How to Work with Your VPA
You’ve found the right one and now you need to engage them, a Virtual Personal Assistant that is. So how do you get the most of our Virtual Personal Assistant or Virtual PA (VPA) and maintain a good working relationship?
Here are some tips:
Interview the potential candidates as you would an employee. You can do this with a chat over a coffee (for local VPA’s), or with a video meeting using Skype, or Zoom. As well as being able to ask questions and provide clarity around the role, you’re more likely to get a ‘vibe’ if the person is the right fit, or not.
Many VPA’S work for multiple people. A good interview question is to ask how your potential new assistant’s time will be allocated and how will conflicts will be handled.
From the beginning of the contract, be clear on:
- what you want doing and by when. Be specific;
- how you prefer to communicate and when. Do you prefer to emails, Facebook Messenger, or video calls? Memo Mailer app is a good way to email voice notes direct to your VPA;
- how will your VPA access and store electronic files;
- how and when you will provide payment. Sites such as UpWork will have their own payment system;
- how long you will be employing the VPA. Is there a trial period?
Log Their Time
Have your VPA record their time and provide you with weekly summaries. Most VPA’s are accountable, but it will also give you an indication of how long it takes to complete projects. Toggle and Harvest are two of the most popular time tracking apps.
Be Security Conscious
You may need to provide your VPA with access to your cloud financial software, social media accounts and website admin login. Wherever possible, create new user log ins so that you can delete them if needed, without compromising your own access. If you do have to share your own log in details, make sure you change the password just before you stop using your VPA. That way, they cannot log back in and make unwanted changes.
Use Dropbox, or Google Drive to share and store documents and files. Again, you can grant and remove access as necessary. And both cloud-based storage systems auto save files, enabling you to retrieve original, or deleted files.
Use the Right Tools
There’s lots of great tools to assist in working more efficiently and effectively, and working remotely or working with a VPA. Here’s just a few:
- Trello: are project management boards, where you can post new projects, add updates and notes and track your VPA’s progress;
- Evernote: is like an electronic notebook that helps you capture and prioritise ideas, projects, and to-do lists;
- Buffer: provides one location to manage all of your social media, alleviating the need to give your VPA the individual log ins;
- Zoom: is great for having a face-to-face conversation with your VPA, giving presentations to remote staff, or team meetings;
- LogMeIn: enables users to remotely access another computer. Its particularly useful to demonstrate something, such as a process, or a software application;
Just to name a few. Google search “virtual personal assistant tools” and see what else you may find useful.
It takes time for both you and the VPA to get used to working together, as it does if you engage a new employee. And if you have engaged a less experienced VPA, it takes time for them to get their head around tasks they may not have done before.
Make sure you use clear instructions, be a little patient and be realistic.
Let Go and Listen
One of the big mistakes people make is that they hire a VPA and then don’t let go! This can be frustrating for both you and the VPA.
The other big mistake I have seen is that people hire a VPA and then continue to ask business colleagues, coaches and friends what they would do. This causes conflicted advice and again can be quiet frustrating and confusing for both you and the VPA.
If you have engaged an experienced VPA then follow their guide. Only get a second opinion when you think the VPA may not be as skilled as they have suggested. Think about it like this. Would you get three other non-qualified “opinions” on something your doctor, or mechanic has suggested?
Ending the Relationship
VPA’s are usually a short long-term solution. That is, they fill a void until you are able to undertake the project yourself, or your business has grown big enough to employ a person. At the same time, once a VPA has stopped working for you, they need to find a new client to maintain their income.
Be clear as you get closer to the end of a project. Whether you have purchased a block of time from a local VPA, or hired on an hourly basis, communicate with your VPA and let them know that there is another project in the wings, or that unfortunately there is no more work.
This prevents that awkward email silence, anticipation and often frustrated miscommunication that can come when things are not made clear.
A good VPA can save you time and money and relieve workload and stress. But they are not mind readers … nobody is. The goal is to build a good working relationship. Think of your VPA as part of your team and treat them as such.
Getting it right can result in a fruitful outcome for all involved.