How Long Should You Spend Training Your New Virtual Assistant?

You’ve decided it’s time to hire a VA. You want someone who can handle some of your work to free you up to handle other things. So how long should you spend training your new virtual assistant?

Figure on spending at least a month.

I know, I know. I can hear you already.

“A month? Are you kidding me? I’m hiring you because I need someone to free up my time! And now you’re telling me that I need to invest even more time into training you before you can free up the time I already don’t have?”

Unsplash Photo by: Soragrit Wongsa

Yes, that’s what I’m telling you. But before you throw up your hands and decide that maybe you should just keep plugging along on your own, let me explain why you should invest this month, and what this month of training will give you in the end.

Why You Should Spend a Month Training Your New Virtual Assistant

Just like a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, a virtual assistant is only as good as her client.

A virtual assistant’s job is to make your life easier. Consider these situations:

  • You archive emails; your virtual assistant deletes them
  • You send a weekly newsletter and prefer it to go out on Fridays; your virtual assistant sends them whenever she thinks of it
  • Your business is geared toward a particular gender, field or lifestyle; your virtual assistant creates things that target anyone and everyone

If your VA isn’t doing things the way you would do them, or the way you like them done, she’s not making your life any easier. In fact, she’s making it more difficult. By the time you get done correcting her unwitting mistakes, and letting her know how you want things done, you’ve spent more time on a task than you did before you hired her.

Instead, spending a month to properly train your VA cuts down dramatically on those unwitting mistakes. The short-term investment of more time will pay off in a VA who does things the way you would, the way you like them, and therefore, truly frees your time for other tasks.

A month may seem like a really long time to spend training someone. Most of the tasks you’ll want to assign to your VA are done at least once a month. By taking a full 30 days to train her, you’ll ensure that the vast majority of tasks you’ll be assigning to her have been covered, so when they come around again, she’ll know what she’s doing.

What about the rare task that’s only done a couple of times a year or at holidays? It won’t take long to train her in those. And depending on the task, she may already be able to handle it without training based on how she does other tasks for you.

What Do You Get For Your 30-Day Training Investment?

By investing this month in training your virtual assistant, you gain someone who truly makes your life easier.

You’ll have an assistant who can take the tasks you give her and accomplish them the way you’d like, whether that’s handling email a specific way or using a particular method to fill your schedule.

You’ll have an assistant who knows what needs to be done, when it needs to be done, and can organize her work to ensure that it all gets done on time and smoothly – and without constantly asking you for guidance.

Unsplash Photo by: William Iven

You’ll have someone who you can trust to handle these tasks, without needing to second-guess her, or look over her virtual shoulder, or insist on final approval on everything. That’s what really frees up your time – knowing that you can trust someone else to handle those tasks so you can focus on others.

It’s Not an All-Day, Every-Day Commitment

I know reading that you need to commit 30 days to training your VA sounds daunting. And if it was an eight-hours-a-day, five-days-a-week commitment, I’d agree – it’s a lot and makes hiring someone to free your time seem pointless.

But that’s not how it needs to happen.

What we’re actually talking about here is committing a couple of hours a week over about four weeks. That’s it – just two hours a week. Maybe more, depending on the work you need your VA to handle. Even if it’s as much as eight hours a week, when you think of the benefits you’ll reap in the end, it’s worth it.

You can also ensure that, should your new VA not work out or go on an extended vacation, that you won’t necessarily need to make the same time investment in the future. How?

By creating standard operating procedures. There are two ways you can go about this.

You can create them before you hire someone. You create explicit instructions for how to perform the various tasks you’ll be assigning to the VA, and save them in a central location (Google Docs tends to be great for this purpose, as are other options like Box, Dropbox, etc.).

Alternatively, you spend the month training your VA, and then have her create the standard operating procedures. This method saves you the time and effort and in most cases, your VA will appreciate the additional hours. 

What If You Really Can’t Wait a Month for a VA to be Trained?

Depending on your workload, you may sincerely believe that taking a month to train your new VA is just not possible. You might believe that you really need someone who can come in and just intuitively know what to do. Is that possible?

The short answer is: maybe, kind of.

There are some tasks that a VA can typically handle with relatively little guidance. For example, as a VA, I archive emails rather than delete them if a client hasn’t given me direction.

Another area where it’s easy to move forward without instruction is if a social media campaign is already in motion. If you’ve created the content, labeled it clearly as to when and where it’s to be shared, and it’s easily accessible to me, I can go ahead and schedule the posts without your explicit direction.

But there are many areas in which the client’s preferences are vital to the process. Sending emails is a great example. You have a specific tone that you use in emails you send, whether it’s a pitch to land your own client or the way you instruct other staff to handle things. Without instruction from you, I have to try to glean the tone from other emails you’ve sent, and sometimes that doesn’t quite do the trick.

Another sticky area is your calendar. Do you prefer appointments to mark you off as busy? Do you want personal and professional commitments to be different colors? Do you want me to check with you before I schedule things? Maybe you prefer to meet with new clients in the morning and established ones in the afternoons. There are just too many nuances for me to handle your schedule without some guidance from you.

What this means: you can hire a VA if you don’t have time to invest in training her. But she’ll be far more effective, and free up much more of your time, if you can find the time.

Unsplash Photo by: Sonja Langford

One Month of Training or Continue Feeling Overwhelmed?

I understand that spending a month training your VA feels like it’s too much. But try this: add up all the hours you spend right now on the tasks you want to assign to your VA. Compare that to the time you’ll spend training her. In a single month, the time spent training might be more than the time spent on the tasks. But then take the time you spend on the tasks and multiply that by 12 months. That’s how many hours you spend in a year on the tasks. Now compare that to the time spent training a VA. Extend that out to two years, or three, or even ten. Now you should be starting to see the savings of investing that time.

If you’re looking for a VA, I offer a free consultation to discuss your needs and see if we’re a fit. Contact me to schedule your consultation.

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