One of the most rewarding aspects of working with a virtual assistant is the chance to delegate work and free up your schedule. This sounds simple enough: you hand off any tasks you lack the time, skills, or willpower to do yourself.
In fact, delegating is a complex skill. First, you need to figure out exactly what activities are suitable for delegating. Next, you need to provide the VA with sufficient guidance to be able to carry out the tasks to your standards. Finally, you need to develop the mindset to let go a piece of your business.
Tasks to Consider Delegating to a VA
To decide which tasks to delegate, consider your own strengths and weaknesses, what takes up most of your time, and what you dislike doing. There are several tasks that most small business owners will want to delegate to a VA.
Keeping your schedule in order may sound simple, but you’ll keep gaining more responsibilities as your business grows. Moving items around on your calendar and rescheduling appointments — all while making sure you never miss a deadline — can pose a challenge. A virtual assistant can take care of your calendar for you, even sending you notifications before a meeting or when you need to complete an important to-do.
Email has a way of taking up all our time — and yet we still manage to forget to respond to urgent messages. Your virtual assistant can sort your inbox for you: deleting spam, notifying you of messages you need to see immediately, and storing other messages that can wait until later. Your VA can even respond to some of the emails for you.
It’s common for founders of new businesses to conduct a great deal of research. You may need to find out what your competitors are doing and other key information about the market, learn more about potential clients and investors, and search for new opportunities.
If you’ve ever done any online research, you’ll know how easily the hours slip away — particularly if you’re unsure where to look or you keep getting sidetracked. A virtual assistant who’s experienced at research will know where to go to find the information you need and will focus just on the task at hand.
Other Admin Tasks
Other admin work you may consider outsourcing to a VA include:
- Data entry
- Travel arrangements
- Making online purchases
- Shipping packages
- Sending handwritten notes
- Managing your CRM
An advantage of outsourcing these tasks is that you can find a general virtual assistant who charges a low rate. This means you’ll free up your schedule by eliminating some of your dullest tasks for only a small investment. If a task is a waste of your time, it makes no sense not to delegate it.
Data can be hugely useful for a startup — but if you know how to use it. From website and social media analytics to raw data like information on business cards, a VA can turn data into a meaningful report or insights.
Whether you have a team of virtual workers or you’re collaborating with another business, you need someone to manage the project. When there are many moving parts, you may need to be constantly monitoring progress, communicating with team members, setting deadlines for each new task, and checking everyone is meeting their objectives. It could be better to delegate all this to a virtual assistant with experience in project management than to try and handle it yourself.
All the numbers entrepreneurs need to deal with are enough to give anyone a headache. A virtual assistant can keep your accounts up to date. Tasks to delegate could include invoicing, managing expenses, payroll, and other bookkeeping tasks.
To gain greater awareness and stay connected with customers, you need to be active on social media. The problem is that creating content, responding to comments, and strategizing all takes up a lot of time. You can benefit from social media without taking time away from other work by delegating some (or even all) of your social media-related tasks to a virtual assistant.
Delegating Best Practices
To have a great experience with your virtual assistant from the start, it’s necessary to learn some delegating basics.
Decide in Advance What You Want to Delegate
It’s no good figuring out what tasks to delegate as you go along; you need to know even before you hire a virtual assistant. This will ensure you choose someone with the right experience and qualifications. You can always increase the tasks you delegate in the future — either asking the same person to take on more or contracting another VA.
Onboard Your Virtual Assistant
You can use some of the same practices as you would to onboard remote employees to onboard your VA. The extent of onboarding will depend on how much work the virtual assistant will be doing for you.
Try to put yourself in the shoes of your virtual assistant. What kind of instructions would you need to complete each task. Simple tasks may require just a sentence or two, whereas more complex activities may call for background information or even training using a particular tool. Consider the best way to portray the information — sometimes a video showing a process is more helpful than written instructions.
For every individual task you set, think carefully about how much information your virtual assistant needs. Sometimes, going into too much detail is unnecessary (especially if the VA has more experience carrying out the task than you) or even confusing. On other occasions, however, oversimplified instructions can lead to mistakes and misunderstandings.
It’s difficult for a virtual assistant to know what to prioritize if tasks lack deadlines. You run a big risk if you tell your VA to complete work “as soon as possible,” as different people may interpret this in different ways. If your virtual assistant is already busy with work from other clients, your tasks may end up at the bottom of the pile.
If a deadline is flexible, set a provisional due date and let the VA know there’s no problem delivering the work a few days late. However, if you have an absolute deadline, you should also communicate this.
Create a Project
Track your VA’s progress and add new tasks as they come up by creating a project. The most simple option is just to have a folder on Google Drive. If you have several people on your team (perhaps a few VAs carrying out different tasks), a better choice may be to use project management software like Asana.
Make it easy for your VA to come to you with any doubts or to instantly clarify when instructions are unclear. If you prefer to chat over video, stay logged into your preferred software at all times. If it’s more convenient to send quick messages, Slack is a good option — it’s far better than emailing back and forth.
Using Time-Tracking Software
Gain an accurate picture of how long your virtual assistant is spending on tasks by tracking time. Most tools allow you to see how much time the person is spending on each app and web page. You may also like to take screenshots. All this is useful to check if it’s worthwhile delegating the activity — you may find that you’re able to carry out the task faster yourself, or perhaps you just need a more experienced VA.
Acquiring the Mentality to “Let Go”
Whereas onboarding and writing instructions for your VA can be difficult at the start, you’re likely to find your biggest challenge is “letting go.” You need to learn to appreciate the newfound power to delegate. There are a few ways to do this.
Realize You Don’t Need to Control Everything
A great way to show yourself that not everything requires your personal touch is to start letting go of the activities that bore you. After you see how much easier this makes your life, begin to think about what other areas of your business could improve.
Accept That Your Business Is Bigger Than You
You were the one with the vision, but your startup has already grown much bigger than this initial idea. By now, you’ve seen that it’s beyond your capabilities to do everything — even you don’t know everything about your niche and all the aspects necessary to run a business. Wanting to stay in control will only hurt your business in the long term.
Embrace the Opportunity for New Viewpoints
One way you’re limited if you try to do everything yourself is in ideas. Innovation is richer when multiple people are involved in the creative process. Bringing in VAs from different backgrounds to support your company could improve problem solving, streamline processes, and provide you with fresh ideas to enhance your offerings.
Trust Your Virtual Assistant
All the above are only possible if you trust your virtual assistant to pay attention to the details, provide you with high quality, and be accurate. This may mean you need to pay more than the minimum rate — particularly for skilled tasks. Contracting someone on an outsourcing platform that has many positive reviews or going through a reputable agency can also help.
From Founder to CEO
Through delegating, you transition from the founder of a startup to the CEO of a small business. There will be times when the process runs less than smoothly and you may be tempted to take the work you’ve delegated back. However, if you’re committed to building a successful company, it’s better to figure out where you went wrong and learn from your mistakes. Maybe you chose the wrong VA for the job or perhaps your instructions were unclear.
With practice, you’ll improve the process of working with a VA — just like you fine tune all your other business activities. In fact, you’ll find it hard to believe you ever managed without a virtual assistant or two.