Afraid of Using a VA? Here are Proven Tips To Minimize Your Risk

halo-cortana-1Even though using a Virtual Assistant is now considered to be common practice for many entrepreneurs and companies, delegating tasks that you’ve always done yourself can still feel scary. It is a frightening concept to give important tasks to someone you have likely never met in person. It might make you feel like you are losing control. The most common thought is probably an old cliché – If you want something done right, do it yourself. It’s old, but not good. In fact, for many of us “DIY” is pronounced as “die” :) Being a superhero (superworker) rarely pays. And I promise you, using a VA can actually be very rewarding.

There is always a risk when hiring a new employee of any kind, and there are steps you can take to minimize the risk you take on. Here are some tips to help you minimize your risk:

Start with the right hire. Remember it’s not about the best VA. It’s about the right one.

  • Take the time to do your prep work. Before you ever begin the hiring process with a new VA, you should know exactly what you want from them. This helps to minimize confusion, find the right person for the job, and maximize productivity for both of you in your working relationship.
  • A great way to know exactly what you want is to record what you do. You can use screen-capturing software such as TinyTake to record your actions and use it to explain the tasks to your VA.
  • If the scope of work your VA will be doing is likely to expand (which is often the case if the VA is good) you want to look for someone who can deal with more complex tasks that those you currently have on the plate. Don’t aim too high though, because your VA may be costing you too much or even worse be under-challenged and unmotivated to do their best work from the beginning.
  • When you are evaluating VAs for your new job, it is important not to focus on the rate.  Rate (however important) is secondary, because the quality of the VA and the work he or she will provide should be your main focus and motivation.
  • Get your paperwork in order. Before your VA begins doing any work for you, make sure you have an established contract with specific deliverables and requirements attached. This would include pay, hours per week, when payment should be given, the start date, specific tasks, quality expectations, and reporting frequency.

Once you believe you have found the right VA, it is important to spend the time needed to establish the best possible work environment for both of you.

In order to delegate/assign tasks effectively you should take the following steps:

  • Be clear and concise in task definition. The more you talk, the higher the chances are that your requirements become ambiguous.
  • Define expected results, time frames, and constraints and limitations. Clearly identify when your VA needs to ask you for help, approval or clarification. Specify when you expect progress reports and what they should contain.
  • Answer all questions and pre-empt potential questions. Test understanding.

Now, ideally, you have the right VA who has a concrete task that they understand well. What can go wrong? Well, a lot. So you need to:

Monitor progress and quality. Provide quick and constructive feedback. You can do this by:

  • Make sure your VA is working during the times you agreed upon. You can do this by asking for a daily progress sheet. Or ask them to have proof of work delivered by a certain time during the day or week. Workview is a great feature available on Elance and oDesk. This enables you to physically see what your VA is working on by taking screen shots of their computer periodically during billable hours.
  • Keep in mind that you don’t want to micromanage your new employee. It will be very obvious if they aren’t spending the time working that they should be because their work will reflect their lack of effort, and a little trust can go a long way.
  • Monitor quality of deliverables and results they deliver. Poor quality could be the result of lack of skills or personality mismatch. More often though it’s a direct result of a misunderstanding or miscommunication between you and the VA.

Ouch! After reading all of this, you may say – it looks like I can do it 10 times before I can explain it to my VA. Plus all that monitoring… Keep in mind that if your new VA will be completing that task more than a few times, automating or delegating it to them is justified. But if after all that hiring, delegating, and monitoring things are still not working out, it is time to move on.

Fire poor performers quickly. Not giving up is overrated.

Do you still feel nervous about hiring a VA? Do you think that it is better for your bottom line if you simply do the work yourself? Think again! It is far better for your bottom line to pay a VA to take care of administrative duties so that you are free to work on the more important tasks that really make money for your company. And another benefit to hiring a VA rather than an in-office employee is that you are no longer restricted by proximity. You can look globally to find the very best talent available. And with the online technologies such as Skype, web conferencing and email you will feel much less disconnected than you would expect.

What are your thoughts on minimizing risk when hiring a VA? Do you have any tips to add? Leave your comments below or send me an email at

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