7 Steps for Working Effectively with Virtual Assistants

In a private practice, I realized that my growth was based on my own time. A few years ago, I delegated my first task. I hired someone to return phone calls for about an hour a day. Then, as if by magic, they appeared in my calendar for an intake. I realized that I was increasing my ability to grow, by outsourcing non-essential aspects of my private practice.
Delegating tasks is one of the concepts of leadership and management in any

industry, be it in business, medical world, or even in sports. In basketball, one cannot just play the role of being a center, a point guard, and a shooting guard at the same time. No matter how good Physicians are in treating their patients, they just can’t be nurses themselves as well.
In the private practice world, it is not any different.
Delegation is a very important task for better functionality. Thus, the world is not a stranger to virtual assistants.

What is a virtual assistant?

A virtual assent can fall into numerous roles. At the most basic, it is someone who is not usually working in person. They are location independent. They are basically your hired contractor. They assist you in running your business functions in the virtual world called the Internet. Be it
Information Technology functions, marketing, blogging or encoding—you can count on virtual assistants. VAs typically fall into two categories:

  1. Project-based virtual assistants
  2. Role-based virtual assistants.

For example, you may have someone work on a project, like transcribing podcasts or designing images for your blog posts. Or they may be a specific role, like an Intake Coordinator. An Intake Coordinator might answer phone calls, return inquiries, schedule, and answer potential client’s questions.
Virtual Assistants make tasks easier and you can often save more in hiring Virtual Assistants.
Remember these different tips to be able to work as smoothly as possible with your Virtual Assistants.

Virtual Assistant Tip #1 | Good communication is a must

As with any other functions or tasks, good, proper, clear and concise communication is very important to ensure a smooth-sailing relationship with your Virtual Assistants. Having virtual assistants has forced me to identify my own processes. In doing this, it has forced me to outline my expectations. In doing this, is has saved back and forth between us.
Do not keep your assistant from guessing what you want and what he or she should do. When you want something done, communicate properly. Communicate what, when, and how so that your assistant gets a better picture of the task at hand. A gap in communication can cost a great difference in quality and output. As well, you will probably not retain your VA. Most people want to feel successful, so the clearer you are, the more smoothly tasks go.

Virtual Assistant Tip #2 | Set clear goals in every work assignment

As mentioned before, set clear goals and expectations for every work assignment. Thus, your Virtual Assistant can have a clear and concise view of what you are expecting him or her to do. Setting clear goals can also clear doubts for the assistant’s part since he or she knows what is expected of the work.
After I have interviewed and brought on a VA, I have a few ways that I do this:

  • Record a training video: We have a conversation on Skype, which I record. I may do a screen share so they can return back to the video without asking me. For example, I trained my podcast transcriber to upload to WordPress. In doing this I saved myself time and he now has additional marketable skills.
  • Have them create a checklist: As they do work, have them make a checklist. This is helpful in allowing them autonomy. As well, you then have training for future VAs.
  • Create  Google Document: I love using Google Drive for documents. We both contribute to it and it is a current training for future use.
  • Build a Trello Board:  I use Trello to organize tasks, steps, and to cheat checklists. Here’s a video that will help you see exactly how I do it.


When you give him or her a clear set of deadline and how the work should be sent, especially if you are letting your Virtual Assistant work on blogs and articles.

Virtual Assistant Tip #3 | Trust is Integral

Working with a Virtual Assistant can be very difficult for many people. Business owners often have a hard time letting go. A Virtual Assistant won’t do things exactly like you. It’s hard to see someone else working on the project.
Some people become very worried that their assistant may not be able to work on the project on time and properly. They become afraid that the finished output is not what they want and how they want it. Thus, they become engrossed in always pestering their assistants about what they are doing and if they are doing it right.
Guidance in tasks is very important but constant prodding to the work may be annoying and may cause your Virtual Assistants to lose confidence in their work. You as the employer hired them in the first place because they have the right skills and qualifications that you need.
So why are you not trusting them now?
You should be able to let go and trust them do the job. If you create strong objectives and expectations, the VA should be able to be successful. You can give your evaluation of their output after they present it so that they can improve and do better the next time around.

Virtual Assistant Tip #4 | Positive Reinforcements Help

I will often give bonuses for going above and beyond. Also, I may give an incentive for being done early. For example, when I have Hector do the podcast transcriptions, I may say the rate is $100 with a $50 bonus if they are completed by a specific date.
Many people are good in giving out criticisms to different works—pointing out all the negatives but failing to notice all the good points. Why is that? It may be because they want their assistants to know what they should improve next time.
However, pointing out the positive will help the relationship. Further, taking personal interest in a VA will build connection. What are they into? What’s their family like?
Recently, I Skyped with my VA, Hector. He does all of my podcast transcriptions. We talked a while about his family and church. He lives in the Philippines and it was great to learn about his culture!
According to psychologist, B.F. Skinner, positive reinforcements are important as they reinforce good behavior and keep a person motivated to do it again. Otherwise, pointing out all the negative points may cause your assistant to lose focus and dedication to do his or her work.

Virtual Assistant Tip #5 | Respect your Virtual Assistant

Treat your assistant as your partner and team member. They are filling a specific job role and are not your subordinate. Your assistant is there to work professionally to help you,
and not cater to your whims and wishes.

Virtual Assistant Tip #6 | Always Pay on Time

Monetary reward is also a form of positive reinforcement. To you, it might just be a small delegation of tasks but to your assistants, it is their job and it is what provides for their daily needs. Always pay on time based on what was discussed beforehand or set expectation if ever there are delays in payment. Do not keep your employee waiting.

Virtual Assistant Tip #7 | Ensure good relationship

When there are things that you are not comfortable or satisfied about, tell your assistant about it. If ever you need to terminate the professional relationship, you should make sure to still leave a positive impression. Personally, I love Chris Ducker’s book on the subject!

Again, feedback helps both sides to be successful.
Bringing on a strong virtual assistant is a great way to grow your private practice quicker. In a future article I will be discussing virtual assistant roles and how to find them!

Joseph R. Sanok, MA, LLP, LPC, NCC

Joe Sanok Private Practice ConsultantJoe Sanok is an ambitious results expert. He is a private practice business consultant and counselor that helps small businesses and counselors in private practice to increase revenue and have more fun! He helps owners with website design, vision, growth, and using their time to create income through being a private practice consultant.

Joe was frustrated with his lack of business and marketing skills when he left graduate school. He loved helping people through counseling, but felt that often people couldn’t find him. Over the past few years he has grown his skills, income, and ability to lead others, while still maintaining an active private practice in Traverse City, MI.

To link to Joe’s Google+ .

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