They are sometimes referred to as telecommuters, freelancers or home- based workers. Regardless of the terminology, virtual assistants are contracted professionals who work from a remote location.
Over the past decade, the Virtual Assistant has gained prominence because of his ability to lower cost and improve productivity. The industry has evolved from one identified with secretarial and personal assistant services to one which includes higher technical skills.
Hiring a Virtual Assistant is a highly viable option for entrepreneurs. A Virtual Assistant can become a Valuable Asset if the entrepreneur knows how to work with them.
Here are seven tips entrepreneurs can use to work effectively with virtual assistants:
- Identify your purpose
Before hiring a Virtual Assistant ask yourself why you need one:
- Lower your cost? Hiring virtual assistants will lower your cost because there are no incremental expenses in benefits, rent, Internet and utilities. This is especially true if you hire from remote locations where the rate averages $3 to $6 per hour.
- Improve productivity? Companies that hire virtual assistants report an increase in productivity by 13.5%.
- Organize your business? You can delegate non- essential tasks to your Virtual Assistant and keep your business on track of its expenses and other obligations.
It is important to know your purpose for hiring a Virtual Assistant so you will a clear idea on how to capitalize on their abilities to run your business.
- Determine the scope of work
Virtual assistants are not first- time employees. Most of them have experience working 9- to- 5 jobs and have managed other clients before you.
But they still need to know their tasks in your business. Draw up their scope of work and discuss this thoroughly with your Virtual Assistant before they officially start their contract.
There may be instances when the work of your Virtual Assistant will require your involvement. For example, if you hire a Virtual Assistant to manage your calendar, he will have to clear the schedule with you. You may want to restrict your Virtual Assistant to merely confirming schedules or you may authorize him to plan your schedule.
If you hire a Virtual Assistant to manage your inbound marketing, you should read all content before having it published. Otherwise, you run the risk of the material published that is contrary to your message or brand.
- Set your expectations
There is no doubt that a Virtual Assistant can contribute to the success of your business. But they are still your “assistant”. A Virtual Assistant is there to lend you support and manage the areas where you need help.
Do not expect a Virtual Assistant to be a “do- it- all” solution. They also have their limitations and are subject to the Law of Diminishing Returns; the greater the volume of work, the lesser the returns.
If the performance of your Virtual Assistant is leveling off, it could be he has been swamped with too much work. It could also be that he has been assigned with work that does not fall under his core competencies.
In either situation, it may be time to hire another Virtual Assistant to handle the additional work load or someone with the specific skill set to manage other tasks more effectively.
- Design the operating system
When you are working online it is important to traverse collaborative limitations by having the most effective operating system.
Your operating system must consist of the following:
- Project Management software; oversee tasks and delegate work
- File sharing program; upload files, documents and completed work
- Communication platforms; to maintain regular contact and set conference meetings
Do not hesitate to ask your Virtual Assistant his opinion or advice on the operational system. An experienced Virtual Assistant has used many types of operating systems and programs. He can advice you on the best way to set up your system or on the most effective programs to use.
- Get them involved
In addition to having extensive work experience, virtual assistants have also received advanced training or certifications. Some are more than qualified to lend advice to your business.
Open up the chain of communication and encourage your Virtual Assistant to be more involved. You should schedule conference meetings at least twice weekly. These meetings have a number of purposes:
- Resolve pending issues
- Address concerns
- Update progress
Most importantly, it gives you a chance to get to know your Virtual Assistant better. If you will be delegating valuable information to someone, you must work toward building trust.
- Respect the nuances
As mentioned earlier, you can lower your cost of business significantly by hiring virtual assistants from remote locations. The Philippines and India are the acknowledged leaders in providing virtual assistance services.
But acquiring talent at lower costs may eventually bear a heavy price if you don’t respect the social and cultural nuances. People from other countries have traditions, practices and norms that are different from yours.
People from South East Asia are generally very spiritual. They may not be agreeable to work on days that have special religious significance. You have to respect that as part of their culture and find ways to work around it.
- Track performance
The best way to assess if your arrangement with your Virtual Assistant is working is by periodically tracking performance.
You can create your own grading system to measure performance of your Virtual Assistant. Project management software like Asana and Salesforce can provide you statistics on the number of tasks your Virtual Assistant accomplished within the time- table.
If your Virtual Assistant is tasked to manage your content, pull out the online analytics and check the level of engagement.
- How many likes or shares were achieved?
- How many readers engaged or made comments?
- What is the bounce rate on your website?
You should evaluate the work attitude of your Virtual Assistant. If you have time- keeper software, check how many times in a month he has been tardy or absent from work.
Finally, ask your Virtual Assistant to evaluate his own performance. Give him a grading sheet and ask him to fill it out. Compare it with your own grading system. Then discuss the findings with him. This way you will be able to bridge differences in perception and moderate expectations better.
If you want to have a successful working engagement with your Virtual Assistant you need to embrace him as part of your business development plan. He may prove to be more than just an assistant. In the course of your engagement, he may evolve to become an effective strategic partner.