When you decide to partner with a virtual assistant, you’re likely to already feel overwhelmed. Along with that, often comes a tendency to feel vulnerable about sharing your “stuff” with someone you barely know. It can be scary to admit that you don’t have it all nailed down tight. What you feel is natural, but can make you a little standoffish with your new VA at exactly the time you should simply pour it all out. The thing is, your VA is actually excited to hear your story, even the messy parts. In fact, without knowing about the messy parts it becomes really hard for her to help you well.
I’ve had a lot of conversations with nervous folks, so you’re in good hands with me on this. So take a deep breath, and let me give you some ideas for how to make communicating and collaborating a breeze.
Make a list
Know what you’d like taken off your plate. If you don’t know what those things are, spend a week or two paying attention to what you do regularly. Write things down that you don’t love doing and notice the things that take too much of your time doing, when you could be doing something else. Talk this list over with your virtual assistant and see where she can help. She may be able to handle all of it or be able to make valuable recommendations; she is a great resource for getting things done even if she’s not the one doing it!
Use the right tools (or be open to using them)
Have you ever spent a very long time searching for an email about a project? Sharing a collaboration tool, like Asana is a good way to avoid looking for correspondence where you’re discussing a project or event because everything is housed in the same space. Do you already use something like Asana, Basecamp, or Trello? Do you have any idea what I’m talking about? If not, check these applications out, do your research and see if you’d be open to trying one. You’ll want to create shared systems, and share a “space” together (or at least use Google or Dropbox to share files, although I really recommend you use something bigger and better). It’s a great place to house all the moving parts of your relationship – a go-to place where you can find everything, including what’s coming up and due dates.
Agree to a communication system and frequency
Are you using the tool (Asana, Basecamp, etc) only? Will there be emails to check? If so, how do you handle urgent communication? What about texting and cell phone usage? Should you talk on the phone weekly, twice a month or monthly? These are important topics to discuss and explicitly define. Knowing what you’ll do and how and your response time are all important things to nail down. The wrong thing to do is expect something that you’ve both not discussed and agreed to.
Listen and respond
Listening is a lost art. We are all usually good, in some way or another, at expressing what we want done whether we do that on the phone or in writing. However how well do you actually listen? Are you already putting together your response in your head while the other person is still speaking? Did you hear things that are being said and aren’t being said? Ask for clarification. Give clarification if needed. Respond to questions and encourage feedback. And be open to maybe more communicating than you expected. If your VA needs to ask about something, you need to be willing and eager to answer. Often, she won’t be able to move forward unless you do, so do it with some grace, and trust that she wouldn’t ask if she didn’t need to.
There should be ease when working with your virtual assistant, because, in part, it’s that ease that makes things easy in the work. It’s like taking a ride in a car together; your trip should be smooth with very few bumps, and a clear plan for dealing with the bumps when they show up. By knowing what you want to delegate, being open, talking freely, using a collaborative space, creating systems and frequency for communicating, and being a great listener and responder, all those initial worries will soon be a thing of the past!
About our guest blogger: Cindy Henexson is a wife, mother of three adopted kids, and an AssistU trained Virtual Assistant. She is an innate cheerleader and social butterfly, not to mention an avid java lover. She has an eye for detail & is a sleuth at heart. Cindy loves taking care of her family and her clients! She really rocks at creating and maintaining a secure, stable and friendly atmosphere for those around her!