A lot has been written recently about the YouEconomy, side gig economy, side hustle economy, virtual work and all the ways that working independently, from home, has its benefits. (As a "side hustler" myself, I can tell you it's the bomb!) You can also find many articles about the benefits of hiring a virtual assistant. But what isn't often considered is how to get the most out of your relationship with your virtual assistant. And, rarely will you find articles written from the VA's point of view.
I'm Ryan's virtual assistant (VA) here at Shelley Media Arts. The reason it's working so well for me is because I work with a client who trusts me, empowers me, and allows me to grow. So, I'm here to give you a little perspective on ways to rock your virtual staff's world. Because, honestly, if you're rocking your VA's world, they will rock yours!
Don't have a VA (yet)? This article is for you too because if you are a solopreneur or small business owner and you want to grow your business you need an assistant. They will help you with the small details of your business so you have time to focus on the big details that are income-producing. These tips will help you get off to a great start with your virtual staff, whether it's an assistant or staff filling other technical roles in your agency.
Here Is How To Rock Your Virtual Assistant's World
The foundation of a successful relationship with your VA is built on trust and empowerment. Develop a relationship where you know that your VA will carry out their tasks effectively without the need for constant monitoring. They are working remotely so just give up any ideas that you need to know what they are doing at any given moment. It's unrealistic and puts unnecessary pressure on the relationship. Empower them to make the right decisions, allow them ownership of their work, and trust them to work effectively and efficiently. Here's how to do that.
Share Your Company and Personal Mission
It's important for your VA to learn as much as they can about your business, your company mission, and your work-life balance goals. Share with them the resources that will help them learn these things. Be very specific about how they fit into the mission and the growth plan for your business. When your VA realizes the important role they play in your company's growth, it will help them feel valued. Sharing the goals and vision for your business will help your VA focus on tasks that will help you move your business forward. A superstar VA will look for ways to be of value to you and to help you achieve your goals (personal and professional). So, when your VA offers suggestions or recommends tasks that they can take over for you, listen and be open to them.
Regarding your VA's role in your work-life balance, I would venture to say that most often a VA is hired because a small business owner is overwhelmed and stressed out. So, your VA is not only there to help you with your business growth, but to help you manage your time better so you can enjoy the things that are important to you (family, community, and passion projects). Be sure you share these personal goals with your VA as well. Personally, knowing that Ryan has more time with his family is just as important to me as knowing that I'm helping his business grow.
Set Clear Expectations
Setting clear expectations early in your relationship with your VA is crucial. Nothing wastes time and causes more miscommunication than ambiguity. Understandably, this is the trickiest part of working with a VA. When you hire a VA you may not have a clue as to how they will help you and what you expect from them. So, try this... Choose two things that you most need help with. Get very clear about those tasks and let your VA accomplish those and get into a routine with them. Then add more responsibilities over time as you learn about your VAs capabilities. Good tasks to start with are inbox management (creating filters, archiving messages, setting up templates for responses) and calendar management (creating a weekly schedule and setting up a meeting scheduling tool). Your VA will learn a lot about your business, your daily routine, and your communication style by having access to your inbox and calendar, so it's a great place to start.
In addition, you'll want to set clear expectations about:
daily and weekly schedule
As your VA effectively carries out his or her mission in the early days of your relationship, you will learn to trust them. Building this strong foundation is key.
Communication Is Crucial
Working remotely doesn't mean working in isolation. Keep the flow of communication going with your assistant. Daily check-ins are important to make sure your VA is aware of pressing items and to communicate your expectations. Not only that, communication helps you build a relationship. Be sure you are including your VA in your team communication as well, if you have additional staff. Your VA needs to know that they are part of a team. This goes back to helping them align with your company mission and feeling valued.
We all have our own communication style, but here are some pointers about communicating with remote staff:
Be aware of how things can be misinterpreted when texting, emailing or instant messaging. It's hard to read someone's attitude and inflection in their voice with short messages. They may seem superfluous, but emoticons help get a point across, offer encouragement, and portray an attitude of friendliness. They are the next best thing when you can't see someone's face.
Schedule, at a minimum, weekly video conferences with your VA. This is your opportunity to have a real conversation with her/him and build a relationship. You'll be able to give them feedback, ask for feedback from them, discuss upcoming projects, and learn more about their capabilities and work they can take off your plate. This face-to-face time, even if it's just 15 minutes a week, is invaluable.
Feedback and praise are crucial. If your VA isn't meeting expectations tell him/her right away and offer suggestions for improvement. Don't let things slide. Your VA wants to know how to serve you best. If your VA is doing an awesome job, be generous with praise and virtual high-fives. They need to know that they are valued and that they are doing outstanding work. This positive reinforcement goes a long way to building a great relationship with your VA.
Though they are superheroes, virtual assistants are not mind-readers. You'll need to provide training on certain tasks you give to them. Once they are trained and set expectations are given, they can take ownership of those tasks. There are a few effective ways to provide training for your VA.
Provide a written outline of the steps involved in a task
Take screenshots and highlight areas on the screen to click
Make a short video on a workflow or process
Use a project management tool or application which highlights steps within a task
Play To Their Strengths
When you hire a VA you go into it thinking, "I need two of me to get everything done!" The thing is that you really need someone to compliment your strengths and add to your firm's skill set, not duplicate your capabilities. Let them use their strengths to your benefit.You do what you do best and let your VA do the rest. That sounded really corny, but it's true. When your VA sees areas of your business where they can be of value and utilize their strengths, go for it! Trust in what they have to offer.
Offer Challenging Work
Initially, your VA will be taking on the daily tasks that are time-consuming but necessary. Once a routine is established and those items are taking up less of their time, consider offering other tasks that will challenge them and allow them to grow. Take a look at their strengths and see where you can use them to help your business grow. This personal and professional growth will keep your VA engaged and empowered.
Two areas that a VA can be super helpful in are creating visual content and social media management. These types of tasks are time-consuming and once you give your VA the necessary training, these are areas in which she/he can excel.
Use Technology Effectively
The world of "virtual work" has been made possible by the tools and apps that we use to do our work remotely. There are tons of tools and apps available to help you communicate with your VA and manage projects. Use them wisely. You should have no more than one tool for each type of task. By that I mean, don't have 3 different project management tools, 2 instant messaging apps and 4 content curation tools. That is overwhelming, confusing and unnecessary. If you are currently using too many tools let your VA choose the best ones and help you use them efficiently.
Ask For Feedback
If you have a VA you are probably a new leader. And being a leader of people is one of the hardest parts of running a business. Ask your VA for feedback. They are observing how you run your business and they are impacted directly by your leadership style. Be open to hearing what they have to say and make adjustments where necessary. You're both working toward the same goals so trust that your VA has your back and will only provide constructive suggestions.
Putting in a little time up front to lay a solid foundation for your relationship will help things go more smoothly. Once you understand how to use your virtual assistant's time and skills effectively and how to align their role with your mission, the sky is the limit on what they can do to help your business grow.
For more tips on scaling your business for growth, check out this article on our blog.
Do you work with virtual staff or do you have any questions about working with a VA? We'd love to hear your feedback in the comments below.
As an Inbound Marketing Strategist for Shelley Media Arts, Rhonda helps our clients grow their audience through content marketing. A self-professed grammar geek and word nerd, Rhonda enjoys writing about social media, productivity, and remote work. Working from her home office in Queens, NY, she is an enthusiastic evangelist for the virtual office lifestyle.
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