Essential Tips for Working with Virtual Assistants

In a private practice, I realized that my growth was based on my own time. A few years ago, I delegated my first task. I hired someone to return phone calls for about an hour per day. Then, as if by magic, they appeared in my calendar for an intake. I realized that I was increasing my ability to grow, by outsourcing non-essential aspects of my private practice.

Delegating tasks is one of the concepts of leadership and management in any industry, be it in business, the medical world or even in sports. In basketball, one cannot just play the role of a center, a point guard and a shooting guard at the same time. No matter how good physicians are in treating their patients, they just can’t be nurses themselves as well.

In the private practice world, it is not any different.

Delegation is a very important task for better functionality. Thus, the world is not a stranger to virtual assistants.

What is a Virtual Assistant?

A virtual assistant can fall into numerous roles. At the most basic, it is someone who is not usually working in person. They are location independent. They are basically your hired contractor. They assist you in running your business functions in the virtual world called the Internet.

Be it Information Technology functions, marketing, blogging or encoding — you can count on virtual assistants. VAs typically fall into two categories:

  1. Project-based virtual assistants
  2. Role-based virtual assistants.

For example, you may have someone work on a project, like transcribing podcasts or designing images for your blog posts. Or, they may have a specific role, like an intake coordinator. An intake coordinator can answer phone calls, return inquiries and schedule and answer potential client’s questions.

Virtual Assistants make tasks easier and you can often save more in hiring virtual assistants.

Remember these different tips to be able to work as smoothly as possible with your virtual assistants.

Virtual Assistant Tip #1: Good Communication is a Must

As with any other functions or tasks, good, proper, clear and concise communication is very important to ensure a smooth-sailing relationship with your virtual assistants. Having virtual assistants has forced me to identify my own processes. In doing so, it has forced me to outline my expectations and has saved a back and forth between us.

Do not keep your assistant guessing what you want and what he or she should do. When you want something done, communicate properly. Communicate what, when and how so that your assistant gets a better picture of the task at hand. A gap in communication can cost a great difference in quality and output and you will probably not retain your VA.

Most people want to feel successful, so the clearer you are, the more smoothly tasks go.

Virtual Assistant Tip #2: Set Clear Goals in Every Work Assignment

As mentioned before, set clear goals and expectations for every work assignment. When you do, your virtual assistant can have a clear and concise view of what you are expecting him or her to do. Setting clear goals can also clear doubts on the assistant’s part because he or she will know what is expected.

After I have interviewed and brought on a VA, I have a few ways to accomplish this step:

  • Record a training video: We have a conversation on Skype that I record. I may do a screen share so the VA can return back to the video without asking me. For example, I trained my podcast transcriber to upload to WordPress. In doing so, I saved myself time and he now has additional marketable skills.
  • Have the assistant create a checklist: Making a checklist helps the VA gain autonomy. You also then have training for future VAs.
  • Create Google Document: I love using Google Drive for documents. We both contribute to it and it is current training for future use.
  • Build a Trello Board: I use Trello to organize tasks, steps and to cheat checklists. Here’s a video that will help you see exactly how I do it.
  • Give a clear set of deadlines and explain how the work should be sent especially if you are letting your virtual assistant work on blogs and articles.

Virtual Assistant Tip #3: Trust is Integral

Working with a virtual assistant can be very difficult for many people. Business owners often have a difficult time letting go. A virtual assistant won’t do things exactly like you. and it is sometimes uncomfortable at first to see someone else working on the project.

Some people become very worried that their assistant may not be able to work on the project on time and properly. They become afraid that the finished output is not what they want and how they want it. As a result, they become engrossed in always pestering their assistants about what they are doing and if they are doing it correctly.

Guidance in tasks is important but constant prodding to the work may be annoying and may cause your virtual assistants to lose confidence in their work. You, as the employer, hired them in the first place because they have the right skills and qualifications that you need.

So why are you not trusting them now?

You should be able to let go and trust them to do the job. If you create strong objectives and expectations, the VA should be able to be successful. You can give your evaluation of their output after they present it so that they can improve the next time around.

Virtual Assistant Tip #4: Positive Reinforcements Help

I will often give bonuses for going above and beyond. Also, I may give an incentive for being done early. For example, when I have Hector do the podcast transcriptions, I may say the rate is $100 with a $50 bonus if they are completed by a specific date.

Many people are good at giving out criticisms to different works—pointing out all the negatives but failing to notice all the good points. Why is that? It may be because they want their assistants to know what they should improve on the next time.

However, pointing out the positive will help the relationship. Further, taking personal interest in a VA will build connection. What are they into? What’s their family like?

Recently, I Skyped with my VA, Hector. He does all of my podcast transcriptions. We talked a while about his family and church. He lives in the Philippines and it was great to learn about his culture!

According to psychologist, B.F. Skinner, positive reinforcements are important as they reinforce good behavior and keep a person motivated to repeat it. Only pointing out all the negative points may cause your assistant to lose focus and dedication to do his or her work.

Virtual Assistant Tip #5: Respect your Virtual Assistant

Treat your assistant as your partner and team member. That person is filling a specific job and is not your subordinate. Your assistant is there to work professionally to help you and not cater to your whims and wishes.

Virtual Assistant Tip #6: Always Pay on Time

Monetary reward is also a form of positive reinforcement. To you, it may just be a small delegation of tasks, but to your assistant, it’s a job and it is provides for daily needs. Always pay on time based on what was discussed beforehand or set expectations if ever there are delays in payment. Do not keep your employee waiting.

Virtual Assistant Tip #7: Ensure A Good Relationship

When there are things with which you are not comfortable or satisfied, tell your assistant. If ever you need to terminate the professional relationship, you should make sure to still leave a positive impression.

Again, feedback helps both sides to be successful.

For more on the subject, I’d highly recommend Chris Ducker’s book, Virtual Freedom: How to Work with Virtual Staff to Buy More Time, Become More Productive, and Build Your Dream Business .

Bringing on a strong virtual assistant is a great way to more quickly grow your private practice. In a future article, I will be discussing virtual assistant roles and how to find them!

Man on the phone photo available from Shutterstock

Essential Tips for Working with Virtual Assistants

Joseph R. Sanok, MA, LLP, LPC, NCC

Joseph Sanok

Joseph R. Sanok, MA, LLP, LPC, NCC teaches consultants how to become better consultants through his website Joe also helps counselors with growing private practices through his website He also loves sailing and playing with his two daughters.


APA Reference
Sanok, J. (2015). Essential Tips for Working with Virtual Assistants. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 13, 2020, from


Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 29 Jun 2015
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 29 Jun 2015
Published on All rights reserved.