Five common issues and their solutions when hiring a virtual assistant

It is true to say that hiring a virtual assistant, or VA, is not without its pitfalls, especially if you are considering hiring one for the first time.  One thing we have learned is that these ‘issues’ tend to affect both the client and the VA equally.  An experienced VA will discuss these things with you during your first conversation so that they can be avoided.

It can be a daunting idea to entrust a VA (someone whom you have never and are never likely to meet) to build a strong working relationship.  The key to this is simple: Communication.  Of course, this must be open, positive, concise, and always constructive on both sides.

The issue:

Lack of clear, concise instruction from the client; this means giving a clear picture of the results you want even if you are unsure how to get there

The result: 

Convoluted and potentially time-consuming work produced by your VA as they try to fill in the blanks

The solution

Following your explanation, the VA must understand what is needed, ask questions if something is not clear, and take responsibility for the work they produce.  Better communication leads to better productivity.  An integral part of this communication is being approachable, let your VA know that they can talk to you if needed, this will save you time and money in the long run.  Conversely, your VA needs to let you know that you can ask questions along the way too.  Finally, find the right communication platform; you may prefer phone calls, text messages, Slack, Zoom, email – you decide the best way for you.

Another common difficulty is the client knowing that they need help, knowing there are not enough hours in the day, but not knowing how a VA can help.  Everyone has an idea of what a VA does, but not in enough detail to see the immediate benefits. 

The issue

You need help, but you don’t know in what capacity, from who and how to get it

The result: 

The need for hiring a VA will drag on, your business will not grow, your time is not your own and you are no further along than you were 3 months ago when you first considered hiring one

The solution:

Get online! Use your search engine to find VA’s, look at their website, what message does it give you?  Is it organised, vibrant, clear, easy to navigate, no hidden or hard to find information? e.g. costs.  Then look at the testimonials, this is key – people will be honest about their experience.  You can read, as close to first-hand as possible, how someone else found the service.  Narrow down your search and get in touch.  Explain that you would like support in your business but you are unsure where that support should begin, your VA will talk you through your options, where they can help, where the expertise of their team lies and what they can offer you.

The next one is very common but fixed very easily!

The issue

You want your VA to do something today because you are busy, you have explained what is needed but you have not given sufficient editing rights or systems access.  Perhaps you have relayed passwords, but your firewalls ask for a verification code which will go to your phone.

The result

The work cannot be completed in the time you have requested, you are not available to provide verification code

The solution

Both you and your VA should check systems access prior to the deadlines 

The beauty of a VA is being able to find the right person with the right skills but not necessarily having to hire someone who is close by or even in the same country

The issue: Potential time difference!

The result: Delay to answers and dragged out completion to the work

The solution: Work together, be prepared and organised and allow time for Q&A before deadlines

The last, but perhaps most important is integrity and accountability on both parts.  Do not play the blame game, if this starts the relationship is as good as over.  It brings us back to finding the right person, taking your time to ‘feel them out’, making sure they are the kind of person you want to do business with.  In an office environment you may only have one opportunity to meet your new candidate, you might be the deciding factor in a three tier interview process, with a VA you can chat informally and have a trial period for as long or as short as you like, so take your time.

The issue: 

You must deliver clear expectation as to what is you want so that you get the desired results and maintain a strong working relationship based on trust 

The Result

Work may have to be redone and if feedback is not constructive it will damage the relationship

The Solution

You both need to be clear in the first instance, if something does get lost in translation, (human error), then address where the miscommunication was, look at how to prevent it happening again, then move on!

Therefore if you are already aware of potential issues such as lack of clear instruction, the right way to hire, correct systems access, potential time differences and accountability, you are already most of the way there, the next step is simply to begin.