Your Virtual Assistant is NOT your personal assistant
Can I confess something to you? I’m not a fan of the term “virtual assistant.” I don’t think it accurately describes the work that VAs actually do and it can create issues with boundaries. In fact, if it wasn’t for SEO, I would never use the term virtual assistant anywhere in my online sphere! Watch this video to learn more about why your VA should not be your personal assistant:
Listen to the audio:
Virtual Assistants are not personal assistants
Your virtual assistant is not your personal assistant. If you have been in the online business sphere for a while, you may have a virtual assistant.
Because the term virtual assistant has the word "assistant" in it, a lot of people have the idea that a virtual assistant is a personal assistant, administrative assistant, or secretary that works remotely. This is not true.
Yes, there are virtual assistants who do some of the same tasks that a personal assistant, administrative assistant, or secretary might do. But this is not their function. If you are looking for someone specifically to be your personal assistant, you probably need an employee of some sort, either part-time or full-time.
Do I need an employee?
If you want someone who is completely dedicated to you and your business, you want an employee.
Now, a virtual assistant is dedicated to you and your business, your success is important to them, and you may develop a personal relationship with them. But they probably have multiple clients and they can't devote 100% of their time and attention to you. If you are looking for someone who is devoting most of their time and energy to you, you're probably looking more for an employee.
Also, a virtual assistant should not just be taking on any task that you throw at them on any given day. I know it may seem like this is what you need in your business, but that is not their primary function. When you start working with a virtual assistant, you come up with a list of the tasks that you want them to do for you.
They may even focus on a specific area, like social media, marketing, or tech and are working on specific tasks within that umbrella for you. Yes, the things that you work on with them might change or shift over time. But the scope of your agreement covers specific things and not necessarily additional tasks beyond that.
What is scope creep and how does it affect my VA?
One of the things that is the most challenging for virtual assistants to deal with, especially newer virtual assistants, is scope creep.
This is where you have outlined the scope of tasks that you're doing with a specific client and then more and more things beyond that agreement keep getting added. This is not what your relationship should be with your virtual assistant.
If you want to change the terms of your agreement and both of you agree to it, that's one thing. But if you just throw things at them any time you have something that needs to be done, this means that it's going to affect their entire client schedule, because they've probably worked out which blocks of time in their day or week go to which client, and you may have just thrown a wrench in their whole schedule.
You may also be asking them to do something that is not necessarily outside of their ability to do, but it might be something that they're not as comfortable with as their original tasks for you. So you may need to hire somebody who has more expertise in those additional areas or you may need to redefine your relationship with your current virtual assistant to cover additional hours or additional tasks.
But just assuming that they are your personal assistant to dump everything on is not the way to have an effective virtual assistant relationship. You can't expect them to be available to you every minute of every day because, as I mentioned, they have other clients and they are not working for you full-time.
If you have something that is urgent and needs to be done within, say, the next hour, they might be able to do it, but chances are they are working on something else. If this is something that is super urgent, you cannot always rely on them to be available to assist you. If you need someone who is going to be available for those super urgent tasks with no notice, you may need an employee whose job it is to be available for those things.
This is not to say that there aren't virtual assistants out there who will work like that. In my personal opinion they shouldn't, but that's just me and the type of business that I like to have. If you do find someone who works like that and it is a good relationship for both of you, that's totally fine.
But if you are looking for a virtual assistant and you don't currently have one, and that's the type of role that you're looking for them to fulfill, you may want to consider hiring a different type of team member.
What does a good VA relationship look like?
If you have a virtual assistant or are looking into working with one, here are some things to consider as you start your relationship together:
The initial agreement that you both sign should cover the scope of tasks that your VA will be working on. You should only be adding additional tasks later if you both agree to them.
With most VAs, you should expect a minimum of 24-48 hours turn around on tasks.
Even if your virtual assistant is doing daily management, such as managing your email inbox, you should not expect them to be in there all day, every day. When I did email management, I would check each inbox 2-3 times per day max.
Depending on what you need, you should be having regular meetings with your VA (this could be anywhere from once a week to once a month) where you discuss upcoming tasks and assign due dates to them.
Due dates are important to your work with your VA! Communicate with them about what is most urgent and when you need it finished by. But also be prepared to be a bit flexible and respect that they have other clients they are doing work for.
If you have questions about the best way to outsource your work to a virtual assistant and have a great relationship with them, let me know down in the comments or feel free to reach out.