One of the blessings of the 21st century (and especially the Internet) is the opening up of a global labour market ready to do any task at reasonable prices provided you know what you want. Websites such as Elance.com, o-desk.com and many others have provided independent contractors, freelancers, and consultants with a global market of individuals and companies who need their services.
One of the more interesting services available today (and the secret to many productive people) is “virtual assistants”. These are your personal (virtual) aides who help you complete any task that does not require their physical presence. E-mails, scheduling appointments, making phone calls, booking flights/hotels, arranging your work day to name but a few are all part of their work. Think of having your own secretary for any task that can be done online.
My story with virtual assistants:
My story with virtual assistants and outsourcing my tasks began over a year ago when the administrative tasks of running ProductiveMuslim.com was taking me away from my core task: writing good quality content and managing ProductiveMuslim projects. I knew that I needed help and I had heard of virtual assistants, so I decided to try hiring one.
Be clear about their ‘virtual’ role
From day one, I had to be clear what I wanted the assistant to do, and what sort of qualities and competencies he/she needs to have. More importantly, the element of trust would be crucial because I would essentially be trusting this person with all my usernames and passwords, bank account details, and social media accounts. After deciding on which type of person I’d look for, I made 2 decisions that proved to be the secret recipe for having a successful virtual assistant: 1. They would get paid for their work, and 2. They would need a good reference.
How to find your VA
I started my search for an “Executive Assistant” (more on this term later) by posting a blog post and announcing on my Facebook page what I needed. MashaAllah, within a couple of days I had number of good responses that I didn’t know which one to go for. Thankfully, one of them had a reference from an online blogger who was a friend of mine, he recommended her and we got working straight away.
Establish the code of conduct
The first few days with your assistant is the crucial one. From day 1 you have to establish a credible and professional relationship and set the ground-rules and parameters for the interaction. I had a head start on this with this article from Tim Ferris which helped me establish a lot of the parameters of what to outsource and how do I want the reporting done.
Ensure clarity in your communication
Once both myself and Executive Assistant got over the first few days, we ironed out any issues or confusion of how we’ll work together, it was smooth sailing from then on. What’s more amazing, is that the more I delegated, the more my EA understood the way I work/think and truly became an ‘extension’ of myself.