How to Get the Best Out of Your Relationship with Your Virtual Assistant

Previously we look at the 3 Essential Steps to follow before hiring a VA as well as How to ensure you hire the best VA for your business.  This week focuses on starting your working relationship with your virtual assistant.

Once you have appointed your Virtual Assistant, it is important to have realistic expectations.  You both need to adjust to working together.  Plan for a trial period and gradually inch your way into outsourcing.

Learn when to outsource to a virtual assistant and when it’s faster to do it yourself

It’s almost always faster to do it yourself if it is a one-time thing.  If it’s a repetitive task, it’s probably worth training the VA to do it.

Communicate clearly with your virtual assistant

Clear communication cannot be emphasised too strongly.

No one knows your business as you do. Communicate clearly and often with your VA and make adjustments as you go.

At the start, let your VA know what your goals for your business are and how you intend to use their services to best support your needs.

First, assign the tasks including all the relevant information and clear and concise instructions that will contribute towards the success of the project.  Be sure to indicate your deadlines – most Virtual Assistants need a 24 – 48-hour time frame to complete assignments, so plan accordingly.

Provide your contact information and indicate the best way to contact you.

Provide training where necessary for your virtual assistant

Although your VA is a professional business person, it is a good idea to schedule some one-on-one training to help him/her to understand how you like things done.  This also gives the VA a chance to ask questions

Create a manual of key processes for your virtual assistant

This works especially well with repetitive tasks.  It will speed up the training process as well as provide a benchmark for a job well done.

Expect an accounting of the time spent on your business

You don’t have to micromanage your VA, but it is reasonable to expect a summary of the week’s accomplishments or tasks completed, as well as any problems the VA may be experiencing.

Make use of online collaboration tools


This is an awesome tool with allows for online backup, syncing, and file sharing.  It is super easy to share important documents like marketing materials, digital signature files, contracts, and more.

Google Docs

Google Docs provides a free online word processor, spreadsheet, presentation, and form service that makes collaboration a cinch.


It allows you to quickly create training videos (including screen captures) on various things you need your VA to do.


Skype allows you to have quick chats, phone calls, and video calls with ease. If you need to record your Skype conversation, there are free tools like MP3 Skype Recorder.


Asana is a great online productivity and organisation tool.  It allows you to create projects and tasks for your VA, and to track progress in real-time.


This is an online appointment scheduler with automatic reminder and Outlook and Google Calendar integration.  You can simply provide people with your own personal URL so that they can set up an appointment based on your calendar availability.

Before long, the work will now get done that you didn’t have time to do before. It feels great when you actually have time for yourself.  Maybe with the extra time you have created by working with a VA, you can plan for that much-needed vacation – No, wait.  Your VA can do that for you too!

How to make sure that you hire the best Virtual Assistant for your business

Last week we looked at the 3 essential steps to follow before hiring a virtual assistant.

This week’s post is about what to do once you have received responses to your advertisement.

Once you have sent out your advertisement or request for proposals, you can start evaluating the responses you get.

Beware of responses with resumes attached.  A VA is your business partner, not your employee, and those sending a resume may still be in “employee” mode.

If you posted an ad asking for very specific information, the VA should respond answering all your questions.  If they fail to do so, you can assume that this VA does not take the time to read basic instructions and will often forget minor details that contribute to the successful completion of any task.

Also, search for grammatical errors in the responses.  You need a professional who can effectively write and convey their message.  You never know when you may need your VA to write an email on your behalf, or to help with proofreading or content creation.

Once you narrow your selection, it’s time to dig into the details.  Most VA’s have an online presence. Is their site polished and professional or does it look like a butchered template from the ‘90s seasoned with poor grammar?  It may sound a bit biased to judge them on their site’s appearance, but you have to take into consideration they are a business owner just like you.  If they have a strong online presence free of inaccuracies and errors, it clearly indicates that they are committed to this profession in the long run.

Do a Google search on the VA’s name.  What image does this person portray?  Do they broadcast the most intimate details of their personal lives to the world, or is their communication meaningful and professional?

Think about what you want the VA to do for you. For instance, if you want your VA to help you maintain your social media profiles, what does theirs look like?  It will give you a good indication of the type of support you can expect to receive from them.

Conducting an interview

The ideal is to find a long-term collaborative partnership in order to fully benefit.  Time is money, and you don’t have time to repeat this process.  That is why it is important to find a VA that will fit perfectly with your needs.

Select 3 – 5 applicants for your shortlist based on your research above.  Contact them and arrange for an interview.  Look for clues such as the response time to answer your email.  If they take a while to respond, more than likely they have a full plate with more than they can chew.

During the interview, feel free to ask them for testimonials.  Your VA will potentially have access to important business and personal information, so you need to make sure they are trustworthy.

Also, ask them about their work experience and education.  You need to make sure that their background makes them a good fit for your business.

Look for clues when speaking to the VA.  Does the VA speak with confidence and have great phone etiquette?  Were they timely and prepared for the call?  Did you feel a sense of trust and chemistry?  Did the VA listen carefully and show interest in what you do by asking smart questions?

You need a VA who demonstrates great skills and a strong business sense so they can manage your workload effectively.

After the interview

Contact the VA of your choice and let them know you have chosen them.  You can also finalise a contract, rates, hours of work, and methods of communication.

Have a straightforward contract that clearly stipulates your expectations for your virtual assistant as well as what they should expect from you.

Hire the VA for a test run.  Assign some non-essential tasks in order to see how they handle communication, as well as how diligent they are in completing the tasks as assigned.  This type of trial allows you to see whether you and your virtual assistant are a good fit.

Look out for next week’s post on how to get the best out of your relationship with your VA.

3 Essential Steps to Follow Before Hiring a Virtual Assistant

Last week I spoke to several small business owners who were interested in hiring a virtual assistant for their businesses but did not know how to go about it.  I decided to write a short 3 part series to help them to make the best decisions and to find the best virtual assistant for their needs.

A virtual assistant can help your company in ways you probably haven’t imagined along with freeing up a great deal of your time.  You never have to worry about holidays, sick days, payroll taxes, etc. as they are independent business owners and you will only pay for the time spent on your tasks.

However, hiring a VA can be a big boon to your business, or a flop.

What can you do to ensure a greater success rate in hiring a VA?

There are all types of virtual assistants.  They come from a variety of different backgrounds and offer a variety of different services.  Some are freelancers who call themselves virtual assistants because they work remotely from their home-based office, some are business owners who operate as a business and provide high-level support based on their background and experience.  Sometimes VA business owners operate a multi-virtual assistant business where they have a team of virtual assistants who specialize in different areas, so you may work with two or three VA’s through that one company.

When looking for a Virtual Assistant, these options can seem daunting. Below are some steps you can take to make the task easier. 

1. Determine what you really want in your business

You definitely need to know what your needs and budget are, as well as what you expect in return.  When you think about what you expect in return, think not only about what you need/want them to do for you, but what you want the financial return to be.

For the money you spend:

  • Will your business make more money, because their efforts garner more leads, prospects and, eventually, customers, and/or
  • Will the business make more money because of what you can do with the freed up time, assuming you earn more “per hour” than you spend to hire them – and you use that time accordingly?
  • If they are technical people, will the product or service they (help) create turn into a worthwhile profit centre?

2. Determine what a Virtual Assistant can do for you

Do research to find out what a VA can do for you.  Some places to look at include 101 Ways to Use a VA and VA Networking.

Develop a to-do list of what needs to be done for your business to run successfully.  What items are on your to-do list that you never have time to get to?  What repetitive tasks can easily be accomplished by someone else?

Decide what you’re willing to delegate.  With good instructions, your VA can complete virtually any task with minimal guidance.  Based on your list, estimate how much time you will need your VA each month and what you are willing to pay for their services. Some VA’s require the purchase of a monthly retainer plan.  They typically charge $15 – $55 per hour and give discounts if you require their assistance for more than 10 hours per month.

Also, think about how you will use the extra time if these tasks are taken off your plate.

With your plan on what to outsource you can now start looking for the perfect Virtual Assistant.

3. Create a Virtual Assistant advertisement

Once your research is done, you can create a plan based on your business needs and what options are available to ensure the best return on your investment.

Write up a detailed advertisement or request for proposal of what you need done, and what you are looking for in your Virtual Assistant.  The more specific you are, the greater the chances are that you will attract your ideal candidate.

Where to advertise for a VA

There are many places where Virtual Assistants hang out online.  You can do a Google search to find them.  There are also many job sites such as GuruPeople Per Hour, and Upwork.  However, I would recommend looking for a quality Virtual Assistant here:


You can tweet about it.  You can instantaneously receive messages from VA businesses and people who can recommend a VA.


You need to register to advertise.  Upwork provides nifty tools such as a tracking tool, as well as the ability to search for your ideal VA.  You can also set your budget and ask for people to bid within a fixed budget or per hour for a certain number of hours a week.


You can do a search to find a VA.  Those you are connected to will appear first in your search.  You can also hang around in various VA groups to get an idea of who is available and who is active.

Look out next week for the next step in the VA hiring process: How to make sure you hire the best virtual assistant for your business

5 Reasons Why Online Services Are So Popular

It does not matter whether you call it virtual assistance, freelancing, online secretarial services or virtual administrative support.  What matters is that it is becoming increasingly popular both for people working from home, and for small business owners.  As a small business owner it certainly makes sense employing contractors on this basis, as it gives you the competitive advantage in the following ways:

  • Access to superior talent.

You no longer need to try to compete with bigger companies to get the best employees.  You can engage a highly professional person for exactly the number of hours you need.

  • Reduced overhead costs.

As you rarely have to pay for healthcare benefits, paid vacations or retirement packages, you can save an average of 53% by employing workers virtually.

  • Minimized risk.

The risk of employing the wrong person full-time is minimized.  You can contract online services for as short as an hour to test whether this working relationship will be successful.  If you are not happy with an online service provider, you can move on to someone else.  You can end your relationship with the service provider at any time.

  • Limited liability.

If you employ someone for a specific project, once the project is done, you stop paying.  You are not obliged to keep them on your payroll.

  • Reduced timeframe.

When you have identified a need, you can appoint someone within a very short time frame, which means quick turnaround times and bigger profits.

Why not allow your business to grow more rapidly through online outsourcing?   E-mail Virtual Productivity Solutions to start enjoying the benefits above.  Not only can we do work you’d like to outsource, but we can help you determine your priorities and what you should outsource for optimum productivity. Your business will benefit.

Your Top 5 Virtual Outsourcing Problems – Solved!

This blog post is written for small business owners who are convinced that virtual service outsourcing is the right route to follow as the next step towards their business success.

Although there are significant benefits to outsourcing (see The Top 8 Ways Small Business Owners can Benefit by Outsourcing), some problems may be experienced that you may not be prepared for.

1. Ineffective communication

This is the largest problem when it comes to outsourcing.  The importance of effective communication cannot be overstated.  There may be natural communication barriers such as language barriers or cultural differences which need to be considered.  But even in the same culture and with the same mother tongue misunderstandings can occur.

Steps to avoid communication problems include:

  • State your expectations explicitly in the contract.  You need to spell out your exactly what you envisage and how your virtual service provider will meet them.  This is not a time to provide broad guidelines in an attempt to allow for flexibility.  Be very specific.
  • Schedule a weekly Skype chat, or something similar based on your needs, in which detailed report-backs can be given by your virtual service provider.  You can give immediate feedback and discuss problems experienced and potential solutions.
  • Expect daily contact either via phone, e-mail or web portals from your virtual service provider to keep you up to date on progress, any problems experienced, etc.  A good idea is to have a project management platform on which all information is shared, so that all the relevant parties have access to it.

 2. Outsourcing before you are really ready for it

You need to prepare and plan to outsource before actually doing it.

  • Make a list of what your needs are and how you envisage outsourcing will address these needs
  • Think about your small business’s strengths and weaknesses, and look for someone who will complement these.
  • Decide who will be responsible for managing the virtual service provider.
  • Do you have an outsourcing strategy?  If not, this is a good time to compile one.  It is difficult to succeed without a written plan.

 3. Having unrealistic expectations

Outsourcing will not solve all your business problems overnight.  You are ultimately responsible for your small business’s success.  A few points to remember are:

  • Your virtual service provider does not know everything about your business that you do.  They will function better as they gain more insights into how your business works, and how you like to operate.  Be open about your business and share whatever information is necessary to achieve their optimum performance.
  • Although most virtual service providers are professionals who will hit the ground running, you may have to provide some training or guidelines in certain aspects of the work you expect them to do.

 4. Choosing a virtual service provider for the wrong reasons

Going for the cheapest option can lead to disaster.  Although it makes sense to get a few quotations before choosing someone, keep the following in mind:

  • Ensure that the virtual service provider is able to meet your specific needs.
  • When comparing quotes, make sure that you are comparing apples with apples.
  • Evaluate the potential service providers’ responses to your queries.  Are they enthusiastic?  Do they follow up within a reasonable time?
  • More pointers to find the right service providers for your needs can be found in my article 6 Steps to Find the Best Online Workers.

 5. Providing unclear specifications

Take time at the beginning of your working relationship to ensure that your specifications are thorough and accurate.  This will save trouble later.  For instance, if you realize only after starting a project that you need to change the scope, you will affect both your cost and the time it will take to complete it.

Start a positive outsourcing experience today, and see what a difference it can make to your business success.  Whether you need to outsource administrative tasks or human resource related tasks, feel free to contact Virtual Productivity Solutions to make your outsourcing experience a positive and unforgettable one!

The top 8 ways small business owners can benefit by outsourcing

Imagine having the access to experts for every aspect of your business.

Imagine that this access is reasonably priced.

Imagine that these experts can help you from anywhere in the world and that your business can go on even when you are sleeping.

Outsourcing gives you all the above.  It can be used as a strategic tool for making any business more productive and profitable.  Outsourcing means that you entrust the processes of your business functions to external vendors.

The main advantages for small business owners are:

  1. You only need to do the tasks you are competent at and love doing. Imagine not having to dread coming to work because you hate doing all the peripheral duties that are essential to your business success.  You will be happier and more productive if you outsource these.  You can, for instance, rather focus on building your brand, developing new ideas, or developing wonderful customer service.
  2. You save money and boost your profits.  You save money by paying for productive time only, and you don’t need to worry about employee taxes, office space, equipment, vacation time, etc.   Outsourcing helps you to improve your continuity and customer service, while freeing you to pursue profitable activities in your business.
  3. You can achieve a better work-life balance. A person loses a lot of their creativity when they are stressed and overworked.  Outsourcing frees you to take time off from work, knowing that the work or customer service does not end just because you are not there.  You and your business will benefit.
  4. You have access to world-class capabilities. You have access to new skills and highly trained professionals at a lower cost, without having to manage them directly.  You can supplement resources that are not available internally.  You therefore have the same advantages as a large company who has these resources in-house.
  5. Focus on core activities. Often small business owners are consumed by the non-core activities at the expense of core activities.  Back-office operations and administrative functions take time and energy.  Outsourcing helps you to have more time and opportunity to grow your business.
  6. Staffing flexibility. There are some times during the year that you may need more support than others.  Outsourcing allows you to increase and decrease support for your business according to demand.
  7. Time zone advantages. You can get your work done while your business is closed at night.  This allows you to provide customer support even when you are not working.  Through outsourcing you can service your customers faster, provide better quality and decrease turnaround time.
  8. Boost your productivity and efficiency. If your business goals are properly aligned with the deliverables in outsourcing, you will increase productivity.  Outsourcing providers with the right expertise and experience can actually help streamline business processes and contribute to the bottom line.

What can I outsource?

You are basically only limited by your imagination as to what you can outsource.  To get your creative juices flowing, consider the following ideas:

  1. Website creation/maintenance.  Instead of spending hours figuring out how to do things or fix mistakes, you can pay someone to maintain your WordPress blogs (setup, periodic backup, etc)
  2. Content creation.  This is a process that takes a lot of time, and can be outsourced.
  3. Video creation.  There are people who can create a high quality video at very reasonable costs
  4. Graphics are great to outsource if you are not good at it, or it takes too much time.
  5. Customization and management of key business systems, for instance having Standard Operating Procedures compiled and revised regularly, database setup and maintenance, etc.
  6. Project management support.
  7. Human resource management support.

Your success and freedom as a small business owner depends on your ability to focus on what you love and what you do well, and eliminating or outsourcing everything else.

Ask yourself:  what is the first step I need to take to become a prosperous small business owner?

Make 2012 the year that you allow your business to grow more rapidly through outsourcing.  E-mail Virtual Productivity Solutions to start enjoying the benefits of outsourcing.  Not only can we do work you’d like to outsource, but we can help you determine your priorities and what you should outsource for optimum productivity. Your business will thank you.

The top 5 reasons why you cannot run your business alone

Sue started her own business 3 years ago.  She is really pursuing her passion, and loves working with her clients.  She considers her business as pretty successful.  She is free to make her own decisions, and her income is reasonably steady.  But over the past few months she has noticed that she is not so eager to start her work day.  Somehow it’s harder to get up in the mornings, and to get things done.  She cannot think why she feels this way.  It’s as though even though she is putting in more hours, something is holding her back.  Something is blocking her creativity and drive.  And eventually the pleasure of running her own business is waning.

Why does Sue feel this way?  The answer is quite simple.

Sue is trying to run her business without any support.  She does everything associated with running the business herself.  She answers phones, does her own bookkeeping, tries to keep up with orders, does her own admin, developed and maintains her own website, etc.  Sue is a very talented individual, and no doubt can do all of the administration associated with her business excellently.  But it leaves her no time to do what she loves:  interacting with her clients, and thinking about new business ideas.

When you insist on doing everything in your business yourself, you are doing yourself and your business a disservice.  Here are some reasons why:

1. You tend to procrastinate tasks you don’t enjoy doing

Some tasks you don’t enjoy doing are very essential to the survival of your business.  When you procrastinate on those tasks, your business suffers in the long term.

You will be happier and more productive if you did only those tasks you are competent at and love doing.

2.  You lose money

Why spend your valuable time and energy on tasks you struggle with?  Instead of spending hours figuring out how to do certain things, like building a website or designing a logo for instance, you could have paid someone else to do it while you were increasing you income with tasks you excel at.

3.  You lose your focus and creativity

When there are so many details in your business to take care of, it is easy to focus on these details and forget the big picture.  You no longer have the time to take a break and see the big picture, part of why you enjoy having your own business.

4. Your “I-can-do-it-myself”  attitude robs you of the expertise you could                have access to

Yes, you may be able to do lot of things alone.  You may have issues with trusting people to become part of your business.  But in the end, while you are spending time doing all the things you feel you can, you are neglecting your core business strengths.

Nobody is an expert at all aspects of running their business.  Why not partner with someone who runs certain aspects with more expertise than you do?

There are plenty highly trained professionals that work online.  People who can do your website development, bookkeeping, SEO, social media, article writing, etc.  If you are in doubt on how to choose the right people, you can read my blog post 6 Steps to Find the Best Online Workers.

5. You forget why you started your own business

People often go into business for themselves because they want to achieve a better work-life balance.  Yet it is so easy to fall into the trap of being overworked, rushed, and stressed.

Would you not rather want to have the peace of mind that accompanies having competent people helping you grow your business?

About 56% of new businesses do not survive for at least 4 years.  Many entrepreneurs that survive, work 60+ hour work weeks and cannot take time off, because if they are not working, they have no income.

Successful entrepreneurs outsource so that their business can grow and thrive.

When you outsource work, you start enjoying your business again, because you will remember why you started it in the first place.

Your success and freedom as a small business owner depends on your ability to focus on what you love and do best, and to eliminate or outsource everything else.

Ask yourself:  What would it be like to be a successful business owner?  What are the first steps I need to take?

Do you know what a wonderful feeling of freedom you have when your business runs like clockwork without you having to micromanage everything?  This feeling could be yours within a month.

Contact Virtual Productivity Solutions and find out how we can help take the everyday burden of running your business off you and help you become more successful.

6 Steps to Find the Best Freelancers Online

As a small business owner you can outsource the tasks that you are not good at, so that you can focus on growing your business.  You don’t need a huge budget in order to outsource.  In fact, you can hire freelancers for small things, and then work your way up as your business grows.

But you could, however, feel that there is too much risk involved.  How do you ensure that a person you have never met face-to-face is the perfect person to do the job?  There are a few things to keep in mind.

1.  Be very clear with your instructions

Whenever you give instructions to people, be as clear as possible.  Many people overlook this.  But if you are paying by the hour, you want to save money by avoiding any confusion or uncertainty.

When you advertise your requirements, do it in a clear Step by Step format.  Beside avoiding confusion, you will be able to identify any potential bottleneck in the system.

You should also be clear on important items like deadlines, payment terms and any other expectations.

2. Check the credibility of your potential candidate

You want to work with a professional who provides quality work.  Some ways to check the candidate are what they say they are:

  • Have a look at the candidate’s portfolio.  Ask for examples of similar work done before.  Make sure that the candidate has worked on something similar before.
  • Contact the references given, or check for online references.
  • Google the person’s name, website name, and e-mail addresses.  You want someone with an established history.

3. Work according to milestones

If you need to outsource a big project, pay according to specific deliverables.  This protects you.  The worker is also protected if you provide an upfront deposit.

4. Expect short daily updates

Have the freelancer give you a short summary on:

  • What they did and the results they got
  • Any problems or challenges they faced
  • Any questions they might have

This way you keep on top of things.  Someone may forget to send you the summary.  It reflects on their calibre.  But for those that do remember, you can see how they are doing and fix any issues before they escalate.

5. Give regular feedback

Whether the work is done well or is subpar, give feedback.  Let people know exactly what they are doing right or wrong.  Focus on the positive, and build a strong relationship with your worker.

6.    Never hire someone full time immediately

Start by hiring a candidate for a small project.  You can then ask for more complicated work if you are satisfied.  Be sure that the candidate communicates well with you and that you feel comfortable with him/her.

It is actually very easy to ease the burden of your day-to-day tasks with a little planning and foresight.  You also have the opportunity to finish essential projects you simply don’t have time for.  If you would like to find out how Virtual Productivity Solutions can help you in this regard, visit our website.

Be more productive: get on the fast track to business success by outsourcing virtually

If you’ve been working in your business for a year or longer without support, you may find yourself going nowhere fast. It often feels like there just isn’t enough time in the day to get it all day! Do you find yourself saying:

“There aren’t enough hours in the day…”

“I don’t have time to do that…”

It’s a common belief among entrepreneurs that they can (and should!) take the hard road, or that their success doesn’t mean anything if they have help. On the contrary, quick and dramatic business growth is often impossible in the hands of one person alone. To truly succeed in your business involves building teams of professional to support your business in areas that you can’t perform. You can make better use of your time as the owner of your business doing other things.

The idea behind building your own business means you will have ultimate financial freedom and plenty of free time, along with the ability to do work that you love. The key to realizing these goals in a reasonable time frame lies in finding others that you can trust to help you.

Compiling a team of professionals who all have unique abilities but possess the same mindset for success will be beneficial for you to be able to focus on “big picture” thinking to grow your business. Whether you are just starting your business, or stuck at your current level and want to expand, you can easily begin to network to find like minds. These like minds may be missing links to help you find what is needed for your potential. By doing this, you will become more productive as you work with others on the success of your business.

Even though many business owners quit their jobs and get into business because they want to do things on their own and in their terms does not mean that they have to go it alone. By building a reliable support team, you will find the ability to expand on the success that you have only begun to envision.

Are you ready to get on the fast track to your success? Contact us to find out how we can provide the support you need to get there, fast!