Working with a virtual assistant (VA) is a quick, cost-effective, and efficient way to free up some of your time. By offloading simple recurring tasks throughout the day, you can focus on what really drives your business forward.

However, depending on how you approach this new working relationship, working with a virtual assistant can either be a game-changer or a time-waster. 

Here are some common mistakes that professionals make when working with a VA for the first time and some tips on how to avoid them.

1Don’t Assume Your Virtual Assistant Knows Your Preferences

Because you want things done your way, and your VA is not a mind reader, it’s important to clearly communicate how and when you would like certain tasks to be completed. 

Take for example these three common tasks: 

  • Organizing your documents and inbox. Every person has a unique way of organizing their inbox and files. Even if you use popular a popular folder system, chances are criteria for what goes into each folder varies from other people who have a similar system. Clearly explaining your system ensures your assistant can do the task correctly. 
  • Scheduling and appointments. Let your remote personal assistant know what times you are and are not available. Known vacations, times in the evening when it is and is not permissible for him or her to contact you and so on. Doing so will prevent your VA from constantly checking with you about every suitable time to schedule appointments and meetings. Take a look at this article, having your virtual assistant schedule for you which has 7 tips for working with a VA who handles your calendar and scheduling.
  • Dealing with prospects and clients. If your VA interfaces with your prospects or clients, establish ahead of time the correct protocol and procedures so that the VA’s constraints of communication and responsibility are clearly defined. For example, you might authorize your VA to communicate to your client the particulars of a contract, but you reserve for yourself any communication around proposed changes to that contract. Or you may have them coordinate on your behalf whenever a prospect requests a meeting but defer to you when prospects have questions about your offering.

The more specific you are about your preferences, the more time you’ll save by working with a virtual assistant since they’ll be able to tackle your tasks with minimal oversight. 

2Not Knowing What to Delegate to Your Virtual Assistant

To get consistent value from your virtual assistant, you need to have a clear plan for what you’re going to delegate to them. This allows you to focus on your strategic objectives without having to constantly pause and wonder if what you’re doing is something they can tackle or if you should do it yourself. 

To create that plan, think about this:

  • What tasks require significant authority and/or expertise to be successful? 
  • What tasks are process-driven and can be easily completed by someone else? 

Make a list of as many activities as possible that fall into these categories. You or another specialized member of your team will tackle the projects that require specific expertise and you can offload the remaining tasks to your virtual assistant. 

Provide this list to your VA along with the frequency, deadlines, and any other key information so they can get to work each day without interrupting you.

3Not Defining Priorities and Expectations

If you assign your multiple tasks without any context about prioritization, they’re going to work on projects in their perceived order of importance which may not align with yours. Similarly, if you don’t define your goals for a project, they may send back a deliverable that doesn’t match your vision. 

All tasks, large or small, require you to communicate the parameters and constraints of the work to be done. This includes: 

  • Start dates, finish dates, with an expectation of task duration
  • An understanding of what needs to considered for the work to be completed
  • Budget limits if booking travel or making purchases

And remember something that may be clear to you, may not be to your VA. Be open to questions from your VA so they can clarify if something is not clear or your instructions seem incomplete.

4Not Checking-In Regularly

If you are starting with a new VA or a new project, it’s useful to establish a checkpoint early in the project to make sure everything is being done correctly.

For example, if you asked your VA to update several hundred records in your database, set a checkpoint after ten percent of the work is done to make sure everything is going well; review the work and make any adjustments as needed. You don’t want your VA to complete a lengthy project, only to find it was all done incorrectly.

If you plan to delegate mostly quick tasks such as scheduling, invoicing, CRM management, etc. have sync once a week or every other week to check-in regarding what’s going well, what can be improved, and what your VA can expect in the coming weeks. These syncs will help you continually optimize your working relationship and stay aligned.

5Not Leveraging Your Engagement Manager

If you hire a virtual assistant through a managed service, they’ll assign you an Engagement Manager who is responsible for making sure you have a successful experience. They do this by supporting your relationship in a variety of ways including:

  • Training your assistant on your processes
  • Working with your VA to ensure they make tangible improvements based on any constructive feedback you provide
  • Helping you develop processes so you can offload more projects

Their goal is to help you get maximum value from your virtual assistant and the more you leverage them, the more time you’ll be able to spend on your strategic objectives. 


Check out our article to learn more about how to leverage an Engagement Manager.