Alone we go faster, but together we go further… This African proverb reminds us that it is essential to delegate non-essential tasks in order to focus on added value. One way is to outsource, especially with a virtual assistant.
This is why in this article, you will discover tips for working effectively with a virtual assistant.
For this I interviewed Cédric Autexier, virtual assistant on monassistant-virtuel.com. In order to collect his best advice, and I took the opportunity to ask my own assistant Sabrina for advice.
They will share their tips for delegating and outsourcing tasks to a virtual assistant.
Cédric being a virtual assistant, we started by discussing the tools for working remotely with a virtual assistant.
Each virtual assistant often uses his own tools or those he is used to since. The missions of virtual assistants are diversified.
There are those who specialize in administration (eg delegating tasks with low added value. Data entry, etc.) and others who really act as management assistants.
There are also other assistants who are in web marketing who use graphic design tools .(From the simplest with Canva to the most advanced like Photoshop).
Virtual assistants who manage social networks will use tools like Hootsuite.com. Buffer.com, Agorapulse.com, Swello.com, Canva.com… (see this list with the top 150 community management tools ).
Virtual assistants who are in administration will use the google suite (Docs, Sheets, etc.).
- Toggl.com : a time management tool, which allows a virtual assistant to measure the time spent. On each action and thus make a detailed report to his client.
- Trello.com : it’s a small task management tool that can also be used for an editorial calendar. A list of tasks to be done… in collaborative mode.
- Google Sheets : this table in collaborative mode can be used to establish action plans. Share data, list actions, etc.
- Loom : this software allows you to record your screen (see this list with 23 other software.) In order to show your assistant exactly what to do.
Generally, it is better to let the virtual assistant choose her tools to carry out the missions. Because she will be used to using them, and thus she will be more efficient. (Instead of having to increase her skills on new software that she does not know. ).
How to manage relationships with ordering customers?
Personally, I use Toggl Track. It is a tool that allows you to calculate the duration of your working hours.
This is a timer used to track the time spent on a mission. It also allows to export the reports on the time spent on a task.
Simply enter the tasks to be performed, you can also enter an hourly rate. To calculate the time spent and the cost of each task.
Toggl is available in a free version and a paid version.
It is in the paid version that it is possible to export a weekly report .
With this feature, you can program the reception of a report every Monday for example.
In this report, we can see all the tasks carried out during. The week before with the processing time of each mission.
Toggl is a very practical tool for assistants who charge by the hour
This tool allows the customer to watch and follow the evolution. Of the missions carried out by his assistant
But it is not mandatory software, for example Sabrina uses a google sheet file instead: It is a shared file where the assistant indicates the date, the task to be carried out. The start times of the mission and end times and time spent on each mission.
Be careful to estimate the duration of the missions
For example, on ConseilsMarketing.com, when a mission takes more than half a day. I ask Sabrina to let me know if it’s OK to spend more time on it.
You have to be careful not to over or under quality by spending too much. Or not enough time on an action, but an assistant is not necessarily aware of what you want to do.
Example: I asked my assistant to create an editorial calendar with ideas for publications. To be made over the year ( see this link ) for which illustrations were missing on social networks.
The goal was to research brand illustrations on Google and Instagram for calendar events such as Valentine’s Day. Christmas,…
Of course, you had to take only branded visuals (and not unauthorized images). And if necessary add a note indicating the author of the visual in the article on WordPress.
In the calendar there were about a hundred events.
Looking at the timing, I noticed that it lasted more than a day so I asked that we stop. Because 2 visuals were more than enough for each key date, putting 3 or 4 was over-quality …but I forgot to mention it.
Hence the importance of carrying out the actions either 3 or 4 times before delegating. This allows on the one hand to see the time it takes, but also to know what is sub-contractable or not, with the zones of uncertainty.
Because if for you it may seem obvious, for a virtual assistant, your job can be totally new!
How to organize when you are a Freelance virtual assistant?
Working with a client requires first and foremost a clear understanding of the client’s needs and objectives.
Without it, you will have to make adjustments
First of all, you will have to do a discovery interview with the client in order to discuss. The missions to be carried out, to define the tasks to be carried out, etc.
This makes it possible to define the missions to be carried out. Knowing that the organization can be different for each client. It will depend on the volume of hours, the technicality, the duration of the mission.
The virtual assistant must adapt to the customer’s preferred means. Of communication: Zoom, whatsapp, skype, etc.
With Sabrina, we work a lot by email and for urgent communications we use Facebook Messenger.
We must define the level of quality expected by the customer. If he expects us to be faster or more perfectionist.
Then, it will be necessary to set up routines and plan regular moments of exchange.(Progress, report on a task carried out, etc.).
It is important to ensure that there is nothing left unsaid with the client. Whether it is just after the interview or after a mission.
You have to ask the client what is wrong. With the way of working since the assistant can also make mistakes. Misunderstand an instruction… and if you don’t tell her, she won’t know how to improve.
You have to try to get feedback from a customer. To see the points to improve (listing the positive & negative points).
Then, it is necessary to set up processes in relation to the tasks to be carried out:
- a for writing articles,
- a process for publishing on social networks,
- for sales tunnels,…
The processes make it possible to structure and define what is expected of the assistant.
Processes can be just a few lines, or 1/2 pages depending on what is expected.
Here is an example process:
- I define the tasks to be carried out (the objective, why, etc.)
- I write a brief on outlook: Step 1, Step 2, Step 3,… special cases…
- I use the “Loom” screencast tool ( free at this link ) to visually explain what to do. Loom allows you to create a small tutorial to show the procedure to follow to carry out a task. By carrying out the tutorial, I will be able to see the difficulties in carrying. Out the mission and estimate the processing time. You will have to redo the mission 4 to 7 times to see the details. And realize if the mission is doable by the assistant.
- I estimate the duration of the mission from the few tests carried out
If, for example, you want to delegate a task on Linkedin. For example to manually respond to contact requests.
It must be explained that the objective is to send a thank you message to its Linkedin. Contacts following an accepted invitation, using a text to personalize.
In the script it will be necessary to specify that it is necessary to add the first name and the company. Where they work to personalize the text (on Linkedin it is very complicated to automate this).
It is also necessary to specify the particular cases. For example, it happens that certain people are unemployed. So the script should be adapted according to this (say “How is your job search going?”).
What are the good qualities of a virtual assistant?
The customer must know what he expects from the assistant because most customers. Have a distorted view of the actions to be taken: for them it’s simple. But you have to realize that a virtual assistant knows nothing your business, your habits…
There is a real learning process at the start and an increase in skills.
It happens that a client calls on an assistant to carry out a job which he estimates to last 8 hours at the beginning then finally it lasts 12 or 14 hours because it took time for the assistant to master a software, request information on a procedure…
Conversely, a giver of being may realize that he does not have enough work for the helper.
It is first necessary to define which are the tasks which could be delegated to an assistant.
Then, test the wizard to see the limits of subcontracting (often when it is necessary to know the customers, the business, etc.).
In general, an assistant should not “think” too much, but perform a job… with common sense, of course!
If you have to have technical skills, think about a situation… you don’t just have to send a procedure by email, but work well in pairs for 1 to 2 hours to check that everything is well assimilated and clear.
Similarly, for long tasks, intermediate points must be made to check that everything is going well.
For example Sabrina cannot write high value-added content, however I can entrust her with simple tasks such as writing tutorials or a content base, and as soon as it’s done I add my paw by adding examples, tips, tricks….
What are the mistakes not to make with a virtual assistant?
As with the recruitment of a natural person, the recruitment of an assistant must be based on rational criteria (eg: evaluation grid, etc.).
One of my good practices is to test one to four assistants in parallel and test them on practical cases such as transcription, writing, translation,…
We then manage to choose the person who has the best skills instead of choosing out of spite.
Indeed, experience shows that the situation will not improve over time if the person does not do a good job at the start.
On the contrary, the situation will deteriorate and you will start blaming things on the assistant, which he will not even realize and the collaboration will deteriorate.
One of the mistakes in the profession of an assistant is to accept to carry out tasks on which one is not necessarily competent.
Either the freelance virtual assistant can upskill or the quality doesn’t improve.
In this case, it will be necessary to reframe the mission, and from the outset define the missions in the contract (eg: 2 revisions of texts for content, etc.).
When the assistant feels that he is not able to carry out the mission, he will have to be honest with the client and say no, or put him in touch with another person if necessary.
What is the web writing process?
Web writing is often one of the missions of a French-speaking virtual assistant.
The ordering client gives a brief with key words, the title of the article, a detailed plan..
In the brief, I am told the points to be covered in order to underline the main parts of the article.
Often, he puts links to other articles that deal with the same themes, these articles are used as “inspiration” while not “stealing” content (it is forbidden to copy, translate… a text or to re-write partially existing content).
With this work base, the assistant can start working, for example noting the big ideas on a notepad, and from these ideas build an article plan with the title, subtitles, examples…
This allows for a canvas that looks like a holey item.
Knowing that there are two cases to write an article:
- Either these are subjects that you master and which are easier to write
- Either these are more complicated subjects and in this case, it is necessary to carry out additional documentary research.
Beyond producing text, a virtual assistant can format, re-write… existing content.
For example, recently I interviewed the author of the book “Question for a champion”, Guillermo Di Bisotto ( see this article ).
I sent the questions in writing to Guillermo, and he sent his answers in a word document.
The answers were very good but the formatting is very textual (because written in Word), whereas on the web the content is more airy, spaced out…
The goal is therefore to ask his assistant to rework the document to adapt it to web format and add the h2, h3, etc. tags.
In addition, you can also do SEO re-writing
You can also ask to add illustrations or screenshots from an image library.
This work of modifications (adding bullets, numbers, etc.), and cutting long sentences allows a text to breathe on the web.
On the web, people scan content unlike reading texts on Word, books…
So use lists, bullet points, checklists in a way that people can read and understand quickly.
Finally, you can add your own added value, such as internal links to other blog posts,…
On wordpress, I use a summary plugin (https://fr.wordpress.org/plugins/easy-table-of-contents/) so that people can go directly to the part that interests them.
On the web, it’s important not to make a novel but to put key ideas to have a more synthetic view.
Discover Cédric’s advice for learning to delegate
To get in touch with Cédric Autexier, there is the blog monassistant-virtuel.com , or directly on LinkedIn .
Discover in 20 minutes Cédric’s best tips for learning how to delegate administrative and low value-added tasks to a virtual assistant.
Some additional tips for working with a virtual secretary by Sabrina my assistant
Before starting a collaboration with a virtual assistant, you must already have in mind what are the missions to be delegated.
It is important to ask yourself the following question: What are the recurring tasks that you do that take up a lot of your time yet have no added value?
The missions to be delegated must be correlated with the skills of the virtual assistant.
It is therefore important to do an interview with the assistant to see what her skills and limits are.
I will list some missions of a virtual assistant:
- Filing and replying to emails
- Retrieve data from the internet and enter it (eg: in a CRM, in an Excel file, etc.)
- Make the layout (ex: format the newsletters on mailchimp).
- Prospecting on social networks (e.g. responding to messages, managing an account, etc.)
- Manage a community (Facebook page, Instagram account, etc.) by responding to messages, comments, opinions, etc.
- Create visuals on canva.com (it’s illustration software).
- Design product sheets from technical documents
- Format the articles.
- Schedule social media posts.
- Moderate online discussions or respond to live chat
- Make audio transcriptions
- Put videos on Youtube with keywords, description and create thumbnails.
- Manage databases (ex: encode and classify invoices, file classification, etc.)
- Research trending products and update the showcase site.
- Manage customer relations (e.g. respond to customer requests by email, track orders, etc.)
These are some of the tasks that a virtual assistant can perform, but there are no limits to the tasks and an assistant can adapt to the needs of a business.
During the interview with the assistant
If the client needs the assistant to work from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m., for example, it will be necessary to ensure that the virtual assistant is available during this period.
For example in Madagascar, power cuts are very frequent, even going up to 3 hours of cuts per day.
It must be ensured that the assistant is equipped with the necessary materials in the event of a power cut: solar panel, inverter, generator, etc.
At this point, the assistant will have to be honest with the client to avoid any frustration.
Clear and detailed processes
It is important to define a process for all tasks to be delegated.
The process will help the assistant to carry out the mission and help him understand the client’s expectations.
For specific missions, you can use screencast tools like Loom to make small tutorials.
The advantage of video is that the assistant can watch the video as many times in case he forgot something.
The client will also be able to put himself in the shoes of the assistant when he creates the tutorial and see what are the difficulties that can be encountered during the realization of the mission.
For long-term missions, it is preferable to have a written process that can be updated as the mission evolves, starting with a video brief.
The initial brief avoids misunderstandings.
For example , in 2018, I worked for a marketing agency and my mission was to respond to private messages… on about thirty facebook pages.
There were already processes for each request.
But sometimes you have to update the process as the business evolves such as price, promotions,…
Hence the interest of making points in video to take stock of the activity.
These points must be organized to avoid wasting time talking about other less important things.
Before making a telephone point for example, it will be necessary to note beforehand the difficulties, the particular cases…
Before working with a virtual assistant,
For example, I worked with a communication agency that offered me to manage the Instagram and Facebook account of its client who was a painter.
I was not in direct contact with the ordering customer.
The agency uses Asana (a project management software , see this list) to delegate the missions to me and first of all, they asked me to create a Facebook and Instagram page for the client and to animate these accounts.
By doing my research on their site, I had seen that there was no Facebook or Instagram page mentioned.
So I started to create posts for these new accounts by taking the elements found on their website (paintings, exhibitions, etc.).
A few days later, we scheduled a first telephone point with the client.
My first surprise was to know that the client was surprised that I was not in France but in Madagascar (the agency had not specified this information and the client had not realized it), but it seemed mattered to the customer.
But my second surprise was to learn that the brief had been badly done: the client had already created a Facebook and Instagram page (without posting anything), and wanted to have maximum visibility in a few days to attract people during of his exhibition…
Of course, it is not in a few days that you can attract a lot of people if the page is not active (except to advertise), and therefore the objective was inevitably difficult to achieve in a few days ..
Clearly, there was a lack of communication between the client and the agency, then between the agency and me…
This is why to delegate well, you must first communicate well on the objectives to be achieved, why you are doing it, what are the desired results and if necessary how to do it.
The more “SMART” the objectives, the better the results.
What are the mistakes not to make when delegating tasks to a virtual assistant?
On the virtual assistant side, you have to be honest with the client when you are not able to carry out a mission, whether at the level of the skill which is limited, infrastructure or timing.
For example, I had to refuse missions which consist of receiving phone calls since my house is next to a school so when the students finish their lessons, there is a lot of noise.
Likewise, efforts must be made to improve over time and continue to train.
The virtual assistant must have a minimum knowledge of the business of the client with whom he undertakes to work.
On the client side, you have to think twice before delegating a mission to an assistant.
If for him the action is complicated and requires professional knowledge, then the assistant will not be able to do it without training and an increase in skills (eg: managing simple cases, and letting the client deal with complex requests).
To learn more,