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7 tips for getting the most from your virtual assistant

If you’re working with a virtual assistant, read these 7 tips for getting the most from your VA and building a thriving relationship.

September 13, 2019 by Cyn Meyer

You eagerly await your next chat with your newly hired virtual assistant (VA).

It’s an exciting time in your business because you get to focus on strategizing for more growth, rather than muddle through the mundane day-to-day.

It doesn’t get better than that with a business started from home, right?

Still, as with most good things in life, a successful working relationship with your virtual assistant right out of the gate doesn’t happen automatically. No matter how well-prepared your virtual assistant service or VA is, it takes some work to massage your workflow into an ideal efficiency level without driving either yourself or your latest hire up the wall.

To make it a little easier, we’ll go over seven tried-and-tested tips for getting the most benefit out of your virtual assistant.

Let’s dive right in.

7 tips for getting the most from your virtual assistant

#1. Take the time to write out proper SOPs

Standard operating procedures (SOPs) may require front-loading work and time, but they’re important -- too much to skip.

Why? Because once you get past this initial hump of creating them, delegating your tasks and workflows to your virtual assistant will be seamless and save you time in the long-run.

By having everything written out in easy-to-understand directions, your virtual assistant can reference how to complete a task without having to ask you for help each time.

When writing out the procedural component of your SOP, be sure to include:

  • Major steps - Your SOP should have the big, milestone steps necessary for accomplishing a given procedure
  • Individual action steps - These are the micro-steps within each major step above
  • Notes - Any clarifying or complementary information your VA needs to know

While these are essential details to include, text alone isn’t always the best choice for an SOP.

Alternatively, some procedures in your business may require a flowchart to visually demonstrate how to complete a task, like this business flowchart example from Lucidchart.

Motion capture, as well as other forms of visual content, may also be beneficial. Specifically, consider recording your screen for more complex activities.

For instance, if you use an email software suite that requires multiple steps to perform a specific type of blast, record yourself walking through steps on your screen while explaining what you’re doing.

Your VA will be able to follow your process at their own pace as they learn the ins-and-outs of your workflow. (Though, it’s wise to create a shortened text version alongside it for quick reference as well.)

To easily record your screen, two excellent (and free) tools are Loom and Screencast-o-matic.

Regardless of the format you choose for your SOPs, the key factor here is to be clear in your directions. A good goal to aim for is to develop SOPs that require very little -- and ideally, none at all -- supplementary explanation from you.

Being crystal clear is also the theme of our next tip for you today.

#2. Overcommunicate and be specific

Our next tip is to communicate often and precisely with your virtual assistant.

Good communication is the linchpin to any healthy relationship and, particularly with your VA, it’s important to communicate directly with them.

Just as you would include detailed directions in your SOPs, include clear expectations when you communicate with your VA, too.

Such clarity does two things:        

  • It allows you to set clear expectations, which means there’s a smaller chance your VA will be overwhelmed or disappointed with the work expectation.
  • It allows your VA to deliver what you want.

How vital is good communication? Very.

While the statistics for your small business won’t directly relate to a monstrous 100,000-employee operation, the hard lesson still applies:

A survey of 400 companies revealed an average loss per company of $62.4 million per year because of inadequate communication to and between employees.

It’s a staggering profit loss, but saving money isn’t the only benefit to prioritizing clear communication. Good communication also contributes to the longevity of your working relationship with your VA.

And longevity is something you want to focus on as much as possible. The longer you keep your VA, the less time you have to spend training a new one.

To that end, be sure to utilize video conferencing tools, like Zoom or Google Hangout Chats, that allow you to communicate face-to-face. Nearly 100% of people claim face-to-face meetings are vital for long-term business relationships.

Speaking of using the right tools, our next topic explains how they lead you to success.

#3. Leverage the right tools for long-distance collaboration

Another beneficial practice for you and your VA is to take advantage of the right tools.

I know that sounds like a given, but the challenges that remote work relationships face are a little more dire than those you’d face offline. For most digital product creators, their business relies entirely on the technology stack they use to collaborate, sync, and complete projects.

To choose the right online tools for your business, ask yourself these five clarifying questions:

  1. What are my key processes, and which ones can be improved by online tools?
  2. What tools do I currently use?
  3. How does each tool integrate with my systems?
  4. What’s the cost?
  5. Is there training and support available?

Let’s run through a few examples of our favorite tools for collaborating remotely.

For organizing workflows, project management tools like Asana or Basecamp are phenomenal.

If you need to loop your VA into helping your customers, customer service tools that support chat boxes, such as Olark or Intercom, are another safe bet.

Lastly, there are several email marketing tools that allow your VA to professionally maintain your email campaigns and collaborate on drafts, such as Drip or Mailchimp.

(Need a digital storefront platform that your VA can use with you? Then you’re in luck. Try out a 14-day risk-free trial with Podia.)

OK, that covers the logistics end of working with your VA. Let’s move over to some not-so-cut-and-dry topics, starting with building trust.

#4. Build trust by respecting your virtual assistant

Another great way to get the most from your VA is to keep your VA happily working with you by respecting them and building trust.

Why is this invisible factor so important? Respect will help you keep your virtual assistant as part of your team for longer.

In fact, employees who feel respected by their bosses are 87% less likely to leave their jobs and search for new employment.

While this tactic might seem like an obvious priority, unfortunately, not many managers focus on it. Sadly, only 38% of employees report that their companies treat them with respect.

Need one more reason to earn your VA’s trust?

Another benefit of building trust among your team is keeping them engaged, which goes a long way. Word on the street is, when employees are engaged with your business, they’ll work harder and bring in 21% more profit than those who are unengaged.

I’d say it’s well worth earning your VA’s trust.

To earn your virtual assistant’s trust, try a few of these five important ways leaders do it:

  1. Foster an open communication culture
  2. Be consistent in everything you do
  3. Don’t be afraid to get in the trenches and do some work
  4. Have confidence in the decisions you make
  5. Take the time to teach and share your knowledge

If you stick to these five efforts, you’ll be a polished leader.

Of course, nothing says trustworthiness like a fair wage, which is why you need to offer one.

#5. Compensate your virtual assistant fairly

Think compensating your employees fairly is another seemingly obvious factor for getting the most out of a virtual assistant? Us too. Unfortunately, it’s not a universal consideration.

Even though the last thing anyone wants is a disgruntled VA who feels unappreciated and undervalued.

Curious about what to compensate? The average salary for a VA in the US ranges widely from $2,333 per month on the lower end to $6,083 on the high end.

You need to consider factors like skillset, experience, region, and the type of business you have when determining how much to pay your VA.

The nitty-gritty of these four factors is:

  1. Skillset - Research the going rate for the skills you’re hiring for (e.g., routine administrative tasks cost a different rate than specialized writing projects)
  2. Experience - How many years of experience does your VA have in a particular area?
  3. Region - Consider the cost of living and similar salary in your VA’s location
  4. Type of business - Explore your industry’s benchmarks for comparable salaries

Since it’s a rare occasion that someone works pro bono, compensation is the most direct way to recognize your virtual assistant’s effort.

Plus, recognizing your team members’ contributions works wonders. So much so that 70% of employees work harder if their efforts are recognized.

A proverbial shoulder pat may go a long way, but nothing says recognition like a livable, fair salary.

And on the note of morale, don’t neglect to check your assumptions about what’s fair, easy, or clear with your VA.

#6. Ask your virtual assistant for feedback

Another way to increase your VA’s engagement and sense of feeling respected is to ask for their feedback.

For instance, ask your virtual assistant to contribute thoughts and ideas on a project, or ask for input on how certain processes are going.

Asking isn’t enough, however.

It’s one thing to ask for an opinion. It’s another to make your VA feel like their opinion matters by listening to that feedback.

The more you listen, the better the feedback works -- and it’s a two-way street. Employees who strongly agree that their managers listen to them also feel that those managers give the best feedback.

Of course, the final component of this tip is to act on that feedback once you get it.

Sure, you may be a bit hesitant because, after all, it is your business stemming from your ideas.

But taking in brainstorming power from your team doesn’t have to be scary. It can be beneficial for growth, which is why giants such as AT&T have a suggestion box that’s open to any employee at any time.

Plus, if you do this third step of implementing feedback from your VA, you’ll be miles ahead of the norm. While 60% of employees in the US report having a way to provide feedback about their employee experience, only 30% claim their feedback is acted upon.

OK, there’s one more thing you can do to support your VA and, thereby, support your business through them:

Invest in them.

#7. Support your virtual assistant with education and training

A powerful way to get the most from your relationship with your VA is to support them with continuing education.

Continuing education has many benefits for your business and your VA.

As your VA acquires new skills and learns new programs and technologies, your business remains competitive and stays current. Plus, your VA also stays current and advances their career.

Sounds like a win-win, yeah?

Continuing education is convenient to do, too. These days, there’s a plethora of course topics and online product ideas to choose from.

For instance, if you’re interested in having your VA help you with your podcasting program, they can sign up for a course like creator Adam Clark’s Irresistible Podcasting.

Alternatively, there are social media platform courses your VA can register for, such as Super Spicy Media’s The Science of Facebook Ads course.

Social media not where you need the most help from your VA? Try boosting your customer service level by enrolling your VA in customer experience lessons, like Daniele Catalanotto’s 100 Service Design Principles.

You get the gist. There are countless topics covered in online courses waiting for you and your VA to tap into.

In addition to the uncapped number of topics available, learning from online courses has its many benefits.

First and foremost, elearning has proven to increase knowledge retention by 25-60%.

It’s also a convenient method of learning, where you can literally take your classroom anywhere in the world with you.

If the online course isn’t one that’s based on live video, but rather prerecorded video lessons, it’s even more convenient. That means your VA can also clock in and out of class at any hour of the day.

It’s little wonder businesses are catching on to the benefits of online courses with a staggering 77% of US companies using elearning to enhance their educational programs.

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The glaring takeaway is to offer your VA support through continuing education. More specifically, online education is a convenient way to achieve that, as you can take your online course virtually (pun intended) anywhere at any time.  

Plus, it’s an impactful way to keep both your business and your VA competitive in the market, something your VA will appreciate.

Build a win-win relationship with your virtual assistant

For those of you who don’t want to go through unnecessary trial and error when it comes to how to best manage your relationship with your virtual assistant, we’ve got a shortcut for you today.

Check it out:

  • Invest time into creating SOPs for your VA to follow. While it’s a chunk of effort upfront, the back-end payoff is worth it.
  • Communicate clearly and often with your VA, so nothing gets lost in translation. Face-to-face communication helps tremendously and keeps your VA engaged.
  • Utilize the right tools for optimal workflow efficiency. Take an inventory of your current tools and benchmark new tools against your needs.
  • Nurture a work culture based on respect, which allows you to earn your VA’s trust. Another way to treat your VA with respect and earn their trust is to compensate fairly.
  • Not only is it powerful to ask your VA for feedback, but it’s also essential to listen to and do something about it.
  • Supporting your VA through continued education goes a long way, and it’s convenient, too.

Here’s to making the most of your relationship with your VA, something all small business owners and creators can benefit from.