You think you have what it takes to be a Virtual Assistant?
Chances are, if you’re reading this blog post, then YOU DO!
We’re going to dive in and talk about 3 Secrets to being a GREAT Virtual Assistant. We aren’t shooting for sub-par here, we’re talking about favored, loved, reliable and sought after quality VA. After all, businesses (and your ideal clientele) are not going to hire a Virtual Assistant that isn’t promising. Keep reading for 3 Secrets that will ensure you succeed at winning over your clients and gaining new clients with ease!
#1 Take Initiative
Does this seem obvious? Well, guess what…Taking Initiative is sadly a trait that so many people lack. When a business owner hires a VA it’s because he/she can’t remember where they put their car keys, or they are so swamped with the details that they forgot to call their mom on her birthday. Let’s be real, if they hired you, they don’t have time to even tell you what needs to be done. The number one way that you stand out from the crowd is by taking charge and doing what needs to be done! Now, I’m not saying do stuff without permission, but go ahead and show them your ability to take initiative. Let’s look at some examples…
Kari was working for her boss on Monday and she knew he had a business meeting at noon. He was wrapped up in a phone call, but had a proposal for a job due in the afternoon. Kari had facilitated the details for the proposal, and his noon meeting, but the morning call came out of left field and she knew he needed help or something was going to fall through the cracks.
Kari went above and beyond on Monday…..Here’s what she did:
Kari ordered lunch to deliver to his office, gathered all the details for the proposal, placed the proposal details in an organized outline, included statistics and photos to compliment the proposal report and emailed them to her boss with feedback, suggestions and a reminder about the proposal deadlines. Kari included a note, “I know today was full, so I wanted to help you get ahead of the curve. I’m happy to finalize the proposal once you have a chance to look it over.”
Kari got a bonus that week. And her boss landed a new account from her proposal.
John was serving his client Kathy, who was planning a wedding for a couple in Italy. John had been trying to keep up with Kathy for days…she had emails constantly flooding her inbox, appointments that she didn’t always record on her calendar and phone calls with vendors that John didn’t always get updated with. Kathy’s flight to Italy was leaving tomorrow morning, but John saw an unread email that was to confirm a vendor appointment Kathy scheduled months past. John knew that Kathy was packing and had plenty on her plate, so he went ahead and contacted the vendor on Kathy’s behalf, confirmed that the appointment was not time sensitive, and took time to kindly reschedule the appointment for when Kathy returned (while also making sure the new appointment time was added to her calendar). Kathy didn’t miss a beat, thanks to John. In addition, John prepared her travel itinerary, emailed her a list of the contact details for her stay in Italy and confirmed her stay at the hotel to ensure that everything went according to plan.
Some may think, “Well, John never even received recognition for his work. He’s the unsung hero of this story”. However, Kathy was informed by the vendor of John’s kindness, clear communication and as well, they mentioned how grateful Kathy must be to have someone like John on her team. Kathy smiled and said, “Yes, John’s been with me for years…and that’s exactly why.”
Don’t ever underestimate the power of taking initiative. Do it because it’s right, not because it gets you somewhere. Remember, if someone was assisting you with all the things you were juggling, it would be imperative to you that they take initiative.
#2 Communicate With Purpose
Often when trouble arises, it mostly stems from miscommunications or communication breakdowns. By communicating clearly, you are going to lower the risk for these types of problems or conflicts. We want to reduce confusion between our co-workers and teams, among our vendors and clients, as well as our audience who is receiving our messages.
Your goals in communication are always to…
- Communicate promptly when a message is received.
- Acknowledge each piece of the communication with a clear response.
- Bring attention to any areas of confusion or concern to bring clarity in both parties’ understanding.
- Give factual information in your exchange, including notes about the expected timeline, your window of availability, etc.
- Be kind. Take the time to respond with kindness, not in haste. You aren’t responding to a robot, and you are not a robot. Don’t leave out your human touch, and the warmth of your personality.
It won’t always be fluid, sometimes communication breakdowns happen, and that’s ok. What’s important to remember are these things…
- Don’t avoid confrontation. It’s necessary, healthy and professional. Confrontation’s sole purpose is clarity. If you avoid confrontation, you’re choosing to keep everyone in confusion.
- Think through your thoughts or write them down when you need to ensure that you can clearly communicate what you are intending to say. On the other hand, don’t jump to conclusions about someone’s intentions and assume you know what they mean because you’re “reading between the lines”. It’s always better to ask them directly and give everyone the opportunity to be authentic, continuing to work together. (If you do find that they were just being snarky, just make a mental note to not take it personally.)
- Paper trail. Now, I don’t like to refer to this often…but sometimes you just need to CYA. Let’s be real, sometimes people just forget what they say or change their mind and hold you to their inability to stick to their own plans! If you have a lengthy phone call discussing a long list of action items, it’s never a bad idea to jot the meeting notes into an email for both parties’ to review. Communicate. Clarify. Repeat. We don’t want to use our paper trails as a threatening or manipulative way to beat people into submission. That’s not the goal here, don’t get confused. The paper trail is to reinforce healthy boundaries, remember goals that were agreed upon and to hold everyone accountable to their commitments. Keep it light friends. It’s CYA, not CYA at all costs. We’re still a team. This isn’t Lord of the Flies.
By sticking to these principals of communicating with purpose, your work partners will always feel confident talking with you. They will know that they can trust you, and that they don’t have to walk on eggshells or wait to get a read on you. If your co-workers or clients start getting nervous about your communication styles, they might not have the patience to work with you. Honestly, you can get a good idea how well you are communicating by assessing what needs work in your personal relationships. We are always growing in these areas, and there are so many resources available to help. Just remember that practice makes perfect. Everyday we continue communicating with purpose.
#3 Problem Solve Like Your Life Depends On It
How many times in your life have you had a problem that drove you into the ground? I find that I run into these kind of problems when I’m troubleshooting technical difficulties. My brain starts to hurt, I’ve been at it for hours and I just. do. not. know. WHAT THE HELL TO DO. Most of the time, it’s only moments later that I find the solution. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Learn from my mistakes and just ask for help sooner! It’s perfectly fine to ask for help, and 99% of the time, it’s going to be the most time-responsible thing to do. If you waste three hours trying to problem solve instead of asking a professional or support team for advice, that’s not exactly problem solving. What I’m talking about here is effective problem solving.
Let’s dive into some quick examples…
Arian was working on setting up the backend payment gateway for a client’s product in their online store. There was a broken link that she had been working to fix for almost an hour. She had done to several forums, the website’s support blog and even reached out to an online group to see if anyone else had this type of problem before. Arian knew that the client had already spent some time on this himself, and Arian was about to exceed an hour and a half of time trying to resolve the issue. At this point, she had no choice but to get ahold of someone from the company. The company had placed her on hold previously and connected her with several reps who had placed tickets, not being able to resolve the problem. Finally, though she needed patience to get there, she found someone who recognized a coding her that had been made in the template, that was affecting her payment setups. Arian might have spent too much time trying to problem solve on her own, but she knew when it was time to patiently wait for someone else to take a crack at it. Her decision to problem solve by asking for help saved her time, and frustration.
George spent very little time on his website design. However, he never had someone regularly maintaining it for him, and he was getting notifications that updates were needed. As he began working to update some plugins, one of the elements of his site disappeared and he needed to figure out where it was previously coming from to resolve the issue. George didn’t feel like he had the time to deal with it, and he was going to reach out to someone and hire help. However, he spent a little more time digging around and watching some YouTube videos…and it paid off! George found a helpful answer for his problem, he learned several things he did not know before and now he’s confident to make small changes on his own from time to time without hiring an expert. His patience to problem solve through a difficult issue that he knew nothing about will now save him time and money in the future!
In scenarios like these, your willingness to troubleshoot effectively is crucial. It’s important that you have a willingness to learn, and be innovate with what you do to accomplish results. It’s also equally important to recognize that often, you just need to ask for help. Sometimes we can problem solve like our life depends on it, but often we may find that other’s who have been solving those types of problems for years and years are more equipped to get us the help we need in a much more effective way.
In situations where problem solving is required, don’t be embarrassed and don’t hide the truth. Be honest, up front and quick to disclose this type of information to your client or co-workers. Yes, you may want to take some time and try on your own, but if you’re delaying a project or causing additional problems because you’ve been trying to problem solve, or you’ve been delayed in the reality of time required to problem solve….tell those involved! They need to understand what you’ve been up to, what the areas of concern might be with processes or software in the future, etc. Problem solving doesn’t indicate your lack of ability, but often it can indicate a suggestion for better workflow in the future. YOU are the one solving the problem, even if the problem was created by you. It says a lot that you are going above and beyond to ensure the problem (however it was caused) gets resolved. Make sure everyone understands what happened, why it happened, any affected projects to accommodate and how/if we are able to prevent the problem from recurring.
Applying these 3 Secrets to your work habits will pay off.
What else have you learned on your journey? What makes a great Virtual Assistant? What do you appreciate in a Virtual Assistant? What do you hope to offer?
Join the conversation, and let us know!