What to Do When Your Virtual Assistant Isn’t Working Out

Man doing researchI’ve already mentioned how valuable I think that Virtual Assistants and Freelancers can be to any business, large or small. They can represent additional skilled hands, either day in and day out, or on a per project basis – without the hassles of adding staff, then having to keep them busy during those slack times that always come up. Today, most businesses can benefit from VA help, and many wouldn’t survive without them. Occasionally, however, your VA or freelancer doesn’t work out exactly as you expect – or need. Problems like this need to be resolved quickly or your extra hands will become a liability rather than an asset. Let’s look at some possible problems and how you might resolve them.

Missed Deadlines

If your Virtual Assistant or Freelancer puts out great work… but not on time – this must be addressed; or it costs you money. As with everything else relating to your business, communication the critical first step. When you define your projects to your VAs and freelancers, emphasize the time important nature of the work. If they work slowly and they are not too expensive, you might consider boosting the rate at which you pay them – but always make clear that you only pay these bonuses for on time delivery. You can also “cushion” your deadlines… give your workers due dates earlier than needed to still get the work on time.

You may also want to establish a regular amount of work delivered each week. This creates a “routine” of work and delivery that may work to both your and your workers’ advantage.

Shoddy or Inconsistent Quality

If your VA or Freelancer’s work quality isn’t up to par, gently but firmly tell them they’re not doing it right – remember, you’re paying them to get what your business needs and poor work reflects poorly on your organization. Make sure your instructions were clear and understood, then show them again exactly how you want the work done and what it should look like. This is where printed instructions and videos are a tremendous help. You may even want to share your screen via Skype or GoToMeeting.com to insure understanding. You may want to reverse the process so you can watch them do the work and correct as you go to ensure correct processes.

As always, it is good to do a small, “test run” to test your Virtual Assistant or freelancer on just a small segment of a project to make sure they are doing what you need. This way, you can make the necessary, “mid-course corrections” before you get too far off course. You can present this as a “small quick” project to see how well they handle it without committing to a large, and possibly unsatisfactory result. Don’t mention long term work until they have proven their worth. This gives you a quick and easy exit if necessary – otherwise, go ahead with the full job.

Lack of Communication

Phone, IM, email. If you find it difficult to communicate with your Virtual Assistant or freelancer, you may want to look at all your options. Of course email is the standard, and exceptionally convenient because it is, “asynchronous” – you don’t have to be on the phone or online together, and this can be quite convenient. However, other, more “synchronous” methods may be better and deserve a try. Instant Messaging Chat is certainly one, and can be seen as the “bridge” between phone and email – it doesn’t require that both participants are constantly “live.” But the most immediate is, of course, telephone. However you wind up staying in communication, it is critical that you keep this channel open and available for both of you all during normal working time. Find out from your assistants and freelancers what works best for them. I have said for many years, “Find out what others need from you so you can get what you need from them”… this goes for communications also.

Communication is also something that’s good to talk about in your initial contract phase. Tell your new VA that you’re most comfortable using, for example, Skype and ask if they can do that. Make it a condition of hiring them.

Know and Understand Your Virtual Assistants and Freelancers

Whenever you have a problem with your outside workers, first try to fix the problem. The last thing you want to do is stop working with them – especially if you have put in extensive training time.

But always remember, your business is what is on the line. If they are not working out, then it is time to break the relationship and find someone new. Since no one person is good at everything, by understanding your Virtual Assistants’ and Freelancers’ strengths and weaknesses, you can suit projects you assign to just the right person, and, most likely, avoid many of the problems that might arise.

Many years ago, a video director I had the pleasure of working with always had a saying that he lived by… “I’m only as good as my last job.” In other words, I was never obliged to pick up the phone when I had a new project – so the onus was on him to make each project experience right for me. Fortunately, he always did, and working with him was not only a pleasure, but extremely productive, resulting in many award winning programs. The same is true for Virtual Assistants and freelancers you hire… the onus is on them to get it right. Your obligation is to do everything you can to make sure they get it right, but if they can’t, the only thing you can do is not hire them again.

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