(March 05, 2012)
Here is a very professionally made video from the Wall Street Journal discussing
- what using a virtual assistant is all about
- and what pitfalls there are.
I enjoyed watching it and it inspired me to write this blog post. Watch it now here:
What Can Virtual Assistants Do?
They can do many things – the important part is that it should be some tasks that are doable online. Since a virtual assistant is – as the name says – “virtual”, he can only help you with stuff that is not physically at your place.
- Helping with admin tasks on your blog is one widely used opportunity.
- Selecting an insurance plan is an example that was mentioned in the video
- I would be extremely careful when outsourcing stuff that involves your credit card, your personal health or any other major life decisions.
- You can get help by having your VA research different opportunities of for example what insurance plan you can have. The final choice is something you should make yourself.
- Another good idea is having a virtual assistant shop for clothes for you.
I found this last idea pretty interesting – if you’ve got a virtual assistant that is working together with you in a very close way.
For once you’ve got to communicate your sizes to him. I can imagine many people not being comfortable with that.
But if you are comfortable with this and if you are comfortable with sharing your amazon account information (for example) with your VA, then this is something which can be possible.
Please be also sure to check out our blog post about sharing credit card information with your virtual assistant
There Are Many Different Outsourcing Services You Can Use
Check out the list of services in the video. The service I am using is oDesk.
The best value for your money from my experience is when you pay for exactly the amount of work you get done.
The danger with subscription based services is, that perhaps after some time you don’t have any work to do for a VA or a team of virtual assistant. Then the money for subscription goes away for nothing.
How to Effectively Communicate with Your Worldwide Virtual Assistants
Something you’ve to be aware of when you get started with outsourcing is that you will have to deal with people from all around the world.
This can be very charming as cultural differences always expand your own horizons.
On the other hand, there will be cultural and language barriers. No matter if other people tell you there won’t be, its natural there are barriers. But you can overcome them.
When you give instructions to your VA, be sure to be extremely precise in your communication. The more precise you are, the fewer mistakes you have to cleanup later.
A nice side-effect of working with a virtual assistant is that it trains you sub-consciously to express yourself efficiently and thoroughly.
Because you have to think through if your instructions might have bad consequences for your business, this gives you another skill set right while saving time working with a virtual assistant.
Pitfalls and disadvantages of outsourcing to VAs
In the video from the Wall Street Journal, three big pitfalls were mentioned.
1. Don’t hire someone from their face alone
To be honest I had to laugh on this idea, but it is only human that when you check out different profiles from virtual assistants, you’ll get drawn to those people who might have a gentle face or simply attractive people. But you’re not looking for a mate, you are looking for a work partner and like in all working relationships you’ve got to be objective and logical in your decision.
So don’t look on how the person presents themselves, look for the little clues in their profiles. Do they have a lot of spelling mistakes? If so… this gives you information about their English skills in general.
Do they have a portfolio of previous work? From that portfolio, you are able to conclude the real skills of the virtual assistant.
2. Challenge your first choice
A very good idea to find the ideal assistant for you is to hire two or even three assistants for the very same tasks, at the beginning.
Then, screen them for the best work results. By the way, this is what we did here for several assistants for different tasks.
I can highly recommend this method to find your ideal assistant.
3. Problems of language barriers and misunderstood skill sets
I mentioned the language barrier earlier in this post, but sometimes a virtual assistant paints himself in a better light than what he really is capable of. You always have to test whether your assistant possesses the skills he is telling you that he has.
A Very Easy Way to Test Their English skill Levels
Before you even hire a virtual assistant from whom you think his English knowledge is crucial for your business, here is a simple test you can do in a few minutes:
Call them on Skype
Don’t tell them this beforehand, do this spontaneously while you exchange emails.
Say something like:
“Hey! How about we have a five minute conversation on Skype?”
What happens then will tell you a lot of things:
- Is the person is web savvy enough to have Skype installed?
- Do they have a working headset and a stable internet connection that allows him to have a Skype call?
- Do they have serious English skill levels to maintain a conversation?
Simply asking for a 5 minute Skype call will answer all of these questions for you, and more.
The Bottom Line and Most Important Lesson When Working with a Virtual Assistant
Virtual assistants may be ‘virtual’ to you, but they are real people with real feelings. The most important lesson you have to take away from the video is to treat them with mutual respect.
If you treat them like little helping elves that magically do your work for you and don’t deserve a word of thanks, don’t be surprised if they leave you or if there work quality diminishes.
If, on the other hand, you take the time to be polite with them, to stay in touch with them, and or to give them bonuses from time to time, you will be surprised on how much of a faithful and highly motivated helper you’ll get at your hands.
Share Your Thoughts!
I hope this video has inspired you as much as it has me. I’d love to hear your comments, critical questions or thoughts in the comments below.