Hours upon hours can be spent trying to grow or develop a business. But how you spend your valuable time could actually end up hindering your company from becoming successful. Hiring a virtual assistant can free up some of the time you may be spending on administrative work and replace it with what you do best.

An extra set of hands can help with data entry, creating newsletters, posting content on your blog, answering emails from clients or responding to social media mentions. A virtual assistant, which is an independent contractor, can also take charge and become an all-out project manager for a campaign strategy or product launch.

A virtual assistant can be short-term or long-term, and an assistant can fill in for a specific project, or commit to a certain amount of hours per week or month. This can be especially helpful during a crunch time or a busy season like the holidays.

Marissa Bracke is a virtual assistant who calls herself a “can-do-ologist.” She has spent 5 years working with creative entrepreneurs such as Charlie Gilkey of ProductiveFlourishing.com and Julie Stuart of MakingIdeasVisible.com. Bracke has helped writers, business coaches, consultants, artists and lawyers maximize their impact in the business world, and move their projects from the idea phase to following concrete steps in an action plan. Here are her tips for creating a great working relationship with a virtual assistant.

Determine your needs before hiring 

“Start by figuring out what relationship you want with your virtual assistant, rather than starting by dictating to-do lists at them,” Bracke advises. Deciding in advance whether you’re looking for a project manager or someone with a more task-oriented role assures that you and your virtual assistant are on the same page and will prevent a lot of awkwardness and uncertainty.

“Not having clear expectations and clear boundaries around the roles can be frustrating and awkward and off-putting right (from) the get-go. So I think clients have to be really, really clear about that when they start working with a virtual assistant,” she adds.

How to find a virtual assistant

Ask around. Finding a virtual assistant via a referral gives you insider information on his or her skills and projects they’ve worked on.

If that’s not an option, various virtual assistant agencies exist and provide assistants’ specialties, skill sets, price range and so forth. Look on sites such as Odesk and Elance, or on dedicated virtual assistant sites such as the International Virtual Assistants Association or the VA Certified directory. If you simply need someone to do personal assistant work, look into sites like FancyHands or Zirtual.

Take it slowly

“I’d never recommend hiring somebody without that initial ‘get to know you’ phone call,” Bracke says. If you aren’t able to connect before agreeing to terms, at least make sure to start out on a trial basis instead of signing a long-term contract right off the bat. “I’ve seen too many people sign up for 6 months immediately because of a good contract. But once you sign that, then you’re stuck with them even if you’ve had a really bad experience,” she explains.

Specify any technical skill sets needed

A virtual assistant with a highly technical skill level can jump into a new content management system fairly quickly without a lot of problems, but the learning curve for another virtual assistant with shaky technical skills may be far more steep. If you have requirements or preferences, make sure you discuss them in advance. Ask the candidate if he or she can provide examples of prior work to help you determine if this is the right person for the job.

Manage — don’t micromanage 

Once you find the right virtual assistant, the first few weeks of a project will be a learning curve for both parties. It is very important that you trust your VA enough to do the work you give them without second-guessing him or her.

“There’s a difference between watching the work that your assistant does for you to make sure it’s up to par and quality work and being a micromanager,” Bracke says, adding that micromanaging can lead your virtual assistant to think that you don’t trust him or her. “If you have to micromanage your VA, you hired the wrong VA,” she says.

Don’t delegate your pet projects

If you really can’t let go of a specific project or activity because you think it needs to be completed in a certain fashion, don’t assign it to your virtual assistant.

“Because no matter how hard somebody else works, no matter how hard they try to follow your instructions to a tee, they’re not you. They’re not going to do it exactly like you would do it,” Bracke says.

The VA veteran says that even though you delegated the task, you’re still going to be thinking about it and will continue to absorb your time and energy. That defeats the purpose of hiring a virtual assistant. Keep the tasks you’re attached to on your own to-do list until you reach a point of trust with your VA.

Remember why you got a VA

Working with a virtual assistant allows you to delegate activities that are tedious, energy draining or simply time consuming, so you can spend more time doing work that inspires you and keeps your business moving forward. Keeping that in mind will help you decide what to delegate, what to work on and what to do with your new-found free time.

Have you worked with a virtual assistant? Tell us about the experience.

This post contributed by guest author, Yael Grauer. Grauer is a Minneapolis-based freelance writer and editor. Find her online at Yaelwrites.com.

© 2013 – 2018, Contributing Author. All rights reserved.

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