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Desiree Ashton

doing the legwork, so you don't have to

World in HandFor most people, confidentiality will be central to being able to delegate confidently and effectively to virtual support.  In a standard office set-up this will normally be covered by a contract and supported by the fact that your staff work on site and use equipment which belongs to and is protected by your business.   For a start, sourcing virtual support ‘feels’ different and the sometimes ‘vague’ nature of the arrangement can make people feel unsure as to how much or how little information they should be sharing with their assistant.


In my experience as a VA, I have generally always worked within the terms of a Confidentiality Agreement or Non Disclosure Agreement which has been issued to me by my client.   This is something which has been established at the outset of our discussions and allows both of us to discuss business in confidence.  At the same time, it is important to note that, as an assistant, I generally only ever have a limited or partial view of my client’s business and the ‘bigger picture’ is only built up over time. Business-critical tasks remain, as standard, with your permanent staff, or indeed with you.  Your assistant will be assigned to time-bound, project-specific tasks only.

Nevertheless, there may be times when you will be aware that your assistant will build knowledge of or gain access to information which you might regard as being of a sensitive nature and you would prefer this to remain confidential.  This may include research regarding a new product or service you are looking to offer, data relating to your customer base or even information detailing how you calculate your table of fees.  For this reason, I would always recommend satisfying your requirements for confidentiality at the outset. It establishes your dealings with your assistant as a professional undertaking and sets a solid framework from which more detailed discussions can begin.

In addition to putting a formal Agreement in place, there are several aspects of general house-keeping which will promote best practice:

  • Set up credit accounts with relevant suppliers:  If the tasks you are looking to out-source will involve regularly buying stationery supplies / printing of documents, setting up limited credit accounts with these suppliers will ensure you are sent copy invoices and can keep track of activities.
  • Use separate credit cards:  Some out-sourcing may involve taking care of travel arrangements on your behalf.  If you are sharing such details with your assistant, use a separate business credit card with a set limit.
  • Usernames and passwords:  Where possible, create new usernames and passwords for your assistant.   Sharing yours could cause confusion in the longer term.
  • Shredding of sensitive documents:  At times, you may require your assistant to work with some hard-copy information.   If you feel this is of a sensitive nature, specify how you would like them to handle this information and request that it be returned to you for shredding post-use.

Finally, if you have concerns around a particular project, try breaking it down into parent and sub-tasks and map it out.  This will help you identify which specific aspect is causing concern.  If this element can be eliminated from the task, do this and hand over the remainder.  If this element is central to the task, think through what could be done to make you feel more comfortable.  This may include asking your assistant to work on-site for the duration of this specific element of the task.

The key thing to remember is that this process is about making life easier for you and allowing you to spend time on the tasks which bring the real money into the business.  Spending a little time thinking through the practicalities of elements such as confidentiality will help ensure you get the most out of your virtual support and allow you to reap the dividends  of this relationship from the very beginning.


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