When we started out in the virtual assistant arena, no one knew who or what we did. We used to get plenty of questions like:

  • “So you’re a secretary that I don’t work with in person?”
  • “How do I know that you’ve done any work for me if I can’t see you working?”
  • “You do what???”

Fast forward almost 20 years and virtual assistants (also known as “VAs”) are in demand. Since the pandemic, one poll found that 70% of virtual assistants reported an increase in inbound inquiries, and 45% increased their hourly workload in 2020. Labor statistics showed a 41% increase in the hiring of virtual assistants through offshore agencies, and many agencies (including us) increased their staff to keep up with demand.

If you’re exploring remote support, you have more options now. However, you may need guidance to sort through your choices. Brush up on the rules for working with a virtual assistant.


What Kind of Virtual Assistant Do You Want?

 
However, you hire, keep your future needs in mind. Look for candidates who may be able to take on more responsibility and help you grow your business.


Types of Virtual Assistants

 
Virtual assistants aren’t cut from the same cloth. There are virtual assistants that work with authors and are experts in the tasks that are needed to help an author put his book into online stores, promotions, create sales funnels, etc. Some authors need their virtual assistant to transcribe their notes into documents that they can use in their writing.

Marketing virtual assistants specialize in tasks such as creating sales funnels, social media posting, building and maintaining autoresponders, creating graphics for Google ad campaigns, monitoring brand interaction with the public, etc.

Virtual assistants are also used for digital marketing. They may write blogs, create social media campaigns, update websites, work with Google analytics, help with advertising campaigns, etc.

There are traditional VAs who take on what was once defined as secretarial tasks such as email and calendar management, managing phone calls, booking trips, handling expenses, helping to create reports, etc.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg!


Questions to Ask Yourself

 
So before you start your search for a virtual assistant, sit down and think about what types of tasks you need to take off of your plate. You should also consider the skills that will be needed by your assistant. Do you:

  • Use any special software that they’ll need to learn?
  • Need someone with basic, intermediate or expert Microsoft office skills?
  • Want someone web savvy who can get around your website or cloud programs to get the job done?
  • Require someone who has a quiet background or is noise okay?
  • Have set hours that you want your person to work?
  • Prefer to pay a monthly retainer or strictly on an hourly basis?
  • Do you want someone who completes the tasks as given or someone who can think ahead and anticipate next steps?

Identifying what you need and what you want will help to make your relationship with your virtual assistant move smoothly. Here are some other tips on how to develop a good working relationship with your virtual assistant.

 

Hiring a Virtual Assistant

     

  1. Consult an agency. Hiring decisions can have a big impact on your business, so you may feel more comfortable using an agency if you lack experience. For a fee, they’ll find appropriate candidates and conduct interviews.
  2. Do it yourself. On the other hand, you can save money by managing the process yourself. Browse business publications and websites for tips on writing a job posting, interviewing online, and checking references.
  3. Use online platforms. Many virtual assistants offer their services through companies like Upwork and Fiverr. You may need to sift through hundreds of applicants, but you can find help quickly when you need it.
  4. Search locally. Your virtual assistant may live on another continent or down the street. Use local job boards and word of mouth if you want someone close to home.
  5. Call us. We’ve been in the business for almost 20 years and growing. We’d be more than happy to see if we can meet your needs or point you in the right direction. We’re just a click away!


Working with a Virtual Assistant

 
Communication, a good working structure and mutual respect can lead to a long-term working relationship that benefits both you and your virtual assistant. Here are some ways to foster a solid working relationship.


Communication

  1. Clarify expectations. Misunderstandings can arise among colleagues in the same office. Imagine what it’s like working with someone without any face-to-face contact. Be specific about required tasks and goals. Set boundaries related to spending limits and confidential information.
  2. Communicate regularly. Staying in touch may require a more deliberate strategy when you don’t run into each other in the hallways and breakroom. Schedule one-on-one meetings at least once a week. Discuss the best way to reach you with urgent and nonurgent communications.
  3. Encourage questions. New hires may feel pressured to appear competent. Let them know that you’re happy to answer questions when anything is unclear.
  4. Provide feedback. Constructive criticism is essential for learning and high performance. Make your comments prompt, specific, and actionable.


Structure

     

  1. Document procedures. How-to manuals and video tutorials can explain routine duties and complex assignments. Ask your virtual assistant to write up any new responsibilities to keep your library up-to-date.
  2. Invest in tools. Technology will make collaboration easier. Shop for software that lets you edit documents and manage projects. Ask your virtual assistant what tools they’ve found useful in their industry.
  3. Start small. Virtual assistants need onboarding too. If time allows, introduce them gradually to their new role and help them to connect with the bigger picture. Make their first assignment something simple that they can excel at and earn your confidence.


Team Spirit

     

  1. Respect their time. Maybe your virtual assistant has limited availability or you’re one of several clients. Make the most of your time together by being prepared for the hours they spend with you.
  2. Build morale. Team spirit has more to do with the quality of your relationship rather than sharing the same business address. Create a welcoming environment and promote two-way conversations. Give your new assistant their own company email and send them a coffee cup with your logo.

Your new virtual assistant could save you time and enable you to focus on tasks that maximize your strengths. Make your relationship happy and productive by choosing an outstanding candidate for the job and helping each other to succeed.

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