Last Monday I wrote about my experience with using a remote executive assistant in the US. It didn’t work out so well, but the experiment provided a lot of insight into how to work with a remote assistant. Here are some takeaways from that experience.
1. Make sure you have a good project management system in place.
You need a way to track the work assigned and keep track of time spent. If you don’t know how much time is being spent on each project it is going to be very difficult to understand what is working well and what isn’t. Without a good time tracking system, you may not know something is wrong until you’ve spent a considerable amount of money.
It is possible to keep track of all your projects and time spent through email, but you need to be careful to make sure you aren’t just creating a bigger administrative hassle for yourself.
2. Allow adequate time for training.
Don’t expect someone to be able to do in a few weeks what it has taken you years to develop. Expect to spend a lot of time doing training at first. Carefully planning the order that you introduce new tasks can give your assistant the chance to build their knowledge in a logical order. For the first few months you will be acting as a professor, attempting to teach someone else how to think like you. Take this period seriously and make sure you are providing adequate training.
Use tools like screen shots, screen casts, and shared desktops to help make things as clear as possible. Give your assistant plenty of one-on-one time to ask questions, but try to provide them with processes they can reference when you aren’t around. Also, make sure that you keep your schedule clear at the beginning so you can answer any questions. If your assistant is working from another timezone, you may want to shift your work time to coincide with theirs for a few weeks.
3. There are barriers other than language and culture.
Someone from your country who speaks the same language may still not understand your field of work. You need to be realistic about how long it will take them to develop a good understanding of the context in which you work. You may need to assign them background reading materials to get them up to speed.
4. Deal with a reputable company.
While there are some advantages to working with someone directly, there is safety in using a reputable firm. If your assistant stops communicating with you, you have more options if they work for a larger company. In addition a larger company is going to usually have more safeguards in place to protect you because they are concerned about maintaining their reputation. A company can also help you if your assistant is sick or if you need to scale up to multiple workers when you have a big project.
5. Get an assistant before you need one.
There is a lot of effort that goes into getting an assistant up to speed. Don’t expect to be able to do it in just a few days. I now expect that getting an assistant up to speed will take at least 2 months.
In the coming weeks I’m going to be looking at other options for remote executive assistants. Watch for more Monday posts on this subject.