One of the things that i am really big on, is outsourcing virtual assistants. I believe that it is one of the best ways a small one man operation can scale and leverage. However a lot of people fail at it because they just cant seem to get the VA to do what they expect. I would say that at leas 50% of the time someone new to outsourcing gives up, is due to the fact that they never trained their VA properly from the start.
The dilemma, is that when you hire your first VA you will probably have to work even harder at first. This goes against the whole reason we hired one in the first place. This is because to outsource effectively you need to thoroughly train your VA from A to Z down to every detail. However, if you do this properly you can then truly step back and confidently let them do your job.
Matt from “Plug Things In” has offered to share with us some very helpful tips on how he approaches training an outsourced virtual assistant.
How to Train Your Outsourcers
If you want to scale your business to new heights, start a new business or maybe
just take some time off work, you’re going to have to consider outsourcing some of your
work. Maybe even hire some part or full time help.
Once you do find someone, they’re not going to know how to do everything that
you want them to do, or exactly how you want it done. You have to train them first. It’s
important that you take the training process seriously, because if you don’t, you’ll waste a
lot of time and money correcting mistakes and re-training the person.
5 Steps to Training Outsourcers Right
I have some experience with hiring and training outsourcers for my projects. So I
thought I’d share my 5 step system for making sure all of my workers get started on the
right foot. Hopefully you find it helpful.
1. Create a System
The first step to training someone, preferably before you even hire them, is to create a
system. There are several reasons why you want a system in place.
For one thing, systems are easier to teach. You can’t teach experience, intuition or
common sense. People either have it, develop it or don’t. But a system you can teach,
because there is no guesswork required. These are the steps you need to take, in the order
you need to take them.
For the same reason systems are easy to follow. Your worker just goes from one
step to the next, and once they get to the end they just start all over again. If they have a
problem anywhere in the system, it’s much easier to pinpoint where and why, so that you
can find a solution quickly.
And believe it or not, most tasks can have a system — even something like writing.
For example, I wanted my outsourcer to research and write something a certain way
so that all I’d have to do is copy/paste it into WordPress, format a couple of things and
then hit publish. So I provided a template, and told him where he could go to find
information, and then set him loose. All he had to do was fill in the blanks. I cut a 4 hour
task for myself down to about 30 minutes.
2. Create a Video or PDF Guide
Once you have the system in place, the next step is to create a tutorial. There are a
number of ways to do this. I prefer either video or PDF (a Word doc is fine too).
If you create a video, I recommend doing the following:
- Talk slowly and don’t rush. Especially take your time when covering complicated or
technical situations. Adding close caption can help too.
- Include a table of contents if possible. Your outsourcer is likely to watch the video
multiple times, so being able to quickly go to a specific timestamp will save a lot of
If you use a PDF:
- Utilize lots of white space. Write the PDF as if you were writing a blog post. Use lots
of bullet points and headings. This will make it much easier to follow and go back to if
there are any questions.
- Use as many pictures, graphs and examples as possible.
Don’t hesitate to spend a good amount of time on this. I created a PDF the other day
that took me a couple of hours to do. The system for this task on it’s most basic level only
takes about 5 minutes. It really is that easy. But it might not always be simple for the
person you’re giving the job to, so that extra time you spend on your guide can reduce the
amount of time you spend answering questions and solving problems.
3. Have a Quick Meeting to Demonstrate the Task
Even after you’ve given them a guide, I highly recommend showing your workers
how to do the task(s) via a screen sharing program like TeamViewer or Mikogo. Not
everyone learns the same way, and spending 10, 20 or even 30 minutes here can save you
lots more in the future. Just walk through the task as you want them to do it, explaining
If possible, have your worker do a run through while you watch. You’ll be able to
catch any issues right away, and having them run through it once should also raise any
questions that they might have.
4. Be Available for Questions
After you’ve given them the guide and walked them through the task(s), keep
your Skype and email open for them to contact you with any questions or problems.
Something totally unique can come up that you’ve never faced before, or maybe
something that you thought was no big deal and didn’t include in your guide came up.
Regardless, be available and receptive to any questions, problems or feedback that your
worker might have.
5. Give Productive Feedback
One of the hardest things for me when training someone is giving productive
feedback. How you talk to someone can really make or break your relationship. You
don’t want to make anyone feel as if they can’t come to you with questions or problems,
and you definitely don’t want to jeopardize the quality of work being done.
So how do you give productive feedback? Well to start, you should avoid saying
- C’mon Steve, this isn’t that hard.
- I’ve already told you twice. You still don’t get it?
- Here, I’ll just do it. Obviously you haven’t gotten it yet.
Believe it or not, there are people out there that talk to their workers this way. It’s
horrible, and the results will be too.
What you should say instead:
- I understand that this can be difficult. Is there anything I can do to make it easier?
- Yeah Steve, this method isn’t the easiest. What would make it better?
- Why don’t you give it one more shot. Try this and see if it helps.
See the difference?
Also, when you give criticism, a good tip is to start off with a positive, and then
follow up with any negative feedback. For example:
- Hey Steve, I really like the website you built. The layout and color choices are great.
I think the font is too small though — could you make it bigger?
- The article is very funny and informative, thank you! I think it might be a little long
though. Could you break it up into two parts?
Do you see how that works? It lessens the blow of any negative feedback that you
have, and doesn’t put major emphasis on it. But you still get the point across.
What About You?
There you have it — my 5 step system to hiring and training outsourcers. What do
you think? Would this system work for you and your business? Why or why not? Do you
already have a method for training new workers? Tell me about it in the comments.
About the author: Hey guys, my name is Matt. I’m one of the co-
owners of Plug Things In, a site that helps
people understand their home utilities and services. Currently we’re working on our internet service section. Check it out
and let me know what you think.
Thanks for reading my guest post. Let me know if you have any questions or
feedback in the comments section.