I was recently asked what my top three tips were for business owners who are considering working with a VA. My number one tip was communication! Communication is the foundation for just about any relationship, but especially one where the two people don’t see each other every day and in most cases have never even met face to face.

Communication Before the Relationship Begins
Before any contracts are signed or agreements of any kind are made it is crucial that both the business owner and the VA have a clear understanding of what the others needs and expectations are. A VA typically has some sort of questionnaire or client information sheet that either she or the client fills out indicating what types of services the client is looking for and how they think a VA can help them in their business. This is a great start however a conversation should take place at some point before the relationship begins where the client specifically lays out what they are looking for, what their goals are and what their expectations are of the VA they work with. In turn, the VA should be asking questions about the manner in which the client likes things done, the methods they are currently using to accomplish daily tasks and how much autonomy they are willing to give a VA to carry out assigned tasks.

Don’t Just Talk-Listen!

While its important that everyone get a chance to talk about what they expect from the relationship, it is equally important that each person listen closely to what the other is saying. By listening a client might find that a VA has a great amount of knowledge in a specific area that the client does not which could be hugely beneficial to their business or the VA might have a suggestion for improving the way the client does certain things in their business. If the VA listens carefully they will get a feel for what the client’s likes and dislikes are, what they are comfortable doing and how they prefer to work as well as pick up clues that will help the VA be more valuable to the client.

Communicate Consistently

Once a client and VA agree to work together it is vital that they communicate consistently however frequently they decide whether it is daily, every other day or once a week depending on the arrangement. It’s important that the VA keep the client up to date with progress that is being made and the status of the project or task assigned and ask any questions as needed. It is equally important that the client clearly state when something is not to their liking or if they would like something done a different way. Or if there is new information the VA needs to know about a specific project.

Be Respectful of Boundaries
Always be mindful of time differences. More often than not, VAs and their clients work in different states and sometimes even different continents. This could mean a time difference of an hour or ten hours. Don’t pick up the phone until you think carefully about what time it might be where the other person is. If it is too late at night or too early in the morning consider an alternate form of communication like email.

Also be respectful of office hours. Although many entrepreneurs work at all hours of the day and so do many VAs, there are many that set specific office hours and also take weekends off. Be clear about what those hours are in your initial meeting so there are no misunderstandings later.

No Excuses for Lack of Communication
There are so many ways to communicate these days, it’s almost ridiculous! Between, phone, email, texting, video conferencing and instant messaging, there is absolutely no excuse for lack of communication. In your initial meeting, be sure to state the methods of communication you prefer most.

With a little effort on both sides, consistent dialogue and open communication can make the relationship between a business owner and a VA a long and successful one.

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