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The Ultimate Guide to Working With A Virtual Assistant

You’re thinking it’s finally time for an assistant.


On Friday night, you were answering emails and posting to social media during your daughter’s dance recital. On Saturday morning, you were conversing with a client on chat about a new project during your son’s soccer game.

Do you even remember what you ate at your anniversary dinner or was your mind on work? How long has it been since you were truly present in your own life?

    1. How To Know When It's Time to Start Delegating
    2. Do You Know Your Employee Costs?
    3. Why Your First Hire Should Be A Virtual Assistant
    4. How Do I Hire My First Virtual Assistant?
    5. Why It Doesn't Matter Where Your Assistant Is
    6. How To Work Together
    7. Set Yourself Up For Success With Your VA: Build A Foundation
    8. How Do I Keep Track Of My VA’s Time?
    9. How Can A Virtual Assistant Help Me Manage My Time?
    10. How Your VA Can Help At Home
    11. The BELAY Way: How We Match Clients & Virtual Assistants
    12. Sow Today. Reap Tomorrow.

How To Know When It’s Time To Start Delegating

Your inbox is out of control. 

If your inbox is splitting at the seams like your mailbox after a two-week vacation, it’s probably time to hire a VA.

When was the last time you could see free space in your email box? Just thinking about all the newsletters, junk mail, and social media notifications is overwhelming and causes us all to get the cold sweats.

A VA can easily sort all of it out for you in a short period of time and then keep it organized.

Your to-do list is taking over your life.

Are you waking up at night wallpapering your bedroom with sticky notes filled with transaction notes? 

If you find yourself going to bed so late it’s crossed your mind to just stay up, it’s time to hire a VA. 

Yes, you are an expert at certain tasks and it’s tough to hand them off to someone else with any faith they’ll do the job as well as you; but you are burning the candle at both ends. It’s only a matter of time before it burns out and you’re left with a pile of ashes and sticky notes for décor. 

A VA will make sure everything reconciles and that your walls aren’t fluorescent yellow anymore.

Your business is growing fast.

If you’ve had to turn away new clients, it’s time to hire a VA. 

When we’re overwhelmed, it’s easy to overlook things or to prioritize incorrectly. A VA can check off the tasks required for project completion and to ensure your continued success.

They can organize teams and coordinate tasks like nobody’s business. They know technology that can save your sanity in seconds. With a simple video chat, they can even help you figure out that new coffee machine you bought!

You can’t dream anymore. 

Are you brimming with ideas for new ventures you're anxious to try out, but you never seem to get to them? It’s probably because your focus is being pulled in too many directions. 

All of those tasks you put off until tomorrow only to find they’ve been waiting for your attention for 6 weeks could be handled by a VA. Then you could get to that idea you had for those self-ironing pants.

Social media is running your life.

If you’ve spent hours posting to social media but your following has barely increased and your engagement is non-existent, it’s time to hire a VA. 

VAs specialize in different areas and some can really rock your social media. It isn’t that social media isn’t your jam, but your attention is spread too thin. You just can’t be everywhere at once and your business might be suffering.

Breathe new life into your business by admitting you might not have everything under control. If you’re experiencing even one of these items listed, you could benefit from some help. Admitting you need help is the first step to recovery. And a Virtual Assistant from BELAY is your FINAL step to changing your life for the better.

Do You Know Your Employee Costs? 

We can all agree that employees are expensive, and one common denominator regardless of where you are in the U.S. is the unseen costs associated with an employee. 

Because beyond their wage, employers are responsible for a whole lot more. Don’t believe us? See for yourself with this free employee cost calculator.

When you're ready, we’ll bust a myth that you have to be in the same office to be productive.

Why Your First Hire Should Be A Virtual Assistant

As an entrepreneur, you're a visionary. You may even use terms like ‘cat-herder,’ ‘jack-of-all-trades’ and ‘superstar’ to describe yourself. 

But just because you can be practically all things to all functions necessary for your emerging enterprise, it doesn’t mean that you should be. 

The reality is, you need help – a right-hand man or wing-woman to assist you where it matters most. That’s why a virtual assistant should be your business’s first hire. He or she will become the relief valve that enables you to make the highest and best use of your limited time, fast-tracking progress, motivating productivity and refocusing priorities. 

Hundreds of growth-focused proprietors, C-level executives, and corporations across the country have added virtual assistants to their teams to get more done. And here’s why you should, too:

Look Ahead, Not in the Rear-View Mirror

It’s hard to make forward progress if you’re distracted by the past. If the details of day-to-day business have gotten in the way, a virtual assistant can help renew those ideas, taking them out of freeze-frame and allowing you to put them into motion.

Get Back to What Matters

All sorts of priorities and pressures pull at business owners’ limited bandwidth. A virtual assistant can assume the lion’s share of customized and customary, administrative needs. This frees you up to do your best work – lead, think and create.

Get More Done

It’s one thing to do more with less, but it’s much more effective to accomplish more with the time you have available. If time is money, then utilizing it effectively and efficiently by delegating key tasks to administrative experts can trigger profitability.

So now you may be thinking that this is sounding too good to be true. There may be a question nagging in the back of your mind – “How does this work if we aren’t in the same office space?”

Good question!

How Do I Hire My First Virtual Assistant?

Well, that question – though virtual employment isn’t necessarily a new concept or trend – still stumps even the most robust, seasoned HR departments so you’re not alone in not knowing quite what your next step should be.

So here are five tips to help you navigate the process of hiring your very first virtual assistant to ensure that both you and your new assistant succeed.

Have The Right Job Description & Job Posting

If hiring a virtual assistant is your goal, be sure to include that detail in the job description.

Seems obvious, but it’s an oft-overlooked detail that is pretty critical. Include detailed language about your expectations and opportunities related to the virtual nature of the position. 

Then, when drafting your job posting, be sure that it emphasizes the need for timely digital communication skills. Further, your job posting should also specify equipment requirements that your virtual assistant will need to provide for themselves, like a laptop, high-speed internet access, a headset, virus protection – and more.

Know What To Ask

The right questions will yield the right answers so make sure you’re asking exactly what you need to know.

Standard interview questions just won’t cut it here so create a list that includes specific questions about the environment in which the virtual candidates will work, their time- and task-management skills, and how they handle or avoid distractions. You’ll also want to determine both their verbal and written communication skills as both will prove critical to the success of the partnership.

Download our 9 Questions to Ask When Interviewing a Virtual Assistant resource to start making a list of questions.

Arrange Face-to-Face Interviews

Don’t be quick to discount the profound importance of body language and nonverbal cues.

According to Psychology Today, hardly anything transpires in our minds that is not reflected in our nonverbal communications. From emotions to bodily needs to dislikes to illness to status displays to intentions, our bodies are exquisitely equipped to communicate so by carefully studying nonverbal behavior, we stand to gain invaluable insight. 

So if meeting a candidate in person isn’t an option, elect to use video for an interview to not only allow you to observe body language and other visual cues but to also give you a peek into the candidate’s workspace. 

And while this may be an unexpected consideration, your first assistant will also need to fit into your company culture, so a little facetime and eye contact will go a long way.

Assess Both Soft & Hard Skills

Since a virtual assistant will be lone-wolfing it, it’s important to know that they have all of the skills necessary to succeed before you onboard – that’s why soft- and hard-skill assessments are critical.

In fact, The Muse suggests giving them a skills-related test – like giving a candidate for a communications-heavy job a writing test. Such front-end skills assessments – that prove independence, follow-through, and problem-solving – can save you a lot of headaches on the backend by proving that your candidate has the skills and talent required to succeed.

PRO TIP: Be sure to look for evidence of these skills in every step of the hiring process – from initial application to the interview, to reference checks.

Make Onboarding Process Remote-Friendly

Whenever possible, bring your virtual assistant to your office or place of business for a week or two to get familiar with you and your company.

Further, you should also verify that all of the technical equipment they’ll need is ready to go before their start date. But if in-office onboarding isn’t possible, make sure you clearly communicate your expectations, encourage and foster relationships to ensure virtual workers feel included, and always be available to offer help and answer questions. 

And remember to continually evaluate your onboarding process, including asking for feedback, to improve its efficacy.

Why It Doesn’t Matter Where Your Assistant Is 

The idea of the executive assistant who sits outside the CEO’s office, typing up documents and waiting for tasks to be assigned just feels really ‘Mad Men’ these days.

But there are countless ways a virtual assistant can serve you – even without sharing an office. It just comes down to a willingness to try something different and be open to letting go of the idea that an assistant has to be physically present in your office to be effective.

And if you're wondering how you can track their time when you can’t see them, we have an answer for that, too!

How To Work Together 

At BELAY, we work with all sorts of leaders. New leaders, experienced leaders, church leaders, stressed-out leaders, laid-back leaders, detailed leaders, fly-by-the-seat-of-their-pants leaders, leaders at one-man or one-woman shops, leaders in global corporations, leaders running small businesses, and so on. 

Regardless of the type of leader you are or are becoming and regardless of the size of your organization, when you hire a virtual assistant, it’s important to start your working relationship off on the right foot. 

Here are five sure-fire ways to develop a meaningful and successful working relationship with your virtual assistant:

    1. For the next two to three months, over-communicate, even if it feels unnecessary.
    2. Fill gaps with trust and then verify. Assume the best.
    3. Explain the ‘why’ behind your tasks so your assistant can do the ‘what’ well for you.
    4. Do your best to delegate results, not tasks.
    5. Use video conferencing as much as possible with your virtual assistant.

Set Yourself Up For Success With Your VA: Build A Foundation

We know that for a client who’s drowning in administrative detail, spending time on the setup can be a bit frustrating and confusing – especially when you just want to get things done as soon as possible. 

And we totally get that. 

But after working with hundreds of clients and their VAs, we’ve learned that this up-front investment will yield a return of productive hours worth many times more than the prep time you put in.

Outline a job description for your VA.

Taking time – while working with your BELAY Client Success Consultant – to identify the specific things you want your VA to help accomplish means your VA can dive right into those tasks with clear direction and no wasted efforts.

Create training resources.

Upload and share training documents on platforms like Google Drive and Dropbox as you create them, and use Loom to record screencasts with you narrating as you complete the tasks you want your VA to take over for you.

Get virtual tools and systems access ready for your VA.

We will walk you through all the virtual tools and systems you’re going to need to share with your VA, so your VA can dive into getting things done for you and not waste time waiting for access and approvals.

Set rules for technology.

The key to leveraging technology on a virtual team is to keep everyone on the same page with technology usage and the timeframe expected for replies. Everyone should always know what method of communication to use and when.

Establish communication guidelines and boundaries.

Both you and your VA need to establish and agree to your response times to emails, texts, and voicemails, and establish when you will and won’t communicate. That way, when you send your VA a text at 10 p.m. – when you’ve agreed on a 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. window of business hours – your VA will know it’s a really big deal and you need help.

Remember this is a marathon, not a sprint. 

We want you and your VA to be working together for the long-term, which means that just like a marathon, you’ll need to invest time in training and preparation so you can see long-term success.

Now that you know what to do and why, let’s look at some tips to help you and your team communicate well.

How Do I Keep Track Of My VA’s Time? 

Since virtual assistants work flexible schedules, it’s important that they keep track of their time.

You and your virtual assistant can set your own parameters for how you want to communicate about time, but here are some common practices for how and why our virtual assistants track it.

Weekly updates

Especially in the beginning, it’s important to regularly communicate about hours. Both you and your virtual assistant are figuring out the VA’s responsibilities, how long it takes them to complete their work, and how best to prioritize tasks.

Mid-week adjustments

Closely monitoring time allows you both to gauge throughout the week if they need more work to meet their hours or need further clarification from the client to prioritize tasks when they’re running over on time.

Know where your time goes 

Time tracking helps you know where you’re spending most of your time so you can adjust as needed.

If, for example, a VA’s main responsibility is to handle social media but secondary tasks often steal their focus, knowing how much time they spend on different tasks provides a better idea of what’s distracting them from their top priority and how to prioritize better.

Popular tools for tracking

Toggl allows you to track hours by client, make notes about any particular project, and present information in a pie chart or bar graph – arguably the best feature. HoursTracker app is another popular option.

The next question you should be asking yourself is, ‘How can a virtual assistant help me manage my time?

We got you.

How Can A Virtual Assistant Help Me Manage My Time?

Many of our clients here at BELAY come to us because their businesses have outgrown their available time.

These leaders find themselves buried under all the details that go along with a successful venture, and are in danger of drowning in those details. Fortunately, that’s exactly why BELAY is here!

Here are some ways our BELAY assistants can help you manage your time more effectively:

Protecting your calendar

With a BELAY virtual assistant, you no longer have to be the bad guy when it comes to saying ‘no’ to appointments you really don’t have time for.

Managing your network

Many of our virtual assistants are tremendously skilled in the ways of social media and can help you take advantage of all the business development opportunities available through those platforms.

Pushing projects forward

Rather than spending hours of your week following up on vendors, contractors, and unpaid invoices, have your virtual assistant do that for you.

Dealing with the details

Virtual assistants deal with thousands of details every day for our clients – seriously thousands. If you ever catch yourself wondering, ‘Why am I doing this task?,’ that’s a task a virtual assistant can do for you.

What do you catch yourself doing that an assistant could do for you? Take a minute and jot some of those down. You can also download the Delegation Matrix and add them to that worksheet.

How Your VA Can Help At Home 

We tend to see virtual assistants as a function of work only, but that’s certainly not the case.

In fact, a lot of our virtual assistants at BELAY oversee and complete scores of personal tasks for leaders’ spouses and other family members. These leaders protect their time at home just as well as the time they’re at work.

You don’t stop being busy when you get home from the office. Your time is valuable, whether that time is in an office or at home.

Where you spend your time shows others what you value. Home should be no different.

The BELAY Way: How We Match Clients & Virtual Assistants 

One of the things we take really seriously here at BELAY is the way we match clients with one of our virtual assistants.

As such, we’re pretty selective when it comes to choosing the candidates we invite to join the BELAY VA team. In fact, fewer applicants make it to our talent bench than get accepted to Harvard.

Our talent acquisition recruiters screen hundreds of resumes each week, looking for candidates with the right mix of skills, experiences, and attitudes and often, the attitude is the deciding factor.

They then conduct video interviews with those candidates that have the winning combination of skills, experiences, and attitude, and complete in-depth reference checks and skills assessments before offering the candidate a contract. 

Once they’re on board, the process begins all over again as we match new clients with potential assistants.

We look at the skills, experiences, and attitudes an assistant has that will be a good fit for how a client wants to work. Once the client and virtual assistant are in a working relationship, we provide both of them with resources on how to work effectively together and offer lots of resources to both clients and assistants through newsletters, webinars, and private online forums so they can hear about the newest tools and crowdsourced ideas from each other. We love seeing these communities come together to answer questions, provide recommendations and celebrate wins with each other! 

Our BELAY Client Success Consultant also serves as both the client and assistant’s dedicated resource throughout the contract to help navigate any potential obstacles in the virtual working road and coaches clients and assistants with more effective ways to work together.

Sow Today. Reap Tomorrow.

Listen. We get it. Initially, delegating to a VA takes time. And we’ve heard – and offered – the same objection: ‘I don’t have time to delegate right now.’

We hear you. And like we said – we’ve been there. The first time you delegate, you think, ‘It would just be quicker for me to do this task myself.’ 

But the long-term answer is that you will continue to own that task. So investing that time today to teach a VA how to handle that task will take more time but the long-term result is that you no longer have to do that one thing. And just imagine how much time you would save yourself if you were able to do that with 10 things!

So if you’ve ever wondered how you’ll know it’s time for a VA, wonder no more: If you’re thinking about one, you need one – and we can help.

And then, once you have The One by your side helping you conquer the world, Tricia’s new book, Rise Up & Lead Well How Leveraging An Assistant Will Change Your Life & Maximize Your Time, will teach you how to make the most of your life-changing partnership!