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Desiree Ashton

doing the legwork, so you don't have to

In recent years, drawing on the services of a virtual assistant (VA) would appear to have become increasingly common.  In part this could be because certain mainstream business books, such as Timothy Ferriss’ The 4-Hour Work Week, have started to sing their praises,  or it could just be that as more people begin to use virtual assistants, they are starting to realise and talk about the benefits of doing so.

One of the challenges facing those who take on a VA is knowing how to get the most out of them.  While many business-owners will be aware of wanting an extra set of hands, they are not always sure what that actually means in practice.  As such, what they delegate to their VA can be somewhat haphazard and sporadic, driven more by ‘this is what I need you to do’ rather than ‘this is what I want you to do’.   In short,  it can lean more towards reactive, as opposed to proactive.

So, how do you make sure that you get the most out of your VA?

First and foremost, it’s important to understand that most VAs will have had ‘another’ life before they have become a VA.  Do you know what that life was?  Did they work for a large corporate?  What sector did they operate in?  What role did they fulfil?  Delving into the background of your VA will inevitably throw up some interesting facts – and possibly some skills you didn’t even know they had!  While these may have little in common with the tasks you are looking to have completed now, they may be relevant in the future.  More than that, they may actually help extend the remit of your VA right now – meaning that you can free up even more of your time to work on the other areas of the business that need your attention.

Here are some tips on how to make best use of your VA:

  1. Explain your business as a whole to your VA – this will allow him/her to build a general and wider understanding of what you do and a discussion around this might flag up another area where they could offer additional support.
  2. Look to delegate a variety of tasks over time – while you may wish one element , e.g. project management, to be their primary focus, asking your VA to assist with other peripheral tasks will allow you to road-test their competency in other areas and get a good feel for what else they can do.
  3. Read between the lines – if your VA comes across as a good communicator, the chances are you can draw on this skill to directly support your business, too.  While it may not be appropriate that they communicate directly with your clients, their skills could translate into drafting documents or writing on your behalf.
  4. Focus on growth – don’t just focus on what they can do to keep the business running, turn your thoughts to what they can do to help it grow.  VAs can prove very effective at helping you research new opportunities, keep track of your competition or simply collate interesting reference materials for you to read at your leisure.
  5. Give valuable feedback – most VAs will see working with you as a form of partnership and will value your honest feedback.  While working remotely is something they will be accustomed to, getting praise for a job well done will help them to appreciate the positive contribution they are making to your business and will give you the opportunity to talk about other tasks which they can help you cross off your To Do list, too.

These are my tips for getting the most out of your VA.  I’ve been fortunate to work with some great clients over the years and this list is dedicated to them.  You know who you are – thank you!

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