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What Should I Expect From My Virtual Assistant?


Barnaby Lashbrooke

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

10 minute read

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As an entrepreneur and business owner, effectively setting expectations is what leads to success. Whether it’s a new hire on your team or bringing in a virtual assistant, these expectations are how we usually measure performance and hold each other accountable. Without clarifying what your expectations are, chances are the outcome will be a failure.

If you’re in the process of hiring a virtual assistant, it can be difficult to know what to expect. To get the most out of your virtual assistant experience from day one, here are what you should be doing and the questions you should be asking.

Do You Have Unrealistic Expectations?

What might seem fine on paper to you could be something super complicated for your virtual assistant. In reality, you might be setting expectations for them that are difficult to achieve. For example, if you’re hiring a virtual assistant to take some tasks off your hands, expecting that they’ll be able to complete these jobs without any information or instructions is unrealistic.

The fact is, you get what you put in. If you put in zero effort, then you can’t expect amazing things to happen. You need your business to be a success and a virtual assistant can do their part to give you back valuable time to focus on what will get you there. The more time you invest, the more you get to know your assistant, the more detailed instructions you provide and the more regular tasks you handoff, the better the results will be.

What You Should Expect From Your Virtual Assistant

You’ll Save ‘Some’ Time

A lot of people assume that hiring a virtual assistant will be an instant time-saver. While you will save time (as long as you onboard them properly and brief each task), it probably will not be as much as you think in the beginning.

Let’s say you’re going to have your virtual assistant complete a task that will take one hour, for instance. The assumption is handing over the one hour task is going to save you one hour in return. That isn’t the case. When you factor in the time it takes to delegate the job in the first place, provide instructions and help your virtual assistant get started; you’ll save around 30 minutes out of that hour task.

Still, that’s a valuable 30 minutes you otherwise wouldn’t have had without a virtual assistant. Remember, this is in the early days anyway. While it might only be a 30-minute time-saver initially, the more the virtual assistant completes the task and gains experience, the more time you’ll save on that particular task in the long run.

Then think about the other tasks you’ll have the virtual assistant complete. Accumulate the time saved by delegating those tasks and you’ll save much bigger chunks of time every day, week, and month.

Expect High-Quality Work on Time

You should also expect your virtual assistant to complete tasks by the deadlines you set and to a high standard. However, you can only expect this when you play your part, too. If you don’t onboard your virtual assistant correctly or give them no instructions, chances are you’ll either receive poor-quality work, you’ll receive it late — or both.

It isn’t a skill-based aspect either. If you hire a virtual assistant from a specialist service provider, they’ll find you the perfect assistant for your needs and business. However, if you don’t put the effort in, you can’t question their skills when they didn’t have the information they needed to complete the tasks well or on time.

Regular and Responsive Communication

Another thing to expect from your virtual assistant is regular communication and responsiveness. However, while you’re well within your right to expect responses in a timely fashion, you shouldn’t expect instant replies. The way you communicate with your virtual assistant is something you should both agree on from the get-go.

But to expect regular and responsive communication, you need to work out how your virtual assistant prefers to communicate and try to cater to their needs. It’s worth asking them in the interview stage or when onboarding what their preferred communication style is. Next, work out the frequency of when you’ll communicate — once a day? A few times a week? Choose what works best for you both.

You also need to work out which tools you’ll use to communicate, such as Slack, Microsoft Teams or Google Meet. Working all of this out early means the communication will be much more responsive and effective.

Follow Instructions

If you have processes in place that have gotten you and your business to where you’re at now, it’s reasonable to expect your virtual assistant to follow them. Although, you can only expect your assistant to follow your instructions exactly, if you have provided them with direction to begin with. From the onboarding to execution, they will need instructions on how to complete their tasks along with all of the processes you have in place.

Another thing to keep in mind is that they have experience. They might have multiple clients or have been working as virtual assistants for many years. While you have your own internal processes, it’s always worth being open to their ideas and suggestions as they might have some excellent improvements that can make processes more efficient and your business more successful.

Questions… Lots of Them

In the early days, expect your virtual assistant to make some mistakes and that they’ll ask a lot of questions — the latter being exactly what you want. Be available to answer their questions. This shouldn’t frustrate you as they’re new to your business, tasks and processes, so they'll want to do the job to the standard you expect.

Naturally, as with any new employee or team member, the questions will decrease the more they get used to your specific tasks and your processes. Once they’re familiar with it, they’ll take it off your plate forever so you can focus your attention elsewhere.

What You Shouldn’t Expect From Your Virtual Assistant

You Won’t Get Instant Responses

This is kind of a big deal and where many entrepreneurs new to the world of virtual assistance go wrong. This isn’t an in-house personal assistant scenario where you have someone on-hand between your working hours who works strictly for you.

In most cases, virtual assistants are self-employed or work on a freelance basis, meaning they have other clients they also do work for. So, you can’t expect them to only prioritize your work and immediately jump on any task you throw their way. This is why outlining communication expectations early on is essential, as you’ll know when you can expect responses, when you can communicate with them and which platforms you can reach them on.

They Won’t Be Available 24/7

Don’t make the error of hiring a virtual assistant with the assumption they’ll be at your beck and call 24/7. This is unrealistic and unusual to happen. A virtual assistant will work their stated hours to complete your tasks and then fulfil their other obligations in their lives.

Virtual Assistants Can’t Guess What You Need

As we've mentioned above, communication is key. It is very unlikely your virtual assistant will be able to stay one step ahead of your needs or anticipate future tasks unless you set them.

It is also worth bearing in mind that virtual assistants mainly perform executive or administrative tasks that you can hand off to save time. If you need someone to develop your strategy or advise you on how to grow your business, you’re looking for a consultant instead.

They Can’t Do Every Single Task

A common assumption people make of virtual assistants is that they’re a master of all trades. Most virtual assistants have one or a couple of areas of expertise based on their professional experience, so it’s best to delegate tasks that play to their strengths. Otherwise, it is worth considering additional virtual assistants depending on the type of tasks you need to delegate.

They Can Just ‘Get On With It’

Another expectation people have of virtual assistants is that they have so much experience beforehand, they can dive straight in without onboarding or instructions.

They need to get to know you, your business, your goals, instructions for the tasks they’ll do and much more. Your virtual assistant can only get up to speed when you put the effort in and offer detailed explanations. Investing this time in the beginning will pay dividends down the line.

Micromanaging Won’t Work

You’re hiring a virtual assistant to save time. It is tempting to keep yourself involved in all the tasks, but this defeats the purpose of hiring a virtual assistant in the first place. The time you save will disappear if you're not delegating effectively.

Trust your assistant. Even though they’ll need your help early on, virtual assistants are usually highly independent self-starters who don’t need constant guidance.

How Virtual Assistants Can Meet and Exceed Expectations

The best way to steer the ship is to provide your virtual assistant with feedback. While it’s a good idea to give credit where it's due and share good feedback, also highlight what could be improved and where they have missed the mark. Your virtual assistant won’t be offended, they’ll want to know what they can do better to be more efficient.

Find the Perfect Virtual Assistant for You and Your Needs

To get the most out of your virtual assistant and the experience as a whole, you need to find one that can deliver what you need. This comes with its own fair set of challenges, as going at this alone can leave you wasting even more time trying to find the right candidate. But how do you find one that has the personality that matches yours, has the skills you need, communicates well, and fits in with the culture?

At Time etc, we’re dedicated to helping you find the best virtual assistant for you and your business. We have a vast talent pool of assistants with a wealth of experience to tackle those tasks that are eating away at your time, and your own Time etc assistant will be perfectly matched with what you need.

We only work with the best, too. We have a rigorous process for selecting our assistants, and on average, only the top 2% make it through to join us. The benefit for you? Even more time saved, and peace of mind that you’ll only ever work with someone with the right experience and skills.

If you’re ready to join the 22,000 busy people that have already used a virtual assistant from Time etc to get more done, then find out more below and take the first step towards achieving more...

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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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