What Is A Virtual Assistant? + Tips for Virtual Assistant Training

Guest Author 9.04.2021
Finding out what is a virtual assistant

In 2020 nearly everything went remote and virtual, leading some businesses to wonder what a virtual assistant is and whether they should hire a virtual assistant for their company. 

Turns out, having a virtual assistant in your team has many perks, most of which amount to unburdening you from tedious routine tasks. To spare you a lengthy Googling session about what a virtual assistant is, what a virtual assistant does, and more – here’s everything you need to know about this topic:

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What is a virtual assistant?

A virtual assistant is a virtual employee hired as an executive or administrative assistant for your business who works remotely.

In other words, a virtual assistant takes on recurring, repetitive, and administrative work to free up other employees’ time within the company.

A virtual assistant may work for a small business in tandem with a business owner to take tasks off their plate. In a larger company, such as a call or contact center, a virtual administrative assistant may work on duties to free up time for customer support representatives.

What to add to a virtual assistant job description?

Now that you understand what a virtual assistant is, let’s go over a few of the possible virtual assistant duties they can undertake to help you and your company.

1. Social media management

Virtual assistant tasks – social media management

Since managing social media is inherently an online task, handing off your company’s social media profiles to your virtual assistant is one way to free up time for yourself or other employees.

A virtual assistant can monitor activity and engagement metrics on each social media platform your business is on and make sure to keep each channel active. Whether that includes a daily post or a Story update, keeping social platforms active and up-to-date is a perfect virtual assistant task. Virtual assistants can also take on the management of social media customer service. 

If your virtual assistant skills include social media management, you can also assign them to develop a social media strategy and schedule activities in advance.

2. Blog management and content production

One of virtual assistant duties – writing a blog post

Got a blog? A virtual administrative assistant can be a lifesaver. Tasks like planning and organizing an editorial calendar, editing, formatting, and publishing content – all that can be managed by your assistant even if they don’t have a background in producing content as such. A helping hand with administrative tasks in managing your company’s blog can significantly benefit your day-to-day workflow. 

Another virtual assistant task idea includes reviewing the drafted content. About to hire a virtual assistant with some background in content creation and excellent language skills? Maybe they can be an occasional help with proofreading the writing when your team’s hands are full with other duties.

3. Email management

Inbox opened on a smart phone

If you’re managing a company or you’re in charge of a team, there’s no doubt you have an oversaturated inbox. 

Managing your emails–labeling them by type, responding to simple questions, and escalating time-sensitive issues–is something a virtual assistant can do with ease and little to no supervision. By delegating this task, you’ll get back essential hours in your workweek instead of spending your evenings combing through emails.

4. Customer service

Virtual assistant working for customer support

Another possible responsibility for virtual assistants is customer service and support

Whether you need a live support specialist to answer and resolve real-time support tickets or someone who responds to less urgent tickets at a slower pace, this is a task you can delegate to a virtual assistant.

Getting back to customer requests can take up quite a lot of time, even if you’re an owner of a small business. Have your virtual assistant field calls, support requests, order processing, and anything support-related you need help with, and you’ll have more time to spend on other duties.

5. Financial tasks


Virtual assistants can also deal with financial matters. Since they can either be generalists or specialists, you can hire a finance-specific specialist, like a CPA, for daily financial tasks. 

In this case, a virtual assistant’s tasks can include data entry and invoice creation or something more complex, like recording transactions and helping with bookkeeping duties. Whether you hire a data entry virtual assistant or a person skilled in financial matters – remember, you don’t have to deal with everything alone, and there are people happy to provide help and assistance as their professional occupation.

When to hire a virtual assistant?

Question mark

If you’re in a managing position, you may have a line of time-consuming and repetitive tasks that steal work hours, which should be devoted to, for example, building strategy or meeting new clients. 

Things that can fall into the category of such tasks include sending emails, making phone calls, creating lists, organizing files, scheduling meetings, preparing slide decks, developing content, and so much more.

Even if you’re a superhero with a crazy working capacity, it’s in your best interest to evaluate whether there are some duties you could entrust to someone else. Why be constantly tired and overwhelmed from the amount of work when you can hire a virtual assistant instead?

Let’s explore how to train a virtual assistant so they can take some of the work off your shoulders and benefit your business growth.

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How to train your virtual personal assistant?

Training a virtual assistant might seem daunting when they’re far away. Still, with the global acceleration of remote work in 2020, it’s become a lot easier and more commonplace to train employees at a distance.

Beyond smooth onboarding processes and proper written documentation, it’s essential to use tools that make the training process a breeze.

It’s a good idea to use project management tools, like a shared calendar or a digital vision board, to house all of your team’s projects, with one section specific to your virtual assistant.

We’ve compiled seven easy-to-follow tips for training a virtual assistant that will make the process as seamless as it can be.

1. Set the right expectations 

Running hurdles

Before dumping a ton of work on your new virtual assistant, you need to have a strong foundation in place. If they, for example, live in a different time zone than you, make sure you establish working hours across time zones and what is considered “off-hours”.

Once you set those expectations, create an outline of weekly objectives and longer-term goals. You’re likely bringing on a virtual assistant to make your life or the lives of multiple employees easier, so it’s your job to equip them with the right tools and set expectations from the get-go.

To reiterate, do the following: 

  • Clarify working and off-hours.
  • Provide weekly, monthly, quarterly, and annual objectives and expectations.
  • Figure out how you want to track their working hours, especially those that are asynchronous – a time tracking tool is an obvious way to do this. 

2. Provide adequate training materials

You want to ease your virtual assistant into daily operations. Providing high-quality training materials like videos, screenshots, written documentation, and more is a great way to get your virtual assistant up and running comfortably.

Create a convenient information hub that contains the most critical deadlines, tools, people to contact on the team, and other resources your virtual assistant needs to be successful in their role.

Plus, ask which communication style your virtual assistant prefers. For example, some people go for emails, others – team chat or phone. Whatever your virtual assistant’s choice of communication is, use that primarily to ease their training process. Additionally, remember to integrate them into the team’s communication, so your virtual assistant is up-to-speed with the latest information.

3. Use videos and screencasts

Filming training video

Using video is a great way to show and tell how to do more complex business tasks. Apps like CloudApp, Loom, and Vimeo have inexpensive options to record and share processes on your screen.

You can then compile these videos and screencasts in a repository and send them to your virtual assistant during the training process. Such content is an excellent alternative to long-winded powerpoints and screenshots with confusing jargon. However, if you must use screenshots, keep the number to a minimum, and provide context, supplemental notes, and instructions where applicable.

4. Communicate effectively

One of the most challenging tasks when training and working with a virtual assistant is staying on the same page. For example, if your virtual assistant lives in a timezone three hours away, this could create a divide if you don’t have a collaboration and communication plan in place.

According to statistics, 83% of companies lost a customer, missed an important deadline, or terminated an employee due to a communication issue in 2019.

One way to stay on top of communication is through regular email updates. You can send and receive daily updates to keep each other accountable on tasks. However, if your virtual assistant has lots of emails filling their inbox, this could pose a communication issue.

5. Exploit project management tools 

Set of tools

Using a cloud-based project management tool is essential when training your virtual assistant. These tools make it easier to collaborate, especially when working on the same documents together. A typical example of this would be you and your virtual assistant working on a slideshow simultaneously.

Even longer-term project planning can be made more accessible through a work board like Asana or Trello. But if you’re interested in the most accessible option on a tighter budget, something like Google Drive may also work for your business needs.

6. Build a resource center

Once you’ve created your training documents, step-by-step guides, explainer videos, screencasts, and slide decks for training, collate all your training material into a single repository. This way, you won’t have to create multiple versions of the same documents. 

Pro tip: If you’re looking to take it a step further, a learning management system is a great way to centralize your training resources.

Every time you create a new set of instructions, add them to the directory. This will be your master list you can work with and revamp as time goes on. For extra value, include both marketing and sales playbooks to give additional references depending on the type of work you assign to your virtual assistant.

7. Present feedback, constructive criticism, and praise 

Feedback print

While you can’t be in the same physical location as your virtual assistant, this doesn’t mean you can neglect to treat them as you would an in-office employee.

Ensure that you’re offering ample feedback and constructive criticism on their work, especially in areas that need improvement. 

If your virtual assistant isn’t doing the job right, explain what you need them to change to be at their best. But if they are excelling, be sure to let them know that too. Lack of performance recognition, on average, drives 44% of employees to look for other jobs. Can you afford to lose a high-performing virtual assistant to another company?

Final thoughts on finding a virtual assistant

All in all, hiring a virtual assistant is probably one of the most sensible business decisions you can make this year, especially with remote work continuously on the rise.

Whether you’re a smaller business that could use some extra brain-power or a large enterprise that can no longer spare time for a set of particular tasks, hiring a virtual assistant is a great choice to make. With both niche specialists and generalists galore, you can have your pick of the virtual assistant right for your team’s needs.

This is a guest post by Meenakshi Nautiyal. Meenakshi Nautiyal aka Meenz is a Growth Marketer for Nextiva. She’s passionate about everything SaaS, Startups, and SEO. She has a successful track record of 10+ years scaling organic traffic and inbound leads for startups like Freshworks, VWO, and Outreach.io. You can connect with her on LinkedIn.

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