Can you trust a virtual assistant?

When hiring a personal or an executive assistant, trust is extremely important. When people decide to hire a virtual assistant, the need for trust is still there, but it becomes even harder to build that trust while working remotely. For human beings, trust is something that comes with time and effort. Building trust with virtual assistants works the same way – you need an open mind, some time and effort.

No handshake, no trust?

Some entrepreneurs are reluctant to hire a virtual assistant because they find it hard to trust someone they haven’t met in person. I get it. Trust is not something you can force on someone and people don’t start trusting you when you say or write ‘You can trust me!’ It doesn’t matter how much money and/or time they could actually save by hiring a virtual assistant – if they are not comfortable with it, it will be a bad investment. And yes, hiring a virtual assistant is an investment that – if done right – can return high in profits.

Trust is not something we can force. There will always be people who are not able to trust others without meeting in person. It may be old fashioned, but every person has the right to choose who they trust – no need to judge them. Respect their choices and don’t try to convince them otherwise. If someone says ‘No, I don’t trust people without shaking their hand’ – it is a No. No means No. Maybe one day they will change their mind, maybe they won’t – but nowadays there are plenty of people whose minds we don’t need to change to start working with them. Let’s save the energy for them. 

I trust you maybe

For most entrepreneur’s, trusting a virtual assistant is something that is possible. That is a great starting point. Being open, but still cautious, is a sign of good reason. With more companies implementing work from home and encouraging people to work remotely, it becomes easier for people to accept the idea that you can build trust with someone you have never met.

The key difference in building trust with someone remote is that you can’t rely on non-verbal signs in communication. You need to clarify your expectations in a written form so everyone knows exactly what is expected from them. If something is urgent and you need it now, a simple message in Slack saying ‘Can you please send me the Q1 report?’ will not do. Your tone of voice and the panic expression on your face are not readable from that. If you don’t get a reply soon, pick up the phone. And never say it’s urgent unless it actually is.  

One small step for you, one giant leap for your business

Virtual assistants mostly work as freelancers or contractors. They are self-employed or are part of other companies. This means you have the time and luxury to build the trust without the pressure of needing to sign a serious contract after meeting a person only once or twice. You can start by assigning some smaller, low risk assignments to your virtual assistant and see how it goes. If all goes well and you feel comfortable, you can start sharing more complex and sensitive information with your virtual assistant. Once you start delegating everything you can to your virtual assistant your business will start to bloom. All the tasks you didn’t have time for will be done, and you will have time to focus on growing the business, not just maintaining it.

Low risk, high risk, no risk?

Trusting people is a risky thing, because people are – well, people. Not all have good intentions. Sometimes they have good intentions, but still manage to do bad things.

If we compare the risks of hiring a full time assistant vs. hiring a virtual assistant, I would say the risk of hiring a VA is lower.

The low risk lies in the fact that it’s much easier to end the working relationship with a virtual assistant, then it is with a full-time employee. If you don’t like how the work relationship is evolving, just end it. This goes both ways, and yes, virtual assistants may leave faster if they don’t like how they are being treated, compared to full time employees who will probably stay working for you even if they don’t like the work. If that sounds too risky or unstable – think again. Do you really want to trust your company’s sensitive information to someone who is working for you just because they are tied by a contract?

Relationships with freelancers are only unstable if they are not a good fit for your company. Freelancer can leave you and your company easily. That is a good thing. People who continue working with and for you when they don’t have to, but really want to – those are the people you can trust. Then it doesn’t matter what type of contract you signed or haven’t signed with them.

Don’t forget

Here are some reminders you should keep in mind when starting to work with a virtual assistant, that will help you build trust.  

  1. Sign the NDA (Non-Disclosure Agreement) – this is not a sign of mistrust; it is a normal part of doing business.
  2. Use LastPass or similar tools to share passwords – never send your passwords directly in an email or a text message.
  3. It is OK to request to use Toggl or similar tools to track time – having a time report makes it easier to do the invoicing.
  4. Have regular meetings, voice and/or video – it can be just 15 minutes on Zoom every week to touch base and make sure you are on the same page.
  5. Give feedback often – if you are happy with the work done say it, if you want it done differently explain it.
  6. Communicate clearly – don’t give vague descriptions, be precise and share your expectations clearly.
  7. Set goals – if you want your virtual assistant to achieve something, set smart goals, same as you would for full time employees.  
  8. Use the technology – move from using emails for everything to using Slack, Asana, Trello, Notion, Clickup and other great tools.
  9. Virtual assistants are people too – don’t forget that. Treat them with same respect as you would treat people working in office with you.
  10.  Start delegating – and stop micromanaging, once you have built that initial trust. Focus on growing your business.

Where’s the catch?

The only catch lies in the fact that when it comes to trusting a virtual assistant you are in the same boat as with trusting any other person. All the risks and rules that usually apply to trusting people apply here as well. Can a virtual assistant misuse your trust? Yes. Is that a reason to never hire a virtual assistant? No. Everyone can at some point try to trick you. This is the risk of life and business. Not taking that risk is (I hate how corny this sounds) not living and not doing business.  

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