Virtual Assistants: Real or hyped?
When I first started Analytive, I read The Four Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss.
One of the things Ferriss discusses is the advantages of hiring Virtual Assistants (or VAs for short).
VAs are team members who (typically) live in another country that you can hire to help with tasks. Think office managers or personal assistants, but due to geography you may never meet them.
Most people I talk to either have never hired VAs or have not worked with one for longer than a few months.
At Analytive, VAs have become an integral part of our business.
After working with VAs extensively, here are a few of my takeaways on how to make it work.
VAs are humans, not robots.
This sounds silly, but many folks (mostly Americans) almost look down on VAs as if they were a lesser part of the team. I don’t know if it’s because VAs often aren’t as “flexible” as other team members. Perhaps it’s the language barrier or lack of face-to-face contact.
The fact is that when you hire a VA, you are hiring a “someone” to help you get stuff done.
This someone needs to be treated with respect. Doing so will make the relationship better and make it more likely for you to get done what you need to get done.
Focus on Outsourcing Specific, Repeatable Tasks.
People hire VAs so that they can offload some of their work and tasks.
But most people imagine that the person they hire will magically have all the skills, abilities, and access necessary to get done what they need.
Unless you’re paying for a super qualified VA (almost an employee), chances are the VA isn’t going to be able to instantly solve all your problems.
Instead, you need to start assigning them 1-2 tasks that need to happen on a regular basis. This could be pulling data, doing research, building links, answering customer questions, whatever.
The point is, it needs to be a system that is simple. Imagine being able to give them an “if this then that” tree. If X happens, you do Y.
- If you give a broad, open-ended task without any definition, your VA will likely fail.
- If you give them a clearly defined, specific task, they will be more likely to succeed.
***And the task needs to be repeatable so that once you teach them to do it once, they can do it over and over (this is what saves you time in the long run).***
Realize You’re Probably a Terrible Manager.
When I first started hiring VAs, I was frustrated because it never seemed like they quite understood what I was trying to do. Something would always be a bit off.
My temptation was to blame the VA for his or her inability to get it done.
After failing a few times, I realized that I’m the one with the problem here. Sure, not all VAs are good and maybe you have worked with a bad one. But if you end up hiring several people and none of them are working out, there’s a good chance you are the problem.
When there’s a language barrier or you only communicate through email, clarity is VERY important. If you share an office with someone, you have many interactions, can ask questions, and be confident that everyone is on the same page.
But with VAs, every communication takes time (especially if that person is halfway across the world in another time zone).
Figuring out how to teach, manage, and communicate clearly is imperative for a VA relationship to thrive.
Worth a shot?
If you’re bogged down by menial tasks every day, hiring a VA can be a great way to free up some time and get your tempo back.
It’s not a magic bullet that will instantly make you more productive, but it’s another tool in your toolkit to help you manage your time.
If you’ve been thinking about hiring a VA, why not start today? If nothing else, it’ll be a learning experience. And maybe it’ll even be a game-changer for you like it was for our team.
To Your Success,
Tyler @ Analytive
P.S. If you’ve never read it, I highly recommend picking up a copy of The Four Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss. Some of the exact strategies are a bit antiquated, but the book is still incredibly valuable for entrepreneurs.