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3 Tips To Ensure Success With Your Virtual Assistant

If you’ve invested or are planning to invest some serious time and resources to find your ideal VA, it’s time to discuss what you can do to ensure that your relationship with your newly hired VA is a success. 

Safe to say, building your team with the right people can be time consuming. Not to mention, bringing someone into your business takes a lot of effort and dedication- from both sides. I asked Sarah Noked from a VA and someone who knows a thing or two about managing multi-VA teams to share her insights.

I know many of you in the FTF community are considering, in the process of hiring and working with VAs. I hope Sarah’s visit to FTF today will help you in gaining new business growth by building your team. 

Get your business systematized!

Most relationships with VAs fail simply due to a lack of time investment on the part of the entrepreneur or business owner. Like any good relationship, you need to give what you want to get.

Part of ensuring success is by having the right systems in place to build your business and your virtual team.

1. Start by getting your SOPs in place

SOPs– short for Standard Operating Procedures are the written instructions for the tasks that you are hiring them to do. This step is often overlooked, probably because it’s not the most compelling of tasks to complete. However, this is critical to a smooth delegation process.

Here’s what you need:

  • Have an updated set of SOPs for ALL your business processes and procedures–not just for the tasks you are passing on to your VA. You never know when someone will have to step in at a moment’s notice to help out in an emergency or when the unexpected happens (and Murphy’s law says it will). So a good place to start is with the tasks you are handing over to your VA. Eventually, perhaps your VA will be able to write the rest of your SOPs for you.
  • Write a separate SOP for each recurring task. 
  • Make sure you write down all the information they’ll need to get the job done, including login information and templated texts you are using already. The easiest way to do this is to simply do the task yourself and write it down as you go. I recommend using screen shots and screencasts, too. I personally use the ‘new screen recording’ feature on Quicktime Player, which is already built into Mac OS X. But there’s also Jing, from the makers of Camtasia which let’s you shoot 5 minute screenshots for free.

2. Build a healthy relationship

You’ll want to take a few minutes to think about how you will build your relationship with your VA. You’re her client, but it also feels like she is working for you. Many of us are used to being solopreneurs and doing everything ourselves the way we like it. It may be hard to delegate tasks to someone else.

Keep in mind that others can do some of your tasks just as well as you can, and in some instances, maybe even better. VAs bring to the table the experience they have gained working with other clients and often can suggest new, more efficient, methods for doing things.

The trick is to nurture an open relationship in which our VA feels confident enough to share their knowledge.

3. Communicating virtually

Without the benefit of body language that comes from speaking to someone who is physically in the room, many of us find it hard to build and maintain a strong working relationship. The secret is to establish effective communication channels and use them frequently.

It’s important from the onset to discuss with your VA which mode of communications works best for both of you–whether it’s by phone, email, Skype, text messages or through your project management system.

Also, make sure you let your VA know how often you expect them to check in and update you. I also encourage limiting communications to normal business hours. You both deserve a private life and this should be mutually respected.

  • Make time for each other. My rule of  thumb- check in with your VA at least once weekly ‘in person’- so Skype or phone. I advise setting a meeting for the same time every week- and stick to it!
  • Find the online tools to help you best communicate: I personally use a combination of Teamwork, Basecamp and Google docs (this is where all my SOPs live) when dealing with my VAs and my clients’ VAs, but the web offers many tools that can be used to help you get the most out of your virtual relationship. (I also love Basecamp, but hate that you can’t set recurring tasks). For sharing passwords securely I’m all over Lastpass. Plus, you can revoke access asap if the relationship goes sour.

What to do if it doesn’t work out?

No matter how well you prepare and vet candidates beforehand, sometimes it’s just not a good fit. Don’t forget that you are paying them to do their job to the best of their ability and to deliver on time.

If you find that this is not happening, don’t wait too long to terminate the engagement. As a rule, I usually give an outsourced service provider three chances. I discuss with them the issues I’m displeased with, ask them for their solution and if after three conversations there is no improvement, I discontinue working with them.

Also, don’t let one negative experience with a VA prevent you from trying again. Like all our business activities, we don’t always get it right the first time. The main thing is to learn from our mistakes.

So when do you know?

If you find it hard to work with a virtual assistant, it’s probably not the right person for you. A good virtual assistant/employer relationship shouldn’t take tons of hand holding and should always make your life easier, not more difficult.

But be prepared to invest the time and energy. It’ll be worth it.

Got more questions or suggestions for growing your team? Let us know in the comments!

Sarah Noked is an MBA graduate, Online Business Manager, and Digital Marketing Strategist with more than 10 years’ business experience. Billing herself as the “Entrepreneur’s Online Business Manager,” Sarah and her team help clients stay on track and grow their businesses by managing their projects and teams, and implementing systems and automation. In turn, her clients gain the much needed time to focus on their big picture, revenue-generating ideas. Check out her website and while you’re there grab the free toolkit download “Implementing Systems and Virtual Teams Guide” complete with a ready-to-use Standard Operating Procedures template. Connect with Sarah on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

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{ 16 comments… add one }
  • I love the idea of having your VA help write your operating processes for you. That would take the overwhelm out of hiring a VA for me.

    • Totally Amanda. It also forces you to come clean with your processes. Your future VA will come equipped with great ideas for automating and simplifying your processes which means money, time saved and a better experience for your clients 🙂

    • Leah Kalamakis Leah

      Oh man, it sure does! From our first call, Sarah made it clear she was great at helping people with this and honestly, it was the biggest thing holding me back from hiring a VA. I gave her a quick video of me uploading a blog post and formatting it for example, she then whipped it up in written, organized form and even added stuff she thought I was missing. All I had to do was overview and adjust any details. So now it’s done and if I hire someone else to do that specific thing for me, it’s all outlined and easy. So worth it to have a VA that has experience with SOPs in online business!

  • I really need to document SOPs for my own business! Especially now that I’m pivoting, starting off consistent would be such a great way to maximize my time. Plus, offering this for clients would be a huge help to most of them I think! Great post!

    • Megan, so glad you enjoyed the post 🙂 SOPs force you to think consider ways to better streamline your processes. To me that’s so worth the time investment.

  • Definitely recommending this post to others! Working with a VA has had a huge positive impact on my business and personal life.

    I just started coaching another fitness professional and my first recommendation to her was to get quicktime ready and start recording how to do simple tasks NOW so they can be outsourced later.

    I think it’s a great way to allow yourself to ease into a relationship with a VA when you know they know exactly how to use a unique program. For example, I’m creating a video later today to show my VA how to log recipes into my nutrition planning software. If only I had done that the first time, right?

    Great tips and I definitely say prepare for and hire a VA as soon as possible!

    • So happy you enjoyed the tips 🙂 What ever did we do before screencasts, right?
      Screencasts makes it easy for my VA to document the process and create it as a template in Teamwork PM. That way, the whole lot of tasks can be easily loaded and assigned to the right person. Nothing falls through the cracks- how’s that for the cherry on top?

  • One piece of advice I got recently about hiring a VA is to make sure what you need them to do they LOVE to do, and not just good at. It was truly an ah-ha moment. We all know that we are good at doing a lot of things, but what we do extremely well we LOVE to do. We give it 100%.

    Great post Leah and Sarah!

    • Awesome advice Siedah- I couldn’t agree more! —> What we do extremely well, we love to do. Yup!

  • Julie

    Love it Sarah! Totally true and reminds me I should continue writing SOPs. It’s so great to be part the team 🙂

  • Natalie

    I’ve known Sarah for 20+ years. She is the hardest worker I know. 100% committed to all her projects. I have no doubt that working with her will make anyone’s life easier. Hiring Sarah will be the easiest decision you’ll make. You won’t regret it!

  • Erin

    Sarah really knows her stuff. Working with a talented online business manager like Sarah will save you money and valuable time to focus on your growing business.

  • Josh

    Great post! I like the advice on SOPs and screen shots are a must. I’ve found that doing this effectively communicates what you want that people can understand easily.

  • Jordanna

    Such good advice, Sarah! I especially agree with the part about building a strong relationship and how important the communication piece is.

  • Aaron

    Thank you Sarah, for such a concise and cogent article. The idea of updating and placing a priority on SOPs will keep a business more transparent, streamlined and efficient. It sounds like a great way to translate SOPs into tangible productivity is to hire a VA such as Sarah. Thanks again for the great, practical advice!

  • Great article Sarah! Working as a VA at Elitework, I managed to establish a healthy working relationship with the owner and the client. I have to admit that work is much easier if your client shows interest towards your work rather than just commanding you all the time. Working as a team also plays a big factor as helping each other makes everything a lot easier. Good read!

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