This post is co-authored by Dorie Clark and Sue Williams
In the spring of 2013, I launched my first book, Reinventing You. By the summer, several months into my international book tour, I was in a constant state of overwhelm, with hundreds of unanswered messages in my inbox and scores of urgent tasks – booking travel, uploading social media posts – that I simply didn’t have time to accomplish. That’s when I hired Sue Williams as my virtual assistant. She recently left to launch her own entrepreneurial venture, the indie book publishing shop Here Booky Booky, but we learned a lot in more than a year of working together each day. Below is Sue’s take on how other professionals can work optimally with their virtual assistants.
Enter Sue Williams.
From the get-go, I knew I would enjoy working with Dorie and learn a great deal from the job. That said, certain systems and strategies made everything run more smoothly. Here are some tips for working effectively with your own virtual assistant.
Make Communication a Priority.
It might be tempting to keep emails or phone calls to a minimum, but communication is key for this relationship, especially at first. When Dorie and I started working together, for the first week or two, we would check in by phone each day to go over assignments. Feeling comfortable on the phone with Dorie meant I could more readily suggest time-saving systems or flag potential issues.
Create Shared Records.
At the start of your working relationship, it pays to create shared systems. Keeping all your passwords and payment details in a shared Dropbox folder (or using a system like LastPass) can save time and stress. You want your Virtual Assistant to have access to everything—from credit card numbers, to rewards program passwords, to whether you prefer window or aisle. In turn, your VA can store new passwords in the same document when they open new accounts. Such systems pay dividends in terms of clarity, ease, and peace of mind. Similarly, a shared, ongoing project list is a great idea, providing a place where updates and feedback can be stored without duplication. The employer can indicate what tasks need to be done, and how time-sensitive they are, and the VA can annotate the ones that have been completed or are in process.
Reward the Skills You Value.
Gratitude for a job well done is always appreciated, but more specific praise can actually shape your VA’s input. If you laud your assistant’s word choice on social media, they will probably place a higher value on such tasks. For instance, Dorie made it clear that she appreciated my suggestions about how to improve processes or solve problems, so I felt encouraged to do so.
Share Your Expectations.
Knowing your VA’s hours each week can help keep you both focused, and it also establishes expectations in terms of contact times. For example, Dorie always knew when I’d be available to have a quick phone conversation or to complete tasks that arrived out of the blue. Shared expectations are also helpful in terms of overall goals and priorities. A skilled VA will be smart about prioritizing, but it helps if you communicate your vision explicitly. If you have an overall goal for social media or SEO, communicating this to your VA can help them prioritize accordingly.
Build a Rapport.
Given the nature of email communication and the virtual world in general, creating a friendly atmosphere is worth the time and effort. Because we were both based in the Greater Boston area, I made an effort to go to one of Dorie’s book launch events to meet her in person for the first time – a month after we started working together – and she invited me out for meals several times. Some VAs are around the world from their employers, but even taking the time to have a Skype chat with video can help “personalize” the interaction, so you feel a greater sense of connection. That sense of buy-in carries over; I’ve become a genuine fan of Dorie’s work and recommended Reinventing You to a class of writing students the other day. When your VA feels that they are part of your mission, they will spread the word about your brand and go out of their way for your cause—even when they are no longer working with you.
Dorie Clark is a marketing strategist and professional speaker who teaches at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business. She is the author of Reinventing You and the forthcoming Stand Out. You can subscribe to her e-newsletter and follow her on Twitter.
Sue Williams co-runs the indie publishing shop Here Booky Booky, and is a writing instructor at Grub Street. Her stories appear in numerous magazines, including Narrative where she also worked as an Editor. Find her on Twitter and at the Here Booky Booky blog.
This article was written by Dorie Clark from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.