Ever find yourself overwhelmed by administrative work, leaving no time for the core activities of your business? You’re spending half the day sending emails, scheduling meetings, and organizing files, but still, the work keeps piling up.
Perhaps it’s time to consider hiring a virtual assistant (VA). These talented professionals can handle a wide variety of tasks remotely, freeing up your time to focus on what matters most: growing your business.
But, to ensure you get the most from a VA, you must learn to manage them effectively. Otherwise, you’ll just be shifting the chaos from one area to another.
In this article, we’ll look at how to manage virtual assistants, examine the benefits of doing so effectively, and offer some software options that can help streamline the process.
What Are the Benefits of Effectively Managing Virtual Assistants?
Too often, we spend time on low-ROI activities. These are necessary but low-value, routine tasks that don’t contribute to substantial growth or profit. By hiring a VA, you can delegate these types of tasks and concentrate on high-ROI activities, such as:
- Strategic planning
- Business development
- Customer relations
Here’s a look at three more significant advantages of properly managing a VA:
With clear, straightforward, effective communication, a VA can help businesses get more done in less time. Their professionalism, dedication, and diversified skill set make them adept at handling a wide range of tasks, and their flexibility allows them to adapt to your evolving business needs.
They can handle everything from administrative duties to marketing and customer service, greatly increasing your productivity.
Virtual assistants can help streamline your operations by assuming some of the everyday administrative duties. A VA can handle administrative tasks like scheduling meetings, managing emails, or data entry, eliminating inefficiencies and distractions.
You can then focus on delivering higher quality work on the core areas of your business. For start-ups or small businesses that may not have enough resources to hire a full-time staff member, a VA is a cost-effective solution for managing a range of tasks more efficiently.
Building a strong working relationship with VAs will help retain them longer. Higher VA retention rates not only mean reduced hiring and additional training costs but also ensure consistency, continuity, and reliability.
Over time, a VA can become a valued extension of your team, understanding your business process, culture, and goals, allowing them to provide better, more personalized assistance.
What Are the Best Practices for Managing Virtual Assistants?
Managing employees in-person and online are very different experiences. Remote workers like VAs don’t benefit from face-to-face communication, miss out on in-office culture, and may face distractions at home.
Here are some tips to help you manage your VA effectively and help them exceed expectations:
1. Communicate regularly
More than 50% of remote workers report poor communication impacts trust in leadership, eventually affecting their productivity and performance. Regular communication is key to understanding your VA’s progress and addressing any issues promptly before they become major issues down the line.
Stay in touch with emails, video calls, or instant messaging apps.
For example, if your VA is working on a project and encounters a problem, they should feel comfortable contacting you for guidance.
Action plan: Schedule weekly check-ins to discuss progress and address any concerns.
2. Clearly assign tasks
In part because of poor communication, nearly half of workers lack clarity on their roles and responsibilities. With VAs, be clear about what you want them to do, providing detailed instructions and deadlines to avoid confusion.
For instance, if you need your VA to manage your emails, specify which ones they should prioritize and how to respond.
It can help to let your VA know the effect on your business if the task is not carried out correctly or on time so they can see the importance of what they do.
With clearly defined tasks, your VA should be able to work with minimal supervision.
Action plan: Create a detailed task list with specific instructions and expectations.
3. Set expectations
Make sure your VA knows what you expect from them. This includes:
- Work hours: Clearly define the hours you expect your VA to be available and working. This doesn’t necessarily mean they must align with your business hours (especially if they are in a different time zone), but they should know when they are expected to be online and responsive. Also make sure they know whether you want them to track time spent on different types of tasks.
- Response times: Set expectations for how quickly you expect your VA to respond to emails, messages, or tasks. For example, you might require an immediate response to urgent matters, while less urgent tasks can be addressed within 24 hours.
- Quality of work: Define acceptable work quality, and don’t compromise. Accuracy, attention to detail, creativity, and efficiency are all important for maintaining a healthy working relationship.
- Communication: Specify your preferred communication channels and how often you want to be updated on tasks or projects. Some managers prefer daily updates, while others are fine with weekly summaries.
- Confidentiality: If your VA will be handling sensitive information, ensure they understand the importance of maintaining confidentiality.
- Professionalism: Your VA represents your business, so they must conduct themselves in a professional manner. This includes how they communicate with you, clients, and other team members.
- Task prioritization: If your VA will be handling multiple tasks, guide them on recognizing priority tasks. Which tasks are most urgent or important? Which tasks can be done concurrently, and which ones require full focus?
Remember, these expectations should be communicated clearly and early on, ideally during the onboarding process. It’s also important to revisit these expectations regularly and adjust as needed.
Action plan: Discuss your expectations during the onboarding process and reinforce them regularly.
4. Provide feedback
Regular feedback helps your VA improve performance. Praise exceptional work, constructively address areas that need improvement, and show gratitude for their help.
Correct mistakes gently, remembering we all make them.
Action plan: Here’s an example email you could send:
Subject: Feedback on Recent Tasks
Dear [VA’s Name],
I wanted to take a moment to provide some feedback on recent tasks.
First, excellent job managing my schedule. How you’ve organized meetings and ensured no conflicts has made my days much smoother. Your attention to detail has not gone unnoticed and is greatly appreciated.
However, I’ve noticed a few important emails have been missed in the inbox management. I understand that the volume of emails can be overwhelming. Still, it’s critical that all client emails are responded to within 24 hours.
To help with this, I suggest creating a system to prioritize emails. For instance, marking client emails as important or using color-coded labels could be effective. I’m open to hearing any strategies you might have.
Remember, this feedback is just meant for growth and improvement. I’m confident in your abilities and know that you can handle this! Please feel free to reach out if you have any questions or need further clarification.
Thank you for your hard work and dedication.
5. Use online management tools
Tools like Asana, Trello, or Slack (discussed below) can help you assign tasks, track progress, and communicate with your virtual assistant. For example, you can use Asana to assign daily tasks and set deadlines, and your VA can update their progress directly in the app.
Action plan: Choose a suitable management tool that fits your needs and train your VA to use it.
6. Treat them as human beings
Treating your virtual assistant as a human being might seem like a given, but it’s worth emphasizing. Because there is sometimes no personal interaction, they can often feel under-appreciated.
To bring out the best in your VA, make sure you:
- Acknowledge their personal lives
- Show empathy
- Celebrate their successes
- Encourage work-life balance
- Provide constructive feedback
- Involve them in decision-making
- Respect their ideas and opinions
Remember, your VA is not just a task-doer. They are a valuable member of your team and should be treated as such.
They have feelings, needs, and personal lives. For example, be understanding and flexible if your VA is sick or has a personal emergency.
Action plan: Use their name as often as possible to make sure you are humanizing them in your mind instead of just inputting tasks into a computer.
7. Train and manage
Train your VA to ensure they have the skills and knowledge to perform their tasks effectively.
Don’t assume your virtual assistant will know how to do everything from the start. Even if they have experience, they may not be familiar with your specific processes or tools. Training materials, like manuals, videos, or online courses, will help them learn.
Also, make sure to provide ongoing support. Tasks may change as your business evolves, and they will need to learn new skills. Be proactive in providing training opportunities whenever possible.
Action plan: Start with a comprehensive onboarding process where you introduce your VA to the common tasks they will handle. This could include a walkthrough of the systems and tools they will be using and an overview of your business and its goals.
8. Start with one virtual assistant
If you’re new to managing virtual assistants, starting with one and gradually adding others as you become comfortable with the process can be beneficial. Starting with one VA allows you to focus on learning how to effectively delegate tasks, communicate, and provide feedback and training.
Remember, the goal is not to have the most assistants but to effectively manage the ones you have to maximize productivity and efficiency.
Action plan: Take the time to learn how to effectively manage one VA before adding more to your team.
9. Evaluate the project
Before hiring a VA, evaluate your project to determine what skills and experience level it will require.
Action plan: Here’s a set of questions to ask yourself.
- What tasks do I need assistance with?
- Do these tasks require a VA with specialized skills, or can they be handled by a generalist?
- How many hours per week do I need assistance?
- Do I need a VA who can work in my time zone, or can the tasks be completed asynchronously?
- Are the tasks routine administration, or are they complicated tasks that require more advanced skills?
- Is this a short-term project or a long-term commitment?
- What is my budget for hiring a VA?
10. Identify obstacles
Regardless of how experienced your virtual assistant is, you will have a better understanding of your product, service, and industry. With that knowledge, you can anticipate potential obstacles to your delegated tasks.
These could be technical issues, such as a lack of necessary software or tools, or task-specific challenges, like complex procedures, regulatory concerns, or tight deadlines.
It’s your responsibility to identify these potential obstacles and provide your virtual assistant with the resources and support they need to overcome them.
Action plan: Regularly review the tasks you’ve assigned to your VA, identify potential obstacles they may encounter, and develop strategies to overcome these challenges.
11. Maintain a consistent online presence
Maintaining a consistent online presence as a remote manager can help your VA feel connected and supported. Something simple like updating your status on Slack lets your VA know you’re available and encourages them to reach out if an issue arises.
Action plan: Set regular work hours and be available and responsive to your VA’s messages and calls.
What Are the Top Tools for Managing Virtual Assistants?
Managing a virtual assistant is easier than ever, thanks to the explosion in tools and software specifically made to facilitate remote working by making collaboration, asynchronous communication, and time management easy.
Here are some of the top tools that can streamline the process:
This suite of cloud-based productivity and collaboration tools developed by Google includes familiar programs like:
These tools can help you and your VA collaborate in real time, share files, schedule meetings, and communicate effectively.
This time-tracking and productivity tool can help you monitor your VA’s work hours and productivity. It provides detailed reports on how time is spent, which can be useful for performance reviews and identifying improvement areas.
Slack is a cloud-based communication platform that allows instant messaging, file sharing, and integration with many other productivity tools. It’s great for quick updates, questions, or discussions. It can help you stay connected with your VA throughout the day.
Asana is a web and mobile-based project management tool that helps teams organize, track, and manage their work.
It provides a simple way to assign goals, deadlines, and tasks to different team members. You can create individual projects, designate work, set schedules, leave comments, and upload files to ensure the best experience possible for remote workers.
Like Asana, Trello is a project management tool that uses boards, lists, and cards to organize and prioritize tasks. It’s highly visual and intuitive, making it easy for you and your VA to see upcoming, in progress, or completed tasks.
Video conferencing has become essential for remote work. Zoom is the best substitute for face-to-face communication, making explaining complex tasks or having in-depth discussions easier.
It also features screen sharing, which is useful for demonstrations or presentations. Regular Zoom meetings can help you build a stronger relationship with your VA and ensure you’re both on the same page.
The ability to delegate administrative, marketing, and even customer service tasks to a competent and reliable VA can significantly boost productivity and operational efficiency.
These 11 essential tips for managing virtual assistants lay the foundation for a productive and successful working relationship with your VA.
Open communication, clear goal-setting, and task delegation are key to successfully managing your virtual assistant. Set expectations, continually provide feedback, and remember to treat them like human beings.
Remember, effective virtual assistant management requires building trust and a solid professional relationship. It may take some time to fully integrate your VA into your daily operations, but once you have, you’ll be amazed at how much more you can accomplish.
To help you decide whether a VA is right for your business, we’ve compiled a comprehensive guide on how much virtual assistants cost. It explains some of the main factors to consider and how salary expectations can vary across regions.