Neurodiversity and Your Virtual Assistant Relationship
I was very sceptical about the value of working with a Virtual Assistant (VA) to help me with aspects of my business. I found it tricky, but I’ve done it now, and six months on, I thought reflecting on some of the things I’ve learnt would be helpful. The biggest lesson is that working with anybody is constantly a negotiation, which involves working out what’s going to work and what’s not, like any new relationship. So here goes, this is what I have learnt so far.
First impressions count
As with any relationship start, figuring out how it will work is essential. I talked about their skill set, experience, availability and how likely my new VA could work with my work style and vice versa. This was useful as it laid the foundation for this relationship’s operation. The key was that my VA was responsive and sent me her portfolio, which showed design work and testimonials and communicated really well.
Setting the Virtual Assistant ground rules
Being clear from the beginning of the relationship on what’s okay and what’s not has been incredibly useful. I often have ideas at strange times (neurodivergent brain) and want to communicate them, so it is essential to know the best way to do so so it doesn’t overwhelm my VA. We agreed from the start that email was the preferred platform. This allows my VA to keep track of the tasks that need completing and file away the email once the work is finished. We also use WhatsApp as prompts or reminders of more critical tasks or priority changes. This has been helpful for me, but it’s not a fixed deal and is something that we still work on and renegotiate regularly.
Getting in the flow
Working together was about building trust and confidence in how the relationship worked. That was about trusting my VA to do what she said she would regarding deadlines and quality of work. Once the first few tasks were delivered to a high standard and on time, I didn’t need to double-check everything as I knew what to expect and was only required to check in periodically to ensure everything was okay. As we got more into the flow, I expanded the depth and types of work we did together. This has been a significant development for me, allowing me to push into the tasks I do best, like idea generation and creating new ways of working or marketing my business.
Introducing my work family to the Virtual Assistant
As a freelancer, I work with many other freelancers, so introducing my VA to my contacts has been super helpful. Again, this takes trust and understanding and has allowed me to remove myself from their conversations so they can deliver the work. For example, I’ve worked with Richard from Slade Design for several years. Richard put together the plan for my website and helped me get it off the ground initially. What’s been helpful as I work with my VA in building a social media presence and getting my communications right is that they can connect about delivering work together; for example, take a look at my free ebook on Applying for government funding (Access to Work) and Reasonable Adjustments guide.
Making it a partnership
Spending time working with someone on your business means they’ll get insights into how to do things differently and more effectively. This has been a massive bonus for me in terms of having another individual deeply ingrained in my business. My VA has been able to provide insight and support to help mould the business and take opportunities that may have been overlooked. I think this is the next stage of development of this relationship, and I’ve already seen fabulous ideas come to fruition.
Letting the rest of the value come in
As our relationship has progressed, my VA has pointed me to other knowledgeable individuals so I can learn from them, for example as I started to experiment with video and other mediums of communication, my VA has been beneficial in connecting me with people who can support me to learn video or LinkedIn better. She has suggested tools and other resources that I might find helpful, and she’s always been there to discuss the most sensible way to approach new ideas. This isn’t a replacement for a business mentor, but it has created another powerful partnership that can help me with my neurodivergent traits. I believe business is built on teamwork, and having a great relationship with a super VA has changed everything.
Keep the partnership flourishing!
All this is only possible if you take the time to find the right person and ensure that individuals can work with you and you can work with them. If you’re thinking about how to select a Virtual Assistant, here are some things to think about:
- Experience and qualifications – can they do what you need?
- Can they provide references, and do those references seem credible?
- Availability – will the VA be available when you need them?
- Are they someone you feel comfortable working with, and are they different enough from you to help you with the tasks you find tricky?
- Can they communicate with you in a way that you understand?
- Are you able to communicate with them in a way that they understand? And can you agree on how to work together effectively?
- Reliability – are they dependable, turn up, and keep going? Especially when the going gets tough and things get tricky.
- Flexibility – are they able to adapt as your business grows?
- Are they empathetic towards you?
- Are they problem solvers or problem makers? Can your VA solve problems for you? We live in a world of issues; what defines us is how well we move forward and solve them.
- Trustworthiness – fundamentally, this relationship will live and die based on how trustworthy the individual is. Can you trust them to do what they say they will do?
- The wonga – finally, are they affordable? Do they fit within your budget? We need to be realistic about what we are prepared to pay, as I firmly believe quality does cost, but can we afford that quality, and will the value it adds to our business ultimately be what we need?
And, if you’re wondering who my super VA is, you can find her here on Linkedin, Bianca Botten.
Bianca kindly provided the following feedback.
“I absolutely love working with Nathan. He is fast-paced, a very clear communicator and smiles a lot, which makes Zoom meetings fun. He’s an idea-generating machine, which makes my job very easy. I just need to action his ideas and refine them to produce social media content, his newsletter or eBooks. I’m really looking forward to what else we can create together and can’t wait to see his business develop over the years”.
Bianca Botten – Virtual Assistant at Neon B
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