6 Easy Ways to Work with a Virtual Assistant

So, you have considered hiring a Virtual Assistant, otherwise known as a VA?  Maybe you’ve even hired one, and now what?

How does it all work?

Here are 6 steps to a successful partnership with a Virtual Assistant.

Contracts

Most professional Virtual Assistants offer contracted services to their Clients. A contract is a necessary requirement for most, as it protects not only the interest of you as the Client but also the Virtual Assistant. Be sure to carefully read your contracts and don’t be afraid to ask questions if needed.

Documented Processes

It will be easier to delegate projects and/or tasks if you have clear processes for repetitive tasks outlined. This will reduce the margin for error by letting your VA know exactly how you carry out processes within your business. Once you and your VA are up and running together then you can hand over updating and creating procedures to them. An easy place to keep processes for everyone to access is in programs like One Note or Evernote. These programs allow you to create chapters, sections etc. and that makes it easier to keep things current.

Communication

Be crystal clear on your needs and your wants. Decide right off the bat what the best form of communication is for you both. Some VA’s prefer tasks to be added directly to project management software like Trello or Asana. Other’s preferring to receive instructions via email. You as the Client may prefer a phone call, email or even text messages. Whatever the form of communication, be sure to set out expectations.

Instructions

Further to documenting your processes be sure to provide clear and detailed instructions. Although most VA’s would love to add mind reader to their resume alas it is not an ability we yet possess! If you are not sure how to communicate via writing then be sure to call your VA directly, or do a little walkthrough video. Find a way to give clear instructions in a way that is easiest for you.

Use Technology

There are so many fantastic programs out there that make working remotely and with a virtual team easy. Here are some of the most common ones out there (most of them free):

  • Last Pass – Allows users to store and share access to programs, information etc. in a safe and secure manner without sharing your usernames and passwords.
  • Asana – Project management program that allows you to set up teams, projects, delegate work, communicate, set deadlines and more.
  • T-Sheets – Allows VA’s to track their time by the minute for accurate and honest billing.
  • Screen-Cast-O-Matic – Create videos, presentations, capture your screen as you work to provide a video operation manual. So many great features!
  • One Note or Evernote – use these for online manuals, policy and procedures, store your blog topics and mark them done, create checklists and more.

Hire the Right VA for your Business/Needs

It seems like that is a no-brainer, right? What a lot of people don’t realize is that most VA’s will have a couple of niche areas that they specialize in. For instance, some are designers/creative VA’s, others might specialize in certain fields like real estate, law or medicine. Depending on what you need you may hire multiple VA’s who can work together to get your business where you want it to be!

Ready to get your business organized, free up your time and get new projects started?

Contact us today to find out how we can help get your business to the next level!

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DOES YOUR CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE WOW?

Does your customer experience wow? For many companies, it is a fly by the seat of your pants approach. For others, it is a very detailed, customer first, approach. Most businesses think that their customer service is adequate. In today’s market that won’t cut it, you need to stand out, be better than the rest. A good experience or a fantastic experience will help create repeat business and generate referrals.

A couple of years ago, I bought a Hyundai from a local dealership. Throughout the course of the purchase and the years to come their customer service was bar none the best from any dealership. Here are the reasons why.

  1. I was treated like I was their only customer
  2. I was called to let me know when I was due for my next service/oil change and what was involved
  3. If there was a delay of any kind I was notified right away
  4. I was consulted before any work was done and educated on what had to be done and what could wait
  5. I was offered a free ride to and from the dealership, the staff was courteous and turn around was quick
  6. I received cards frequently from the sales person I purchased through

When it came time for my mother to buy a new car who do you think I recommended? The same dealership I went to of course and the same sales person. I would recommend them to anyone looking for a Hyundai.

On the flip side, I traded in my Hyundai and purchased a Jeep (long time dream of mine). I love my vehicle but have not been contacted once since my purchase to remind me of service appointments, oil changes, nothing. So, do you think I will recommend that dealer to anyone? Do you think I will go out of my way to give them business when I need to service my Jeep? Nope.

Here is yet another example of where a customer for life could have been made.

I took my Jeep to get new tires, two kept running flat due to nails. They ordered me new tires and told me they would be in by the end of the week. End of the week came, no call, I had to call them. No answer, no reply to my message. I waited a couple more days and called back. No answer. Finally, after a week and a half and a call to the manager, I got someone on the phone and they updated me and said the end of the month. Now you can imagine how irritated I was. Will I use them again? No.

It is imperative that you always provide top notch, customer service to every client. Not just the high paying ones! Bad reviews can cost you thousands. Here are several ways to ensure your clients are getting your best:

  • Anticipate the client’s needs and remember that they are coming to you because you are the expert.
  • Make their experience as easy as possible for them.
  • Educate them in a way that empowers them as a consumer.
  • Remind them of how much your business means to them.
  • Set up systems to ensure no one falls through the cracks.
  • Train your employees and ensure that everyone is on the same page, one weak link will cost you big money.

I am sure that you have had similar experiences. Learn from others mistakes and think about what you can do to wow your next client, spoil the ones you have and generate more money through great customer experiences. If you don’t know where to start, hire someone who can help you build a bulletproof plan to creating win-win partnerships for life.

HOW TO INCREASE YOUR PRODUCTIVITY AND REDUCE YOUR WORKLOAD

Downtime

Ever since I posted my  7 Signs Your Small Business Could Use a Virtual Assistant   blog, my inbox has been flooded with questions from small business owners and solopreneurs. So what’s the number one question on their minds? Small business owners and solopreneurs are consistently asking, “how can a virtual assistant help me to increase my productivity while reducing my workload?”

The key to increasing your productivity is to delegate non-income producing activities that are taking up the majority of your time.  A virtual assistant is a wonderful resource that provides you with the support you need to increase your productivity, and profits because you are spending more time on the activities that make you money. Here are some ways to increase your productivity and reduce your work load.

3 Services and Solutions that Your Virtual Assistant* Can Take On: 

  1. Administrative – this is by far, the most popular service area that many small business owners and solopreneurs inquire about. Administrative duties are a part of every business, no matter how small or large your operation.  That said, spending too much time on administrative duties and not enough time on your income producing activities can be a recipe for disaster when it comes to your profit margins.  A virtual assistant helps to ease the burden, and reduce your workload by taking on the administrative tasks which must be completed so that your business runs smoothly.
  1. Marketing – it’s critical that your company’s marketing efforts are executed in an efficient manner and that all materials that go out are branded in your company’s signature voice and style. This extends beyond print marketing materials and is most often seen with social media marketing, website, and blog updates, to provide you with consistent brand messaging across all platforms.
  1. Consulting – is another popular service area. My Warning: Inefficient Administrative Systems May Be Hurting Your Bottom Line  post, was one of our most popular blog entries amongst our small business and solopreneurs readers.  As a consultant, a virtual assistant can assist you with auditing your existing administrative systems to identify areas of need and make suggestions to increase the efficiency.  In addition to simply making suggestions, they can train your existing administrative staff to bring them up to speed with best practices.

Achieve your goal of increasing your productivity, while reducing your workload and partner with a virtual assistant today.

*Please note that not all Virtual Assistants bear the same skill sets and it’s important that you find a suitable match to your needs.  The service areas discussed in this blog, reflect my industry experience and skillset and are in no way representative of other virtual assistants.

 

7 SIGNS YOUR SMALL BUSINESS COULD USE A VIRTUAL ASSISTANT

passion-led-us-here

I’m contacted daily by small business owners and solopreneurs whose businesses have undergone rapid growth but they’re not sure if now is the right time to outsource some of their administrative work.

Let’s take a look at some telltale signs to determine if your small business would benefit partnering with a Virtual Assistant:

YOUR DROWNING IN ADMINISTRATIVE DUTIES

Do you find yourself buried underneath a never ending pile of administrative work?

Small business owners and solopreneurs go into business for themselves because they are passionate about their product or service and want to spend their time with their customers. This often results in a backlog of administrative duties that must be attended to, or you run the risk of it affecting your business.

LOSING CLIENTELE

Are you struggling with client retention? Building up a strong network of clients is crucial for small business owners and solo entrepreneurs, in order for your business to thrive and prosper.

I’ve received many calls inquiring about my services, from small business owners and solo entrepreneurs who are distraught that their biggest client just walked and they don’t know what happened.

After further discussion it seems that they were either too preoccupied with:

  • keeping up with administrative duties to provide the personal attention that they had been giving previously.

or

  • they were spending all of their time with their customers and the administrative duties fell to the wayside. Regardless of the cause, the damage is done and a plan must be created to move forward.

NO BUSINESS GROWTH

Has your growth stalled because you are stuck working on all of the administrative business rather than income producing activities?

In order for your business to grow, you must find a way to spend the majority of your day on income producing activities, while balancing your administrative tasks. When in doubt, delegate!

OVERFLOWING EMAIL INBOX

Feeling overwhelmed by your email inbox?

Is your email inbox inefficient? Prioritizing and responding to email is an important part of running your small business. However, many small business owners struggle to balance responding to emails, and working directly with customers.

TOO MUCH TIME MARKETING THE BUSINESS

I know, this sounds like an oxymoron, how could you possibly be spending too much time marketing your business?

You’re right.  You do need to market your business in order to get clients, it’s a fact of small business.  However, without a plan you can waste countless hours on social media, creating/proofing ads and throwing a bunch of quickly produced, non-brand representing flyers into the wind hoping for something to catch.

NO WORK LIFE BALANCE

Are you burning the candle at both ends? Feeling burnt out?

When your business is your passion, it’s often difficult to create the separation of work and home.  There’s always work to be done and it’s easy to fall into the vicious cycle of working 24/7.  In order for you to be effective and your business to flourish, it’s important to dedicate time for you that is spent on non-work activities.

BILLS ARE LATE ARE LATE OR NOT GETTING PAID AT ALL

Proper bookkeeping is an essential part of all business and it’s important to set up an Accounts Payable and Accounts Receivable so that you can keep track of your small business finances.

How did your business measure up?  Is now  the right time to partner with a Virtual Assistant so that you can redirect your focus and attention on income-producing activities?

WORKING FROM HOME – THE LIFE OF A VIRTUAL ASSISTANT PARENT

How I Became A VA

There are many of us Parents out there who spend their days balancing the scales between work and home life. For most of us, it feels like a thin, balance between the sane and insane. Constant self-questioning as to whether or not we are doing everything we can and more importantly wondering how long until the kids go to sleep, and you can relax and enjoy that glass of wine.

With Mother’s Day being yesterday it got me thinking since I am asked so often, that I might share my story and how I came to be a Virtual Assistant.

With the birth of our first child, my husband and I quickly realized that I would not be able to return to my busy job in downtown Toronto, working until all hours of the night. My Hubby made more money than me, and we didn’t want to downsize to a shoe box in Toronto, so we decided that I would make a job change.

A few days after our Son’s first birthday I returned to work. The same industry, but just a bit closer to home. After a while, the shorter commute and our new family life were not meshing well at all. I was working shorter hours, yes, but our son was at daycare from 7 until 6 and had to be in bed for 6:30…You can see how picking him up at 6:00, getting home at 6:15, eating, bath, etc. would quickly become impossible. I became so burnt out I was falling asleep at the wheel. No more of that nonsense. Kudos to you Mom’s out there who make it work, my glass of Amarone is raised to you. I knew we had to make a decision, make some changes.

I took some months off to re-group, relax and re-focus my life. It was then I decided that being my boss and working from home (as I did many years before my son) was a terrific idea. Scary as it was starting it up from scratch it was also very liberating and exciting. I could make my business anything I wanted it to be. I took the time to build my brand, do my business plan, line up my marketing, research and join any and all networks that would help me spread the word, held my breath and launched. I haven’t looked back since. Within eight months of launching, I had some regular clients and business was booming.

I am growing and learning every day. I enjoy the amount of time I can dedicate to my work, my clients and now more importantly to my family. I don’t have to worry about how many sick days I have left or vacation days because my son needs to go to the doctors or is home sick. It is a new, fresh perspective and I would recommend it to any Entrepreneur out there. Stay at home Mom/Dad or not being a working Parent is hard. We have to do what we can with what we have, make positive changes that make our lives and those of our families better than we should. I have learned that money is not everything but the happiness of yourself, your family and your children is priceless. What is money if you are miserable and never see them? Love yourself, love your family and love your children. I hope you all had a Happy Mothers Day, and I wish you all continued success and support!

TO DO’S BEFORE HIRING A VIRTUAL ASSISTANT

Female hand holding a pen and writing a plan in a planner

DON’T HIRE ON A WHIM, BE READY

Be sure that you are ready for a Virtual Assistant before you even begin to search. Start by writing down everything you do in a day for a minimum of a week. Once you have your list, it will be easier to decide what you will outsource to your new VA or show you where you might have to do some prep work and perhaps delay your search a month or more. Being ready and having an idea of what you need or want will save time and money. Make a list of all of your projects and day-to-day tasks that are eating up your time or just not getting done. Have a budget ready and a rough idea of hours you will need.

DO YOUR RESEARCH

Is a Virtual Assistant even a good fit for your company? If you are a business with a ton of physical inventory that needs to be shipped or tracked or handled on a daily basis, then a VA is not going to work, unless you work out a special arrangement.

Research different types of VA’s and narrow it down to a specialization that will fit your business. For instance, there is a large number of VA’s out there who do General Admin work, so email management, word processing, calendar management. However, there is a large number of VA’s who also have a special skill set such as transcription, law, real estate, sales, marketing and advertising, etc. So you can find an assistant that has a specific skill set to support you and your business in the way that you need.

Also, decide whether you want to hire locally or do you want within your time zone or perhaps you are looking into other options that are available. Again, do your research, see what is available and then go from there.

HAVE SYSTEMS IN PLACE

To get your business up and running like a well-oiled machine takes teamwork. It also takes allot of work and coordination to keep it there. Systems help not only you but your Virtual Assistant stay on top of things and ensure that a level of customer care that is consistent and reliable is provided. Systems also help to keep us organized and allow us to automate tasks which provide us back the invaluable asset of time. There are never enough hours in the day but with the right organizational flow and teamwork, you can tame the clock and get it all done.

JOB POSTING

Once you have your list of projects and tasks you are going to delegate, then you can focus on writing a clear and concise job posting of what you need, may want, how many hours you need (to start at least) and budget. Let them know that there will be an initial project or period where you will try each other out before moving ahead. Like a test project to see how you work together before signing up for a longer commitment. Be sure to include details on how you would like them to apply. This is a great way to see who is paying attention, especially if you are looking for a detail oriented VA.

There are many sites to post your job/RFP (Request for Pricing) to that many people don’t even know exist http://canadianava.org/  and http://ivaa.org/, both dedicated solely to Virtual Assistants around the globe.

TAKE TIME TO INTERVIEW

As I said in  “Don’t Hire On A Whim,” take your time and don’t hire the first VA to respond to your job post or just because they seem nice. You wouldn’t buy a new car off a lot without learning a bit about it, getting an accident report run or taking a test drive would you? No. Well, hiring a VA is the same. Again before you, interview be sure you know what you want or have an idea of what you need help with. Without it, there is no point. A VA can help to steer you in the right direction as to the help you might need; this is a consulting service that some VA’s offer to clients, sort of a business assessment if you will.

ARE YOU A PERSONALITY MATCH?

Ultimately you need to be a fit for one another, or the partnership isn’t going to work. Take some time to get to know your VA, ask questions about their family, hobbies, goals, etc. Find out what makes them tick and what their strengths and weaknesses are. If your weaknesses are the same, perhaps it may not be a great fit. If you can’t meet for coffee for an interview, then have an online interview through Skype or Facetime, so you can see each other, more personable that way, and read each other’s body language.

MANAGING YOUR NEW PARTNERSHIP

Once you are ready to bring on your new VA, you should have a system in place for managing communication, documentation, and projects. You will need to decide what the best way for your VA to reach you either via phone, email, skype, etc. A lot of VA’s will meet via Skype for meetings or use the messaging feature as a means of communication as well. Weekly meetings can be face to face this way, and you can both get to know one another better, and you wouldn’t even know your VA was not at a desk down the hall. For sharing documentation in a safe and reliable manner, you can use programs like Google Docs or Dropbox to share files back and forth with each other. Projects can be managed easily with different tasks being checked off or handed back to you for review or changes through programs like Asana. Asana is free for small teams, and you can have unlimited projects and tasks, it also has a handy App for your phone.

There you have it now are you ready to hire your VA? If not now you can use this as a guide to get you pointed in the right direction and know what to do when you are ready.