When I did my productivity posts (part 1 | part 2), several folks asked about why and how I work with a “virtual assistant.” Michael Hyatt has addressed these questions in numerous helpful blogposts, so I don’t feel it necessary to repeat everything he said here. However, I’d like to explain my experience with a virtual assistant and how we have developed a workflow together over the past year.
Is Getting a Virtual Assistant Right for You?
Admittedly, I’m going to speak from personal experience here, but here are some ways to determine if perhaps a virtual assistant is right for you.
- Are you doing too much work to maintain previous success without margin to move forward? Are devoting very little time to doing what only you can do and spending the majority of your time doing tasks other competent assistants could do?
- Are you looking for a highly trained assistant but cannot afford to pay someone 20+ hours a week?
- Are you leading a start-up organization or new church, needing additional help, but don’t want to spend the time and money to set things up in-house (space, equipment, taxes, insurance, etc.)?
- Does your work flow include a varied method for communication and collaboration, online and offline?
In my case, those are questions I have answered in the affirmative. Here’s how I answer these questions in my personal context:
- One year ago, I was doing 10% of what only I could do and 90% maintaining what had already been done. I was virtually stuck. Since then, I have moved from 10% to close to 40-50%. That increase in margin to do what only I could do has moved my leadership forward in significant ways, and I consider that percentage to increase even more over the next year.
- I simply did not have the budget or space to justify having someone work 20+ hours a week. If someone is highly competent, the work hours could be reduced to more than half of that. Plus, I work from home, Panera, and other coffee shops with no “real” office space.
- I lead two start-ups and pastor an established church. The majority of my time is spent on the new start-ups, and at this point, don’t have the bandwidth to facilitate in-house handling of provisional equipment, taxes, insurance, etc. Ideally, I wanted a turn-key set-up where those necessities are outsourced to a third-party.
- I am typically online throughout the workweek and can be accessed easily. Over the past year, I have focused more intensely on my methods and means for online and offline communication.
How I Got Started with EAHelp
After reading up on EAHelp via Michael Hyatt and following up with a few interviews with others using them, I proceeded in May of last year to get started. I don’t remember all the steps, but basically this is how I got started.
- I filled out the initial form and agreement. Included is method of communication, number of hours, tools/apps used, etc.
- A phone interview was conducted with me, filling in details from the initial form.
- EAHelp conducted compatibility assessment with their pool of trained executive assistants.
- EAHelp hosted a video conference call with their recommended EA and me, introducing us to one another and beginning the “sync” process.
- The onboarding process begins with regular assistance from EAHelp professionals to establish the work relationship and address any problems that arise in the process.
I was really impressed by how professional and personal EAHelp was throughout the experience. They continue to check in on me and my virtual assistant on a quarterly basis and have always been accessible and helpful to me.
Moving Forward with My Virtual Assistant
Learning to work with a virtual assistant was probably harder on my end than it was for my assistant. Over the past five years, I have grown accustomed to doing things on my own and never really implemented a delegation strategy, even though work roles and responsibilities have more than doubled during that time. So how did we move forward working together? Here’s some things I learned and implemented over the past year.
- I started where the pinch was the worst. I didn’t want to bring every aspect of my work to my EA immediately, so I chose the areas most urgent/important that could give me some breathing room.
- I diversified long-term projects with short-term assignments. This is important because the volume of work will ebb and flow. More than that, the shot-term assignments give immediate wins and sense of satisfaction in the new relationship, building momentum and means for assessing ways to strengthen the work experience.
- I implemented a communication strategy with my EA. We talk (via Google Hangout) three times a week. Monday is our strategy call, lasting one hour. Wednesday is our mid-week calibration call, lasting 15-30 minutes. Friday is our debriefing call, lasting 30-45 minutes. Outside our calls, we primarily communicate through Google chat/IM to provide quick, brief updates.
- I created a shared document detailing current and future tasks/projects. This gives my EA a big picture idea of where are and hope to be going so that in the event of slow weeks, there are long-term projects that could be given more attention.
In the first 3-4 months, my EA worked solely with part of my work (PLNTD Network), In the following 3-4 months, I integrated another part (Haiti Collective). In the last 3-4 months, we have added my final part (Grace). My EA started handling conference planning, calendaring, and event management and has moved into just about every nook and cranny of my workflow, including email administration, letter writing, travel administration, and finance.
Some Benefits and Why You Should Consider It
Since my productivity posts, I have talked with a handful guys about the specifics of moving forward with a virtual assistant. Obviously, I can’t cover everything here, so if you’d like to know more, connect with me about that. Let me wrap up this post with some benefits of having a virtual assistant and why you should consider it.
- The agreement is scalable. You can start at 5 hours per work or more. If your work increases, you can scale up or down in 5 hour increments. You pay for the work done, not for unproductive hours to fill a position.
- The virtual assistants are highly competent. Not only that, but they have a learning community where executive assistants share best practices and help each other address needs or challenges. EAHelp also has tech experts who can field our questions and find helpful solutions. So you are getting more than a well-trained EA. You are getting a community of support-EA’s as well as tech support. The more competent the EA, the greater the productivity and value they bring (and save you time, energy, and money in the long run).
- The agreement and set up is simple and easy. I do not have to deal with equipment, taxes, insurance, or any of that. It is really a turn-key deal where a check is submitted and the conditions/necessities are met through EAHelp.
- The little things make a big impact. When the demands of my workload increased, it was a challenge not to overlook the little things, like returning emails or phone calls, following up with requests or meetings, and the like. Dropping the ball on the little things can have a big impact on your work and the integrity of your organization. Doing things with excellence means there really are no little things. And having an EA to help address them goes along way in fostering excellence.
For those who have asked, I hope this post answers some of your questions. For what it’s worth, I think the rise of virtual assistants will not go away anytime soon, but rather become more commonplace in the future. If my experience is any indication, I can see why.