A virtual assistant is a great way to help the Home Office Warrior to be more productive. Here's some tips on working with your own VA.

There are many benefits to effectively managing your schedule and tasks. Not only will you get more done at work but you’ll have more time to focus on your hobbies and loved ones. Yet many of us struggle with task-management and end up overwhelmed by our to-do lists. A virtual assistant is one reliable way to reduce day-to-day stress and multiply your time.

A virtual assistant (or VA) provides services to individuals or businesses from a remote location. They’re popular with online businesses and entrepreneurs who have tasks they need help with but don’t want to hire people to work at a physical location.

What can a Virtual Assistant Help You With?

A virtual assistant can do anything from managing professional social media accounts, setting appointments, and clerical work. Some are skilled in web design, marketing, or PR work. A virtual assistant can make up for your weaknesses and complement your strengths. Here are some example tasks a VA can do for you:

  • Set travel plans
  • Track finances
  • Manage your schedule
  • Respond to emails
  • Take notes
  • Data entry

Perhaps you’re great at coding but have trouble finding clients. Or maybe you’re great at sales but not so good at organizing your daily activities. Whatever tasks you need help with, there’s likely a VA out there suited for them.

man with headphones working on computer

Before You Hire

Before hiring a VA, there are some questions you should review to make sure you’re ready to take this step. By answering these questions, you’ll ensure the most productive working relationship possible with your new virtual assistant:

  • What tasks do I want the VA to perform?
  • Can I clearly outline each step of the task?
  • How much am I willing to spend on hiring a VA?
  • How will I use the free time once these tasks are delegated?
  • Am I ready to trust someone with these tasks?

Start with a Trial

It can be nerve-racking to choose a VA, since you have no way of knowing how they’ll perform until you’re working with them. Fortunately, if you hire your virtual assistant through a firm, you won’t have to sign a contract right away.

Even if you aren’t going through a firm, you can contact a potential VA and set up a trial task. Instead of locking the VA into a long-term arrangement, just contract them for a set timeframe, at first.

female virtual assistant with laptop in lap

This period of time can act as a trial period to see if the virtual assistant is a good fit for you. Perhaps you need a virtual assistant to help you edit some copy on your website. Instead of handing over the entire project and hoping it goes well, begin by asking them to edit one page.

If you want to hire a virtual assistant to help you organize your schedule, ask them for a sample of how they might design your calendar for a week and how they would communicate that to you. After this, you’ll have a better idea of whether it’s someone you should work with or not.

Better yet, start with a trial job.  Identify an easily specified, self-contained task to see how they work.

A trial job can also save you time in the interview process as well.  Rather than spending a lot of time interviewing the VA on the phone or online, interact with them in a few email exchanges to see how well they communicate.

Next, let them do a trial job (paid of course) as part of their ‘interview’ process.  The small amount of money you spend on the trial job may well be worth it, rather than spending an hour or two interviewing each candidate.

Training Your VA: Getting Specific

Effective training requires being able to give specific instructions and feedback to your virtual assistant. You’ll need to document every necessary step for each task. Here are some questions to ask yourself about each step of the tasks you want to delegate to your VA:

  • Is it essential for completing the overall task?
  • Can this be done in fewer steps?
  • What will this task achieve for my business?
  • What are the consequences of not completing this task?

Your virtual assistant won’t be familiar with your business. Taking the time to be thorough in the way you explain the steps of each task will help them better understand your company and vision.

Training Resources for Your VA

The Internet is full of free online training resources for bringing a remote worker on board to help with specific tools or tasks. If you’re working with a virtual assistant for SEO-related work, check out Moz’s Beginner’s Guide to SEO.

For training a virtual assistant in email marketing or content creation, look into HubSpot Academy. This program is a leader in sales and marketing and has engaging and informative online classes. There’s also a video series for YouTube and Video marketing that you can have your virtual assistant follow to help you with tasks related to this topic.

VA working at a desk

Performance Guidelines for Your VA

Creating written guidelines and a training manual for your virtual assistant is a must for keeping them on task. One way to save time with training is to make video or voice recordings detailing the steps of each task you want them to do. Making content like this will give them something to refer back to when they’re unclear on a certain step in the task.

Use attachments, links, or screenshots for training your VA in time management tasks or other work. Keep all of this information in a training manual in case you need to hire a different virtual assistant down the road.

Managing Your Virtual Assistant

As soon as you’ve gotten familiar with your VA and established a productive workflow, you’ll need to effectively manage it. Check with your VA to make sure they’re satisfied and clear on everything. Keeping your virtual assistant interested in their job is a key way to ensure their productivity stays high and you have a beneficial working relationship.

Give them a recap

Talk to your virtual assistant over the phone once a week to let them know how they’re doing. Use this as an opportunity to point out what they’re doing right and what you want them to change. These discussions will save time and build trust with your VA.

Ask for a weekly recap

Ask your VA to type you up a list of the tasks they completed for you that week. They might include appointments they scheduled for you, emails sent out, copy they wrote, and other tasks. Asking for a weekly recap will help your virtual assistant stay on top of their tasks and accountable for them.

As you can see, hiring a virtual assistant can save you a lot of time with your home business. Follow the guidelines above and you’ll foster mutually advantageous relationships with any virtual staff you decide to bring on.