If you are considering working with a Virtual Assistant or Online Business Manager, or any digital freelancer, you obviously want the relationship to be a success! It takes time and money to on-board a new freelance team member, but there are things that you can do right from the start of a brand new working relationship to help ensure that you are going to be able to work successfully and positively together.

Here are our top tips for being a great client – and developing a great working relationship with your virtual team:

1.) Establish what exactly you want your VA/OBM to do.

Admittedly, this can be hard! Sometimes you just know that you need help in your business, but aren’t exactly sure about the exact areas you need assistance with.  If this is the case, why not speak to a VA/OBM who provides fairly general and wide ranging business support first, to find out exactly where you could free up valuable working hours by relinquishing various tasks to an outsourced business professional.  Just make sure that the jobs you are outsourcing a.) need to be outsourced and b.) you actually want to outsource them. No VA/OBM wants to make work for you and themselves or to be micro-managed at every opportunity because you can’t physically bring yourself to pass the reins over to an experienced and skilled professional who isn’t you!

2.) Ask the right questions to ensure that a potential VA/OBM has the skills and experience you need to carry out the job effectively. 

Not every VA/OBM has the same skills and experience.  Some are technical wizards, some are diary ninjas, some love an email inbox whereas others are social media savvy instead.  Don’t assume that everyone has the exact skills necessary to complete the tasks you want to outsource.  Ask about their skills and experience, look at their reviews, check that their insurance is appropriate (professional indemnity insurance is a must!) and speak to them about your exact needs. If you are willing to provide on-the-job training in specific software, it doesn’t necessarily matter if they aren’t extensively experienced in certain fields, but if you want them to hit the ground running once you outsource work to them, it’s important to check that they can do what they say they can do! Sometimes, a short paid-for trial can really help you to ensure that your new team member is the perfect fit for your business – ask your VA/OBM to see whether this is a service they offer.

3.) Establish your price point and work with your VA/OBM to establish whether or not that is an appropriate level given the work that needs to be done.

Every business has their own budget for outsourcing work to freelancers, and it’s important to establish exactly what you can afford before you take someone on! It’s also important to note that the industry average for VAs/OBMs is around £25-£20 per hour, with some highly experienced or specialist freelancers costing two or three times this amount.  If you can’t afford a freelance team member, don’t expect them to adjust their rate – they, like you, are an experienced and professional business owner with rates established for a reason.  However, even if you can’t afford the level of support you think you need (i.e. 10 hours a month), speak to the potential VA/OBM and see whether there is a smaller package that they offer that could help you, so that even though you have fewer hours of support, you still have a professional, skilled and experienced VA/OBM working alongside you who you can seek advice and support from on an ongoing basis.

4.) Check in regularly

Though no-one likes to be micro-managed, it’s important to check in with your virtual team member regularly (perhaps once a week) to ensure that all is well and that there aren’t any issues on the horizon that need to be addressed asap – for example, software ‘quirks’ that they have picked up on that, left unaddressed, could cause more significant issues in the future.  During these meetings, you could always cover weekly or monthly ‘task lists’ and establish that important projects are moving forward – both from your perspective and that of your VA/OBM.

5.) Trust in the skills and experience of your new team member.

You may have been juggling everything in your business for the last few years, from social media to email marketing, from website development to credit control, but if you take on a specialist business support professional it’s likely that they have more detailed knowledge of that particular area.  At the very least, they can provide another perspective when it comes to ‘doing things right’, so speak to them about their thoughts on a new project (i.e. building customer nurture funnels using email marketing software) and then trust them to implement it.  You may still want to cast your eye over the results or work through the mechanisms they have put in place, but respect them as business professionals – just as they do you – and the relationship will flourish!

6.) Review the relationship early on, and provide constructive feedback. Also ask for feedback too!

If you have opted for a trial period with a new VA/OBM, let them know what your thoughts are regarding the work they have completed but keep things positive, professional and constructive, even if you’ve decided not to work with them long-term.  VAs and OBMs are there to support your business, but they need help and guidance in order to do that effectively, particularly at the very beginning of a working relationship! It’s also important to ask them for their thoughts on the working relationship too – perhaps they would prefer a single, consistent method of communication (for example, via a communication app like Slack) rather than random emails, telephone calls and Facebook messages.  If you can be open and honest right from the very beginning of the working relationship with an OBM/VA and encourage them to be the same, it’s more likely that you’ll establish a mutually beneficial and positive business relationship.

The final important thing to note is that not every business relationship works – sometimes, despite everyone’s very best intentions, things don’t work out.  This isn’t a reflection on your or the VA/OBM, it’s just a fact of human nature, so don’t be disheartened if you can’t find the perfect fit for your business first time round – your perfect virtual team member is out there somewhere, and VIP VA could help you find your business’s ‘missing piece’.