Hiring a virtual assistant for your business, whether it's for a home-based business or a financial services company or a law firm, can be a great move to reduce costs while getting some much needed additional help. However, working with a virtual assistant is not the same as working with a receptionist or with an assistant who's at the office. The primary difference is that the virtual assistant isn't a direct employee, so this person isn't someone you can bother at any time of day to get something done or that you could pressure to have something done at the last minute. If you have, or want to have, a virtual assistant, then here are are few other tips to working with them so that you can have an amiable relationship:
Be Clear about Duties
Virtual assistants can help your business in a lot of ways. They can answer phones, schedule appointments, input data, do the bookkeeping, write emails and other content etc. The best way to work with a virtual assistant and to be clear about his or her duties is to make a list of the things that need to get done that this person could do, and give them the tasks that you absolutely don't want to do or don't have time to do. Using this method will also help you to find a virtual assistant who actually has the skills to get the job done and to do it well.
When working with a virtual assistant, make sure that you don't stray from this list of duties. If you forgot something and need something done right away, you might not always be able to tell your virtual assistant to stop everything and to fix your mistake. If the virtual assistant didn't understand the task because you weren't clear about what you needed, then you can't be so quick to blame this person for incompetence. A virtual assistant is an assistant, not a slave. This person is supposed to help you, not save you from your mistakes or do whatever who want them to do. Assign them a few duties and have the person do those and those only.
Be Explicit About Deadlines and Instructions
If you need certain things done by a certain time, then you need to tell your virtual assistant. Deadlines can be specific, like "8 a.m. on Thursday" or general, like "by the end of the week." Don't expect this person to get something done in three days if you didn't tell them that it needed to get done in three days, and then get upset because it wasn't done in three days. Be explicit about deadlines and instructions, but be reasonable with them too i.e. don't ask that everything you assign gets done that day or as soon as possible. Working with a virtual assistant means being flexible, and giving them a chance to do a good job and to do what it takes to do a good job.
However, this does mean that you need to be organized and stick to these deadlines as well. If you need to approve of documents or appointments so that the virtual assistant can finish the task and do the job, then do those in a timely manner so that s/he can stick to the deadlines. As stated, it also means having reasonable expectations for deadlines and instructions. Don't ask for something to be done in two hours, especially when it will take 24 hours to get done. Don't ask your virtual assistant to prioritize your work at the expense of other clients. Doing these things falls into that 'employee/boss' category.
Have you worked with a virtual assistant before? What tips do you have on keeping that relationship solid and professional? Let us know in the comments!