If you’re a small business owner or entrepreneur you’re constantly busy trying balance running your business, growing your business, and balancing your business with life. You’ve heard a virtual assistant can really save you time, but you have doubts about whether it’s worth trying one out. What tasks can they really take off your plate? What do you need to provide to get them up to speed? How will you know what they’re up to?

These questions are good ones, but they should not stand in the way of getting the assistance that you need. With a little bit of planning, you can easily identify tasks to delegate and develop a workflow that will allow you to get the most out of your virtual assistant.

What to Delegate

If you’re in need of a virtual assistant, you may be so busy putting out fires that it feels difficult to stop and identify tasks to turn over to somebody else. However, this first step is key to figuring out how best to utilize your virtual assistant. You need to sort out the tasks that require your expertise from the tasks your virtual assistant knows how to, or can be trained to handle.

Here are some questions to help identify projects that can be delegated to your virtual assistant:

  1. Does the project require my expertise or judgment? If not, you should turn it over to your virtual assistant.
  2. Can the project be broken up into parts? Are any of those parts administrative in nature? The fact that a project requires decision making on your part should not automatically disqualify it from being delegated. For example, you may need to be the one who outlines a blog post, but this doesn’t mean that you can’t have your virtual assistant write the first draft. As another example, if you are planning an event, have your virtual assistant do the initial research for venues and caterers  then make your choices from the selection she put together.
  3. Is the task repetitive? If so, it’s probably a good candidate for delegation.
  4. How much time does the task take you to do and how long would it take to teach my virtual assistant to do it? You can use this ratio to figure out if a task is worth delegating: N*PT/VT. PT is the time it takes you to complete the project, N is the number of times you do the project and VT is the time it would take to teach your virtual assistant how to do the task. The higher the ratio, the more likely it is that the task should be delegated.
  5. Is this a project I keep putting off even though I know it needs to get done? This probably means  the project is not time sensitive and it would be beneficial for your virtual assistant to at least make some progress on it.

Establishing a Work Process

Now that you have a list of the projects for your virtual assistant to tackle, it’s time to bring in a virtual assistant, get her up to speed, and establish open lines of communication.

  1. Get the right person for the job. Once you’ve identified projects with which you need assistance, hire a virtual assistant who has the ability and skill set to complete those tasks. If most of your work involves data entry, you should focus on finding a virtual assistant who is familiar with the software you use and can quickly key in information. A virtual assistant skilled at data entry, however, may not have the skills to write blogs, keep your books, or manage your social media accounts. Make sure the virtual assistant you hire has the capabilities to match your projects.
  2. Take the time to train your virtual assistant. There are many great virtual assistants out there, but even the greatest virtual assistant is not a genie. Like any administrative professional, your virtual assistant will need some background on your project and some instruction on how you’d like the task completed. Budget time to train your virtual assistant in the beginning. The more training you can provide at the outset, the faster your virtual assistant will pick up tasks and the more confidence you will have in delegating the task to your assistant.
  3. Establish open lines of communication. Communicating with your virtual assistant is crucial to maintaining a working relationship. Pick a means of communication that is convenient to you, but also allows your assistant to contact you with questions as necessary. Let your assistant know the best times to reach you as well as your preferred method of communication. If your assistant needs to reach out, they should know how and when. Further, setting a regular time for you and your assistant to touch base gives your assistant an opportunity to ask questions about projects and facilitates effective oversight. Some people like chatting with their assistants every day to go over assignments and questions or concerns. Others prefer checking in once a week to make sure everything is running smoothly. Having daily or weekly phone calls can save time in the future and help prevent delays, mistakes, and misunderstandings.
  4. Agree on how your virtual assistant will report results. While verbal communication is important, you’ll also want a record of what your virtual assistant is working on, how long each project took, and what projects are completed. Your virtual assistant may have software that she uses to report her work or you may want to create a spreadsheet or some other document that the virtual assistant will update to alert you of her progress.

A virtual assistant can save you time, money, and stress, but it takes two to tango. Taking the time to identify projects to delegate and establishing processes that facilitate workflow will pay off dividends in getting the most out of your virtual assistant.