A smiling businesswoman seated at a table multitasks. She is smiling as she uses a smart speaker while working at her desk in office.
To ensure a successful work arrangement with a virtual assistant, it's imperative to set clear expectations, communicate openly and often, and provide training and resources. — Getty Images/Luis Alvarez

For many small business owners, finding the balance between strategic growth and the demands of daily operations can be challenging. However, delegating responsibilities to a virtual assistant, as 67% of owners did in 2021, can free up precious time for entrepreneurs so they can focus on nurturing and expanding their businesses.

Here’s what you need to know about hiring a virtual assistant.

What is a virtual assistant?

A virtual assistant is a remote worker who oversees a variety of administrative and executive tasks for businesses. Working remotely, a virtual assistant can handle duties ranging from tasks like calendar and schedule management and email response to specialized services like website administration, conducting industry research, and contributing to creative projects like graphic design and video editing.

A virtual assistant functions comparably to an on-site assistant, aiding in everyday communication with team members, managing projects, and maintaining streamlined operations by using advanced digital communication tools and technology.

[Read more: How to Hire a Virtual Assistant]

What are the benefits of hiring a virtual assistant?

Business owners who employ virtual assistants can reap many benefits, including:

  • Enhanced efficiency: Introducing a virtual assistant to your team can boost overall efficiency due to their flexibility and diverse skill set, which you can tailor to your business’s needs.
  • Delegation of daily operations: Business owners can delegate essential day-to-day tasks and time-consuming operations to virtual assistants, freeing up more time to focus on big-picture tasks that contribute to business growth.
  • Adaptability and value: The adaptability of virtual assistants makes them an invaluable asset, especially in the current digitally driven business landscape, where agility and efficiency are critical for business success.

Establish clear and defined expectations with your virtual assistant to guarantee a mutual understanding of the role's requirements.

How to get the most out of your virtual assistant

To make the most of a partnership with a virtual assistant, follow these best practices.

Set clear expectations

Establish clear and defined expectations with your virtual assistant to guarantee a mutual understanding of the role's requirements. Provide thorough and straightforward instructions, outlining specific tasks, goals, and the standards of performance expected, and make sure to communicate any deadlines or specific guidelines well in advance.

[Read more: Temporary vs. Contract Employee: What's the Difference?]

Keep track of tasks

Due to the remote setup of a virtual assistant, monitoring their work might differ from your business's usual methods. Nevertheless, it’s crucial to oversee your assistant’s work — such as through the use of time-tracking software — to ensure that it is completed on time, accurately, and to your business’s satisfaction.

Set time aside to develop the relationship

Commit to strengthening your relationship with your assistant by facilitating open communication and opportunities for questions and discussions. By nurturing your relationship through regularly scheduled calls, your assistant can better understand your preferences and requirements, enabling them to serve you more effectively. Plus, improved relationships can boost morale and ensure your assistant is committed to your business long term.

Use collaboration tools

A wide range of collaborative tools are available that can enhance the productivity of your virtual assistant, ensuring they have the necessary resources to efficiently complete their tasks. Integrate free cloud-based tools such as Google Drive and Dropbox into your daily workflow, and consider utilizing paid project management and communication tools like Zoom or Slack to promote productivity across your team.

Be realistic

It’s important to give your virtual assistant ample time and instruction to adequately complete a project. Set realistic deadlines, provide them with the tools they need to complete the tasks assigned, and ensure that the expectations that have been set are mutually agreed upon and are achievable. Be sure to keep your assistant informed of any changes to the project that arise.

Provide the right training and resources

To guarantee that your virtual assistant performs tasks according to your business's preferences, provide them with an effective onboarding process and the necessary training materials. These resources should cover your company's policies, procedures, and details about the specific software and tools that your company uses.

Establish feedback sessions

Providing and allowing for feedback is mutually beneficial to both you and your virtual assistant, especially when it leads to actionable changes. Feedback sessions allow business owners to address areas of improvement and recognize employee strengths while assistants can highlight ways they could be better supported and identify challenges.

[Read more: How to Start a Virtual Assistant Business]

Streamline workflows

While it can be a big undertaking, documenting processes allows businesses to streamline their workflows and establish continuity for future assistants by keeping a record of procedures and processes. These documents empower your team to efficiently execute tasks, maintaining smooth operations even when your virtual assistant is unavailable.

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

Applications are open for the CO—100! Now is your chance to join an exclusive group of outstanding small businesses. Share your story with us — apply today.

CO—is committed to helping you start, run and grow your small business. Learn more about the benefits of small business membership in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, here.

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