In the right hands, a virtual assistant can be like a genie granting wishes to your small business – you send out your difficult projects to your VA and you receive the completed work correctly done and on time. But getting started with your VA is not as simple as finding a magic lamp and wishing that you had less work. I know you’re busy (why else would you be looking for a VA?) but you’ll need to take a step back and figure out how they can help, how you’ll be communicating what you need, and how you’ll be giving the VA what they need to get the job done. Here’s how you can establish an effective relationship with a VA quickly.

  1. What is the best way to get in touch with you? Should an urgent situation arise, or if your VA simply needs to ask you a quick questions, they should know how you like being contacted. In an emergency, for example, you can tell your VA to text you so you receive a notification quickly and can respond easily. For less important questions, comments, or concerns, you can have your VA email you instead. If you prefer your assistant calls you, ensure they know when you are and are not available as well.
  2. What are your schedule restrictions? You will want to establish consistent working hours or “office hours” with your VA. Ask when they will be available, and ensure they know when you will and will not be reachable. If your VA is going to be unavailable, they should let you know that ahead of time and there should be a backup option.
  3. What project management systems do you use? For consistency, you’ll want to integrate your VA into whatever project management systems your small business currently has in place. If you don’t currently use any, ask your VA to suggest one. Software like Trello and Asana can make it easier to manage tasks, prioritize them, and keep an eye on what is in process and completed.
  4. What are your favorite tools to use? Just like having solid lines of communication open and project management software in place is critical, working with the same or compatible tools is important for a streamlined work process. If your business exclusively uses the Google Suite, make sure your VA is using that as well. You also want to be on the same platforms when it comes to collaboration, cloud sharing, and organization.
  5. What do you want to accomplish? Many small business owners know they are overwhelmed and go out and hire a VA without any work expectations in place, but your VA needs to know what specific projects they can help you with and know how you want those projects handled. For example, maybe your problem is that you are overwhelmed by all the emails you receive each day and you need to figure out how to solve this. One solution is to use your VA to screen emails, bringing high priority emails to your attention while organizing lower priority communications. On the other hand, maybe you want to funnel your communication. In a sales process, for example, your VA responds to customers further up in the funnel (i.e., people asking for information about your product, pricing, etc.) while you close the sales.
  6. When do you want to accomplish that? Setting deadlines will help your VA organization and prioritize the tasks you give them. Be sure you are up front about your expectations and timeframes, let your VA know exactly when you need something completed, set mutually agreed upon deadlines when possible, and if your VA cannot complete something by the time it is needed (a 24-hour turnaround, for example, may not always be possible), consider bringing in additional supporton a temporary basis to get work done.

Virtual assistants can be an integral part of any business, whether your needs include administrative help, marketing assistance, or even a virtual paralegal for your solo law firm. A little bit of preparation before you start assigning work can really accelerate efficiency and make you feel like you’ve found Aladdin’s lamp.