I count myself very lucky. I get to do what I love, working with a wide variety of interesting and intelligent people from all walks worldwide, and have fortunately had a steady stream of co-operative, insightful and fun clients. I have, however, also had a few that definitely would not fit into that category, and not surprisingly, our relationship hasn’t lasted long.

I’ve often wondered why some connections just flow almost effortlessly, you’re in sync right from the beginning, whilst others no matter how hard you try and persist just don’t seem to really get off the ground. Is it because your personalities aren’t well suited? Different expectations? The client’s lack of experience or knowledge on what a VA actually is, not enough communication or they just don’t really see the value of having a VA? Well, it could be one or all of these, but truth be told, there are certain things you, as a client, can do to kickstart your relationship in a positive way increasing the chances of it being successful and rewarding for you both.

1. Before starting, expectations should be clearly laid out verbally and in detailed written form ie in a contract or at least an email. This would include outlining exactly what are the terms and tasks involved, any limitations or boundaries, the fee structure and duration, flexibility and the desired outcome of your working relationship.

2. In a traditional Executive or Personal Assistant’s supportive role, it’s common practice to have a meeting frequently to discuss tasks, priorities, objectives, current projects, brainstorming etc so, scheduling regular time for this is essential ie at least on a weekly basis. Face-to-face on occasion (if possible) is even better! I find without this, it’s much harder for both parties to maintain a reliable workflow, and things can get easily overlooked. Make sure this is also documented and items followed-up.

3. When forwarding instructions, email (rather than just verbal) is best, but you must be as specific as possible. Sending out something like“Can you book me flights from Sydney to New York in the first week of December for 2 weeks and make sure I stay at the xxxx hotel.” will guarantee time wasting boomerang emails back and forth which you want to avoid. Pre-empt possible questions by breaking it down and listing all the relevant information, and don’t assume your VA can always read your mind (at least not initially!).

4. Furthermore, when delegating tasks it’s equally important to specify their priority and indicate a realistic timeline and limit eg “We want the project to be completed by end of next Monday. I’m completing task A tomorrow which I’ll send to you to start task B.Then we can work through task C on Tuesday/Wednesday and have the first draft ready by Thursday morning for review. Also, please don’t spend more than 2 hours maximum on task B”

5. I can’t stress enough how communication is key. Not only when something doesn’t go as planned, but also when things go better than expected. If you don’t like the way something has been done, or instructions were misunderstood, speak up straight away but try to make it a constructive discussion rather than pointing the finger.

6. Try to be open-minded about change. Many VAs are highly experienced in diverse industries providing various levels of support and love the opportunity to show you how they can better serve you and your business. So, prompting a conversation on existing procedures could easily result in finding a better alternative.

7. Take some time to get to know your VA on a personal level. Don’t forget VAs are only human too – prone to “off” days and life’s little dramas, so your understanding and patience at those times is greatly appreciated (not to mention reciprocated). Also, you’ll find with this insight you’re better able to determine your VA’s strengths and weaknesses.

8. Show your support, appreciation and how much you really value your VA. Perhaps this is obvious, but you’d be surprised how a little compliment goes a long way to nurturing your relationship which will increase a VA’s focus on your work and loyalty. I still remember how warm and fuzzy I felt days after receiving a client call for no reason other than to simply thank me. 🙂

9. Be accessible.
It’s very important for VAs to feel you are always approachable and that your relationship is not one of just another service provider, or “secretary”, but a real team.

10. Let your VA do their job. Trust in yourself that you’ve made the right decision to hire them, and believe in their abilities. If you suspect they aren’t up to the task, then make sure you explain why before moving on. This way not only will you be clearer on the type of support you want and need, but also the VA will have some worthwhile feedback.

11. Finally, make sure you pay your VA as per your agreement. There is nothing worse, or more detrimental, than having to chase up money on a regular basis. It just puts a dark cloud over everything, only making motivation and trust more difficult, leaving the VA feeling like they are not being treated fairly and questioning your intentions and dedication.

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