Technology has made it possible for an entrepreneur or small business owner to have a top-notch app developer from Ireland, a travel agent from India, a copywriter from Colorado, and a customer care person from the Philippines. Working with a virtual staff has many benefits. There are cost-saving benefits, especially if working with overseas staff. You can hire without geographical restraints. It’s quick and easy to hire for one-time jobs. And having a virtual staff cuts down on physical office requirements.

However, many first-time outsourcers fear that because they’re at a distance from their virtual assistants, or VAs for short, basic management issues such as training will be complicated and difficult. It needn’t be if you follow these tips.

Video training is a great way to build rapport with virtual employees.
Video training is a great way to build rapport with virtual employees.

1. Define the role.

Start off by asking yourself a few questions, such as: What are the core responsibilities of the role the VA will fill? What skills or traits does he or she need to properly fulfill it? How will you measure success within this role? Consider who else on your team will be interacting with the VA, and then find a person who will be a good match. Ideally, your VAs should do tasks you don’t like doing, tasks you don’t know how to do, and tasks you feel you shouldn’t be doing–because your time and expertise need to be focused on higher-value priorities.

2. Set expectations.

Setting expectations between you and your VA is the cornerstone to successful virtual staffing. But remember, this is a two-way street. Your VA will also be counting on you to hold up your end of the deal. Here are some questions to consider: When will you pay: weekly, biweekly, monthly, or when a project is completed? How much will you pay? How will you track progress? What kind of response times do you expect for e-mail communications between you and your VA? What will you do if the work performed does not meet your standards?

3. Be clear; never assume.

You need to be clear and concise with VAs, and don’t expect them to mind read. Let your VA know that if he doesn’t know how to do something, you want him to ask questions that haven’t already been addressed in training. Don’t assume that asking for help is a given. Also make sure your VA understands the time frame and deadline for a given project. Don’t make statements such as, “I need this in a reasonable amount of time,” or “Don’t take too much time on this.” Set boundaries and check-in points along the way to monitor his progress.

4. Give good written instructions.

Email is still a great tool and will probably be the primary source of communication between you and your virtual staff. When emailing instructions: use bullet points; save important correspondence in a separate folder; have a single, clear, overall objective per email; and give examples of what you’re looking for via screenshots, links, and attachments.

5. Learn to use audio recordings.

If writing is not your thing, then recorded trainings are your best bet. Record your message on a smartphone or laptop using software such as Audacity for PC or GarageBand for Mac. Speak as if you were talking face-to-face with your VA, and remember to keep each recording focused on one topic. Be clear and concise–avoid rambling. Label each audio file with a title that clearly communicates its objective. Always save your recordings.

6. Video recordings work well.

Video recordings are a strong way to build rapport, because your VA will get a chance to see how you emphasize certain instructions. The video and audio combination leaves little room for confusion, and you can train on your own time and not worry about syncing schedules. Every time you create a new video, you’re adding to a vault of training material for the future. Recommended platforms are Camtasia and Jing for PC users, and Jing or ScreenFlow for Mac users. You can also check out YouTube to see if there’s already a video out there that covers your topic, such as setting up a Word Press blog or putting together a high-quality PowerPoint presentation.

7. Identify repetitive tasks.

Take the time to identify activities that need to be done on an ongoing basis–for example, order fulfillment, purchasing, blog posting, or social media status updates. Then create a simple process for your VA to follow on a regular basis

8. Create an IFTTT cheat sheet.

An IFTTT cheat sheet means if that happens, then this needs to happen. This is similar to the previous tips about repetitive tasks, but in this case you’re identifying repetitive situations. Taking the time to do this will help your VA avoid making bad decisions, and will cut down on back-and-forth emails, which can be problematic if you’re in different time zones.