(Sep 10, 2014)
For a long time, managing my main virtual assistant who is working close to 30 hours a week was just fine from the aspect of investing time for instructions versus him working. Now that Jomvie, my full time virtual assistant from the Philippines, has joined the team, I feel from time to time a little bit overwhelmed.
Factors that can overwhelm an employer.
At first sight, this is counter-intuitive. Having more virtual assistants should mean saving more time, right? Not immediately and not always. As an employer, you have to worry about training your virtual assistant, answering his questions, motivating your VA, improving his work habits, optimizing his results and all of that on a regular basis.
If you start out, don’t start outsourcing to a team of full-time workers right from the start. You will definitively not be able to draw the most off your virtual assistants’ team. And therefore, effectively be losing money.
If you have a lot of free time on your hand, for example, you have taken a sabbatical and a long time off then it’s possible. If you are working full-time at your day job and outsourcing in your free time, like I am doing, then this can get challenging.
Managing your free time
When I come home after work, I often feel tired or without energy. With the time remaining of my day, I need to balance between time for:
- time for recreation,
- reading books,
- Time for social contacts – girlfriend, friends, family,
- Time for my business,
- Writing articles myself,
- Researching new ideas,
- And time for managing my virtual assistant staff.
As you can see this list is rather long with the time that is free in the evening being rather short. And during all that time I didn’t even cook myself dinner.
How to optimize the time so that the instructions for your VA take as little time as possible?
There are few approaches how to make the most of your time to instruct the virtual assistants without sacrificing too much of your valuable free time.
- First, try to use short breaks within the day to record small snippets of audio instructions. I do this with my mobile phone and then share to the Dropbox. The files are synchronized the next time I get wireless LAN.
- Second, avoid instructions via email or in writing. Use video instructions instead. Those are proven tools that are most liked and well-received by virtual assistants and most time saving for you, the employer. There are even many free methods and software for video instructions.
- Schedule work far ahead when you have time, for example, on the weekend.
- Take time off from making instructions in order to keep your creativity and inspirational energy.
That last item is a tricky one. The best relationship with your virtual assistant is, without any doubt, when you keep up with giving feedback and communicating on a very regular basis.
On the other hand, it is good practice to have a short break or vacation from your business or your virtual assistants from time to time. This distance will give your brain enough room to come up with new great ideas and conserve your creativity in the long run. Stress or the feeling of being overwhelmed is the death of your creative energies.
What can your virtual assistants do when they have no instructions?
First of all, they should let you know in advance when they are running out of instructions. Then you, as an employer, can make the decision if they should:
- Research stuff for you;
- Pause their work for a certain amount of time; or,
- Train themselves by reviewing all the video instructions or researching better ways to do what they are already doing.
Virtual assistants training themselves: Does this work?
In principle as an employer, I could give my virtual assistants the instructions to just look for training on their own when I’m not giving them any instructions. This would only work for virtual assistants that are self-motivated.
From the different personalities that your virtual assistants may have, not everyone is cut out to be as self-reliant as to look for their own training. Especially for a newbie virtual assistant, this is too much to ask.
Conclusion: Find the balance
Find the right amount of training materials that your virtual assistant can review when instructions run out. Share a few chosen eBooks with your virtual assistant stuff about skills they need to polish.
Allow for a certain amount of time for research with “How To” videos on YouTube.
Set up strict rules after which amount of inactivity you need to consider pausing the work for your virtual assistants. Keep in mind that the virtual assistants need the work in order to earn the money with which they are planning for their life.
As an employer, you do have a responsibility for your virtual assistant staff. As a virtual assistant, it is important that you keep in mind that your employer also needs breaks and/or can use any support you can deliver to him from your own initiative.
As always, feel free to join the discussion in the comments and share whatever opinion you have about this topic. Be it from the perspective of a virtual assistant or from the perspective of an employer or someone who wants to be one.