Once you decide to start outsourcing work to a freelancer you have to make sure you are completely prepared. I have seen many people make the mistake of thinking that a virtual assistant will instantly start working with you and transform your life. What actually happens is that you become increasingly frustrated as you are spending more time training than actually making progress.
No doubt, outsourcing can be the best decision for your business (when done properly). However, there are companies that forget that a virtual assistant, like any other employee, HAS to be managed.
I worked as a freelancer before I joined TimelyPA and I absolutely loved working with employers who were specific about their expectations and tasks. Needless to say, it makes communication much easier – that’s why I strongly suggest for employers to communicate the tasks clearly.
Once I had to write a very detailed and subject-specific blog post about fundraising in schools in the UK (which is not really my expertise). There were barely any guidelines given and my employer was always away when I wanted to confirm some details. At the end, I finished the article and the end result was more-or-less good but it caused more stress to both sides than it should (given it was just a small task!).
The lesson is – freelancers cannot read your mind. If you want to make sure the work is completed in a timely manner and meets your criteria, we have prepared a resource for you that covers everything you need to know about effective communication with your remote team.
Before you start
Let’s start from the beginning – if you decided to hire a VA, you have to think forward. The first thing you have to do is keep a track of everything you do in your business. Record your tasks for a week and then split them into the following categories:
- Core tasks – business development, website development, etc.
- Routine tasks – bookkeeping, customer inquiries, calendar management etc.
- Less important but helpful tasks – market research, product promotion, etc.
Now you have identified the main focus of the business and tasks can be delegated to a virtual assistant to free up your time. The next step (a very important one!) is to create a plan for you VA:
- What tasks will be assigned (is it a long term or short term project?)
- When it has to be done
- How it has to be done
- How it will be communicated
This is just the basic example of how you keep everything organised and control the situation.
Once you have the right candidate and you are satisfied with their level of English, make sure to communicate the message in simple language and in clear steps. The next paragraph will cover all means and ways to effectively communicate with your VA
5 Ways to Communicate with Your VA
1. Clearly outline tasks
I cannot stress enough the importance of this point. The key to getting the results that you want is to explain the tasks and expectations clearly. Also, don’t just tell them what needs to be done, ask them to repeat the tasks back, send instructions of the job via email, don’t rely on “Yes, got it” because later you may discover that your VA is completely clueless.
2. Instant messaging platforms
Common but proven method is a Skype interview. Before hiring any virtual assistant, I strongly recommend having a conversation through Skype. You can share your business background, discuss your requirements and main tasks, get to know candidate’s strength and experience – this is vital for establishing professional and long-term relationship.
Whenever you want an urgent update from your remote employee, I suggest joining instant messaging platforms such as Slack. It is quicker than sending e-mails, you can instantly send files, receive feedback and keep in touch with your VA throughout the whole project.
3. Schedule regular meetings
You and your remote team have to make a schedule of regular video calls and catch-ups. The key points to think of is how often and how long the meetings are going to be? Make sure to always explain the purpose of each conversation and ask your VA to provide a short summary of what has been done. A good idea is to ask your VA to briefly outline the tasks for the following week – this will ensure that they understand the tasks and what is expected from them.
Alternatively, you can agree on a weekly email with a summary of what has been done and what is the progress.
4. Use task management systems
One of the most useful tools that you and your VA can use is a task management system. My personal favorite is Podio, because you can instantly check the status of the project, especially when you are working on several projects at once. Podio lets you create several apps and workspaces, for example, you can set up a new workspace for your project and invite your virtual assistant to join. Now your VA will be able to post comments and updates as well as upload files and links related to the project. What’s more, you can set up workflows and deadlines for every job to make sure your VA knows the schedule. If you are still lost among various task management systems and struggling to make it work, I would recommend Patrick Paul Collins as an expert of setting up workspaces for companies. Once you learn how to manage all workspaces, it becomes easier to stay in control of your daily tasks.
5. Give feedback and compliment
In order to ensure the quality of work, it is crucial to have regular reviews, evaluate the progress, provide feedback and decide on any changes. Most importantly, if you are not happy with your virtual assistant – tell them! Explain how you want the things to improve, express your concerns and reach the common consensus on the issue. Believe me, a VA does not want a dissatisfied client because it costs them reputation. Just make sure you express your frustrations as soon as they arise – as I mentioned at the beginning, freelancers cannot read your mind.
Another important aspect – acknowledge and reward your VA when the task is done (or when they’ve done an impressive job). Having a healthy mix of positive feedback and constructive criticism helps build the relationship and gives a boost of motivation for your VA.
To sum up – once you clearly outline the tasks and set up a routine with your virtual team, you can jump on your own tasks with an ease. Mastering the work with VA takes time but once you find your way of approaching it, you will see how productive and organised your working schedule becomes. If you are ready to free up your time, TimelyPA can match you up with a qualified freelancer so you don’t have to spend time searching and recruiting the right candidate. Just send us over your needs and requirements and we will get the best freelancer for your project.