This is the first in a series of articles I will be writing about Working with a Virtual Assistant.
One of the most important things to consider when working with a virtual assistant is Communication. In fact when working with anyone, communication is key, if you don’t get this right then your working relationships will certainly not work!
When you hire a virtual assistant for the first time it’s important to discuss your needs and how you will work together. Many people miss this vital step when hiring a VA, if neither you or the VA knows what you want out of the relationship then it’s doomed to fail.
Ok, so what sort of communication am I talking about?
How will you work together?
When you first hire your VA you need to at least have a phone call or a lengthy discussion on email discussing what sort of work you will be delegating and how you expect the relationship to work. You must also remember that you will not be the only client your VA is working with, so you will need to discuss when your VA is available to you, check their working hours and how they like to communicate on a day to day basis.
Finding out all this sort of information at the very start will get your relationship off to a great start as long as you both stick by the agreement. Many VA’s will put much of this sort of information in their contracts or terms of service. Be sure to read these so you get a good grasp of how they like to work. Your VA doesn’t need to be micro-managed, remember they are not your employee, they are a member of your team, your right hand person, your assistant.
Once you have had your initial conversation about how you will work together, you then need to agree on the ways you would like to communicate on a day to day basis, with tasks and questions.
Here are some ways this can be done:
Making a telephone call to your VA about a task is perfectly acceptable. As long as you agree with your VA in advance that you wish to speak on the phone, say a couple of times a week about tasks then that’s ok. Ringing your VA every time you have a new task for them is not an effective or productive way of working. Not only will you interrupt your VA at times they might be working on another client’s project but in itself it isn’t a productive way of doing things. Writing down your list of tasks and then calling your VA at an agreed time to go through the list is a much more effective use of time for both of you.
Urgent tasks sometimes need a quick phone call, but try and keep these to a minimum and schedule all other calls in advance.
Email is used more and more now to communicate, in fact in my own business 99% of my clients email me. The same applies to emails though, keep them to a minimum. It’s very easy to fire off lots of emails one after the other because you forgot something in the first one you sent. Many a time I have been having two different conversations with the same person on different email threads, and sometimes even on two different email accounts – it’s exhausting trying to keep up with this, for both me and my client!
Agree to email once per day with a list of tasks, and if your VA has any questions then to respond to this email only. At the end of the day, maybe ask your VA to send you a summary of where they are at with the tasks. You don’t even have to email daily, it might be every few days.
Send 1 email rather than 10 – effective and productive for you both!
Take a look at this article How to E-mail Virtual Assistants (or Any Assistants): Proven Templates for more information on emailing your VA, and some useful templates.
Instant messaging is useful when you have a very quick question to ask someone. I have some of my clients on Skype, and if they are online it’s usually much quicker to type a couple of words and get an instant response rather than send an email and wait for an answer. This may not work with everyone, but it’s a useful time saving way of communicating.
Anything important which needs to be recorded shouldn’t be sent via instant message, a task for instance could easily be missed if sent in this way. Keep instant messaging to quick questions.
Project Management Tools
There are some very good project management tools which include instant messaging, emails etc… within them. Using one of these tools with your VA can be useful because you can both see the progress of tasks. I use Asana with some of my clients, check out my article Get Organised with this Free Resource which goes into further detail about the way it can be used. There are many of these tools on the market, and if you would like to work in an organised way with your VA then I highly recommend using one of these.
Assign, edit, set a due date and follow tasks are all part of most project management tools. By using one of these, you keep your phone calls and emails to a minimum and both you and your VA will work in a more productive way.
Even when you have mastered the communication between you and your VA, problems may still arise. Read another of my articles Don’t Leave Your Virtual Assistant Guessing for more tips on working with a virtual assistant.
If you don’t currently work with a virtual assistant, then why not sign-up to my mailing list to receive my free eBook ‘3 Key Benefits of Using a Virtual Assistant‘ and then get in touch for a no obligation phone call (or email) about how I can help you in your business.