Tips for getting started with virtual assistance

People often ask me about my experiments with outsourcing to virtual assistants and my reasons for this experiment, and I’m always happy to share what I’ve learned.

So here are some getting-started tips I’ve figured out over the last two months:

  • Ask them to teach you. Ask your assistant what he or she is good at, passionate about, and interested in learning. Adapt your tasks to take advantage of those strengths and interests, and grow your team so that you can take advantage of a diversity of skills. If your assistant handles other clients, ask your assistant to give you examples of other tasks he or she does, how long those tasks take, and what the request and the output look like. This will give you a better idea of what you can delegate, how you can delegate it, and how much it will cost.
  • Experiment. You’re learning how to delegate and your assistant is learning how to do things the way you want them done. Some tasks will work out. Some tasks won’t–not right away, or even not at all. It’s a learning process for both you and the assistant. Start with small experiments, provide lots of feedback, and expect to invest some time in training your assistant. Think of it as an iterative process. The first thing you get back might be incorrect, but as you give more feedback, your results get better and better.
  • Don’t just do it yourself. You might think that you’d be faster doing something than delegating it, and you’d probably be right. But if it’s not something that you enjoy and you can find other, more productive uses for that time, it may pay off to delegate it and train someone to learn how to do the task. Similarly, you might be tempted to just correct things yourself. If you’d like to delegate tasks like that effectively, though, you’ll probably do better by training your assistant on how to do it properly.

Good luck and have fun!

  • A virtual assistant sounds like a great way to get more work done in a day for me but I’m a pathological do-it-yourself person. I don’t know what kinds of things an assistant would be capable of helping me with so I’m not sure who to look for, any suggestions?

  • Hello Sacha,

    Thanks to your site, I’ve discovered ODesk and am now working as a virtual assistant. I’m still new, struggling, and I’ve got a lot to learn. I enjoy working with my new boss too. :)

  • Rob: Make a list of things you do or would like to do, and you might find some candidate tasks. =)

  • Oh I have a list all right. It’s about 200 items long (but things do move through it). I’m going to have to look at it with the perspective of “is it more important that this be done by me or just that it gets done?”

  • Yes! And also the question “Does this really need to be done at all?” =)