Train your personal assistants thoroughly: it will pay back to you tenfold. On the other hand, also make sure that your virtual assistant training efforts are applied effectively.
Working with one VS multiple virtual assistants
I tried working with a team of providers on Odesk. This was stressful, as each and everyone needed and deserved clear instructions from me.
Outsourcing turned into a full time job – I would have gotten things done in the same time that I outsourced it.
Not so good!
Now, I decided to train dedicated, highly motivated staff for me. Focusing on the virtual assistant training for one provider at a time took less time and yielded more results.
How many assistants do you want to hire and train at the same time?
Here is the maximum that I was willing to work with after years of outsourcing experience – in addition to one primary virtual assistant:
- One specialist for one-day-a-week tasks in addition to my “main” virtual assistant
- Several short time helpers for on-off fixed price tasks that needed to be done in few days
Be prepared if your personal assistant quits
There is one big risk and downside to hiring one excellent provider and training him everything you know, though:
What if the cooperation ends?
- There are many reasons a freelancer would stop working with you.
- He could be unhappy with the payment.
- He could have other, more lucrative working agreements with other employers. He could have found a better paid, permanent offline job.
This is a risk you have to be aware of, as an employer. I propose one solution to this biggest risk:
Create a backup virtual assistant training plan!
- The VA shows how well he has understood his tasks. They say that you have not mastered anything before you cannot teach it to others.
- He creates the instructions for a possible successor for you. No need to worry about being left alone with all your work on the desk. (There will be a transition phase though, where less work will be done!)
Save this training plan and be prepared to send it to a possible successor.
Automated Virtual Assistant Training with an Autoresponder
Or, if you are successful with your online business, you can also distribute your training using an email autoresponder service to a whole team of virtual assistants. Automate the expansion of your enterprise, so to speak.
Whatever happens, I am really glad the cooperation works so smoothly for all this time till now.
Feedback is as important as training was
You taught your virtual assistant lots of skills that he will profit from in future assignments. Don’t forget that he used these skills to work for you, for many hours, at a competitive price.
The least you, as an employer must do, is put in some work to write a solid feedback for him.
When you are working with a provider who does a very good job, like mine does, make sure you leave him with more than a few words of thanks at the end.
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!
From my real life experiences working together with virtual assistants, we (the employer and the VA) will teach you honestly and without holding back the best ways and attitudes to have, if you want to become a successful virtual assistant.
Which Level of Skill do you currently have?
- Did you just start out informing yourself about becoming a freelancer?
- Are you considering working online and want to become a virtual assistant?
Then you are at the right place.
As an employer I think that you have a real chance for being successful as a virtual assistant, especially if you follow our tips. Since I have made excellent experiences with some great personal assistants, I think more great employees need to have the opportunity to find great employers.
It goes both ways.
- You need to do your best to do your most effective freelance work online.
- An employer needs to do his best to hire the right person and cooperating with him in an ethical and right way.
Top 2 advices:
If you can follow these two advices from my point of view as an employer, everything else will fall into place.
Here they are:
- Master the English language.
- Be eager to learn as much as possible, as fast as possible.
And one extra tip:
- Go the extra mile.
Do that and you’ll become a virtual assistant that your employer will be happy and proud to pay well.
Time for you to be taking notes…
Let me be more specific with those tips. Whatever your skills may be, knowing about SEO, knowing about article writing, knowing how to work online doing data entry…
All these skills are secondary in my honest opinion.
About the knowledge of the English language:
If you understand English well, I as an employer can teach you anything. If you are smart and are able to voice your own opinions, you can please your employer and impress him when you give him your constructive ideas.
That’s what I mean by going the extra mile.
Not only is it best if you do your work in the most excellent way possible, but you also open yourself to new opportunities.
If you give your own opinion now and then to your employer, a good employer will be able to respect and appreciate your point of view. Especially if it brings him closer to the solution for his problem!
An example of being proactive …
If you are a data entry specialist, for example, you know the INs and OUTs of Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint and all other office tools. Say your employer asks you to do some tedious task using Excel.
Now it’s time to shine and show off your skills!
Do the work exactly as he tells you to. If you think that you have a much more efficient way to solve the problem, additionally make your own suggestion and write your employer a separate email!
Tell him that you could optimize his process and make it much faster to solve – if he wants to adopt your practice.
Then it’s up to the employer. Such an email is hard to reject, believe me.
- If the employer wants his work done his way, you have done it already. You have completed your objective. There is no need to be angry with you whatsoever.
- But if for some reason you have accelerated his work and his future work, your employer – I guarantee you – will be greatly pleased.
He will see that you are proactive and intelligent and that you can be trusted with more responsible work. This ultimately will bring you closer to a position where you become a virtual assistant with a permanent position. You’ll be able to do better work for a better pay.
- Here’s how we define integrity for a Virtual Assistant.
- Check out this story of how my main VA took care of internet outage problems in a very proactive way!
The least you can expect is excellent feedback for your work. This will open even more doors and opportunities.
Take home lesson:
It’s very much possible for you to become a virtual assistant. Let us say you don’t have a high level of academic education; there is still a lots of college degree experience online work out there.
- Data Entry
- Transcription jobs
- Web research
- And much more.
Be efficient and focus when you work. When you use outsourcing platforms like oDesk , it is of crucial importance to know how to work online effectively, without interruptions and in a focused way.
oDesk takes screenshots from your desktop at random intervals. If your employer sees you more than once surfing Facebook instead of working, this will leave a very bad impression. Avoid this at all costs.
- If needed, use productivity software to keep you on track.
- Consider using software that blocks distractions in order to work more efficiently.
There is not much that pleases an employer more than a personal assistant that is never distracted and always focuses on his work.
For me personally, as an employer, it is one of the primary reasons to keep someone on my payroll for long. Prove that you can work in a focused way consistently and this will be the best virtual assistance certification that you could ever hope for.
Are you looking for more lessons on how to become a virtual assistant?
We have an virtual assistant training program that you can get email!
You’ll get useful insights, lessons and advice on how to jump start your success as a freelancer – right from our experience.
In addition, I recommend you follow our posts – they will teach you a lot about how smoothly an ideal assistant-employer relationship should be working. We don’t hold anything back!
It’s like watching over our shoulders.
Administrative virtual assistant is part-2 of an interview with Eric, a fellow entrepreneur interested in outsourcing his work to virtual assistants all over the world.
Follow along to learn from our experience on working with VAs!
- Creating an administrative virtual assistant as close as you can to “a second version of you” is possible through training and patience.
- How hiring a virtual assistant for an affordable price can be a breakthrough in your outsourcing efforts.
- Can a written contract affect the ability of your virtual assistant to function well in his field of work?
- Avoid side scamming each other.
Start of the Interview: