The use of virtual assistants has been on an uptick in recent years among entrepreneurs, startups, and small and large business owners. But many busy professionals who are eager to outsource projects have a difficult time figuring out how best to work with them. At Equivity, we see many businesses utilize virtual assistants to create value and grow their business, but others struggle to take full advantage of their virtual assistants. Here are three common roadblocks to a productive relationship with your virtual assistant, and how you can avoid them.

  1. Delegating tasks, not projects. Some people think of their virtual assistants as a resource to get small or random tasks off their plate. To properly use a VA, however, you should think bigger than this. You should be looking for a VA who has the capacity to work on their own and who can become an integrated component of your organization. To this end, you should be thinking about a workflow process for your VA that provides a framework for him or her to operate autonomously. For example, if your assistant is handling your recruiting, having software like Recruitee can be helpful in providing a central repository for resumes, allowing employees to comment on candidates, and to track where each candidate is within the recruiting process, from receipt of their application to the interview stage to reference checks.
  2. Bottlenecking. Often, people hiring a virtual assistant can be their own worst enemy in gumming up a work process. Make sure your VA has access to the information they need to do their job. If you’re using a virtual paralegal, make sure that she has access to the relevant case file. If you’re receiving assistance from a virtual marketing assistant, you may need to provide login credentials for the backend of your website, your mailing list, and social media platforms. In the case of a virtual executive assistant, provide access to your calendar, email, and contacts so that your VA doesn’t have to ask you for your availability or for a contact’s email address. Don’t require your VA to frequently seek your approval to complete a project; your assistant will end up idle while they wait for you to respond, slowing down the workflow and delaying completion of projects.
  3. Breakdowns in communication. Communication is central to getting the most out of your virtual assistant. In an office setting, there is typically incidental contact between employers, workers, and independent contractors. Your employees mix in common areas such as breakrooms, elevators, and workspaces. This provides members of your team frequent opportunities to pass on important information and collaborate. When working with a virtual assistant, there is little opportunity for incidental communication. In order to facilitate the same type of information sharing, communication must be facilitated in a more structured way, often by weekly meetings. One of the first things that you should do when you start working with a virtual assistant is to schedule regular meetings either by videoconference or phone. Also realize that the extent to which communication is necessary will vary depending on the stage of your relationship with the VA. In the beginning, be prepared to be available to explain how your business works and to answer your VA’s questions or help them troubleshoot problems. Your VA will soon get a handle on these things, but there will almost always be a learning curve. Proper communication can pay dividends in accelerating a VA’s learning process.

Virtual assistants are becoming a necessity for small businesses and startups that want to leverage their resources. Avoiding these three pitfalls will help you get the most value out of this powerful tool.