1. Build a Rapport.
Your VA may be all the way around the world working from another time zone, so it is important to build a rapport with whomever you hire. When your VA feels that they are part of your mission, they will spread the word about your brand and go out of their way for your cause—even when they are no longer working with you. Let your VA know what type of communication you prefer your VA will be able to handle whatever communications medium you prefer. It may be by phone or IM or email, ensure you tell them at what times and for which problems. You don’t want to have your VA sending you an email when they should have called about a question on a time-sensitive project, and conversely, you don’t want them calling you at all hours of the night for trivial questions.
2. Share Your Expectations.
Knowing your VA’s hours each week can help keep you both focused, and it also establishes expectations in terms of contact times. Shared expectations are also helpful in terms of overall goals and priorities. A skilled VA will be smart about prioritizing, but it helps if you communicate your vision explicitly. When you first start working with your VA, don’t be afraid to try different tasks. You may find that your VA can accomplish more than you hoped for. If that’s the case, you may assign your VA higher level tasks that require some self-thinking,
3. Create Shared Records.
At the start of your working relationship, it pays to create shared systems. Keeping all your passwords and payment details in a shared Dropbox folder (or using a system like LastPass) can save time and stress. You want your VA to have access to everything—from credit card numbers to rewards program passwords, to whether you prefer window or aisle. In turn, your VA can store new passwords in the same document when they open new accounts. Such systems pay dividends in terms of clarity, ease, and peace of mind. Similarly, a shared, ongoing project list is a great idea, providing a place where updates and feedback can be stored without duplication. The employer can indicate what tasks need to be done, and how time-sensitive they are, and the VA can annotate the ones that have been completed or are in process.
4. Reward the Skills You Value.
Gratitude for a job well done is always appreciated, but more specific praise can actually shape your VA’s input. If you appreciate the time-saving tip your VA gave you on how to make a particular task easier for yourself then let them know. If your VA feels like you value their input then they will be more willing to give it.
5. Significant savings comes with volume (and trial and error)
The first month you work with your virtual assistant, it might actually take you more time to accomplish the task. Initially, you may have to write-up detailed instructions for your VA. Once you and your VA get used to working with each other things will run a lot smoother. Some folks will try hiring a VA and give up quickly. Their rationale is “if it takes them as much or more time as me, I’ll just do it myself!” But experienced small business owners will take the long-view and realize that even if the VA is not as fast as them, outsourcing low-level work frees them up to accomplish higher-level (higher profit) work.
The benefits of outsourcing come once you’ve found a good remote employee that is well suited to the type of tasks you assign, and when you’ve learned how to effectively communicate and work with your virtual assistant.
The takeaway: keep the long-term benefits in mind, and don’t give up after the first few tasks. The first 100 hours of working with a remote employee is going to feel like an expensive waste. But if you stick it out, you’ll see significant cost savings over the next 10,000+ hours.