5 Lessons from Working With a Virtual Assistant for 7 Months
In April 2020, I hired a virtual assistant. She does all the things I hate doing. Just as importantly, she gets to work from home, spend more time with family, and learn a bunch of new skills.
The process has changed my life. By saving 10+ hours a week, I’ve been able to spend more time with family and friends, and I’ve put together my first Udemy course.
It hasn’t been without challenges. I’ve also made many mistakes along the way. Here are five of the biggest lessons I’ve learned over the last seven months.
1. Putting systems in place saves time and money
One of my friends hired a virtual assistant around the same time I did. We went about it in much the same way, having come across Travis Marziani’s YouTube channel, but our results have been different. For one thing, my VA still works for me.
Why is this? Preparation. My friend jumped into the hiring process and decided he wouldn’t document systems for his VA to follow. I did.
It may have been the most painful two weeks of my life, but I’m so glad I went through it. Now, should I need to hire another assistant, I won’t have to train them. They can simply go through my written systems in their own time.
Such systems include a virtual assistant handbook, detailing step by step all the tasks I need doing for my podcast; a virtual assistant rulebook to set expectations; and more. I go through the entire process in my course on how to outsource.
It is tedious. Radiohead and gallons of coffee got me through it. However, after putting in this time documenting, I’ve saved so much since. I now spend less than 1 hour a week managing and communicating with my VA.
2. Detailed feedback can also save time
When hiring a virtual assistant, I always recommend having a clear schedule for the first two weeks. This is because it’s important to give as much detailed feedback as possible in these early stages. Your VA will be less likely to make the same mistakes twice, they’ll be more productive, and it’ll save you both time in the coming months.
What might this feedback look like? Here’s an example of an email I sent to my VA:
With feedback, there are a couple of important points. Firstly, I try and give feedback on tasks as soon as I can. It may not be possible to give within a couple of hours, but I aim for no more than twenty-four. This way, my VA can make amends quickly.
I also recommend the ‘sandwich method’ of feedback. In other words, I begin feedback with a compliment or praise for good work, layer the constructive feedback inside, and round off the feedback with another plus. It makes it feel less intimidating.
It’s also worth noting that this feedback doesn’t have to be ongoing on every single task. Once you get into a routine, like me and my VA have done, your daily communications can be as simple as “your work today was great!”
3. Check-in once a week
I spend less than one hour a week communicating with my VA, either over Zoom or email.
My VA sends me a daily report. This details the tasks she’s done, how long they took her, and any notes I need to be aware of. The great thing is because of the time-zone difference, I wake up to this email.
Below is a typical example. I’ll usually reply with something like, “Thanks for this — looks great!”
We also have a weekly check-in. This is a Monday morning meeting over Zoom that takes less than 15 minutes, and it gives us an opportunity to air any questions, schedule changes, or ongoing-concerns.
They’re very informal and we usually spend the first five minutes just catching up!
4. It’s not hard
Despite what you might think, managing a VA isn’t hard. If anything, it can be really enjoyable. I look forward to the weekly catchups with my assistant.
There are a few things I bear in mind when working with my VA:
- I respect her time — I’m always a few minutes early to meetings and try to respond to emails as soon as I can.
- I don’t give her work I wouldn’t be willing to do myself
- I appreciate what she does — If she does a good job (which is pretty much daily), I thank her and let her know.
I’ve never managed anyone else before but I don’t think it’s rocket science. Simply treat assistants as you would like to be treated yourself.
Casey Winans has a similar approach. His effective management tips are to listen to your employees, get to know your team, and build a wall around your team.
5. Outsourcing can easily cost less than $100 a month
I had it in my head outsourcing would be way too expensive for me to do. That only businesses making thousands could afford it. Wrong!
Thanks to the low-costs of living in some parts of the world, outsourcing is a win-win for all involved. Assistants ‘win’ because of the benefits like working from home, learning new skills, and spending more time with their families. Outsourcers ‘win’ from not having to do the tasks that aren't moving them or their projects forward.
And did I mention it can cost less than $5 an hour to outsource? I should know because for eight to ten hours of work a week, I pay my VA around $90 a month. (You can do the maths!)
When I first started, the thought of outsourcing to someone on the other side of the world terrified me. What if they do a bad job? Or steal my passwords? I don’t usually think the worst but I did on this occasion!
The thing is, there are also ways to mitigate the risks by putting systems in place. I also like to remind myself that most people in the world are kind. Treat them with respect, trust them to do a good job, and most likely they will. As Jimmy Wales, co-founder of Wikipedia, puts it, “Most people are good. They may not be saints, but they are good.”
Outsourcing to a virtual assistant is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Don’t take my word for it, though, Try it for yourself. I’m confident it will be for you too.
Click this link to get my free 5-day outsourcing course!