You’ve found and trialled a virtual assistant to support your business. But what can you do to try and ensure that your working relationship runs smoothly? You haven’t hired an employee, you’ve contracted a freelancer who is also a business owner, but their role is still to support you and help grow your business.

Here are my observations (based on working with numerous clients over the past four years) on how to manage the relationship with positive outcomes for you both.

 

1. Get clear on exactly what you want to outsource

You should already be clear on this (see this post for tips on finding the right VA), but it’s a good idea to put this in writing, not just in the contract your VA gives you to sign, but somewhere in your business’s SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures). Add a folder, section or board to wherever you store your shared documents – Drive, Dropbox, Asana, Basecamp etc – called Team Onboarding, and include a job role for your VA. This can always be negotiated and revisited, but having something in writing means that expectations are clearly laid out from the outset.

 

2. Find the right number of hours and respect your VA’s time

You will have set out your VA’s agreed hours in the contract or agreement you’ve signed, but do revisit this monthly.

Problem 1: Hours left unused at the end of the month

If a pattern emerges where your VA is always left with unused hours at the end of the month (hours you’ll still need to pay for), establish whether this is down to the VA not communicating with you – they should let you know if they have more hours left than they should by the second half of the month – or because you are not delegating enough tasks. If it’s the former, have the VA set up a system to help them keep track, such as a reminder in their online calendar. (Obviously if the situation continues, you may need to have a difficult conversation.)

If it’s you that’s not delegating efficiently, ask yourself why you’re creating a bottleneck! I’ve had situations where I’m waiting for a client to make a decision, write a draft or provide information, and I cannot move forward with their tasks. Unless you want to give your VA complete autonomy, you need to make sure they have what they need to do their job.

 

Problem 2: Your VA regularly runs out of hours

On the other hand, if you find that your VA is running out of time every month, consider either contracting them for more hours, or finding ways to reduce their workload or streamline processes. Remember that your VA is also running a business, so it’s not reasonable to give them ‘overtime’ every month, even though you are paying them for it. Every business owner needs to be able to plan ahead and know how much new business they can accept. The expectation of extra hours can also create problems with your VA’s other clients – a good VA should always prioritise contracted hours first.

 

3. Be clear about the nature, purpose and outcomes of tasks

A good VA will be able to operate with minimal instruction, especially once they become familiar with you and your business. But having said that, you do need to be clear about what each task involves and what the purpose or desired outcome is.

For maximum efficiency, agree a structured process to the way tasks are delivered – and stick to it as much as possible. Using a team organisation app such as Asana is a good way of achieving this. If you send one task by email, another by text message, and then another via Whatsapp, it won’t take long for even the best VA to get confused and forget to do something (especially if they have several clients).

 

4. Communicate!

As with task setting, establish a routine for communications. It doesn’t matter what you choose – agree on something that works for you both. Personally I prefer not to use email for quick communications, and usually only check mine twice a day. For anything more urgent there are lots of options – text messages, Whatsapp, Voxer and Slack are all handy comms apps, with varying degrees of functionality. See this post to read about my most recommended apps for communication.

 

5. Establish a routine

You should have asked your VA about their working hours before you signed a contract, but it can still take a little time to get into a routine. Depending on what both your schedules allow, are you going to check in with each other at roughly the same time each day? Or set up a weekly phone or video meeting? Are there certain times of day (or days of the week) when one or both of you won’t be available?

This doesn’t need to be set in stone, but it helps things run smoothly if expectations are clear. For example, I don’t work Friday mornings, so I make sure all my clients are aware that I won’t usually answer communications or complete tasks on Fridays before 12.30pm. Equally, I have clients who will schedule virtual meetings with me at odd times when they can fit it in to their hectic diaries!

 

6. Keep meetings brief

I don’t have regular meetings with some of my clients – everything is done via written communication or Voxer. Other clients (usually those with more hours) will schedule a weekly or monthly virtual meeting. Some VAs might be happy to meet in person; others will want to keep it virtual. I have clients in other parts of the country that I’ve never actually met in person or even had a video conference with!

But whatever you and your VA agree about meetings, my best advice is to keep them as brief as possible. You also need to consider how many hours your VA is contracted for each month: there’s not much point wasting a whole hour on a meeting if your VA is only contracted for five hours in total! You need to get the most value out of those hours that you can.

If you and your VA are communicating regularly and clearly, there shouldn’t be any need for lengthy meetings – they should be kept for things like discussing new developments in your business, or getting an overview of the progress of larger projects.

 

7. Give autonomy

I’m going to go out on a limb and assume that you’re working with a VA to reduce your workload, not add to it – so trying to micromanage is not going to help you! If you choose a decent VA, have the right systems in place and build a good working relationship, you should be able to give your VA autonomy to complete tasks, find solutions and make suggestions – without needing to look over their shoulder. As a VA, there is nothing worse than feeling you are not trusted to do your job – or that every move you make is being scrutinised. If you’re used to employees or working in an office it can be a bit of an adjustment to work with someone you only interact with virtually – but this is what we do.

(Obviously, if your VA isn’t up to scratch, and you find things aren’t being done to an acceptable standard, you need to have that conversation; but if you start from a position of trust you’ll usually find your working relationship will blossom. A trusted and appreciated VA should deliver the results you want.)

 

8. Work to reasonable deadlines

A successful (and, we can probably assume, therefore competent) VA will have more than one client, and part of their job is to manage their workload effectively. There should always be room for the odd urgent request, but you will need to plan ahead in terms of tasks, deadlines and project management. Equally, your VA should communicate their availability so you’re aware of any upcoming days off, holidays or appointments that will affect when they can work.

 

9. Be flexible (this goes both ways!)

I have working hours, but will bend them from time to time to meet clients’ needs, finishing something in the evening for example. I try not to work weekends, but I will do it occasionally, depending on the circumstances. Some VAs will have it written into their contract that any ‘after hours’ work will be billed at a higher rate – so as with everything, make sure expectations on both sides are clear from the outset.

Equally, as the client be prepared to occasionally work around your VA’s other commitments – to have a video call rather than a face-to-face, or prioritise tasks if your VA lets you know they won’t be able to complete everything in the timeframe you’d prefer.

 

10. Check in

Whether or not you have regular meetings scheduled, do check in from time to time to make sure that you and your VA are still on the same page. Make time to celebrate successes, discuss challenges, and focus on working together to resolve any problems.

 

Found this post useful? Read more in this mini series: How to hire the right VA for your online business

Are you planning to launch a membership site in 2019/2020?

I support my clients with building, marketing and managing their memberships and online courses, helping them to:

  • Create and upload course content
  • Join the dots behind the scenes to automate processes and make things run smoothly
  • Find the right apps and tools
  • Integrate their CRM, course delivery and marketing

If you'd like to have a chat about your membership, you can get in touch to arrange a free 30 minute chat here.

I'm looking forward to finding out more about you, your business, and your goals for the coming year.

You’ve found and trialled a virtual assistant to support your business. But what can you do to try and ensure that your working relationship runs smoothly? You haven’t hired an employee, you’ve contracted a freelancer who is also a business owner, but their role is still to support you and help grow your business.

Here are my observations (based on working with numerous clients over the past four years) on how to manage the relationship with positive outcomes for you both.

 

1. Get clear on exactly what you want to outsource

You should already be clear on this (see this post for tips on finding the right VA), but it’s a good idea to put this in writing, not just in the contract your VA gives you to sign, but somewhere in your business’s SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures). Add a folder, section or board to wherever you store your shared documents – Drive, Dropbox, Asana, Basecamp etc – called Team Onboarding, and include a job role for your VA. This can always be negotiated and revisited, but having something in writing means that expectations are clearly laid out from the outset.

 

2. Find the right number of hours and respect your VA’s time

You will have set out your VA’s agreed hours in the contract or agreement you’ve signed, but do revisit this monthly.

Problem 1: Hours left unused at the end of the month

If a pattern emerges where your VA is always left with unused hours at the end of the month (hours you’ll still need to pay for), establish whether this is down to the VA not communicating with you – they should let you know if they have more hours left than they should by the second half of the month – or because you are not delegating enough tasks. If it’s the former, have the VA set up a system to help them keep track, such as a reminder in their online calendar. (Obviously if the situation continues, you may need to have a difficult conversation.)

If it’s you that’s not delegating efficiently, ask yourself why you’re creating a bottleneck! I’ve had situations where I’m waiting for a client to make a decision, write a draft or provide information, and I cannot move forward with their tasks. Unless you want to give your VA complete autonomy, you need to make sure they have what they need to do their job.

 

Problem 2: Your VA regularly runs out of hours

On the other hand, if you find that your VA is running out of time every month, consider either contracting them for more hours, or finding ways to reduce their workload or streamline processes. Remember that your VA is also running a business, so it’s not reasonable to give them ‘overtime’ every month, even though you are paying them for it. Every business owner needs to be able to plan ahead and know how much new business they can accept. The expectation of extra hours can also create problems with your VA’s other clients – a good VA should always prioritise contracted hours first.

 

3. Be clear about the nature, purpose and outcomes of tasks

A good VA will be able to operate with minimal instruction, especially once they become familiar with you and your business. But having said that, you do need to be clear about what each task involves and what the purpose or desired outcome is.

For maximum efficiency, agree a structured process to the way tasks are delivered – and stick to it as much as possible. Using a team organisation app such as Asana is a good way of achieving this. If you send one task by email, another by text message, and then another via Whatsapp, it won’t take long for even the best VA to get confused and forget to do something (especially if they have several clients).

 

4. Communicate!

As with task setting, establish a routine for communications. It doesn’t matter what you choose – agree on something that works for you both. Personally I prefer not to use email for quick communications, and usually only check mine twice a day. For anything more urgent there are lots of options – text messages, Whatsapp, Voxer and Slack are all handy comms apps, with varying degrees of functionality. See this post to read about my most recommended apps for communication.

 

5. Establish a routine

You should have asked your VA about their working hours before you signed a contract, but it can still take a little time to get into a routine. Depending on what both your schedules allow, are you going to check in with each other at roughly the same time each day? Or set up a weekly phone or video meeting? Are there certain times of day (or days of the week) when one or both of you won’t be available?

This doesn’t need to be set in stone, but it helps things run smoothly if expectations are clear. For example, I don’t work Friday mornings, so I make sure all my clients are aware that I won’t usually answer communications or complete tasks on Fridays before 12.30pm. Equally, I have clients who will schedule virtual meetings with me at odd times when they can fit it in to their hectic diaries!

 

6. Keep meetings brief

I don’t have regular meetings with some of my clients – everything is done via written communication or Voxer. Other clients (usually those with more hours) will schedule a weekly or monthly virtual meeting. Some VAs might be happy to meet in person; others will want to keep it virtual. I have clients in other parts of the country that I’ve never actually met in person or even had a video conference with!

But whatever you and your VA agree about meetings, my best advice is to keep them as brief as possible. You also need to consider how many hours your VA is contracted for each month: there’s not much point wasting a whole hour on a meeting if your VA is only contracted for five hours in total! You need to get the most value out of those hours that you can.

If you and your VA are communicating regularly and clearly, there shouldn’t be any need for lengthy meetings – they should be kept for things like discussing new developments in your business, or getting an overview of the progress of larger projects.

 

7. Give autonomy

I’m going to go out on a limb and assume that you’re working with a VA to reduce your workload, not add to it – so trying to micromanage is not going to help you! If you choose a decent VA, have the right systems in place and build a good working relationship, you should be able to give your VA autonomy to complete tasks, find solutions and make suggestions – without needing to look over their shoulder. As a VA, there is nothing worse than feeling you are not trusted to do your job – or that every move you make is being scrutinised. If you’re used to employees or working in an office it can be a bit of an adjustment to work with someone you only interact with virtually – but this is what we do.

(Obviously, if your VA isn’t up to scratch, and you find things aren’t being done to an acceptable standard, you need to have that conversation; but if you start from a position of trust you’ll usually find your working relationship will blossom. A trusted and appreciated VA should deliver the results you want.)

 

8. Work to reasonable deadlines

A successful (and, we can probably assume, therefore competent) VA will have more than one client, and part of their job is to manage their workload effectively. There should always be room for the odd urgent request, but you will need to plan ahead in terms of tasks, deadlines and project management. Equally, your VA should communicate their availability so you’re aware of any upcoming days off, holidays or appointments that will affect when they can work.

 

9. Be flexible (this goes both ways!)

I have working hours, but will bend them from time to time to meet clients’ needs, finishing something in the evening for example. I try not to work weekends, but I will do it occasionally, depending on the circumstances. Some VAs will have it written into their contract that any ‘after hours’ work will be billed at a higher rate – so as with everything, make sure expectations on both sides are clear from the outset.

Equally, as the client be prepared to occasionally work around your VA’s other commitments – to have a video call rather than a face-to-face, or prioritise tasks if your VA lets you know they won’t be able to complete everything in the timeframe you’d prefer.

 

10. Check in

Whether or not you have regular meetings scheduled, do check in from time to time to make sure that you and your VA are still on the same page. Make time to celebrate successes, discuss challenges, and focus on working together to resolve any problems.

 

Found this post useful? Read more in this mini series: How to hire the right VA for your online business

Are you planning to launch a membership site in 2019/2020?

 I support my clients with building, marketing and managing their memberships and online courses, helping them to:

  • Create and upload course content
  • Join the dots behind the scenes to automate processes and make things run smoothly
  • Find the right apps and tools
  • Integrate their CRM, course delivery and marketing

If you'd like to have a chat about your membership, you can get in touch to arrange a free 30 minute chat here.

I'm looking forward to finding out more about you, your business, and your goals for the coming year.