How to Get the Best Out of Your Virtual Assistant

virtual assistantSo, you’ve hired a virtual assistant. How do you set up your interactions to create the most value for you and your new staff member?

If you followed my advice, you vetted them thoroughly before you hired them and you should have confidence in their capabilities.

However, managing someone who is hundreds, if not thousands, of miles away from you is no small task. When an Australian comesto work on their first day you don’t point them to a desk and say, “There’s the computer. Have a go at it.”

You train them, explain your expectations, and show them how the company culture operates. For outsourced team members the same principles apply.

Keep cultural differences in mind

My favourite place to outsource staff is the Philippines. Most Filipinos speak good to excellent American English, and their culture is highly Westernized compared to other Asian countries. But don’t be fooled just because they can discuss the latest Hollywood blockbuster. Philippine culture is still Asian.

Asian culture tends to be hierarchical. That means you are the boss and what you say goes. This might sound fantastic to some people, but your Asian team members will hesitate to point out mistakes in the projects you give them.

They’ll feel embarrassed to ask for clarification when they’re confused by your instructions. If these feelings build up too much your new VA may just disappear without a word, too ashamed to tell you they were having problems.

To prevent that from happening, follow these simple steps.

Set the right tone from the beginning

tone of voiceWhen your new virtual assistant’s starts working with you, send them an onboarding email. Explain your policies and procedures. For instance,

  • how do you want them to submit completed assignments – email, attachment to Skype or other messaging program, or via a team collaboration tool such as Slack or Basecamp?
  • What hours do you expect your VA to work? Go over all the details so you can ensure that everything is understood before problems crop up.
  • Filipinos sometimes have trouble understanding our Aussie accent, so right up front I tell them to say, “I don’t understand,” and make sure that they agree to tell me without feeling embarrassed.
  • Or, when talking to them, I will stop and ask if they understood what I said and have them repeat it back to me, it may seem a little childish, but long term it will save you a lot of angst.
  • Plus, I reinforce that I have hired them because I believe they have the skills to the designated task and maybe they see or have a better solution, I promote the idea that they can bring suggestions for a better way.
  • It can be a good idea to make a video welcoming your VA to the team. It helps them create a personal connection with you without the stress of a video call.

Take a little extra effort with the first assignment

Don’t just dump a ton of work on your VA on their first day. Start slow and let them ease into it. It’s your choice whether you want to give them something easy or difficult for their first assignment. What’s your general impression of their character? If they seem shy, something easy will build their confidence and let them get used to working with you.

If they seem confident, something difficult will challenge them and let you see what they’re made of. It will encourage them to ask questions and let you gauge their communication skills.

When you send off their first assignment touch all the bases:

  • Tell them you’re happy to be working with them and believe in their abilities.
  • Give them their first assignment.
  • Clearly describe the steps needed to complete it, your expectations as to their performance, and the due date.
  • Say that you understand they may have difficulties, and that this is normal and expected.
  • Encourage them to get in touch with you if they need help for any reason.
  • Check in with them regularly to see how they’re doing.
  • Have other tasks line up for when they finish this one.
  • I have found the Filipinos respond well to encouragement and poorly to a dictatorial type of boss.

Be up-front about the payment structure

A newly-hired remote worker might feel a little anxiety about payment. After all, they don’t know you and you’re a long way away. Technically, there’s nothing to stop you from taking their work and then refusing to pay them.

Reassure your VA by discussing how (and how much) you’ll pay them.

  • Will you be paying them hourly? (If so, do you have some sort of time tracker for them to download onto their computer?)
  • You can also pay an agreed-upon amount per assignment, or a set amount per week.
  • It can be a good idea to pay every week for the first couple of months. Then, when trust has been established, you can switch to paying every month.
  • My personal choice is to pay them weekly—most “employees” respond better to a weekly payment system.

If your virtual assistant is a full-time staff member, talk about raises and possibilities for further training or promotion. Everyone wants to feel like they’re going somewhere in their career.

Working with a virtual assistant isn’t much different than an employee who’s physically present. It does require special attention to communication, but as you work together it gets easier. I’ve worked with many virtual assistants, and the rewards are well-worth it.

If you are contemplating outsourcing to reduce your workload and overheads, maybe I can help you, I have now been doing this since 2007.

If you would like to discuss this with me, go to my booking page and select a time that best suits you.

Need Help?

Since 2007, I have recruited over 100 VA’s around the world for various tasks and yes, I have made many mistakes and have learnt valuable lessons along the way that I can pass onto you if you are considering this as cost saving measures, or simply want to reduce your workload

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