How to work with your Virtual Assistant – Managing the right Candidate

Posted by Owen McGab Enaohwo

Hiring a Virtual Assistant (VA) for your business is ONLY the first step in the process of leveraging your talent and your time. Ensuring you get the expected results from your VA, as well as setting up the working relationship between you and your virtual assistant is the main goal of the whole process.

Allow me to walk you through the details of managing your Virtual Assistant. The process is seemingly straight forward; just be aware that you also need to constantly adjust to the situation. Working with anyone – real or virtual – is a dynamic situation where adjustments need to be made at all times, every time. The key word here is resiliency.

Interacting with your Virtual Assistant is done by means of various new technologies and the internet. Setting up a virtual workspace for communicating with your VA is essential.  The tools needed are readily available and cost anything from free ($free.99) to a fraction of what it would have cost to implement 4 to 5 years ago. I am going to cover some of the basic tools that your VA needs to have set up.

Here are 3 important basic tools to set up (and how to use them):


  1. Set up an email address where you and your virtual assistant can send and receive instructions and documents.
  2. Set up a message system that will not confuse you or your virtual assistant. Example:
    1. Instructions should be labeled as instructions, and should refer to a specific job.
    2. Feedback should be labeled as feedback, also referring to a specific job.
    3. In case your message is a mixture of both, separated the instruction set from the feedback set. And always refer to a specific item on the task list.
  3. File names should refer to specific tasks so it will be easy for both of you to refer to instructions and track down feedback.
  4. Email messages should have the date and time the message is sent for easy reference, aside from the task list item.

Chat client

  1. Being able to communicate in real time is valuable in a virtual work environment. Make sure you and your virtual assistant have at least 2 chat clients available, so you have a back up in case one client goes into maintenance or offline mode.
  2. During your chat, make a list of items you would like to discuss with your assistant. Having a list allows you to maximize the use of time, and makes both of you stick to what really needs to be discussed.

Voice and Web Cam Communication (VoIP)

  1. Make sure that your virtual assistant has the necessary tools needed so you can make calls to each other directly. This will allow both of you to interact directly with each other especially when the task at hand needs to be explained to the VA in depth.
  2. Since the quality and clarity of sound / voice during the call might be an issue it’s advisable to sign up with a reliable VoIP provider.
  3. After each voice call, ask your virtual assistant to send you a summary transcript of your discussion so you can be sure that they fully understood the topics discussed during the call and they have a clear idea of how to execute the tasks.

I have just list some of the basic tools required but be aware that the use of additional tools is a given depending on the type of working environment, your business niche and your needs. You may provide all the necessary tools or ask your virtual assistant to acquire them.

System Orientation


After setting up the communication tools, you need to orient your virtual assistant on the systems and steps you use to complete tasks. Be as detailed as possible when presenting the system to your VA, but also be willing to allow your VA to be creative too and use their own initiative when completing tasks. Remember systems are meant to grow and evolve, hence encourage the VA to determine better ways of getting the tasks done.

If you need to explain something using a video, then by all means make one. If you need a document or spreadsheet formatted in a specific manner, provide your VA with your required format. Resorting to generalities and expecting your VA to sort things out for you will not do both of you any good.

Make a list of deliverables and your required timeframes. Make sure that if you were asked to do the same thing, you can do the same within the timeframe you require from our VA. The best way to determine what to realistically expect from your virtual assistant is to immerse yourself in the task before hand and fully document how long it takes you to complete it.

What to do when communication links break down

Web based communication links are as temperamental as the service providers and the reliability of power suppliers. PC hardware can act up any time. As Murphy’s Law states – Things can go wrong – and they will – at the worst possible moment. So you need to clarify this detail with your VA. Ask your VA to inform you through email (your VA can use another internet connected PC to get in touch with your). In case you are the one who has communication break down issues, inform your VA. The needs to be constant communication hence come up with contingency plans to handle this issue.

The most important item – “Synchronize your time zones


I purposely left this point until now because I need to emphasize a point. Since you and your VA might be located in different time zones, make sure you agree upfront to a common time to communicate with each other and when work will be done. I call it “Time Zone Synchronization”, you need to consider that even though it might be day time at your place, it can be mid night at your VAs location.

Working late nights can affect productivity over time so I suggest giving your VA a day off during the work week so that they can get replenished and energized; do you know what happens to you if you keep working on the night shift over a long period of time? If you don’t then I suggest you give it a go and you will quickly understand the reasoning behind my point.


Conclusion (okay, I now have to end my rant!)


A Virtual Assistant is not a magician so don’t expect them to put together the entire system from the scratch for you. Your VAs output is greatly dependent on your orientation, and the systems that you have already set up. As they say – Garbage in, Garbage out. You might get a smart enough VA who can do wonders for you, but you will still have to set up the systems needed to execute and complete your tasks. Working with your VA will take sometime to mature. Changing a VA just because there are issues right at the start will get you no where. Unless that VA becomes so undependable and does something that’s totally out of order, be resilient with your VA. In 4 to 5 weeks, you will start to see your patience and resilience paying off.




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