8 Biggest Business Mistakes When First Working with a VA

I will level with you: I’ve been a virtual assistant for almost ten years, and navigating the world of online assistants cannot be easy. I’ve made many mistakes in my career, but after years of trial and error, I’ve learned how to be successful. If you’re starting out working with virtual assistants, here are the 8 biggest business mistakes business owners make when beginning this process (and tips on overcoming these). 

1. Information overload

This is a tough one to avoid since it’s natural to want your virtual assistant to know everything about your business. After all, they’re working for you! But here’s the thing: they can’t possibly know everything—nor should they be expected to.

Let’s say that there are five aspects of your business that you want to be covered by this new hire: accounting, marketing, advertising, customer service, sales, and operations. As a rule of thumb (and as we’ve already discussed), if you try to assign these roles all at once without any training or guidance on how to do them best, then chances are good things won’t go smoothly from day one. While it may seem like an easy way out in the short term (and perhaps even an “all-inclusive” offer), it could cost more than hiring just one person who specializes in each area would have cost upfront.

Top tips to avoid information overload 

Prioritize information

Prioritize the most critical information and focus on that first.

Set boundaries

Establish boundaries around when and how information is shared.

Use technology

Use technology to filter and organize information.

Limit distractions

Limit distractions, such as social media and email notifications.

Provide training

Provide training on effective time management and information processing techniques.

2. Vague expectations

First, let’s clarify: Vague expectations are a big no-no. If you don’t clearly understand what your business needs and how much time/money you can allocate to making it happen, then it will never get done.

The best way to avoid vague expectations is to take the time and create a concrete plan for how you want your business operations managed. This can be done by outlining critical tasks, how often they will be done, and who will do them (you or your virtual assistant). From there, the next step is communicating this plan with anyone involved in getting things done — whether employees or third-party contractors — so everyone knows what is expected of them and when it needs to happen.

Tips to avoid vague expectations 

Set clear and specific goals.

Establish clear and specific goals that outline what is expected of each employee. These goals should be measurable, achievable, and relevant to the business’s objectives.

Establish a communication plan.

Establish a communication plan that outlines how employees will receive feedback and what channels will be used to communicate expectations. Regular check-ins, performance evaluations, and goal-setting sessions can help employees understand what is expected of them.

Provide detailed job descriptions.

Provide employees with detailed job descriptions that outline their responsibilities, tasks, and key performance indicators. This can help employees understand their roles and how their work contributes to the business’s success.

Encourage questions and feedback.

Encourage employees to ask questions and provide feedback on their performance and expectations. This can help identify areas where expectations may be unclear and help address issues before they become significant problems.

Provide training and development.

Provide training and development opportunities to help employees develop the skills and knowledge needed to perform their roles effectively. This can include training on job-specific tasks and professional development training to help employees advance their careers.

3. Ineffective communication

Communication is vital to a successful VA relationship. It’s not just about talking—it’s about listening and understanding each other. Also, it’s about being clear and concise when giving instructions. It’s about checking in with the other person to ensure you’re on the same page, both literally and figuratively (and yes, there will be some literal pages involved).

Ways to enhance your internal communications 

To improve communication requires a proactive approach and a willingness to adapt and enhance processes over time. Businesses can improve communication and avoid ineffective communication by setting clear expectations, using the proper communication channels, encouraging feedback, developing communication protocols, using technology, and providing training.

Set clear expectations

Communicate expectations, goals, and deadlines to team members. This can include providing detailed project briefs, setting up regular check-ins, and providing feedback on work.

Use the proper communication channels.

Choose the proper communication channels for the task at hand. For example, email may be appropriate for formal communication, but a quick chat or video call may be better for informal communication.

Encourage feedback

Encourage team members to provide feedback on communication processes and tools. This can help identify areas for improvement and ensure that communication is effective.

Develop communication protocols

Develop communication protocols that outline how communication should be conducted, who should be involved, and what information needs to be shared. This can help avoid confusion and misunderstandings.

Use technology

Use technology to facilitate communication, such as instant messaging tools, project management software, and video conferencing tools. This can help streamline communication and ensure everyone is on the same page.

Provide training

Provide training on effective communication skills, including active listening, clear writing, and nonverbal communication. This can help team members communicate more effectively and avoid misunderstandings.

4. Unrealistic goals

If hiring a virtual assistant for the first time, you must understand what can be accomplished with one. A virtual assistant is not a miracle worker. They do not mind readers and will only do what is written down in explicit presupposes if you have specific tasks that need to be completed by your virtual ass. In that case, stand. It’s best to make sure they are clearly outlined and either prioritized or broken into smaller parts so they can be completed efficiently.

Think about it this way: if you were going to repair your car at home, would you spend hours searching online for “how-to” videos on how to fix your car? Probably not—unless there was some emergency where someone needed help immediately. Instead of wasting time trying things out yourself without knowing whether or not they’ll work (and possibly making things worse), wouldn’t it make more sense just to call someone with experience fixing cars? That person knows exactly what needs doing and how best to do those repairs quickly, so he also helps others well! Likewise, if all we had were vague instructions from our boss about what needed to be done, guess who suffers most when deadlines aren’t met: The employee (or business owner).

Being realistic 

Buffer is an example of a company that avoids setting unrealistic goals by carefully assessing the tasks that must be completed and assigning them to virtual assistants based on their skill sets and experience. Instead of expecting VAs to complete tasks beyond their capabilities, Buffer sets realistic goals and provides the necessary resources and support to ensure that virtual assistants can complete their tasks.

5. Focusing on the cheapest virtual assistant

As you know, hiring a virtual assistant is to save money and free up your time. But if you’re not careful, you were testing more than you ever saved. So, how do you avoid making this mistake? It’s simple: don’t hire the cheapest virtual assistant.

The best way to ensure your business gets what it needs from its virtual assistant is to interview at least two candidates for each position, deciding who will be hired for that role based on price alone.

Focusing on the bigger picture 

An example is the online marketplace company connecting businesses with freelance graphic designers 99designs. This firm has a team of virtual assistants doing admin and operational tasks, such as scheduling appointments, managing emails, and conducting research. Instead of hiring the cheapest virtual assistants, 99designs focuses on finding suitable candidates with the necessary skills and experience to handle their tasks effectively.

6. Lack of long-term results

One of the 8 biggest business mistakes businesses make when working with a virtual assistant is a lack of long-term results.

Working with a virtual assistant is like hiring any other employee. It’s not just about doing the job and leaving; it’s about creating a lasting relationship. It will help if you need someone who understands your business and has experience working in your industry so you can focus on growing your company. At the same time, they handle all the tedious tasks that come along with running one.

When you hire someone who isn’t suitable for your business or doesn’t have their skill set in line with what you need, it will cost you more money than if you’d hired someone who could do precisely what they were supposed to do right away.

How focusing on long-term goals can lead to success. 

The software company Moz is an example of a business that has proven that delegation works. The company has a team of VAs that assist with various tasks, such as data entry, customer support, and social media management. By delegating these tasks to virtual assistants, Moz’s team members can focus on their core work, such as developing new features for their platform, creating educational content, and improving their SEO services.

7. Inflexibility and micro-management

Another common mistake is being too rigid or inflexible. When working with a virtual assistant, you can give them the freedom to do their job without micromanaging every step.

You also want to avoid being too vague about what you want them to do for you, which can lead to wasted time.

The success of being flexible 

An example of a company that has successfully delegated tasks to virtual assistants and benefited from better flexibility and less micro-management is Shopify (an e-commerce platform). 

Shopify has a team of VAs that assist in managing tasks, such as customer support, data entry, research, and admin tasks. By delegating these tasks to VAs, Shopify’s team can focus on their core tasks, like developing new features for the platform, improving the user experience, and expanding the company’s reach.

For instance, Shopify’s virtual assistants offer customer support through email and chat, handle refunds and exchanges, and respond to inquiries about the platform’s features and services. By delegating these tasks to virtual assistants, Shopify’s customer support team can focus on more complex issues and offer more service to their users.

8. Not delegating

Don’t be afraid to delegate. Moreover, don’t try to do everything yourself. Delegating effectively can mean the difference between success and failure for your business, but if you don’t know how to delegate properly, things might not go as smoothly as you hope. Let’s explore ways companies can charge effectively by discussing what not to do first!

Delegating for Success 

An example of a firm that has successfully delegated tasks to VAs is Buffer (a social media management tool). This company is a remote-first company that hires more than 90 people who are spread out across the world. At Buffer, virtual assistants manage different admin and operational tasks. These include scheduling appointments, managing travel arrangements, and conducting research.

By delegating tasks to VAs, Buffer’s employees can focus on their core responsibilities, such as developing new features for their platform, marketing their products, and providing customer support. This has helped Buffer boost its productivity, enhance efficiency, and save money and time. 

For instance, Buffer’s virtual assistants help the marketing team schedule social media posts, monitor social media presence, and research new content ideas. By delegating these tasks, Buffer’s marketing team can focus on creating high-quality content and engaging with their audience, which helps them to grow their brand and increase their revenue.

Don’t make these mistakes if you want a successful virtual assistant relationship.

Please don’t hire a virtual assistant without understanding what you need from them and why. Moreover, don’t assume they’re great at everything just because they’re good at one thing. Also, don’t expect your virtual assistant to be able to run your business for you, even if it’s part-time. 


Regarding the 8 biggest business mistakes business owners make when first hiring a virtual assistant, you could avoid these common pitfalls and be on the right track to having a successful virtual assistant relationship. Remember that it takes time for both parties to adjust to each other’s working style and build trust. So don’t be afraid if things don’t work out, but keep trying until they do!

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