How to Work with a Virtual Assistant

Business owners contemplating using the services of a virtual assistant (VA) are the courageous ones who want to try out new systems, the ones who are willing to learn new ropes on the road to smoother, smarter, and more efficient operations. But how precisely to coordinate work with your VA is a frequently-asked-question, and this article looks at suggested ways to approach the process.

Range of Choices

The virtual assistant industry is a wild horse currently, a new business opportunity that people with a huge variety of skills are eagerly seizing in these days of advanced communications and equally accelerated fuel costs. It just makes sense to delete the commute, and for those with office experience of any kind, the concept of working from home can be too rich to resist. Other than in-person public reception, almost any kind of administrative office work can be transmitted digitally.

For the business owner, this means a huge variety of choices when it comes to selecting a VA. Since the work is digital, your VA may live anywhere in the world. You can narrow down the list of candidates by seeking the best expertise (within your price range) for the specific job you need completed.

It’s a lot simpler than you might expect to find the right VA for your needs. The most useful business relationship for a VA is a long-term one. As much as you want and need an efficient solution, your VA shares that goal. So, if you’ve studied the VA’s website and have a solid impression that this person may be able to help you, start out the relationship in mini-bites. Ask for small tasks and evaluate the return. As you’re increasingly convinced this VA is capable and faithful, you can add more hours to the arrangement.

Getting to Work: It’s All About Organization

Before you start working with a VA, it’s best if you do a little soul searching yourself. That’s because VAs in general can operate on one of two levels, but not on both levels at the same time. To clarify:

In your business, or in various parts of your business, you are either organized or disorganized. Perhaps you’re well organized around production, but disorganized when it comes to marketing or distribution or accounting. Maybe you spend all your time in certain areas and tend to neglect others. Or maybe you’re brand new in business and everything’s pretty helter-skelter.

1. If you are organized and just need assistance getting the job done, your soul searching can be no deeper than willingness to delegate and to complete the necessary communications.
2. On the other hand, you may be disorganized and be seeking assistance for that reason. Your soul searching must honestly admit this. In this case, your preparations for working with a VA require that you figure out how to clearly articulate your desires. You must establish the parameters, or risk an unsatisfactory return.

Here’s an example. Joe sells insurance, and he uses a VA to generate immediate lead follow-ups according to his specific guidelines. He has another VA who keeps his books and files his taxes. Joe has been in the business for many years, and his systems are backed by experience.

Henry, in contrast, is just starting out in the insurance world. He’s a whiz with figures, and loves selling, but otherwise has little sense of organization in getting his enterprise going. His talents have brought him some early success, and things are starting to get chaotic. Henry seeks a VA, but has a hard time knowing what to request of them, or how to describe his dilemma.

The Question Is What Is the Question

Both Joe and Henry can benefit enormously from working with VAs, for opposing reasons and in different ways.

Joe’s VAs are solid vendors supporting his well-established operations. They are independent contractors who know their success depends on Joe’s success and so work hard and well for him.

Henry needs a VA with small business expertise. He should approach that VA with a basic organizational need. Many VAs can advise you about business organization, and work on planning with you. Once a good plan is in place, then they can do the document filing, public relations, marketing, internet presence, research and other work required by the plan.

If Henry asked a VA to do some marketing work, for instance, and bypassed the organizational planning entirely, his new business would not benefit appropriately and it’s likely that Henry would come to view his VA as an expense rather than an essential.

Don’t underestimate the level of service VAs can provide. Don’t forget that a VA is a professional, not an employee. Unsatisfactory relationships with VAs may be avoided by careful communications on your part as the business owner; and a willingness to say so if basic organization is really what you need.