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Four actions guaranteed to improve your chances of success with a Virtual Assistant


Barnaby Lashbrooke

Founder and CEO of Time etc, author of The Hard Work Myth

5 minute read

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Upgrade your communication

Proper communication is vital to success with any business relationship but especially true when you’ll be delegating work to a remote assistant. There a right and wrong way to do it and we’re here to help guide you. These is are the communication Do’s and Don’ts when working with a Virtual Assistant.

Don’t rely solely on verbal communication.

A phone conversation is great for maintaining a human touch but elements tend to get lost during a verbal exchange or misunderstood.

Do follow up with written communication.

Send an email to go over what was heard or use a service like Uberconference that allows you to record calls and reference them later for playback.

Don’t assume your Virtual Assistant understands your instructions.

While what you would like done may seem clear to you, your assistant may not agree. Many times we fail to provide enough information or details when delegating tasks. It’s your responsibility to be specific on what you need.

Do be clear in your communication and explicit on what exactly you’d like accomplished.

Virtual Assistants are pretty amazing but they are not mind readers. You’ll save yourself time and money by clearly communicating the full scope of what you’d like your assistant to do rather than assuming they will naturally know.

Don’t change the rules without letting the team know.

Make sure your Virtual Assistant is clear on what his or her responsibilities are and what is expected from them in the end. If something changes while they are working on a task and you need further work, let them know immediately.

Do give them the freedom to accomplish the task.

Your job is to delegate the results needed. Your assistant is free to choose the process they will use to get to that result. Micromanaging won’t help you free up your plate. By trusting your assistant to accomplish the task the best way they see fit, you are communicating your confidence and trust in them.

Don’t withhold information.

Provide all the necessary information to complete a task at the beginning. It will save both of you time and prevent unnecessary work from being done. Names, locations, dates and phone numbers are all things that should be provided immediately so there isn’t a delay in finishing a task.

Do make sure your Virtual Assistant has the big picture.

Beyond providing necessary information on a single task, make sure your assistant is aware how the pieces fit into the big picture. They may be able to accomplish multiple tasks at once that will speed the process along for you.

Focus on delegating tasks that repeat

One of the easiest ways to get maximum benefit from your Virtual Assistant is to delegate tasks that repeat often

I've noticed that many inexperienced delegators work with their assistant on an ad-hoc or project-by-project basis - thinking up projects or tasks to be handed over and then delegating them to their assistant when the need arrises.

Many people do this because it keeps things 'safe' - it feels much safer to delegate the occasional task than it does to truly let someone into your life to 'take over' many of the things you find yourself spending your time on time-after-time.

The truth is, however, that delegating tasks that repeat and eat your time on an ongoing basis is the most powerful way to benefit time and time again from your assistant - and the bed-rock for any successful client <> assistant relationship.

One off projects disadvantages

  • Each and every project takes time, effort and energy to delegate
  • Require constantly having to think of projects and tasks to delegate
  • Need to keep on top of delegating otherwise benefit is lost
  • Assistant can become disengaged during quiet periods

Repeating tasks advantages

  • Invest time just once for continued benefits forever
  • Save time automatically every day, week or month without any effort
  • Give your assistant predictable structure day-in and day-out
  • Reduce the need to think of more tasks, projects or assignments to delegate

Here are some ideas for repeating tasks you can delegate today:

  • Clearing spam and non-important email from your inbox
  • Checking your voicemails
  • Sending newsletters
  • Writing content including blogs
  • Updating social media
  • Monthly expense reporting
  • Reconciling receipts
  • Chasing down outstanding invoices.

Understand how to handle problems

Humans are complex by nature and it's absolutely normal for issues to crop up in any working relationship - it's crucial to understand and embrace that when you're delegating to a Virtual Assistant, so you can deal with any issues that come up

We’d all love to hire someone and never have a single issue arise afterwards. The truth is that problems arise, conflicts may occur and your Virtual Assistant is indeed just human after all. We all make mistakes but it’s all in how we deal with those mistakes. When working with a Virtual Assistant any times the problems come from miscommunication on both ends. Here’s some advice on dealing with problems and ways to prevent certain mistakes from ever occurring.

Address problems and conflicts immediately

It’s always tempting to ignore a problem or conflict and hope it goes away on its own. That seldom happens and often times just leads to a much bigger issue. If something has gone awry, bring it up as soon as you realize it.

It’s a learning opportunity

Many times the problem or conflict arose because communication wasn’t clear or specific enough. Now that the situation has come to light, it’s a chance for you to make sure your instructions are delivered with clarity and for your Virtual Assistant to do a better job at asking questions regarding anything they find ambiguous or unclear.

Stay Positive

When a problem arises work with your virtual assistant to discover where the issue came from and what they need from you to resolve it. The way you handle problems will affect the way your Virtual Assistant sees you and how comfortable they will feel communicating with you when they are struggling with a task. You are fostering a relationship here and you want it to be built upon trust.

Follow Up

Once you’ve worked through a problem and have decided upon a solution, follow up with your virtual assistant to make sure things are going smoothly now. Recap your conversations and solutions in an email so they have something to refer back to when needed.

Keep things going for the long-term

Once you’ve found a good Virtual Assistant, you’re going to want to keep them. That means building a long-term relationship with them and allowing them to feel as if they are truly part of your team – wherever they happen to be stationed. There’s nothing as frustrating as finally finding a great employee only to lose them to someone else.

Here's the keys to building a long-term relationship with your Virtual Assistant.

Keep Them Engaged

It’s easy for virtual employees to feel out of the loop or not connected to the beat of the organization. After all, it’s not like they can swing by your office if they have a question or exchange conversation over coffee in the break room. Keep them engaged and involved by checking in regularly. Establish a daily phone call, weekly Skype meeting or even a team on Slack so they don’t ever feel as if they are missing out on vital information.

Recognize and Reward

When an employee in the office does a great job you might announce it during a staff meeting or take them out to lunch. Virtual employees want to feel important too. Send a group email recognizing their contributions. If they really impressed you, shoot them a digital gift card to Starbucks. Make sure they feel appreciated even if you can’t physically pat them on the back.

Get Personal Don’t make it all business.

Find out about their family, hobbies and what they enjoy. Share the same about yourself. If you know they are a foodie, send over a cool recipe you think they might enjoy. Ask about their children’s sporting events or how they enjoyed their vacation. Establishing a human connection is vital for creating a lasting relationships.


Virtual Assistants can’t physically see how busy you are so unless you let them know ahead of time they’ll bombard you with 15 things that need your approval on Monday despite the fact you won’t be able to review them until Wednesday. Let them know ahead of time when you won’t be available so they aren’t left twiddling their thumbs while they wait for you to catch up to where they are with work.

Respect Their Time

One of the reasons your Virtual Assistant likes what they do is because of the freedom that comes with their position. If you aren’t available 24/7 you shouldn’t expect your assistant to be. In order to establish a long-term relationship, you must establish ground rules early on. That means knowing when they are working and when they aren’t and respecting that.

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About the author

Barnaby Lashbrooke is the founder and CEO of Virtual Assistant service Time etc as well as the author of The Hard Work Myth, recently recommended by Sir Richard Branson. Barnaby is a Forbes Columnist on productivity and is also an accomplished entrepreneur, selling more than $35 million worth of services.

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