Are You Ready to Work with a Virtual Assistant?

Uriah: Hello, this is Uriah from Productive Therapist, and this is “Are You Ready to Work with a Virtual Assistant?” I’m back with my rockstar virtual assistant and Director of Sales, Tracel Callahan. Hello.

Tracel: Hi. How’s it going?

Uriah: Good, good. So this is a good topic. And for some people, hopefully the people finding this podcast episode or the blog post version on our site are asking them themselves the question, “I think I need a VA, I’m not sure, how do I know if I’m ready?” So we’re going to chat about that a bit. We’ll get into a few tips on how you can get prepared to work with the VA, and then also talk about some ideas for working effectively with the VA. Because once you have this sort of “light bulb moment” where you realize “I can’t do all this on my own, I need some help,” there are some things that happen from that moment to the actual point of getting that help and using it effectively. Right?

Tracel: Yeah, definitely.

Uriah: We’ve learned we’ve learned a lot over the last four years! (laughs)

Tracel: (laughs)

Uriah: It’s not a complicated process, but there are important things because if you try to delegate and you’re not ready, we’ve seen it happen, right? All kinds of things can happen.

Tracel: Everybody’s life is miserable if that happens.

Uriah: Yeah! Frustration, aggravation, all those kinds of things.

Tracel: Yes.

Uriah: So, that’s one of the things that’s part of our mission statement. A productive therapist is to help therapists avoid burnout. I think our most recent tagline is, you know, get more done so you can have more fun. I like that one.

Tracel: Yep (laughs)

Uriah: And so usually for the most of us, busy therapists, ambitious entrepreneurial therapists, that involves delegating and oftentimes getting a virtual assistant is a brilliant first thing to do. So how do you answer that question? How do you know when you’re ready to work with the VA? You know, the first thing that comes to my mind, Tracel, is if you’re asking yourself that question, you’re ready. I don’t know, what do you think about that?

Tracel: (laughs)

Uriah: Not always true, but maybe?

Tracel: (laughs) No, I think it’s a good first step! But usually when I’m talking to people on the phone, I tell them if the pain of continuing to do whatever it is yourself is greater than the pain of handing it off to somebody else, then you’re ready.

Uriah: Mmm, I like that one! That’s good.

Tracel: (laughs)

Uriah: Gonna move from one pain to another (laughs)

Tracel: (laughs)

Uriah: So if you’re if you’re already thinking about it, you are likely ready.

Tracel: Open to the idea.

Uriah: In other words, it’s a good idea. Yes. You should move towards that.

Tracel: Right.

Uriah: You may not be ready today to do that, but you should definitely move forward. Just kind of like a lot of things. If you if you start thinking, gosh, maybe I need marriage counseling. Right?

Tracel: (laughs)

Uriah: Sometimes I would make that joke that, like, when’s the best time for marriage counseling? Well, actually, before you need it. 🙂

Tracel: (laughs) Yes.

Uriah: There are some truth to that with virtual assistants or with delegating of any kind, because if you get into deep, guess what? You’re already past the point where you needed it.

Tracel: Very true.

Uriah: So if you’re listening to this podcast and you’re taking notes right now, you’re probably ready. You’re ready at least ready to get ready to work with the VA.

Tracel: (laughs) Right.

Uriah: But another sign is that you get to the end of your day or the end of your week and you did not come anywhere near getting your tasks finished. Right?

Tracel: Mhmm.

Uriah: That’s an obvious one. Basically, you’ve got more to do than you can possibly get done in a sane amount of time.

Tracel: Right. And that’s a frustrating feeling.

Uriah: And a very common experience, too!

Tracel: Yes, yes.

Uriah: Especially if you’re trying to accomplish anything in the world! You know, whether that’s personal or professional, honestly, you know, like at some point you probably get so much furniture that you want to restore that if you had some extra hands, that would be helpful, right? (laughs)

Tracel: (laughs) Yes, yes, it would be.

Uriah: We were talking about that on a previous episode. So, go back and check out that one on Therapy Intake Pro. So the other thing, not just your to do list or your calendar, but if you feel like you’re sort of stuck and you can’t really grow or accomplish your longer term goals, that’s information that’s telling you you need some help.

Tracel: Right. Because we can’t get anywhere that we want to go without help. So a virtual assistant can actually help you do that.

Uriah: You can go so far on your own, and then you will reach a point. That’s why some people like to be relay runners instead of long distance runners.

Tracel: (laughs) Right!

Uriah: (laughs) It would be nice, right? To run really hard for a little while and then be like, “I’m done.”

Tracel: (laughs) Right.

Uriah: OK, so those are a couple of things. You know, obviously, there’s other things we can mention, too: If your family is telling you you work too much and you’re never on time for dinner or on a Saturday or Sunday, you’re working when you really don’t want to be?

Tracel: Right.

Uriah: Those are also good clues. And, of course, any signs of burnout, right?

Tracel: Mhmm. You can’t remember what self care is. Then it’s probably time for some help (laughs)

Uriah: You hear the words “self care” and you feel guilty immediately because you’re not doing any of that. I was talking to one of my coaching clients this week and she said that she was previously, not too long ago seeing 40 clients a week.

Tracel: Oh, my word.

Uriah: Not only that, AND running a group practice with four locations.

Tracel: Oh, man!

Uriah: Can you imagine? Yeah, I mean, kudos to her for even getting close to pulling that off. But that’s not sustainable. For sure here at Productive Therapist, we’re all about helping therapists work for a long time and help the world in a sustainable way for sure.

Tracel: Yes, absolutely.

Uriah: So, if you want to delegate and you think maybe a virtual assistant is the way to go, but you realize, OK, I’m actually not all the way there, like I don’t have all my ducks in a row enough to be there (and you don’t have to have everything organized to start to delegate and work with a virtual assistant for sure), but you want to have some things in place and it’s helpful. So, #1 and it kind of seems common sense and straightforward, but you have to figure out what kind of help you want or need. Sometimes I see people posting in Facebook groups talking about wanting a virtual assistant. And I often want to post (and I do) a comment and say, “Well, what are you looking for? Do you need a website? Do you need an intake coordinator? Do you need someone to fold your laundry?”

Tracel: Right.

Uriah: What are you looking for, right? (laughs)

Tracel: Right. And sometimes it’s everything. And so you have to decide what is the most important thing, the first thing that needs to be tackled.

Uriah: For sure, top priority. And to your point earlier, I think whatever it is that’s causing you the most pain right over, you’re dreading or procrastinating or avoiding. And if that happens to be answering the phone, then the growth of your business is in trouble and you have to figure out how to get some help with that, for sure.

Tracel: I talked to somebody the other day and she told me she avoided answering the phone. (laughs)

Uriah: Yeah, I’m sure! Or like, we haven’t gotten back to people in a week, right?

Tracel: Yes.

Uriah: Those folks will move on to the next therapist.

Tracel: Mhmm.

Uriah: So that’s one thing, figuring out what you need, what you want. And then the next one is documenting as much of your standard operating procedures as possible. And you might not even think you have any standard operating procedures. But I’m here to tell you, you do! They may not be on paper or in a document of some sort, but it’s helpful. And this is one thing we actually have all of our new clients do we ask them to write a call script, we ask them to put together a couple of different things that are super helpful, that if they actually were to start with the virtual assistant and didn’t have those things already lined up, it would just be harder.

Tracel: Right.

Uriah: And we have all of our sample documents in the Productive Therapist’s archive, which is on our Teachable site, and we’ll put the link in the show notes for that if you want to go check that out. We try to make it as easy as possible for for folks to put those things together if you don’t already have those.

Tracel: Because it’s probably going to be the most challenging for a solo practitioner because it’s all in their head, they’re just used to doing it. But if you need help, then we have to get that out on paper so that somebody else can do that. And so we’re happy to help with that step.

Uriah: All that information is in your brain. (laughs)

Tracel: (laughs)

Uriah: Need to transfer that.

Tracel: Right.

Uriah: And then I think it’s just helpful to define what success looks like. I remember gosh, it must have been 8 or 9 years ago, at least when I got my first virtual assistant. And I remember very clearly the conversation that I had with the owner of this VA company because I was on the fence. I’d never done this before. I’d never done that before. And I didn’t know what I didn’t know! And she said, well, what are you going to do at that time?

Tracel: Right.

Uriah: So if we can help you out with just (and it was just five hours a month, actually), if we can help you out with five hours a month of tasks, what will you do with that time? And if the things that you will do at that time will actually pay for that cost, then it makes sense.

Tracel: Right.

Uriah: And so I had to kind of do a little evaluation and I figured out, yes, that does make sense. And then a footnote to that it is also OK to delegate and outsource if you plan on doing nothing.

Tracel: Right.

Uriah: And it just depends on your finances and your the stage of your business growth.

Tracel: Right.

Uriah: We got an inquiry from somebody the other day that said that they wanted to delegate the intake role because they wanted to do more “nothing.” (laughs)

Tracel: (laughs)

Uriah: I was like, yes, that sounds fantastic! (laughs) So in your preparation process, you can decide what the priority is on your needs, and then if you can document some of the information that you have in your brain and then define what success looks like, you’re going to be much, much better off.

Tracel: Mhmm.

Uriah: I feel like those are all good tips. We will share a few things with you on working effectively with the VA. We’re going to get too deep into this right now because we actually have a whole course on it. And it’s not super long, but it’s called the Virtual Advantage. And it’s all about helping you work effectively with a virtual assistant. And this is good for people that actually become clients of Productive Therapist (we sort of require it) It’s also good for people who are new to delegating and you’ll find some good stuff in there! But the first thing we want to tell you about is super key: to manage your expectations. And like I said before of my experience, I didn’t know what I didn’t know.

Tracel: Right.

Uriah: And expectations are tricky, right? We often don’t know that we have them. Sometimes they’re unstated. And, you know, when you work for the first time with a virtual team member, that’s a learning curve that’s unique to to that situation.

Tracel: Absolutely.

Uriah: It is.

Tracel: You can’t just pop in and see what’s going on or ask a question (laughs)

Uriah: Right. And some of us are a little bit more anxious than others, right? (laughs)

Tracel: Yes, yes (laughs)

Uriah: And we want to know what’s going on. And we can tend to move towards micromanagement and it’s super important to to avoid that as much as possible. So having clear expectations (and that comes down to a fine level which is in the course, too, so you can go check it out), but how to write a good task to delegate. So you want to to clearly state what it is you want done, and when you want it done by, and what that end product looks like. Because if you don’t and if you think you’re being clear about certain things and you’re not and then you’re not happy with how long it takes or the actual end result, it’s going to be frustrating.

Tracel: Mhmm.

Uriah: So that’s managing expectations. And then along with that is communicating clearly. And we have some recommendations on various online platforms to use to manage tasks, to manage projects, to communicate with your VA or with whoever you’re working with. And honestly, all of us therapists have been using this during COVID-19 because we’ve been forced to to go remote, even for those of us where everybody was in the office.

Tracel: Right.

Uriah: So we’ve all sort of jumped on that learning curve together.

Tracel: And this communication is so important that even internally, when we work with the new client, we make it a requirement that they have a weekly check in with their virtual assistant during that first month. And it’s really important in the beginning so that you’re both on the same page and you’re working out, you know, any bumps in the road that might possibly come up. Just I mean, obviously communication is important in any relationship, but when it’s virtual, you need to be sure those lines of communication are open.

Uriah: And it’s OK to over-communicate, especially in the first 60 to 90 days, I would say, because that’s when you that’s when you find your flow and you’re your sort of rhythm with the person that you’re working with. So that’s that’s great.

Tracel: Right, yeah.

Uriah: The last thing I’ll share (and there’s much more like I said, go check out the course!), but positive reinforcement goes a long way and really helpful to know, especially when it’s a virtual arrangement, for them to know that they’re doing a good job, and that they’re meeting your expectations. There’s a lot you can do to make them feel valued and like they’re being effective. And at the end of the day, that’s what we all want to feel: is like we’re making a difference, we’re doing good work, and we’re seen and appreciated. So if you’re listening to this and you do already have a virtual assistant or an in-office assistant or ANY people that work for you, this is just a reminder. Go give them some appreciation and some affirmation. And trust me, it goes a long way.

Tracel: Mhmm.

Uriah: So these are our tips real quick and brief on how to know that you’re ready to work with the VA (or not) and what to do to get to get prepared. And then also some tips on working effectively with a person, whether they’re virtual or in your office. And I hope you found this helpful! We have lots of resources, over at We have a bunch of courses, we’ve got a bunch of blog posts, and an archive of amazing podcasts that you should go check out as well! So there you go. I think that’s enough for one packed episode, right?

Tracel: Yeah, I think so, we covered a lot of good information there.

Uriah: Thanks for doing this with me. It’s fun.

Tracel: You’re welcome.

Uriah: All right. Have a good one! Bye.

Tracel: Take care.

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