As an entrepreneur in business for several years now, I’ve had the opportunity to work with various virtual assistants as well as different types of support people. I’ve hired consultants, contractors, virtual assistants, family, friends, and support people from other countries as well as those that are right here in my own home town. As a mompreneur, I believe support is an essential part of the formula for your own success and sanity! That is why SUPPORT is one of my key Sanity Dimensions™, and honestly, while coaching mompreneurs… support is one of the most important areas I assist my clients to set up.
Virtual Assistant Basics
Virtual assistants can enable work from home moms in business to reclaim their time, systematize their business processes and DELEGATE! Having adequate support people makes it possible for you to focus on your own brilliant work and still have time for your self and your family. The equation works beautifully because while you are doing your work in the world, others who are more skilled at administrative and support tasks can help you by focusing on their unique skills and abilities.
1. Start Small
To start delegating effectively to your VA, choose something important but not too tasking. And don’t try to hand over too many tasks at once. To be effective, you need to create systems to clearly communicate, share expectations, establish trust and ensure effectiveness. This will help you and your VA create long term success.
2. Work out your own business processes first, then test them before delegating.
When a mom entrepreneur has been doing the work herself and has a good system in place, tasks are familiar and much easier to delegate. You can easily relate to the scope of the work and can effectively estimate what a task requires to get done correctly. So an essential strategy to work effectively with your virtual assistant is to clearly articulate what you want done. Not only will clarity make it very easier to find someone with the right skill set, but it will also make it easier for a VA to step in and take over. Since your VA will implement, you need to be specific to make delegation smooth.
When launching a new initiative from scratch involve the VA in the planning process. Ideally, the VA has experience in that particular area and can share her expertise and help you determine the best way to implement your ideas. Delegating is all about building efficiencies into your business. Incorporating the VA in the planning process will make the task of delegating that much cleaner and more efficient.
3. Build a relationship with your virtual assistant for the best results.
Remember… you are building a relationship with your VA! Mutual respect is the most important thing in a successful VA-client relationship as well as a mutual willingness to listen to one another. Even though you are paying for a service or task to be completed, understanding your support person’s personality, needs and style, along with the flexibility to adjust your approach, will be essential to your long-term success.
4. The ‘Devil’ is in the details!
The devil is in the details means that details will get you every time! Routines, tasks, and systems should be given to those who love details. Many entrepreneurs are big-picture thinkers and struggle with completing tasks consistently and regularly. It’s important to determine what parts of your business require routine tasks and repeat systems. When you repeat something even one time, get in the habit of creating a method or procedure that you can follow or delegate in the future.
5. Write it down.
Many virtual assistants work with several different people. So an important strategy to work effectively on a team is to write things down. Additionally, it’s important to document your procedures in one place to make things easy to find and share with others. I use Google to document processes. Then my support people can tweak and edit the processes as we go along. If you want things done a specific way, say so. If you’ve already established and documented procedures, send them to your VA.
6. Let your VA handle details.
In order to stay effective with your VA, as trust develops, you will likely move away from the details. As you become less involved in the details, you will lose track of them QUICKLY. If you have written procedural details and can find them when you need to… there’s no need to panic. It’s all good and easy-peasy for the ‘next’ time you have to do something on your own. (When I finally did this for my business, it made me feel like singing the Hallelujah Chorus! In fact, it still does!)
7. Set up a communication system and stick to it.
One of the things that make most Virtual Assistant’s successful, is the efficiency in how they actually do work. VA’s can handle an extraordinary number of tasks daily. Some are constantly shifting gears.
They may be ‘eyeballs deep’ into some other client’s project while you are working on something and need to communicate. If email works, use it consistently.
To work more effectively with your VA, find a consistent approach. To be successful, you’ll want to avoid shifting methods. Shifting your communication approach causes inconsistency and can create chaos. Discuss your preferred method of communication and how you will manage tasks, track time on projects, share information regularly and handle breakdowns… they are bound to happen at some point.
8. Use the right tools for the job and adapt.
There are differences between planning, scheduling, implementation, and feedback. So to work effectively with a VA you’ll need tools. There are SO many tools and applications that help you and your VA manage tasks and communicate regularly. Two of my go-to tools are Asana and GoogleDocs. Check them out… you’ll see why! Don’t stop there though. If you hire a VA with a team, they will likely use their own project/task management tool and may ask you to adapt. Tools such as Basecamp and Trello can allow you flexibility too.
Most importantly – CHECK IN WITH YOUR VIRTUAL ASSISTANT… especially if you are new to this layer of support and ask for their advice in this area. It is their area of genius work and often they have had previous experience with several platforms, apps, and software, and can guide you toward the best decision for you.
9. Match your virtual assistant’s skills with the tasks and results you desire.
Another way to work effectively with a VA is to find a person whose skills match your needs. A successful VA generally has a wide understanding of software and the ability to learn quickly.
Stop spending your time trying to learn every piece of software or each new application. Find a technical whiz and ask them about their past experience with tools, programs, and apps, etc. This is an area where referrals are great! Ask people in your network or those whose work you admire who supports them. Referrals are really important to determine if a VA’s skills match your gaps. The right VA can save you hundreds (probably more like thousands…) of hours and truly add value to your business at a fraction of what it would cost you in time.
10. Be specific about what you want, and time on tasks.
When you want strategies to work effectively with virtual assistants be specific. Be as specific as possible regarding what you want them to accomplish. And be ESPECIALLY clear on estimating time on task. Sometimes, with a new project, it’s helpful to set a time limit. Identify a stopping point where you’d like the VA to check in with you. I’ve used this technique often. I may say something like: If this takes longer than 2 hours, please check in with me first.
A successful virtual assistant generally has a wide understanding of software and the ability to learn quickly. Stop spending your time trying to learn every piece of software or each new application.
Instead, find a VA who is a technical whiz. And before you hire someone, ask her about their past experience with tools, programs, and apps, etc. This is an area where referrals are great! Ask people in your network or those whose work you admire who supports them. Referrals are really important to determine if a VA’s skills match your gaps. The right VA can save you hundreds (probably more like thousands…) of hours of time and truly add value to your business at a fraction of what it would cost you in time.
And, I’ve been ‘surprised’ a few times by support people when they report how long things took to complete. If you are paying hourly – it’s important for you to understand where those hours are spent, and evaluate whether the time is being spent value-added tasks. This brings up another important point… time tracking.
Some VAs have sophisticated tracking systems. Some use online timers that track to the second how long they spend on your work. When reliable tracking systems are missing, set up a system of checks and balances. This will help you know how much time is spent and can budget and/or shift priorities accordingly.
11. Enroll your virtual assistant in your vision.
One of the best strategies to work effectively with a virtual assistant is to enroll her in your vision. A great VA likely has a LOT of past experience. Many can also assist with brainstorming the best methods to accomplish your final goals. And an effective VA completes several tasks, it’s helpful when they can support your vision. Help them to work “with” you, not necessarily “for” you. This shift in perspective can be the difference between having a taskmaster and creating a true and lasting business partnership.
12. Provide quick feedback.
At any given time, virtual assistants may at any time be ‘back burner-ing’ any number of projects. They are often juggling tasks for various clients because the clients are “too busy” to provide feedback or additional content. Your quick response helps VA’s work efficiently… and saves you money in the long run. When you postpone feedback, it takes extra time for your support person to get back up to speed. This is frustrating for your VA, and pointless to pay for work on projects if you don’t work on your portion. When you want to improve these 12 strategies will help you work effectively with virtual assistants.
If you need assistance with getting assistants…
This is one area in your business development when it may be a really good idea to work with a coach. Take time to document procedures, and streamline your processes, then find someone to support your needs. Contact me for a free Discovery Call to see if I can help as your coach to light your path, save you time and help you determine what you need help with and who best can support you! Click here for a great comprehensive guide on VAs.
I want to thank my special and wonderful support people for providing MOST of the great content for this post: Renée Maniscalco of Renee’ the VA, Janice Clarke of BizMSolutions.com and Janet Barclay of Golden Horseshoe Virtual Assistants, author of Working Effectively with Your Virtual Assistant. You KNOW I could not live without your help and support! Thank you from the bottom of my heart!
Special Thanks to my Virtual Assistant Team
I interviewed a few of my favorite virtual assistants and supporters to verify my thoughts. This post represents the key essentials that I’ve learned about how to work effectively with support staff. (Special shout out to Today’s Admin, Renée Maniscalco of Renee’ the VA, Janice Clarke of BizMSolutions.com and Janet Barclay of Golden Horseshoe Virtual Assistants, author of Working Effectively with Your Virtual Assistant.)