We all experienced a new version of what our typical workday looked like when the pandemic hit in 2020, and employers and employees alike got a fresh view of what the future of employment would look like. We’re now increasingly hiring people from around the world to work remotely. We’ve been given access to much larger talent pools than we’ve ever had before. With so many options, we need to determine whether or not we even need full-time help.
When it comes to administrative and repetitive tasks, many business owners are turning to working with a virtual assistant, or VA’s, to fill the gaps in their organizations. A virtual assistant can act like an employee of the company, but they generally do their work remotely and can accommodate all types of business needs, any time of the day or night.
Virtual assistants provide a great solution to staffing issues that don’t require full time help, but you’ve got to know why you are hiring them and how to avoid the pitfalls that can derail your grand plans.
What are the benefits of a virtual assistant?
Before you make a decision on whether working with a virtual assistant is right for you, you’ll probably want to know what that means for your business. Basically, what are the benefits of having a virtual assistant?
When we hire virtual assistants, no matter the industry, the main areas we want them to handle are the time-consuming daily tasks that suck precious time out of our days.
Let’s say you’re in real estate and thinking about working with a virtual assistant property manager.
Every industry has tedious tasks that are better left delegated to a VA. If hiring a virtual assistant can even deliver those things alone, imagine how much time management can save in day to day tasks that can instead be devoted to activities that grow the business. Outsourcing these types of tasks to a virtual assistant is one of the easiest and most cost effective ways to solve staffing issues in any industry.
If you’re thinking you could use a little outsourced help to keep your team focused and at the top of its game, there are some key things that will help ensure you get all the great benefits of hiring a virtual assistant.
Common mistakes when working with a virtual assistant
Bringing a virtual assistant onto your team to take care of your day to day tasks that eat up time and distract you from what’s really important can be a godsend. It can also be a major disappointment if you don’t take the time to do it right. The choice, in large part, is yours. You can go with the best company in town, but if you make the common mistakes many businesses make their first time working with a virtual assistant, you may find yourself underwhelmed with the results. Let’s look at some of the main hangups business owners run into when they decide to hire a VA for the first time.
THEY DON’T DEFINE THE ROLE THEY WANT THEIR VA TO TAKE ON
Just like any other hire, you’ve got to have a solid job description if you want to set your virtual assistant up for success. Do you need someone full time or part time, local or remote? Also, which specific tasks do you want them to handle? How do you work productively with a virtual assistant if you don’t know what you want from them?
Developing a clear definition of what you’re looking for not only helps you identify the perfect candidate but gives your new hire a roadmap to performing their duties efficiently. If you don’t know exactly what you want out of your VA, there’s no way to know which candidate will work best, and there’s no way to know if a VA can even help solve the issues that brought them there in the first place.
THEY DON’T LOOK INTO PROSPECTIVE VA’S QUALIFICATIONS
You wouldn’t hire any of the other members of your team without looking at their resumes or checking with previous employers and references, so why would you hire a VA without performing the same due diligence?
A good virtual assistant firm should have a solid portfolio, preferably spanning a number of different industries and projects. When you see proof that your chosen VA can deliver quality results, no matter what they’re presented with, you know that working with a virtual assistant can provide the same great support to your organization.
References can also give you a glimpse into what working with that particular VA will be like. If the company pages are littered with negative reviews, you may want to think twice and read the reviews carefully. You don’t want to hire someone to help, just to have them hinder your processes.
THEY HIRE THE FIRST CANDIDATE
This one isn’t always a mistake, but hiring the first VA that comes along can create a situation that’s ripe for failure. As long as you’re in the process of vetting your VA candidates, you may as well be vetting a number of them. It’s great to have a first choice, but how do you know who your first choice should be unless you compare them with the competition? Looking at a number of qualified potential candidates will give you a good idea of what you should expect out of your experience, including their responsiveness, experience with your industry, and a fair price for their service.
THEY GO WITH THE CHEAPEST OPTION
While we’re on the topic of fair prices, we should talk about why the cheapest option doesn’t always translate to the most fair price. As far as value for your money, the most affordable option often falls below the more moderately priced competition.
That’s because a VA firm that charges too little can’t always deliver the quality of service you’re expecting. In order to attract quality candidates, you’ll need to pay them. The experience of working with a virtual assistant from a reputable company is well worth the cost. Even if they were to charge 50% more but could get their work done in a quarter of the time, you’d be getting a much better value for your money.
THEY DON’T SET CLEAR AND REALISTIC EXPECTATIONS
If you want your time spent working with a virtual assistant to be seen as a success, you’ve first got to set realistic expectations about what you want out of your virtual assistant. Let them know what duties you want them to perform and how you expect them to handle the various things that may come up. Delivering checklists is a great way to quantify your expectations.
THEY DON’T COMMUNICATE CLEARLY
Having clear expectations is one thing, but simply having them isn’t enough. You’ve got to communicate those expectations clearly if you want them met, and you’ve got to be open to listening to their questions and concerns. Clarifying the tasks you want your VA to take care of and opening a two-way dialogue to creating a system that works for all parties is the best way to empower them to meet and exceed your expectations.
No one ever performed at their best as a result of micromanagement. It is almost universally seen as cultivating a negative work environment. It prevents team members from finding creative solutions to problems and can be detrimental to focus. Having someone looking over your shoulder, either physically or metaphorically, leads to mistakes and stress-related fatigue. When working with a virtual assistant, make sure to give them the same freedom to operate that you give your other employees.
MAKE AN INFORMED DECISION
Learning how to work with virtual assistants isn’t tough, but learning how to work effectively with a virtual assistant in a way that delivers the tremendous value you expect takes a commitment to doing it right. If you don’t want to take the time to define your goals and work collaboratively with your VA, you may not see the results you expected.
But if you take the time to identify the areas where you need the most help and give them the direction and freedom to do what they do best, you’ll find that working with a virtual assistant can help propel your business in more areas than you’d thought.