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How To Make It Easy To Work With A Virtual Assistant

3rd October 2013

With a virtual assistant, you will need to explain your tasks as if speaking to a second grader, not only for the sake of clarity and understanding, but also for the value of the exercise. While explaining the steps of a task you will probably realize some of those steps are unnecessary.

In addition, it’s important to anticipate as many moves ahead as possible.

Think about putting each request in the format of “IF this THEN that.” This can be as simple as having your VA make a dinner reservation at a specific time. IF restaurant x says they don’t have the time THEN make a reservation at restaurant y and if they don’t have it, try restaurant z. You just spent 7 more seconds to save yourself 5 emails.

Once you have some practice explaining tasks properly, you can look at creating email templates. With basic format and structure already provided, all you have to do is fill in the specifics. I can’t stress enough how important it is to master these skills, not only for the overall efficiency of your work but for security as well. Presenting tasks in this manner makes them transferable and minimizes the learning curve should you need to change assistants for some reason.

It’s also a good idea to document these processes and create as many email templates as possible. This collection of information will serve as a user manual for working with you. The systems you have set up have ensured that if you ever have to change assistants the process can be as seamless as possible.

Tools to Make Working with a VA Better:

Google Labs

A Gmail labs feature that creates template emails you can use to send common instructions to a VA (especially useful with on-demand assistants) This service lets you upload a word doc or PDF and they will send it by snail mail and is very good for merging the remote virtual world with the real world.

Postal Methods

Receive all your postal mail, virtually. This means that someone halfway across the world can open and sort your mail.

One Box

Call routing service that gives you the appearance of a big company with multiple extensions, voicemail transcriptions, and fax to email service.

File sharing and syncing is a must for working with remote teams.

Google Docs

Sharing and collaborating on documents is easiest with GDocs, you can see changes in real time and comment.

Makes it easy to share your personal passwords with your assistant and control access.


Boomerang lets you send recurring messages in case you have a task that comes up at regular intervals and you don’t use a dedicated assistant.


Obviously you can use it for voice interaction but text chatting throughout the day from your office or mobile device is really great and everyone uses it.

Integrating Your Assistant So It Seems Like They Are Local

For some people it may not be relevant to give the appearance that your assistant is sitting in the next room. If you work from home, or prefer to work from a beach in Tahiti, then it’s not as important. However, you may occasionally want people to think you’re sitting in your office in a big city, wearing a suit and tie, burning the midnight oil.

There are two key factors to pulling this off. The first is that the assistant must have excellent verbal and written skills in your native language. A bit of an accent is not a problem but mistakes in basic grammar, or even misused expressions will make it obvious that something is out of sorts.

The other factor is information routing, mainly calls and emails. You have to make sure that you either use a VA that has a local number, or you need to use a virtual PBX system (like OneBox) that will route a local number to your VA. Also, if your virtual assistant uses Skype for their main phone that’s a red flag because of voice delays that will annoy people.

License: Creative Commons image source



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