Tim Ferriss of The Four Hour Work Week, Michael Hyatt, Chris Ducker, and scores of entrepreneur gurus go on about how working with a virtual assistant can boost your business.
I’d agree – except for one thing. If you don’t do it the right way, hiring a virtual assistant can actually increase your workload and make you more frustrated. To help you get the benefits while avoiding the pitfalls, here are our top 6 recommendations for potholes to avoid.
You’re a business owner, so I’m quite sure you’re one smart cookie. Know yourself. What is your patience level and how much time do you have available for training in your new Virtual Assistant? Some people are willing and happy to train in a new employee, perhaps extensively. You may want to walk your VA through it in a phone call, to screen share or to record a tutorial – all great options. If you’re one of these people, then by all means, hire someone cheaper who will require a higher learning curve. This is a fantastic opportunity, both for you to save money and for your VA to learn new skills. It’s a win-win all around… unless it isn’t.
If you don’t have the time or the patience right now to train in someone new, then right off the bat you must hire someone with skills that closely match your needs.
I had one client who wanted her blog posts to come out style-ready to submit to Cosmopolitan magazine. I had another client who wanted her blog posts to be law journal-appropriate. One client wants the cheapest travel plans available, while another must have first class airline seats and luxury hotel accommodations. It’s all good, it’s all legitimate and it’s all do-able… if you TELL YOUR VA.
I know that I, personally, will go to the ends of the earth to meet my clients’ exact needs, but very unfortunately, having not been blessed with extra-sensory perception, I need my client to enumerate these specifications. For help with specifics, check out these email tips and templates from Ramit Sethi, who has spent 65 hours refining his email communication with his assistants.
If you assume your virtual assistant needs everything spelled out (at the beginning, until she gets to know you), you’ll get the results you want. If you assume she can read between the lines, you may have do-over, after do-over, after do-over.
A VA relationship is done building-block style. You ask me to take care of a task, and then I take your feedback and use it as a foundation for carrying out that next task. If I get no feedback, I have nothing but a question mark on which to build that next task. It’s like construction on quicksand. Constructive criticism is part of tweaking, which is part of the learning curve. With no concrete feedback, the learning curve goes on forever.
A responsible virtual assistant will charge you by the hour – of actual 100% net work time. My clock isn’t on while I’m turning on the computer, taking a coffee break or even when I’m blowing my nose. You hire your VA to take time-draining tasks off your plate. If it thankfully doesn’t take up your time anymore, it will be taking up someone’s!
If you are unrealistic about how long tasks should take, or you keep pushing your VA to accomplish more in less time, it might look like she is, but the quality will suffer. If she’s rushing as quickly as she can to keep you happy on the timesheet, chances are she’s inadvertently missing some potentially important details of the job.
Virtual Assistant Israel has a basic list of hardware and software they expect and demand for me to have, which I do. You can assume most virtual assistants will have the basics: internet browsers, some type of office suite… It’s also entirely reasonable for you to ask your VA to get any necessary software your specialty demands – if you’re willing to pay for it. If you expect her to have niche software already or to buy it herself, you’re going to run up against a brick wall that will drain your time.
Additionally, don’t ask your VA to download sketchy-looking, untested freeware. If she’s responsible (and you hope your VA is, right?), she won’t want to take the chance of viruses or to endanger her other clients with a potential security breach of her system.
You wanted me to answer your emails and handle scheduling. Now you’re wondering if I can write your blog posts and find something for you and your spouse to do in honor of your anniversary? Don’t keep it inside and keep doing all that work on your own. It’s fine to ask. The worst that can happen is I’ll tell you I’m clueless. The best that can happen is you unload a whole lot more brain weight from your own to-do list.
In short, communication and being realistic is the key. A carefully-planned sky is the limit.
Think you’re ready to push your business to the next level? Be in touch for a consultation about what type of virtual assistant would work best for you.
Submitted by Aviela