What I Learnt Managing an Offshore Virtual Assistant

Wowzers. You start to get comfortable in a role, you have it all going on, locked down and running like clockwork and then BAM the world changes and your whole perspective is turned on its head!

I’ve been living a very comfortable existence as a Virtual Assistant for a number of years now, serving an eclectic mix of clients over a wide range of industries. I have my own virtual office set up, happily running my operations from my trusty laptop and a plethora of cloud based systems. I’m contented and life is peachy, if somewhat repetitive.unsplash_featured

Then a few fateful months ago I get a big boost and my role at Virtual Elves changes from assistant to manager and all of a sudden a shift in consciousness occurs. No longer am I on the receiving end of the instructions, I now find myself in the position my clients are in: that of director, tactician and ‘ideas man.’

I’m given a new upmarket job title, a new Virtual Assistant from the Philippines to manage and a new directive: Make It Happen.

This has served as a valuable personal and professional lesson. Over the past few months I’ve gained a fresh perspective on how it must feel to be a client of Virtual Elves, working with an offshore VA for the first time. Of course I have the benefit of being very familiar with the process, I’m already adept at running a virtual business and the other important practical aspects of a successful outsourced relationship – but in reality there much more to it than that and this is what this article addresses.

Below I share the wisdoms of my experience in the hope of illuminating some of the real knuckles and bones practices that will enhance your experience of working with an offshore VA. For most business owners it’s a new and often daunting undertaking, but if you’re consistent, thorough and flexible you can really make it work for you.

 What I’ve learnt from managing my first Offshore Virtual Assistant

  1. The First 2 Weeks Are Critical

If you can’t dedicate at least 2 weeks to train your Virtual Assistant, you’re gonna have a bad time.

To start with you need to have your systems and training manuals in place, they need to be easy to read and follow AND you then need to personally guide your assistant through them. When I first started working with Honey, my Virtual Marketing Assistant I literally skyped with her pretty much every day for 2 weeks. I already had most of her processes and daily tasks written out, but I found that as time advanced these documents became more of a work in progress. I spent a lot of time recording training videos and showing Honey in minute detail how to perform the tasks required.

Takeaway: Because an offshore working relationship is purely virtual and in most likelihood you will never meet face to face with your VA it is always a good idea to keep in contact regularly.

  1. Communication is Key

Now that some time has passed it isn’t vital for me to micromanage my VA, but I still like to check in with Honey at the beginning of the week, see how she’s going, hand over any new tasks or discuss new business directions. When I’m at my desk I’m also online on Skype so Honey and I can quickly communicate any needs we might have. Honey also sends me update emails at the end of each day she does any work for Virtual Elves. These keep me posted on the week’s progress and I can look into any issues or anomalies.

I did find that sometimes, if I wasn’t clear enough Honey would not understand my requests and tasks would not be completed correctly. That was usually when I was rushing and didn’t dedicate the time needed to properly explain what I wanted. This can be frustrating, but now we have been working together for some time trust develops and less time is spent explaining what needs to be done.

Takeaway: Don’t be scared to over-communicate your needs to your VA – especially in the beginning of your working relationship

  1. Encourage Natural Ability

I was pretty stoked to discover that Honey had some design experience, and graphic design was a favoured job of hers. I suck at design and composition, it doesn’t come naturally to me and I can spend a lot of time on it with pretty sub-standard results. So when I heard of Honey’s artistic affinity I jumped at the chance to add more tasks to her weekly list and asked her to design the picture tips and quotes that go out on our social media. I come up with the content and Honey creates a wonderful juicy graphic for it – a symbiotic match made in heaven! Having worked on the flip side of the coin as well I can tell you that if you give your VA tasks they enjoy doing and have talent in it encourages them to produce better results and gives them pleasure in their work.

Takeaway: Find out what your VA enjoys doing and actively try to encourage these talents.

  1. Be Flexible

As business owners ourselves we know that sometimes things just don’t go to schedule: meeting times change, personal issues crop up, technology fails on us and time continues its inexorable march regardless. It helps to remember that the same applies to your VA. They are also running their own small business with and unless you are able to give your VA enough hours a week to warrant them working exclusively for you, your VA will probably have other work projects and clients they are responsible for – just like we do. After a period of ill health I was very grateful to Honey and the other VA’s at Virtual Elves for being so flexible and understanding when I had to reschedule meetings and couldn’t answer emails each day. Similarly I extend the same type of understanding to Honey when she needs some flexibility in her schedule.

Takeaway: Be firm in your expectations but remember to be human in your approach to working with your offshore VA. I little understanding and flexibility goes a long way. 

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