5 Pointers For Getting The Most Out Of A Virtual Assistant

After having flown to New York for a publicity summit, I received the news that Hurricane Sandy was heading in our direction. With no way to leave New York and trapped in a city which was rapidly shutting down, I contacted my virtual assistant for help.

Assistant picture from Shutterstock

Mayor Bloomberg had made the announcement that the power could be out for a week and communications could be affected so I had to make sure that all my instructions were given, received and understood so that everything I wanted and needed to be done, could be done.

I had to make certain that all the customer service steps were communicated and that I provided enough information to successfully answer questions in my absence.

Then with confidence in my outsourcing techniques, I switched off and let my virtual assistant (VA) take control.

Not everyone can just switch off and trust their VA to get things done but if you want to get the most out of your VA, you just have to. These 5 pointers will help you work out how to work with your VA so you get the best results.

1. What’s With The Micromanaging?

For some handing control of your work over can be very scary, so my first tip would be to stop trying to control everything. Once you have handed over a task let your VA bring it to completion without interruption. Could you imagine someone watching over you while you work? No — it would be really annoying! If your VA is obviously not capable of doing a task, find someone who is, but otherwise leave them to their own resources and spend your time doing more important tasks.

2. Be Clear With Your Guidelines

Only you know what it is that you want done so it is your responsibility to communicate your requirements and set those guidelines. If the task is particularly complex then make sure the instructions you give cover all the steps so there is no room for confusion. Try using videos to demonstrate your needs; your VA will thank you for your clarity. You must learn to define your expectations from the outset to ensure a successful relationship.

I use an app for Mac called Screeny to record a short instructional video of how to perform particular tasks, such as updating my blog or scheduling Facebook updates. I then upload it privately to YouTube and provide them with the link. If I ever get a new VA, the tutorials are there for them to pick up immediately without the business skipping a beat and without my need for further intervention and management.

3. Assumptions Won’t Work

Henry Winkler said “Assumptions are the termites of relationships” and he was spot on with this remark. If you think your VA will read between the lines, you’re wrong. Assuming so just increases the chances of miscommunications and mistakes being made. It is your dollar so spend it wisely by taking that extra time at the start and explaining just how and why you like things done in a particular way. Start off on the right foot by setting clear expectations. I have a golden rule with my VA’s, don’t bring me a problem, bring me a solution.

4. Give Credit Where Credit Is Due

You may never meet your VA face to face but that doesn’t mean you can’t thank them or give positive feedback on the work they do. Being a VA can be a very thankless task so don’t be that employer who only gives feedback when something is wrong. That’s not going to make your VA feel any loyalty toward you! Remember, saying thank you hasn’t killed anyone yet — that I know of anyway.

5. Know What You Want

This little piece of wisdom is actually step number 2 in my book Flee 9 to 5 in achieving automated economics (step number 1 is outsourcing). There is no point hiring someone to do work if you have no idea what you want them to do. That sounds obvious but I’ve seen people race off to get VA help only to realise they don’t actually know what to hand over.

You need to sit down and analyse the areas of your business which can be outsourced effectively. You also need to understand what skills are required to handle those tasks as you may find out midway through the project that the person you have hired is just not qualified to do the task. Then it is back to the drawing board and you’ve wasted too much of your time.

The first port of call I recommend to take is to list all of the activities you do on a daily basis for one entire week. This will highlight to you key activities that you simply shouldn’t be doing because it would be far more cost effective to outsource it to someone else whilst you focus on the bigger picture – creating a business and life that matters.

I find working with a virtual assistant very rewarding, not to mention freeing, allowing me to enjoy my Flee 9 to 5 lifestyle. Automated economics is what you should be striving for and a virtual assistant is a great place to start, especially if you ever get stuck in a hurricane!

Ben Angel, author of CLICK, Sleeping Your Way to The Top in Business and Flee 9-5, Get 6-7 Figures & Do What You Love, is Australia’s leading personal branding, lifestyle and marketing authority. With a fan base of over 35,000 internationally, he specialises in helping individuals, businesses and companies create businesses and lives that matter. You can catch Ben on the up-coming series of The Real Housewives of Melbourne on Arena in 2014. His brand new book, Flee 9-5, Get 6-7 Figures & Do What You Love, is out through Wiley Publishing in 2014. Click here to get your free chapter today.

The Cheapest NBN 50 Plans

Here are the cheapest plans available for Australia’s most popular NBN speed tier.

At Lifehacker, we independently select and write about stuff we love and think you'll like too. We have affiliate and advertising partnerships, which means we may collect a share of sales or other compensation from the links on this page. BTW – prices are accurate and items in stock at the time of posting.