Hiring a personal assistant (PA) can save time and cut out all the boring
mundane tasks from your workload. However htere’s a porblem – you are dealing with someone who is not only halfway around the world, but who has a different culture
and doesn’t even speak English as a first language. Add the technology problems that many
people naturally face and you can find yourself working twice as hard, with twice the stress to ensure your PA is actually helping you!
Howevere, there’s a way to save hours of your time every week, without going through the stress. In fact I’ve personally used personal assistants for years, and I’ve outlined 5 tips below to help you avoid the pitfalls and frustrations I’ve encountered. So if you’re ready to have that extra 4-20 hours a week to yourself to focus on the important things that you should be focusing on – then read on!
Note: I will refer to PA as data entry person throughout this blog – they are basically the same thing – since most times your
PA will be doing boring data entry work!
Don’t put all your eggs in one basket
The biggest mistake people make when hiring a PA is assigning ALL the work to that PA. For example, let’s say you have 5 major tasks that need completing every week and take 2 hours each.
Task 1 – 2 hours
Task 2 – 2 hours
Task 3 – 2 hours
Task 4 – 2 hours
Task 5 – 2 hours
Every taks will take you 30 minutes to train.
Task 1 – 30 minutes training
Task 2 – 30 minutes training
Task 5 – 30 minutes training
Total: 2.5 hours training
Now imagine your PA suddenly gets sick/gets another job/stops doing PA work or any number of things (remember, many PA’s are work from home mothers). Suddnely your 5 tasks are no longer getting done!
What’s worse is that you now have to spend ANOTHER 2.5 hours training another PA to do your tasks! Pretty soon you’re spending more time training someone how to do a task then it would take you to do the tasks yourself!
The solution would be to assign 5 tasks to 5 different PA’s. Then, if one PA is slow with doing a task, suddenly becomes unavailable or any other number of issues that could come up, it doesn’t stop the work from the other 4 tasks, and you can easily assign the task to another PA.
Remember – if you have a PA that does EVERYTHING – they can end up owning you!
Write down your instructions!
This is important if you have to find a new PA or if the PA is making mistakes. The best thing to do is to write down the instructions live as you give them over Skype.
Have them in a step by step format e.g.
1. Instructions for step 1
2. Instructions for step 2
3. Instructions for step 3
3a. Sub step 1 for step 3
3b. Sub step 2 for step 3
4. Instructions for step 4
Also, once you write down the instructions make sure they are located in a respository where the PA can easily access them in the future. DropBox is a good choice.
Don’t sweat the small stuff (esp. if you’re a small fish in a big pond)
Be prepared for the fact that your PA may show up late for a meeting. Especially if you are looking for someone to do only 2 – 4 hours of work per week – you need to be flexible. Don’t be too demanding.
Remember – if you are showing up for a job interview you want to be there on time – but if you get the job that is your income guaranteed. With a PA, you are only giving them enough work for a half a day a week, and even then they are never assured how long that work will go on for.
The most important thing is that the work is not sloppy – other than that, if the PA doesn’t show up for a planned meeting, just be preppared for it and don’t stress too much.
Accept a learning curve – you may have to break some eggs
Recently I put an ad up for a data entry person – guess how many people applied within 48 hours?
Ninety six applicants!
The truth is – you will never find yourself in a shortage of data entry/PA personell. So why do I mention this? Because when you begin working with data entry people you may find that you don’t gel with some – and others simply give you a headache. This may be your fault or theirs – but at the end of the day don’t stress – if it’s not working out with a data entry person – just get another one!
Don’t get too attached to data entry/PA personell and accept that you may have to go through a couple when you start out – no biggie.
Get The Right Tools
I’ve mentioned some tools in the blog but let me go over these again:
You can download Skype here (or here for Mac). This should be your go to program. It allows you to not only chat to your PA’s, but also have voice conversations and most importantly – share your screen to give instructions.
You can sign up for DropBox here if you haven’t. Not only can you upload and share files using DropBox (just right click on a file in your DropBox folder after you have it installed and click on ‘Share DropBox link’) – but you can also take screenshots and have these screenshots automatically added to your DropBox. This is super useful if a data entry person is confused about something and you want to quickly send a screenshot through Skype.
This one is not too important if you are getting data entry people to do straightforward tasks – however if you need more than one person involved (besides you) in giving feedback to the data entry person on their work Basecamp can do wonders.
You can sign up for a free Basic account [link]here[/here]. Basecamp has a great feature called ‘Group Discussions’. You can write out instructions and email them to both the data entry person and any other stakeholders in the project in one simple click, then whenever anyone replies (be it the data entry person or the stakeholder) it will automtically be added to the discussion and all parties notified. No more sending emails back and forth :).
Hope that has been a help.. and look at the date – Happpy New Year!