Even more intense and info-packed than the first interview, you’ll find here the overview about my second interview with Stefan.
Stefan is a friend and fellow entrepreneur, only that he moved to Thailand to learn about and experience the 4 hour work week.
The main topic of this interview is how to get a self-motivated virtual assistant for a small business, that solves all your problems.
Although it’s not as easy as it sounds, it’s doable. But read it all for yourself…
The basics: What to look out for / Best practices
When you start out with outsourcing, you first don’t know what to look for in a virtual assistant.
In the interview, we talk about
- Pitfalls of under-delivering assistants,
- How to build trust for long lasting success
- And what the most desirable skill in a virtual assistant really is.
Money is important – both for you as an employer as well as for the virtual assistant. But how best pay your VA?
To the often asked question about hourly vs fixed-price payments, you’ll learn about the pros and cons of each payment method.
Mostly look out for unethical assistants that
- report more hours than they worked for you
- or work on so many different projects at the same time, that yours does not receive the attention it deserves.
However, money is not all to keep your virtual assistants happy. As we lay out next, there are challenges with saving time in the recruitment step as well ass with keeping “the good ones”.
Don’t get trapped in the time waster of burning one employee after the other. Else you will never get the results you are looking for. A certain politeness in handling your virtual employees is also crucial to avoid virtual assistant retention problems.
Graduating from the basics: How to improve efficiency with your VA
Doing personal outsourcing can be time-draining, if you don’t do it efficiently.
What is effective outsourcing?
- Learning about when to do a task yourself, and when the time is right to outsource it. Not all your tasks should be given to your VA.
- Mastering effective communication from and to your virtual assistants.
Since you will mostly communicate with your VA’s via email, it’s important to know about effective email communication.
To be effective, you should communicate often, ideally daily. Even a short info exchange can increase your results!
If you don’t have tíme for email, Skype or video recordings (from you) and email responses (from your VA) have proven to be time savers.
My assistant makes a daily Google presentation with illustrations and bullet points of all the work he does during that day and it worked out really well for me.
Initial effort well-invested: How to screen for the right candidate
Remember, the final goal is to have a self-motivated, excellent virtual assistant with a “can do” attitude.
Setting up the basics is important.
An underused screening trick to speed up the hiring process is asking for work samples from your potential virtual assistants.
The quality of their portfolio will tell you volumes about their past work attitude. If they cared a lot about the work quality for their past employers they will also care about yours.
When you then first start working with your assistant, you can’t expect all to go perfectly. There is a learning curve.
Don’t mistake the process done when your assistant is learning with failure in your outsourcing efforts. If you quit right from the start, you risk losing more time and money than necessary.
The rest will be a result of
- your training,
- his attitude towards work
- and the long-term working relationship you build with your VA.
Communicating with your VA = Your Success
If there is one recipe that will guarantee you better results:
Daily communication with your assistant.
Even if you have a virtual communication using email, video recordings and phone calls, you still will build trust between you and your assistant.
Learn how to talk to your assistant with the right frequency that is best for you and him. This will speed up the communication more and more.
How you communicate with him, is up to you. But there are many tools and many types of communication to choose from.
They all have their pros and cons, as you will read in this part of the interview with Stefan.
The importance of communication with your VA cannot be stressed enough.
How often you communicate with him, is up to you. If you want to start out right, put your need for regular communication into the job description as a requirement for the job.
Frequent Communication = Prevented Mistakes
As a nice side effect, you’ll see that regularly communicating with your assistant will prevent failures from your worker.
always be up to date about the performance of your VA
find out more quickly if your VA is the right “ideal helper” for you
save money by not working with the wrong person longer than necessary
Good work relationship = Potential long term virtual assistant
Improving your cooperation with your partner to the point that you gain a long term virtual assistant for your online business is a win-win situation for both of you.
- He has a reliable source of income and a solid job.
- You have a motivated, loyal and trustworthy business partner that helps you build your successful online business.
How to communicate this to your assistant while you still get to know him?
Drop hints from time to time about your long time goals. Ask for his advice from time to time.
Even if you have to pry a bit, asking for the honest advice of your VA will leave him with a sense of belonging and respect.
Of course, if your VA does an awesome job and the communication goes really well, nothing speaks against giving a monetary bonus from time to time.
Sidebar: other cultures, and what to look out for
Stefan and my interview got side-stepped at this point for a bit. We talk a lot about Asian work ethics, because most virtual assistants can be found in Asia.
There are pits and downfalls, and sometimes even surprises. But you do best if you adapt your communication style to your assistant a bit.
Empathy is key when dealing with an assistant from another country. A bit of care and tact when talking to your employees doesn’t hurt, either.
Then, dealing with international cultural differences is not such a big challenge any more.
Back on track: What if your communication is bad?
Learn from this interview how to improve your communication skills with your assistants.
Learn when to be strict (insist on regular communication) and when to be understanding (when dealing with different cultural backgrounds).
Learn that your work relationship is your ongoing investment into your success.
bad relationship with your assistant = little chance to have a self-motivated and productive assistant
Next Milestone: Motivate your VAs!
To get an assistant that works independently, he needs lots of motivation and self-confidence. In the interview, we discuss closely how to motivate employees, and how to teach them to take initiative of their own about your work.
When your assistant is trusting you and is motivated, you should invest into the training and improvement of your virtual assistant.
Any dollar invested now will pay back in the long run in better results for you.
Mastery: Having a self-motivated and proactive virtual assistant
If you keep working on your communication, your trust and the motivation of your assistant, you will have a self motivated virtual assistant.
Note that you don’t ever start here, no matter how much you are willing to pay. This level of mastery is the fruit of your long term efforts.
That’s right, it can take at least a year to be at the point where you would trust your assistant with most of your online business assets (with care).
But the power of leverage you then have is priceless.
Don’t forget to keep your assistant motivated! Don’t destroy what you have invested lots of time and personal energy in by losing your cool over a mistake.
You seriously risk everything, in the worst case scenario.
If you do that, you achieve the dream of every time-challenged entrepreneur:
To have one full time virtual assistant that says:
“Yeah don’t worry about it. I’ll get it figured out. I’ll research it. Don’t you worry.”
We discuss what this means in the context of an outsourcing case study about picture research.
Example: An Assistant for Traffic Generation
Time for another example of an outsourcing case study about traffic generation.
On the basis of a very simple traffic generation technique, we discuss how training your assistant to learn more and more complex skills is key to his independent thinking.
Soon, he will be looking for training materials all on his own (without you needing to do any more).
A long interview finally at its end
Phew! A long interview finally wrapped up!
Stefan and I skyped over 3 hours about all sort of topics. At the end of this outsourcing interview, we summarize again shortly what we learned, and take a well deserved break.
There are many services where the tips shared here can be useful for you. Now it’s your turn to bring your assistant to the level of mastery!
Outsource your work to virtual assistants. Believe me, it works like crazy.
There are seven main advantages of outsourcing work to freelancers that I personally have experienced.
1. Get results faster
The simple truth is that two people work faster than one. Hiring a virtual assistant to cooperate with you on the same project will get you your results much faster.
2. You get highly qualified work force for relatively cheap
Getting this sort of help from an assistant would not work otherwise, financially and available for anyone. If you tried to outsource your work to local workers at your place, this would not be possible on a grand scale.
3. It frees up time so that you can do other more inspiring stuff
One of the main advantages of outsourcing your work is that you don’t need to do potentially boring and repetitive tasks and are free to do other stuff in that freed up time.
The one commodity one can never have enough of is: free time. Outsourcing gives you more time.
By outsourcing, you automatically learn leadership skills. You master team work with your virtual assistant and you learn to effectively give instructions to your co-worker.
All these skills are typical for highly successful people.
You want success, don’t you?
5. You are helping out people
Assuming that you are outsourcing ethically and that you are giving people overseas additional work opportunities that would else not exist, you are actually doing a good thing. You are helping people out and creating a win-win situation for both sides in this way.
6. You can leverage your own efforts
Think about what you can get done, alone, if you work really really focused. Then take the one thing you have learned that works and teach it to someone else, for example your virtual assistants.
Then, use their time and their skills to reproduce your efforts. This will effectively multiply you.
Reusing your success and replicating it with others is one of the greatest advantages of outsourcing.
7. You get things done
Since virtual assistants are very organized, this will greatly help you to get your organization checked. Especially if you are a creative and chaotic type, then you will greatly profit from having one hard working and very logical virtual assistant at your side. Then your dreams do not stay dreams, thoughts and projects – but turn into real results.
Use the opportunity
Do you have an entrepreneurial mind?
Then take this opportunity.
This last tip is not really an advantage of outsourcing. It rather is a possibility that would not be there for you else way.
Have you ever thought about renting out your virtual assistant?
That is what other outsourcing companies do.
You can do that too.
If you want, you can start your own outsourcing company this way. Just teach them one skill at a time that other people are desperately looking for.
Then, rent out your virtual assistant to those customers by negotiating a higher price than you are actually paying him. And then keep the difference.
This last strategy is for experienced entrepreneurs who would like to create their own online virtual assistance business.
However, the seven advantages of outsourcing I have listed above apply to anyone who wants to gain free time and get more organized.