Working effectively and efficiently with your Virtual Assistant – it takes two to tango!

Published: June 8, 2020

A great Virtual Assistant can make your working life easier. They can pick up jobs that don’t fall within your unique zone of genius (but do in theirs!) and help you free up valuable hours to focus on the all-important job of bringing in new work to your organisation.  They can help provide ideas about how things could be done differently, provide a sounding board for zany business ideas (they are, after all, small business owners in their own right, with a comprehensive understanding of some of the unique challenges that come with running a business), and can help your business to keep ticking over (and your customers happy!) if you are away from the desk on holiday or as a result of illness.

Virtual Assistants can be and do many things, depending on their unique skillset and experience, BUT one thing that the vast majority are not is psychic.  I’ve known fabulous VAs who have completed work to their usual exacting standards but have been left close to tears after customers have exclaimed ‘This isn’t what I wanted!’, but when asked for details of what needed to be re-done (or done differently), the answer was ‘I don’t know, I just know I didn’t want this!’. Because, you know, that’s completely reasonable behaviour (if you are 6)…

I know there are situations where you might not know exactly what you want – you might be looking for an article written, or a logo designed, or a marketing automation created, but not have the first clue where to start as you have never done this yourself before and really have no preconceived ideas that could help in the creative process.  If this is the case and the finished article isn’t quite your cup of tea, tell your VA in a way that is as clear and constructive as possible. Communication is key! VAs and other Freelancers are there to help your business to work more effectively and efficiently, but need to know how you want to achieve this, or at least receive some constructive feedback along the way to achieving this so that they are in line with your business vision and ideals.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, I’ve seen VAs who have been bombarded with communication via every platform going – email, Whatsapp, Facebook Messenger, Zoom, Slack… They’re asked every three and a half minutes to check in with their customer about their progress and are being micromanaged to within an inch of their life.  Trust me, I get that it is difficult to relinquish control over some of the tasks that you may have been carrying out yourself in your business for a number of years, but there are very few people who thrive in conditions where they are micromanaged – particularly if they are a seasoned and successful small business owner themselves.  In my experience, it’s best to pick a single preferred communication tool and trust that your VA has the knowledge, skills and experience to complete your tasks efficiently and effectively (it’s why you chose them in the first place to support you!). If you want to check in with them, consider doing it once a day or only if you have important updates that you want to share with them.  If regular calls are important to you, speak to your VA to find out if they work for them too – I don’t know about you, but once I’m in the ‘zone’ with work, I’m far more productive if I have the chance to work uninterrupted.  In addition to this, the likelihood is that you aren’t your VAs only client, so unless you are paying for their undivided attention all day every day, it might not be cost effective to use the time you do have for a telephone call update meeting that could just have easily been an email!  Telephone calls and video conferencing calls definitely have their place in a VA-Customer relationship (giving people the space to share their feelings about the work, build rapport, and see another human every so often), but it’s best not to over-do them. Zoom fatigue is real!

Developing a strong and successful working relationship with your VA takes a little time and effort.  They aren’t likely to simply waltz into the organisation and understand all of the nuances of the business without some input from you.  There may also be the odd occasion when things don’t quite go to plan – this is completely natural given that we are all human rather than pre-programmed administrative support robots from the future; clear instructions and comprehensive feedback, particularly at the beginning of a working relationship, can really help to build the foundations of a positive and long-lasting working relationship.