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Set up systems for a great onboarding

Now it’s time to prepare for your VA’s onboarding. You probably have systems in place that help you get your work done. However, somebody who’s unfamiliar with those systems or the way that you work, can’t just jump right in. You’ll need to help them understand your systems, how you like to work, and what you expect from your professional relationship.

Tell them how you prefer to work

We all know how bad it feels to find out we’ve done something wrong because we didn’t have the necessary information in the first place. To prevent this from happening, you need to be upfront with your VA about exactly how you like things done. 

These details might be so second nature to you that it’s hard to identify what your VA needs to know. Take the time to think about your preferences, document them, and send them to your VA before their first day on the job. 

Write this up in a preferences document (linked in the workbook) they can reference ongoing. For my clients, I use a Client Profile document to write down all of their preferences and make them easy to reference. In the workbook, there's a tab called My Profile where you can write down your preferences to share with your VA.

This document of preferences should include:

  • Key systems and tools: The main tools you use and how you keep things organized.

  • Communication: How you like to communicate (Slack, Asana, email, or text, to name a few) and the information they need to contact you this way (your cell number, email, or logins to chat systems).

  • Task management: How your VA should keep you up to date on tasks (ie. individual emails, a daily/weekly progress report, a shared Trello board, etc.).

  • Calendar preferences: How often you’d like to have meetings. 

  • Quiet time: Times you’re not available.

  • Booking and travel preferences: Any travel information that informs the booking process.

Create systems that allow for collaboration

To work effectively and efficiently, you and your VA will need to develop systems that allow you to collaborate. 

Find a file-sharing system 

What to look for in a good file-sharing system: 

  • Easy setup and interface 

  • Well designed for collaboration 

  • Secure file sharing

  • Generous free storage 

  • Compatible with Windows as well as macOS and iOS devices

Some things to look out for: 

  • Privacy concerns

  • Losing access to data if you forget your password 

  • Little free storage for free and paid accounts

  • Cost 

There’s no shortage of secure file-sharing services available today. Dropbox, Box, Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive, IDrive, and Hightail are among the services that enable you to share big files easily, as well as store them in the cloud, sync them across multiple devices, and collaborate on them with your VA. 

If you’re in the market for ultra-secure, end-to-end encrypted services, you may want to look into Tresorit or Egnyte. End-to-end encryption ensures that your data is encrypted until it reaches the intended recipient. This means that no one in the middle can see your private data.

Create a shared file management system

Remember, the goal of electronic file management is to ensure that you and your VA can find what you're looking for at any moment in time. When you’re just starting to build your file-sharing system, you'll begin by mapping out a logical hierarchy. Think of your digital folders like the drawers in a filing cabinet.

Use plain language to name your folders; you don’t want to be looking at this list in the future and wondering what the abbreviation you invented means.

Here are some other tips for setting up a shared file management system:

  • ​​Nest folders within folders: Create other folders within folders as the need arises. For instance, a folder called “Invoices” might contain folders called “2021”, “2020”, “2019” and so on. A folder with tax information might include the folders "K1s" and "final returns". The goal is to have every file in a folder rather than having a bunch of files in a random place. 

  • Be specific: Give electronic files logical and specific names. Include dates if possible. If the document is a letter to your customer reminding them that payment is overdue, call it "Customer Name_invoice overdue_and the date" instead of “late payment.” The goal when naming files is to be able to tell what the file is without opening it.

  • File as you go: The best time to file a document is when you first create it. So get in the habit of using the "Save As" dialogue box to file your document, so you put it in the right place from the get-go.

  • Order your files for your convenience: If there are folders you use a lot, you may consider forcing them to the top of the file list by renaming them with an AA at the beginning of the file name. In some operating systems, you can also “pin” the folder to your “Quick Access” section, which puts the folder at the top. 

  • Cull your files regularly: Part of any well-organized system is the ability to keep your folders uncluttered. I typically delete old files that haven’t been opened within the last 3 years. 

Create a shared password system

Sharing passwords is one of the foundations of working successfully with a VA. Many times a password opens the door to accounts that have sensitive financial information. The idea of sharing passwords with someone who is essentially a stranger over the internet can be off-putting, if not downright scary.

However, several password-sharing solutions work well and keep your information secure. Dashlane, LastPass, Bitwarden, and 1Password are good solutions for a lot of users.

What did you learn?

At this point, you’re familiar with the shared systems that will allow for collaborative work. We went over:

  • The systems that you’ll need to implement, including a file-sharing system, a file management system, and a shared password system

  • The best practices for implementing each of these systems

  • Technologies that you might want to use to implement these systems

Next, you’ll learn how to set up systems that allow you and your new VA to collaborate on task management. 

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