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Lessons From the Corporate World: Tips for Outsourcing Business Tasks

lessons from the corporate world

This guest post by Eric Gati is part of the VBL Guest Post Month!

If you’re reading this post right now on Virtual Business Lifestyle, chances are you’ve at least heard of virtual assistants, and are perhaps interested in finding one or finding out how to utilize them effectively.  Congratulations, you’re already more advanced than the majority of people out there who believe that affordable help is difficult to find.  The fact of the matter is, outsourcing bits and pieces of your business (or in some cases, most of your business) is a critical part of making you as productive as possible.

As a member of the corporate world (I work at a large public accounting firm as a CPA/tax consultant), I will tell you that the concept of virtual assistance is not limited to savvy internet entrepreneurs.  I work with virtual help from our India office on a daily basis, and have a number of tips to share with you that I think could apply to your own personal virtual assistance arrangement.

What Public Accounting Has Taught Me About Outsourcing Business Tasks

1) Clear communication is everything – You may be paying your VA $7 per hour, however if your task(s) wind up taking three times longer than they should, you’re effectively paying $21 per hour.  I can’t tell you how many projects I’ve worked on where unclear instructions were given to a virtual staff in a haphazard manner, eventually necessitating an entire re-do of the project.  It’s not worth rushing your instructions and explanations.  Clear instructions may not always be enough, however, especially in an e-mail.

Don’t be afraid to offer a phone call as a follow-up to your e-mail, or include language to the effect of, “Please let me know if you wish to discuss these instructions further over the phone.”  Most VAs are accessible via Skype or another voice-over-IP service that won’t cost you any extra to use.  Taking an extra five minutes to explain something a bit further could mean shaving a couple hours of wasted time off your project.  As someone who faces this problem regularly, I can assure you it’s worth it.

2) Always set deadlines – You may be wondering, “Why wouldn’t someone set deadlines?” While it seems fairly obvious, you will come across situations where you need something done, but either don’t have a deadline in mind or forget to communicate that deadline.  VAs will commonly ask you about deadlines, but this doesn’t happen 100% of the time.  Deadlines are important, even if when they don’t seem to be.  Hang with me for a minute if that last sentence doesn’t make much sense to you.

When you give a task to a VA, it may not be urgent in that moment.  You might need an article written or need some web design modified, but you don’t need it right now.  Don’t make the mistake of leaving out a deadline.  Some VAs are very busy, and need to know how to prioritize your work along with work from their other clients.  If you fail to give a deadline, it’s possible your work won’t be done when it all of a sudden becomes urgent to you.  VAs can be amazing, but they aren’t mind-readers.

3) Don’t forget to think about your client – In my industry, we’re legally required to obtain our clients’ permission to utilize virtual staff in India.  This isn’t necessarily a concern about trust or quality – some clients just don’t want their confidential information traveling around the world, or would like to be aware of where exactly it is traveling.  Chances are, you aren’t bound by any legal requirements, so this likely won’t be a huge issue for you.

Nevertheless, if you’re working on a sensitive project for a client, it might pay to have a discussion with them about how you’re managing their project.  Reiterate the fact that this is a common practice, and helps you to deliver the same high quality deliverable at a price that you otherwise would not be able to offer.  I’m not saying that this is something you need to bring up with every single client (it may not be necessary at all), but if you want to remain transparent as a service provider and you think it could be important to the client, consider having the discussion.  Your clients will most likely appreciate your transparency and careful attention to their project.

4) Reward your VAs for a job well done
– In a corporate office setting, morale is such a huge factor that drives productivity.  It’s human nature to want to feel good about what you do, and when you’re unhappy about your work situation, it will be reflected in your work.  The same goes for virtual assistants.  Although you don’t work with them in person, they should be treated no differently than any other employee or co-worker.

When your VA does a good job on something, let them know!  If you do have criticism, communicate it, but be sure to also let them know what they did well.  Just like you and me, they want to feel like they’re a valued member of your business and project.  I have no doubt that happy VAs are more productive and take an interest in making sure that they do a great job.  Don’t be afraid to praise and reward your VA when they deserve it.  This can go a long way toward keeping your VAs around (which means you spend less time training new VAs), and will help you complete your projects more efficiently.

Hopefully these tips help you out!  I find them to be true every single day at my job.  If you have any questions or comments, I’d love to chat about them in the comments.

This is a guest post by Eric Gati who writes about online passive income and lifestyle design at his blog, My 4-Hour Workweek. Follow along on his blog as he attempts to escape his 9 to 5 job and pursue entrepreneurship full time.

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