Before I started writing this post I did a quick Google search for a definition of the word ‘virtual’. This is what I found: “Almost or nearly as described, but not completely or according to strict definition”.
Or, in computing terms: “Not physically existing as such but made by software to appear to do so”.
Now as you know, it’s not software that makes me exist or even appear to do so for that matter.
But if that’s the case, is virtual assistant really the most appropriate title for what I do?
The answer is yes because there’s a further definition that states: “Carried out, accessed, or stored by means of a computer, especially over a network”.
I’m definitely accessed over a network, so I won’t look to change my job title for the time being.
Despite being a virtual assistant though, I’m not automatically equipped to deal with virtual teams and all of the challenges they bring. Okay, so the word ‘challenges’ may imply that they cause me serious problems and the reality is that that’s not the case.
However, having said that, managing a virtual team of people ultimately takes meticulous organisation and governance. That’s why I’ve compiled this list of my top five tips for managing a virtual team.
1. Be easily contactable
This is, without a doubt, the most important factor for ensuring that your virtual team ‘works’. Your team members need to be able to contact you throughout the working day and not worry that they’re going to disturb you.
As you know, I’m based in France. But did you know that some of my team members are located as far away as the Philippines? That’s why I have to ensure that I am on-hand to deal with their queries in an efficient and effective manner.
2. Allow your team members to be honest
Sound bizarre? I’ve found that liaising with my team on an informal basis has brought great results. After all, we’re all human beings and sometimes people just need to converse on a level.
Therefore if someone in your team has something to say, then listen. Even if it’s not strictly relevant, the positive effect it will have on your relationship can be priceless.
3. Be flexible
My team are great. They seldom let me down and I’m thankful for that. However, there are obviously times when they are unable to deliver what I need of them. The key in these situations though is to be flexible and understand their situation.
Of course, if you’ve got a team member who regularly lets you down then perhaps you need to look for someone else but in the majority of cases being understanding is sufficiently adequate.
4. Don’t put yourself at risk
My clients have come to rely on my meticulous nature and attention to detail. At the end of the day, that’s why they hire me again and again.
But if I’m relying on other individuals, how can I be sure that I won’t let my clients down? The answer is by giving myself enough time to allow for their potential delays.
For example, if I have a client deadline that is on a Friday, I’ll ask one of my team members to get me the necessary work by Wednesday at the latest. This allows me enough time to do check everything over, add my magic and get it to the client on time.
5. Set realistic goals
With many of my team working on a freelance basis, I appreciate that sometimes I have to be reasonable with my demands (tasks). They inevitably have other clients who they need to deliver work for and so I know that I can’t expect them to be available for my needs at the drop of a hat.
Therefore, I always make sure that I set realistic deadlines and don’t expect my team members to produce something in the blink of an eye. Wherever possible I try to distribute work evenly and ensure that each team member has an equal amount of work to focus on.
I wanted to write a post that would hopefully go some way to addressing what is perhaps the number one comment I hear when people come to me looking to outsource: “I don’t know where to start?”
These are people who have inevitably built successful small businesses but they don’t know how to go about outsourcing. Maybe it’s because they genuinely don’t believe that someone else could do what they do, or that they don’t want to let go of the reins – either way, my advice is the same.
I give them a simple way of figuring out which tasks they really should consider outsourcing. It’s pretty much a foolproof tactic and the end result is ultimately beneficial to them as business owners – more time to spend focussing on the tasks that add real value to their businesses. The stuff that helps them grow, attract more customers and keep the ones they have already happy.
But what is it I tell them, you ask?
Start Keeping a Log
That’s right, I tell my prospective clients to start keeping a log of everything they do. Make a note of every single task that they carry out on a day-to-day basis. This might sound like a chore but trust me, it pays dividends in the end. Plus, they only need to do this for a couple of weeks – even a week is a good start.
The purpose is simple: to make them realise exactly how much they do themselves. This list should contain everything and be as detailed as possible when it comes to menial, mundane tasks because these are often the most time-consuming, yet add the least value.
Review Said Log
Once the log has been compiled, it’s time to analyse it. I tell my clients to go over everything that they have written down or typed and review it objectively – this is the key.
By going over what they have compiled and being brutally honest is the first step on their outsourcing journey. But they really do need to be brutally honest and answer the following three questions:
- Which tasks do I really not have time for?
- Which tasks do I really not like doing?
- Which tasks am I really not that good at?
These are the three key questions that will open the outsourcing door.
Look to Outsource
Any tasks that you don’t have time for, don’t like doing or are not that good at should be outsourced – boom! It really is that simple. This allows you to concentrate on the aspects of your business that really matter.
But where do you find someone who can carry out all the tasks that you want to outsource? The answer is you don’t – look for several talented individuals and outsource accordingly. For example, even though I’m a virtual assistant, I still have a highly-capable team around me. I know exactly where I can allocate work for the best results for my clients.
Unfortunately, outsourcing is often viewed as something that’s difficult and risky. The reality is, however, that it’s really not. By outsourcing the day-to-day tasks that you don’t need to be doing, you’ll ultimately freeing up more time for the things that you should be doing.
Focus on growing your business and let competent individuals, who specialise in outsourced work, do the rest…
To find out how a virtual assistant can help you in your business, why not sign up to my newsletter (top right hand corner) where you will receive a free eBook and interview providing lots of great tips to outsourcing.
One of the many things I have been meaning to do since starting my virtual assistance business is to put together a manual for clients, to give them as much information they may need when working with a virtual assistant. I don’t mean to suggest that everyone needs step by step instructions on how to delegate tasks to a VA, but I have found that many past and present clients could do with some guidance when working with a VA for the first time.
I have put together my list of the 5 top tips I think every Virtual Assistant would love their clients to take note of:
1. Use Project Management software
I have lost count of the number of times I have mentioned the PM software that I use with some of my clients. Asana is great, and it keeps both myself and my clients on track with tasks. I also use Asana with my own freelancers who I delegate work to. What I love about Asana is how I can have a conversation with my client (or team member) on a particular task and not receive a single email.
I wish that all my clients would use Asana, it would make my work day a lot easier to schedule. I would highly recommend anyone who works with a virtual assistant to stop sending emails and use project management software instead – it not only keeps your inbox from being bombarded with emails, but it also keeps everything nice and organised which makes it extremely easy to go back and search through older tasks.
2. Ensure tasks are clear, concise and with deadlines
If you’re already using PM software, then this may not be a problem. If you are still assigning tasks by sending an email, then ensure these three things are included. Make sure the task you have set is clearly and concisely written so minimum questions need to be asked about how the task should be handled. What I find most people do not include when assigning me tasks is a deadline… do they need it today, tomorrow or in a month’s time? This is really not helpful when I am trying to schedule my working hours. If I have clear deadlines for work then I am able to set out my day each morning (or evening) and make sure that all tasks are completed on time.
This is another reason I love Asana, my clients can quickly assign a task to me and give it a due date – simple!
3. Send 1 email instead of 5
I don’t know whether this is just something I prefer, but rather than sending a different email for each different task or query, I would rather 1 email with all tasks/queries in one. That means I only get 1 email in my inbox, and only have to reply to 1 email rather than 5 (or sometimes more…).
It’s very easy to separate 1 email so that it’s still clear, you can use numbers or bullet points to distinguish between tasks/queries or even use a horizontal line or similar so it’s clear tasks are not related.
This tip (and in fact all of these tips) not only benefit the virtual assistant, but they also benefit you as the client… who wouldn’t prefer less emails to respond to?
4. Appreciate you may not be their only client
Virtual assistants don’t necessarily work for just one person (or business), although I am sure many do. Most VA’s also own their own business, they are business owners and not employees. That means that they will most likely have more than just 1 client, in fact I can be working with up to 10 different clients at one time.
When delegating tasks to your VA be aware that they may not be able to drop everything to complete your urgent task. In my terms and conditions I have a clause explaining that work needed to be done within 24 hours may come with an extra charge. I have never yet had to charge anyone, but if your VA is working for multiple clients, you are not going to know how big their workload is for that day, like you would if you employed someone who worked in your office.
5. Micro managing is not needed
As I said above, most VA’s own their own businesses, they multi-task clients and manage their workload themselves. We don’t need micro managing in the way that full-time employees may need. If we are given clear, concise tasks with deadlines, we will come back with any questions and then go away and carry out the task. Any problems along the way we will keep you informed and updated.
I have been very lucky and not experienced micro managing from my clients, but I do know some that have – many of us start our own businesses to get away from this sort of thing and become our own boss.
Do you work with a virtual assistant, what tips would you give to people and businesses who are looking at working with a VA for the first time?
Do you often find yourself with a list as long as your arm of mundane tasks to do? If so, then chances are that you’re not working efficiently and therefore your business is not operating to its full potential. If this is the case, you could find yourself struggling to be competitive in your marketplace and losing valuable business to your competition. The ultimate and most disastrous consequence of this is that your business will inevitably fail and all of your hard work will have been for nothing.
So what’s the answer? Keep persevering and hope that you get everything done? Unfortunately, a day is only 24 hours long and there’s nothing you can do about that. However, you can make certain adjustments that will ensure your time is used efficiently and only for the most crucial aspects of your business. For example, start by outsourcing the mundane, but ultimately necessary tasks to a virtual assistant.
Now you’re wondering what kind of tasks a virtual assistant can perform and the answer is… more than you can imagine!
Here are just five examples:
Ever wish you could just ask one of your employees to scour the internet and report back to you the latest trends, hot issues and consumer needs in your industry? Well, with a virtual assistant you can do just that. They will meticulously comb the internet and discover everything that your business needs to know, especially when it comes to digital marketing vehicles like social networks and how to take advantage of them to boost your brand’s image.
If you find yourself sifting through countless emails on a daily basis and filing most of them in the trash bin, is it really efficient use of your time? The answer is no and so outsourcing the bulk of your email management and filtering to a virtual assistant will make you a lot more productive. You will be able to focus on the emails that really matter and give them your full attention. Furthermore, important correspondence won’t be missed through overzealous deletions.
The beauty of the internet and modern technology is that it allows for virtual assistants to be an integrated part of your business. As with emails, they can answer and filter telephone calls coming into your office and even make calls on behalf of your business. This again allows you to focus on the more business-generating tasks and not have to worry about missed calls or forgetting to follow-up on a lead.
Hotel and Flight Bookings
Today’s busy entrepreneur will inevitably find themselves doing a lot of travelling, particularly at the start of a new business venture. However, booking hotel rooms and even flights can be a time-consuming process. Moreover, if your first choice hotel is fully booked, you aren’t left scratching your head for alternatives. You can rest assured that your virtual assistant will already be ahead of the game and find you a suitable hotel. The same goes for travel bookings like flights and train tickets. Basically, any job that requires a bit of thought and criteria-based searches can be performed by a virtual assistant.
It’s one of the most mundane office tasks that there is, but data entry is a necessary evil that has to be done. You obviously don’t want to do it yourself and it can take up a hefty chunk of one of your regular employee’s time, so the perfect solution is to get your virtual assistant to do it. After all, data entry follows a pretty repetitive pattern and often takes very little explaining. This makes it a perfect task for your virtual assistant and their ability to focus, free from distraction, means that the accuracy is always excellent.
What tasks do you wish you could outsource to a Virtual Assistant? Are you looking to create some balance in your life?
Get in touch with me to find out how I can help you utilise your time more efficiently.
There are many big questions that are difficult to answer; what is the meaning of life? Does God exist? Did the chicken or the egg come first? But the biggest and probably the most relevant in today’s society has to be:
How to juggle home and work effectively
It is a subject that most working people will contemplate at various points in their careers but one which is rarely answered thoroughly. In fact it is so relevant that interviewers often ask candidates how they achieve an effective balance when deciding who to give a job to. I have therefore put together 5 tips that should help you achieve the holy grail of work/home balance.
1. Keep your phones separate – if you need to take work calls then ensure you have a separate mobile phone. This way when you aren’t working you can turn the phone off and can’t be tempted to answer a call or quickly just check your emails.
2. Set realistic working times – most people don’t work the usual 9-5, they often put in more hours to ensure a job is completed well. There is nothing really wrong with this as long as the 9-5 doesn’t turn into the 6am-11pm. That’s not to say stick rigidly to schedules; be flexible as things change but on the whole make yourself stick roughly to realistic working times and if something isn’t finished, do it tomorrow.
3. Don’t take your work home – if you work away from your home and you stick to number 2 then don’t take your work home with you. You will be better off spending an extra hour in the office and getting more done than taking it home as you will be tempted to spend all night working on it. Just because you aren’t in the office doesn’t mean it doesn’t count as work time.
4. Shut down your home office – working from home is a minefield for work/life balance because it is difficult to draw the line. Number 2 is even more vitally important in home working. Outside of your designated working hours shut your office down, turn off the lights, close the door and pretend it isn’t there until it’s time to work again.
5. Delegate – if you are the only person who can complete every task you need to do then you are never going to have a life. There is nothing wrong with delegating tasks that can be completed by others. Virtual assistants are cheaper as you don’t have to hire them on a contract or give them an office and stationery. You also only pay for the work they do not their breaks, holidays and sickness.
If you manage to stick to all 5 of these tips then you will be well on your way to a healthy work/home balance. Of course these are not the only tips that you could follow, there are many ways to achieve a healthy balance as it is possible! Unfortunately for now it is past my set working times and so I must shut down my home office and spend some time doing non-work things.
Good luck with your balance!