- How you plan to track their progress*
- Number of hours you expect them to work
- How you will be communicating tasks, projects,etc.
- Your expected response times for communications
- What will happen if the work doesn’t meet the set standards

Keep in mind that these expectations go both ways. Your virtual assistant will expect you to hold up your end of the bargain as well.

*At Time etc we'll look after all of this for you, so you don't need to think about it or discuss it with your assistant.

Prepare their access to accounts and services

Whatever you use to run your business online, your virtual assistant will need access to. That means you’ll need to take the time to set up account profiles and passwords for them, including the work email you’ll be expecting them to use.

This also means they may need to download certain apps or upload specific office productivity software.

Moreover, it’s important that you maintain control over these accounts by monitoring their activity. In the event that you and your virtual assistant part ways, it’s your responsibility to change passwords, delete accounts, and ensure they no longer have access to your business information, software, or applications.

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

Provide them with ample instructions

Not only do you need to verbally communicate what you’ll be needing from your new virtual assistant, but it’s also critical that you provide them with clear instructions that cover all the bases in written form.

In other words, create a step-by-step guide that they can refer to any time they forget how to do something.

This guide doesn’t just have to be in written form either. It’s also a good idea to create instructional videos and provide webinars for the specific tools they’ll be using, as many people are visual learners.

If you have the resources available, you may also want to try setting up practice sessions for certain tasks, such as customer service email responses, filing, and so on.

Additionally, make sure they know if they have any questions that they can contact you. In fact, you should encourage them to ask questions, especially during their first few weeks so they’re not swinging in the dark.


Take the time to get to know them

It’s important to remember that your virtual assistant is a human being, and this human being will count as an additional representation of your brand. You want to make sure they have the right attitude and are enthusiastic about working with you.

More importantly, you want to build a trusting relationship and repertoire with them. So, take the time to get to know them and more about who they are and what motivates them. Share your vision, values, and goals, and let them in on how they fit into your business.

Trust us, they’ll appreciate being treated like a real part of the team rather than a virtual outsider. Getting to know them will also help them feel more comfortable when the time comes to ask you questions.

Step 2: Delegating Tasks Effectively

Generally speaking, you can expect the training process for your new virtual assistant to take a minimum of two weeks. This is partly to initiate the onboarding process and partly to allow them to get settled and used to taking on their new tasks.

Two weeks may seem like a long time, but remember, this is an investment. If you overwhelm your new virtual assistant with tasks while they’re still learning the ropes, the outcome won’t be beneficial for either of you.

So, here’s the proper way to get your virtual assistant acquainted with their new responsibilities:

Start slowly

Starting out, you only want to delegate one or two tasks for your new virtual assistant to carry out by your intended deadline. Once completed, assign a few more, adding on new tasks each week.

This will give your virtual assistant time to adjust and gain experience using the tools and project management system you’ve provided them. It also gives you the chance to monitor how well they do and gauge where they’re at.

Schedule tasks in advance

Just as you would plan your work week in advance, you also want to delegate your virtual assistant’s tasks in advance. This will give them the necessary amount of time to fulfill the tasks at hand and meet the intended deadline.

This is especially important if your virtual assistant isn’t working full-time for your business. If this is the case, you can guarantee that they’ll be working for other clients to fill their schedules. That means if you assign them a last-minute task, there’s a good chance they won’t be able to complete it in time, if at all.

Give clear instructions

When it comes to newer projects outside the realm of non-core tasks, you need to outline your expectations and how you want your assistant to execute each new assignment.

That means taking the time to discuss the project or new tasks with them in real-time, so they can ask questions or for additional resources if needed.


Check-in frequently

Especially during the first few weeks, it’s your responsibility to remain hands-on and check in on your new virtual assistant to see how they’re doing.

After all, you’ll be monitoring their work and efficiency, which makes this the perfect time to interject in a positive way to offer them advice, correct their mistakes, and so on. These first few weeks are a critical time because they’re also when bad habits can form, which is something you’ll want to nip in the bud.

Depending on the tasks you’ve delegated to them, you can arrange to check in with them after each task is completed or however frequently you feel is necessary to observe their progress.

Identify repetitive tasks

As you and your new virtual assistant move forward, you’ll be able to establish the repetitive core tasks and the non-core tasks.

For example, repetitive core tasks include answering emails, scheduling appointments, responding to customer concerns, etc. These are the things that will become second nature to your virtual assistant, and they’ll carry them out automatically each week, streamlining the effort on both sides.

However, it’s important to identify and separate these tasks as part of expectation management. If you expect your virtual assistant to do certain things throughout the week, you’ll need to ensure they understand this. It’ll make scheduling easier, especially if you need to assign them a new project in addition to their usual workload.

Lastly, a critical benefit of identifying repetitive tasks ensures that your virtual assistant understands that you’re trying to create a long-term relationship. Not only will this inspire them to grow with your business, but it means they’ll carve out specific time for you in their schedule each week.

Step 3: Fostering A Productive Environment

We can only hope that as we train our new virtual assistants, they’ll exceed our expectations and feel comfortable taking initiative and ownership when it comes to certain responsibilities.

To get to this place, you, as a leader, must create and foster a productive environment. Arguably, there are a thousand methods you can use to inspire your employees, but when it comes to your virtual employees, it’s best to start with the tried and true basics.

Consider the following your skeleton for creating and fostering a productive environment:

Be patient, communicative, and collaborative

Whether you’ve just hired your virtual assistant or they’ve been at it for a while, mistakes will be made. Especially during the first few weeks, however, you need to demonstrate patience and allow them to make mistakes and learn from those mistakes without responding harshly.

Having said that, it’s equally important to be as communicative and collaborative as possible. When you work with your virtual assistant on their problem areas, it provides a better opportunity for them to learn how you would handle things in a way that aligns with your vision—which is exactly what you want from an assistant, virtual or in real life.


Schedule a time for two-way feedback

After the first two weeks of frequent check-ins, start scheduling weekly check-ins with your virtual assistant, and maintain these appointments no matter what. Use each check-in to give your virtual assistant feedback on the work they’ve been doing and ask for feedback in return.

This will allow you to ensure that everything is being done as it should and it’ll give you an idea of things you can improve upon. It’ll also allow you to practice being communicative and collaborative, which will only strengthen their abilities.

Be mindful of time

Part of outlining your new virtual assistant’s duties, deadlines, and the number of hours you expect them to work, is to manage expectations—on both ends.

It’s more than likely that certain needs will arise at the end of the day or you’ll forget to assign certain tasks, and that’s okay. What’s not okay is contacting your virtual assistant after hours with last-minute assignments or requests.

You must remember that your virtual assistant is still a human being with a life of their own outside of their work. If the two of you agree to keep a nine to five clock, don’t expect them to respond to late-night texts or emails.

Unfortunately, this kind of thing is very common among virtual work relationships. However, to be frank, going beyond the agreed-upon scope of work and time frame is not only stressful and inconsiderate, but it’s also abusive.

Avoid task-dumping

When we say task-dumping, we’re talking about adding multiple last-minute tasks to your new virtual assistant’s schedule. This same rule applies to a virtual assistant that has been working with you for some time as well.

The entire point of identifying repetitive core tasks and delegating non-core tasks in advance is to avoid any last-minute stress and incomplete projects. However, especially in the beginning, if you overwhelm your new virtual assistant, they likely won’t be able to meet your standards of work since they’re still becoming acquainted with what those standards are.

The bottom line—if you stress out your employees, they won’t be as productive.

Your future virtual assistant will potentially become your most valuable asset. However, their quality of work entirely depends on how you train them. So, take the time to assess exactly what you need assistance with. Then, create the necessary guidelines for training and focus on building a working relationship based on trust that will help you propel your business forward.

Let Us Help

At Time etc we make the process of finding and starting with a virtual assistant easy—talk to us today to find out how.

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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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