Training Your Virtual Assistants and Freelancers – Best Practices

Virtual-Assistant-TrainingYou’ve found the budget and you’ve found what looks like the right person. Once you’ve taken the big step and started a working relationship with a Virtual Assistant or Freelancer, the most critical step in this new found relationship is making sure they get the right training so they can actually, “Fill Your Shoes.” Right now, you do it all, as the old saying goes, “Chief Cook and Bottle Washer.” Since you do it all, training your new helper can seem like a full time job in itself. What you will need most of all, is patience! Your new-found help is not you! They will do things differently, and at a different speed. But once you get the two of you, “in sync,” you will be amazed at how much better your business runs and how much more you get done with two working… even if one of you only works a few hours a day. Most of the problems that occur in outsourcing happen right up front, during the, “training phase.” Here are some steps to help you get going on the right foot from the start.

Always Make Sure Your VA or Freelancer, “Gets It”

Never assume that folks who haven’t worked with you before “Get It…” that they understand your business – and the way YOU do business. There are always times when you think you’re both on the same page only to discover that you’re not only not on the same page, you’re not even in the same book! The people you hire may have their own website, and it may, indeed, list the service you need. But do not assume (NEVER ASSUME) they do things the way you want them done. For every task, plan on giving DETAILED instructions on how you want it done… but keep an open mind – your new worker may offer innovative suggestions on better, time money saving ways to do it. And that new time saving could lead to more time and budget available to expand your services in new money making ways. Be flexible.

Write Down EVERY Detail

Writing InstructionsMany, MANY years ago, on my first company job, we had AVI pads… note pads so we would, Avoid Verbal Instructions.” The great thing I found about, “writing it down,” is that it forced me to more accurately, and economically, describe what I wanted, and virtually assured the outcome for which I was looking. So, when outlining projects for your virtual assistants and freelancers, always add MORE detail than you think is needed. Take it step by step, including the expected result of each step. Once you have detailed the task in writing, read it back, hopefully the next day, to ensure you have it completely covered. Then, go over the instructions with your assistant and make sure they understand exactly what you expect.

Write It or Show It?

Always make your own training materials for your Virtual Assistants and Freelancers. Once they are made, they can be used again and again as you hire more help in the years to come. Always take each task step-by-step. Your training materials can be either video tutorials or written instructions – actually, it’s best to do both. Some people learn better visually with the video, and others will work better with the written version – either way, it is good to have both. And all people benefit because they can see it visually, and also refer back to the printed version for confirmation.

It’s Trial Run Time

For each project that you hand off, you’ll want to do a small, “Trial Run” until you are familiar with the quality of your Virtual Assistant’s or Freelancer’s work. For example, if you’re looking for a large list of blogs that accept guest posts in your area, ask your VA to find just ten for a first go ‘round. Check these results to see if they’re what you wanted. If they are OK, go ahead and let your VA find a bunch more. By checking small samples, you will be able to make, “mid-course corrections,” to make sure they’re on the right track – otherwise you may waste a lot of time and money.

Immediate Feedback is Important

As soon as your assistant delivers your project, give feedback, both positive and negative, right away. This is especially important early in the relationship. Negative feedback lets them know where you expect to see improvement. The more important positive feedback lets them know where the right track is so they can stay on it. Always make sure that your Virtual Assistants and freelancers know that you appreciate their work – pay is good, but praise helps.

It’s Your Business so You Are Responsible

If your Virtual Assistant or freelancer misses the mark on a project, don’t put all the blame on them. Since it is your business, you are responsible. Find out if your instructions may not have been clear enough. Give your VA the benefit of the doubt… just as your outside workers need to adapt to working for you, you need adapt to delegating properly and working well with them.

Pay Promptly!

In my years running my production department at Minolta, I developed a good relationship with Accounts Payable, and always made sure my freelancers’ invoices were paid promptly. Because my people knew they would be paid on time, they remained loyal, worked hard, and worked well, helping me produce more than 30 award winning shows and meetings.

Always remember that you are responsible for your business, and no one else. Your Virtual Assistants and Freelancers deserve credit for taking up some of your workload, but you are responsible for how well they do – when they succeed, you and your business succeed.

3 Responses to “Training Your Virtual Assistants and Freelancers – Best Practices”

  1. Kimberly Fisher says:

    “Always remember that you are responsible for your business, and no one else. Your Virtual Assistants and Freelancers deserve credit for taking up some of your workload, but you are responsible for how well they do – when they succeed, you and your business succeed.”

    I love the way you said it. I actually agree with all your points here. I can never imagine myself and my business succeeding without the help of the people behind me (my VAs and freelance web designers). The start up can be very frustrating, not knowing where to find the type of people you actually need. Honestly, I have tried working with remote workers that were a disappointment but thankfully I am all behind that now. I’ve had a lot of staff that came and went after having tried their capacity to do work and is now left with these people I am with – 4 industrious and responsible members of my staff. Three of them I got from while the other one from oDesk.
    I’m sure there will come a time in any business owner’s life that they find the right staff to help out with making the business successful. Thanks for this share!

    • Dan says:

      Thanks Kimberly…
      Indeed, we can’t do it alone! Whether we use staff people as you do, or use freelancers and virtual assistants, those extra hands and minds make our businesses better, and our lives easier. I know all the great freelancers I had the pleasure of working with while I as at Minolta certainly did and I am thankful for their contributions.

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