Jessica wrote to ask:

I hope you can help me understand this. My virtual assistant has a 48 hour turn-around time. Shouldn’t I be able to expect things to be done on the day I ask, or, at latest, the next day?

What I suspect your VA is trying to do with that standard is help her clients get into the habit of planning ahead; for one thing, it’s smart for people in business to do that (running on a gerbil wheel of urgencies can absolutely keep a person from living her best life, or worse, fry her adrenals), and, for another thing, it’s nearly impossible for her to be instantly or even quickly available to you given the sort of business she has..

On the availability front, you need to realize that you don’t pay her to be instantly available. People you pay to be instantly available are called employees, and they really have nothing else to do than wait for you to need something. But your VA has several clients. And she is committing to deadlines for all of them, all the time (think of an air traffic controller juggling schedules and airplanes so all get to their destinations safely and you’ll have a pretty good picture of what’s going on with your VA in her practice). So it stands to reason that if you need something quickly, your VA will likely already have that time committed to someone else, hence her inability to help you in the moment.

You might want your VA to be instantly available, but you don't pay for her to be, and it's unrealistic to expect that from her. If you need someone to be that available, you need an employee.

I do believe (because I don’t know a single VA where this is not the case) that if the stars happen to align just right and she actually has the ability to shift things and help you quickly, she will, but it’s so much better to ask for her help in helping you plan things, than to keep trying to get her to be available in a way that she really just cannot be.

I saw that you’re an executive coach, Jessica. As a coach, myself, I feel pretty sure that you can’t be instantly available to clients, either. So I suspect you really get the reality of things—when you stop to think about it, even if you wish they were different.

You might want to ask yourself if this is so much an issue for you that working with a VA might not be the solution you need. Maybe it would serve you better to hire an employee; you can, of course, hire a virtual employee, if sharing your physical space doesn’t work for you.  It’s not as straightforward and uncomplicated as working with a VA, but it might give you the coverage you and your business need.