Virtual Assistants

How to Outsource Work and Get Back 4 Hours Per Day

Small business owners like you need to outsource work to make the best use of time. If you are like most business owners, you always have too much on your plate. Most often this is because you don’t have the resources to hire staff. That’s a problem, but not when you outsource work. 

Time is a valuable commodity for all small business owners, and you will always need more of it. When you outsource work, you can operate with smaller budgets and solve the problem of getting back this precious time that you need to work on your business and not in it.

Here’s how to outsource work to get back as much as four hours per day. 

(1) Check Your Tasks

A woman writing in a notebook while looking at a laptop

The first thing that you need to do when you’re ready to outsource work is to evaluate your current average day of work. List out all the tasks that you are doing on a daily basis. If you do different tasks on different days, then make separate lists for each of those days. 

Next to each task, jot down the time that you usually spend doing it. If it varies week to week, just note down a good guess of the average number of hours you spend working on that task in a month. This is not just to get an idea of how much time you’re spending in your business, but will be vital as you proceed to the next step in the process.

Outsource Work that’s Easy to Do

Go over your list and mark all the tasks that are the simplest, then the ones that are repetitive. Examples of simple tasks include data entry, research, and calendar management.

Examples of repetitive tasks include bookkeeping, inbox management, and social media posting. Pick out any other things that you are doing but really shouldn’t be handling, given your expertise and position in your business. This can include customer service, creating and editing documents and other content, and invoicing and banking tasks.

Outsource Work that Requires Special Skills

The final set of tasks are the specialized tasks. These can include website maintenance, sales analytics, and graphic design. Mark any tasks on your list that require special skills, even if you’re good at these tasks or you like doing them. Keeping tasks like these on your plate will only serve to set you back from growing in your business. It can be hard to let go, but you need to prepare yourself to be able to outsource work that you would rather do yourself. Think of it in terms of what is best for your business so that you can set your personal preferences aside.

You should be easily able to count up four hours’ worth of tasks every day from your lists. 

(2) Compose Role Descriptions

A woman writing in a notebook with a mug beside her that reads, "Be happy".

Now comes that hardest part in the journey to outsource work, which isn’t really all that difficult at all if you just set aside some focused time to get it done properly. I know that you are probably already drowning in important things to do. Remember that this little block of time that you take right now to solve the bigger time issue will bring back up to four times its own value every single day.

Focus on the simplest tasks first. All these tasks are usually administrative in nature and can often be accomplished by a single general virtual assistant. Of course, this depends on how many hours of this type of task you have on your plate. The point is to start with one person so that you can focus on getting them set up in the role before you make a second hire. Getting all the simplest tasks out of the way will give you enough time to handle succeeding hires.

If there are any tasks that you think are simple but actually require a higher level of skill, mark them the same as the other specialized tasks. You can outsource these after you get through the simple and repetitive tasks.


Start your role description with a strong title that includes the major tasks you need to be done and any special tools the right candidate should know how to use, and other main qualities they need to possess. This will help you to outsource work more efficiently as you attract the right candidates from the very beginning. Here’s a good example of a title:

Google Docs Administrative Assistant | Strong English, Team Player


Begin this section with a short description of your business. Then break the tasks down into the skills that are needed to do them well. Based on the example above, data entry, research, and calendar management would require skills like:

  • typing rate of 50 to 80 words per minute
  • accuracy and attention to detail
  • stable internet connection 
  • strong attendance

Include information on the rate that you are expecting to pay, any preferred location for the candidate, and the number of hours that you need them to work on a weekly basis (plus any specific range of hours during any given day that you need, if the role is not flexi-time). Many business owners leave these details out when they outsource work, and it can severely affect your response rates.

In terms of rate, for instance, most of the best freelancers will not bother applying when pay is not specified. This is because most of the time, leaving this detail out means that the pay is low. In terms of location, you may be looking for someone who has a more neutral accent. If so, you need to specify this. In terms of the number of hours that you need them to work, be specific. You may attract candidates who either don’t have enough free hours or who are looking for full-time work. This type of misunderstanding just wastes your time and theirs. 

The last paragraph should contain a request for previous work samples, additional information that you would like them to send to you when responding to the opening, and how they should contact you. Note that depending on the platform you are using, this last one may not be necessary.

Rinse and Repeat

Now take the repetitive tasks and do the same. With these tasks, you will most likely have to create separate role descriptions for each. Since they are more time-consuming and more involved than simple tasks, you will not usually be able to hire just one person to do them all. Based on our examples of bookkeeping, inbox management, and social media, you can see that one person may not have experience with something like bookkeeping even if they have done inbox management, and social media posting for years.

Start with the task that will free up the most time for you. This will allow you more time to get more detailed with your descriptions and go deeper during the interview process so you are sure to hire the right fit for every role. This is vital if you want to free up your time on an ongoing basis and lower your stress levels, too.

Then you can move on to the specialized tasks that are not in your area of expertise or not tasks that you should be spending your own time on, even if you’re good at them.

(3) Interview, Hire, and Onboard

A woman writing in a notebook looking at a screen showing a video call.

Now comes the exciting part — that is, if you took the time to write out a clear role description. 

This process is the same, no matter what role you are hiring for. As you go through it for each new hire, you will get better and faster at finding the best fit. 


You should have at least a few options to look over for the role. Take time to read their responses and go over their work histories. Based on that, choose the best one and contact them to set up an interview. 

During the interview, start with an introduction of yourself and your business. This will lead to questions that will show you if they are a good fit for your company culture. Next, ask them questions that confirm their hard skills. Then ask them questions that will give you insight into their soft skills. These questions can also help you spot any red flags that will tell you if they have attitude or performance issues. Don’t forget to ask about their experience and availability so that you can verify if they are ready to take on the role.

If you’re not satisfied with any of the candidates, do an evaluation and see if you can improve your description to attract better applicants. Don’t settle until you have found the right fit. Taking the time to sort this out now will save you much more time and headache down the road.


Once you have found the right candidate, go through the hiring process for whatever platform you are using. Make sure that you have all your ducks in a row there before you start onboarding the new assistant. You want to make sure that you are protected and that there isn’t anything that would prevent you from starting work when you’re ready.


If you hire well, you should not have to do a lot of training. There is always some training to do, however, because every business owner and every business is different. Use this time to get better acquainted with the new hire and introduce them to anyone they will be working with. 

Make sure that you set expectations very early on. Some of this should have already been made clear through the interview, but you want to provide any new hire with documents that describe in detail your company culture and performance expectations. This helps everyone to get on the same page about how work should be done to avoid any issues. It is also something that you can all refer back to in case any issues do happen to come up.

(4) Work Smarter

A smiling woman with glasses holding a laptop.

The outcome of this whole process of how to outsource work is that you will be working smarter, not harder. Within as little as one month of hiring for these positions, you will have gained back up to four hours a day. With all those tasks off your plate, you are now free to work on other things that will help you grow your business, as well as spend more quality time on yourself and with your family. 

Final Thoughts

When you outsource work, don’t think of it as another drain on your valuable resources. Yes, it takes some time and will entail an additional ongoing expense. But this is just a small hurdle that you need to get over as a business owner so that you can see greater success. If you are stuck working in your business, you can’t be surprised if you feel like you’re drowning. If you want to climb out and sit in the sun, you need to free yourself up to start working on your business instead of being consistently bogged down in it.


Would you like to know how to be certain who your next hire should be? Or maybe you are having a hard time deciding what parts of your business can be outsourced with virtual assistants, right now. We can help you answer these questions, and help you to discover what new systems you should add to scale your business faster. Set up a free hiring consultation with us at Outsource School today – simply book here!


Virtual Assistants

Top 10 Productivity Tips from 10-Year Entrepreneurs

To be successful business owners, we have to constantly be on the lookout for the best productivity tips. We have the determination to apply these productivity tips to our workdays, but we hesitate because we don’t know which ones are really worth the time and effort. 

This is a real dilemma, and it’s why I’ve put together these top 10 productivity tips for you all. I reached out to none other than Nathan Hirsch and Connor Gillivan themselves to get their very best productivity tips to share with you.

Nathan and Connor have been entrepreneurs for the past 10 years. All along they’ve been testing different productivity tips to get more done faster. This post is a report of the productivity tips that they’ve found to be the most effective in their experience. If you want to save time in your day, you want to follow these tips. 

Tip #1:  Plan Priorities Weekly
An arm holding a highlighter over papers with charts and notes on them.

Connor starts his week with planning his priorities. Each Sunday, he plans the top priorities for the week. This is what he uses to guide his days for the upcoming week.

Use part of your rest day at the end of the week to plan the important tasks that you want to get done in the next week. With this outline, you can see the big projects that you have lined up as well as get an idea of all the smaller tasks that you need to knock out of the park. 

Tip #2:  Prepare for the Day Ahead

Connor also sets time aside every night to prepare for the day ahead. He highlights that you need to be specific about how much time to spend on certain projects.

This aspect is vital for productivity. You can’t just look at a list of tasks and expect to be prepared to ace the day. You have to really think about what needs to go into each task. Then you can realistically schedule out the time that you need to dedicate to each task. This way, each task is assigned enough time to get it done properly, and each task gets done by your set deadline.

Tip #3:  Get the Team Organized First

Nate highly recommends getting the team of VAs organized first before you start working. He does this by making sure that everyone is present and on point. Once he’s confident that the team is ready to rock, he can pull back to focus on what’s on his plate.

Make sure that your team is all set up for the day before you start on your scheduled tasks. This way, you are less likely to get pulled away every few minutes because your people aren’t ready for what’s in store.

Tip #4:  Clear Emails Before Opening Chats

Connor spends some time at the start of every day clearing out his emails. He does this on purpose, before getting on Slack in the morning. This helps him to get on the same page with what went on while he was away. Doing this before he starts any conversations with the team or answers any of their questions helps him focus better and avoid the back and forth that can easily happen when we are not staying updated on what’s happening. 

You can also stay more focused on the different areas that you are responsible for by clearing out emails first. Before talking to team members, for example, you can check on clients who have reached out to you. By catching up on these communications, you can be a more effective communicator with the team on what the next steps need to be.

Tip #5:  Work Your Best Hours

Nate has refined the art of working during the hours that he is most productive. As business owners, we have more flexibility in choosing what times in the day we work. Go take advantage of that! Nate gets better results from the time he spends on tasks because he knows when he performs best.

Every person’s productivity level changes throughout the day. And not every person is most productive at the same times of the day. Put some effort into figuring out what times of the day you really crush it. Don’t force yourself to work during times that you are low on energy, for example, or can’t concentrate well. This is stressful and will lower your productivity even further. 

Once you’ve got that down, I recommend that you go a step further to figure out what days of the week you are most productive, and even what weeks of the year you are really on top of your game. This will help you to schedule out bigger or longer term projects more effectively to get even better results.

Tip #6:  Group Meetings Together 

Connor says that it’s important to have all your meetings grouped together so you have blocks of time separated out to work on projects. He makes it a point to schedule all his meetings in the mornings so that his afternoons are free for him to work on projects. He also makes it a point to schedule time off Slack and Skype during the day so that he can focus even better on his tasks.

You don’t have to follow this to the letter. You may be more productive on tasks in the mornings and would rather handle meetings in the afternoons. If this works for the schedules that you have set up with the team, then go for it. If not, you can work it out where you group meetings together on certain days. As long as you stay organized, you should not find your days eaten up by meetings and yourself too drained to work on your projects.

Tip #7:  Ace Your To-Do List

Nate has a to-do list and he keeps it organized and prioritized. He sets it up so that he can tackle the most important tasks first each day. 

As with your daily and weekly planning, don’t just scribble out a few phrases on the back of an envelope. Staying purposefully organized is the first step to being more productive at work. Write down (or type out) tasks clearly so that you have a good understanding of each one and don’t miss any. Then take a couple extra minutes to code them so that you know their order of importance. This will help you to schedule work at the right times so you can do them all not only well, but also faster.

Tip #8:  Don’t Multitask

Nate is a firm believer in not doing multiple tasks at the same time. Some people might think that they are good at multitasking, but research shows that multitasking decreases productivity. You can end up being as much as 40% less productive by trying to do more than one thing at a time.

The key to getting tasks done faster and with accuracy is to focus. This is why planning and organizing are a huge part of these top 10 productivity tips! We need to get prepared so that we have the ability to give tasks our undivided attention. Only then are we able to produce great results. On top of that, we avoid the stress that comes with juggling tasks. And every business owner knows that productivity also goes down the toilet when stress becomes a regular part of our workdays.

Tip #9:  Limit Meetings

Connor and Nate both recommend limiting all meetings to 1 hour at the most. Ideally, they try to keep meetings down to 30 minutes, but only if they are sure that they are not sacrificing clarity or relationships by cutting meetings short. As a great time-saving tip, Connor adds that it is important to also schedule a day of the week where you never have any meetings scheduled. This way, you have a full day set aside for big projects. 

Getting out of the nitty gritty of operations can offer you a much-needed break. You are still working, but you have that one day each week when you don’t have to be so directly involved in the day-to-day of what’s going on.

Tip #10:  Rest Well

Nate takes time off regularly to rest and get away from the business. He does this so that he can come back strong, and he encourages each team member to do the same.

Business owners are prone to falling into the trap of working too much in their businesses. We cannot forget the importance of staying healthy so that we can be the best we can be for our businesses. Don’t think of rest as slacking off — think of it as putting the oxygen mask on yourself first so that you can help others stay safe. Don’t worry about leaving things in others’ hands — spend some time putting a dependable team together so you can get all the rest that you and your business need.

Final Thoughts

As long-time entrepreneurs with 3 successful businesses under their belts, Nate and Connor have a ton of great advice to share. These are just 10 of the top productivity tips that they apply in their own lives to maintain and continually improve their A-game.

Take this select group of tried and tested tips to help you up your game and get more done faster. Start with the first tip and get used to taking the specified actions so that they become second nature to you. Then work your way down the list and watch your productivity soar!


Would you like to know how to be certain who your next hire should be? Or maybe you are having a hard time deciding what parts of your business can be outsourced with virtual assistants, right now. We can help you answer these questions, and help you to discover what new systems you should add to scale your business faster. Set up a free hiring consultation with us at Outsource School today – simply book here!


Virtual Assistants

9 Tips to Save Time at Work and Get More Done

As busy business owners, we can always use more tips to save time at work and grow the business faster. Let’s face it — many days, it can feel like there just isn’t enough time in the day to finish tasks. This leaves many of us with the added dilemma of not having enough quality time to spend with family. But work should not be so overwhelming that breaks are not possible. 

Reclaim your precious time by working smarter, not longer, with these 9 helpful tips to save time at work. They will help you be more productive and give you the opportunity to focus on what’s really important.

Tip #1:  Plan Your Day the Night Before 


Set aside time for planning at the end of each workday. Make a list of everything you need to get done the following day. Set priority levels for what must get done, other important things, and additional tasks. Doing this will give you a much clearer picture of the workload you’re facing and help you get a better perspective on your workload. 

Plan it all out on your calendar. Don’t just write it down on a Post-it or type it on your computer. This is one of the more important tips to save time at work that you want to make a daily habit. Take the time to schedule tasks, even if it’s just a simple tool like Trello or Google Calendar. Blocking out time for it will help you get focused, tell you how much time you need for each task, and generally help you gear up for the day ahead.

Tip #2:  Block Off Time for Growth

Not everything can be about crossing tasks off your list if you really want to see business growth and taste freedom. This means that you need to block off specific times of each day that are slated for specific growth projects. This will give you time every day to focus on tasks that are meant to push you and the business forward.


Tip #3:  Give Undivided Attention


We can’t give enough attention to multiple tasks at the same time. It’s just not humanly possible. When we try to widen the scope of our attention to be able to focus on many tasks, we actually become less focused. We can’t capture the details of all the little things we try to pay attention to. 

When you talk to someone, work on a task, attend a meeting, think about a project, or get on a phone call, try to give that task your undivided attention. Encourage the same within your organization, too, so that everyone does their best to limit distractions. This is one of the tips to save time at work that takes practice to achieve.

Things that we usually try to multitask on like email, social media, and internet research, can reduce efficiency and also end up being done poorly themselves. By focusing on the task at hand, you can complete them faster and more efficiently. In addition, when you and everyone else is better able to contribute to a particular focus, there’s less error and going back and forth to clarify things. Learning to focus on one thing at a time can really enhance your overall productivity over time.

Tip #4:  Block Off One Day without Meetings

Set aside one whole day every week where you will have zero meetings scheduled. This is your special day to get some distance from the inner workings of operations. This is a chance for you to take a break and at the same time focus on big projects that demand your full presence. 

On this day, you may want to still be available for urgent questions, but make sure that everybody knows that it’s your “away day.” This will create that much-needed space for you to reserve your full capacity for a bigger or more difficult undertaking. Meetings and discussions can be huge distractions because they bring a lot of small, moving parts into your field of vision. By setting aside this one day per week, you can avoid that kind of clutter and give yourself a rest while still being more productive in another area.

Tip #5:  Hire Help for Repetitive Tasks


This is one of the most valuable tips to save time at work when you really want to get more done. When you hire help for repetitive tasks, you free yourself from activities that are important but don’t move the needle forward in your business. This gives you more time to focus on the things that are going to bring in more business and encourage growth.

Start, for example, by hiring a virtual assistant to manage your emails and scheduling. Just having someone sort your emails before you open your inbox every day can save you tons of time already. Just think — no more going through to delete spam and forward queries to the appropriate people. In time, that person can even learn how to respond to some of the more common messages you get so that you only have a few emails to take care of yourself. 

The same goes for scheduling. All you need to do is set up a Calendly account that reflects your open slots for customer calls, additional company meetings, and wherever else you might get called into. Even better, tell the virtual assistant how long and for what these slots can be scheduled and have them set it up for you. Then they can simply send people that link as the need arises and you’ll see everything on your calendar. All you need to do then is click on the event and follow the link to the scheduled meeting at your preferred virtual location.

Tip #6:  Get Up Earlier 

Simply waking up one hour earlier than you usually do gives you several extra hours a week. You can use this time to better prepare yourself for the day so you’re more productive. You can also use the time to dive into tasks earlier so you get more done by quitting time. Whatever you use it for, just make sure that it’s well thought out. This is not an hour for you to bum around without any plan, because that would not be part of any sensible list of tips to save time at work!

Ask yourself what you could use an extra hour a day for that would help you get more done every day. If you need to get some exercise in to keep you mentally and physically fit to face each day, then you have it. Maybe you need to spend more time at your computer cracking away at systems and processes documents. It could be an hour to prepare a healthier breakfast and have a good goals conversation with your family or business partner so you’re set up for success. Whatever it is, make sure it counts.

Tip #7:  Build Systems and Processes and Trust Them


One of the most ignored tips to save time at work is to get your systems and processes set up. No one — not you as the business owner or anyone that works in your company — can get more done when every shift comes with a struggle to figure out how to proceed. 

You don’t want anyone to be wasting time worrying about how to handle changes when they inevitably come. Change is part of any growing business, and it can come even when you’re not planning on making any improvements. Set up your systems and processes as soon as possible so that anyone who steps in to take over a task has these documents handy. 

Make sure that your systems and processes are repeatable and that they work so that you can trust them. There’s no sense creating them if you can’t hand them over to someone knowing that everything will get done properly. 

Always start with a template that you can build on. There’s no reason to start from scratch (and end up scratching your head for an hour trying to conceptualize the document) when you have lots of ready-made samples to get you started. Just pick the category that you need and choose the template that makes the most sense. Once you have the first document done, you can use that to inform the next ones that you will create for other areas of your business down to specific procedures on project documents, project plans, project management tools, reports, and more.

Tip #8:  Know Where Your Time Goes

Make it a point to track yourself through your average week — or longer if you need to — to figure out in concrete terms how you are currently spending your time. Most people don’t have a good idea of how much time they are actually spending on different tasks. This makes it very difficult to spot time drains, and when you can’t see them you obviously can’t fix them.

This is another of our tips to save time at work that takes a bit of time to accomplish, but it’s worth it. The goal here is to optimize your personal time management so that you can use your time efficiently. Then you will know better what tasks are not worth your time as a business owner and what tasks you really need to be focusing more on.

Once you have that diligent log of all your time spent on tasks, you will see more clearly how much you are actually accomplishing in a day, and why. You will see what is taking your precious time away from the tasks that will give you the greatest returns. Then you can start eliminating unproductive activities and scheduling in the needle movers.

As a bonus, you’ll also get a sense of what time of day you are most productive, and if you do the exercise over several weeks, what times during the month as well. This will be a huge help to you when scheduling out time to work on different projects. For example, knowing when you are the most creative will show you when to schedule creative projects so that you will be super efficient and productive on them. The same goes for focus, reflection, and other moods that most people cycle through.

Tip #9:  Schedule Everything


Even if you’re not sure how long a task is going to take you, do not give yourself an open-ended timeframe to accomplish it. Having a set start and finish time will challenge you to get it done and help you avoid procrastinating on it. Of course, you should also apply some grace in the situation in case you grossly underestimated the task and you need more time. Unless you tend to get overly anxious about beating the clock, this amount of pressure will make the task more fun. When the buzzer sounds, look at what you’ve accomplished and be amazed at how much you got done. 

The same goes for daily work time and project deadlines. You should always have set start and stop times for everything that you do. Tasks that are left open-ended encourage us to slack off. When we know that we have to get up from our desks at a certain time, or switch to a different task, or start on a new project, we know that we have to be more productive to get everything done on time. 

Final Thoughts

Use these 9 tips to save time at work not just to help you get more done, but to get it done to the best of your ability within the least time possible. Together, they will help you to hone your workdays to a fine point so that you can enjoy greater business success and enjoy the freedom to live the life that you want at the same time.

Would you like to know how to be certain who your next hire should be? Or maybe you are having a hard time deciding what parts of your business can be outsourced with virtual assistants, right now. We can help you answer these questions, and help you to discover what new systems you should add to scale your business faster. Set up a free hiring consultation with us at Outsource School today – simply book here!

Virtual Assistants

15 Proven Techniques for How to Manage a Virtual Team

Nathan and Connor, Outsource School’s founders, know just about all there is to know about how to manage a virtual team. They have been working with hundreds of virtual team members in several different countries for over a decade now. As they can attest to, managing remote hires can sometimes be quite frustrating. But it can also be your company’s greatest competitive strength. You can hire people from any location around the world, which makes it a lot easier to hire talented people.

With virtual teams, you may feel that control sometimes slips through your fingers. You may not always know what the team is doing. You may also experience team members flaking out on you after a while. They may even quit all of a sudden, and you don’t know why. 

In this article, we’ll give you 15 tips for how to manage a virtual team. This way, it can work seamlessly for you. The strategies here reflect years of experience. Nate and Connor spent loads of time figuring out what works best. They know just how to keep the teams coherent, productive and motivated. This experience is now laid out here for you to freely apply.

Tip #1:  Create a Standard Onboarding Process

Every new hire needs to be educated about your company. If you’re hiring remotely, then they are not going to get the same kind of on-hand learning opportunities that are popular in office environments. When one, some, or even all of the members of a team work separately, it’s very easy for them to get disconnected from the normal rhythms of work life. One way to prevent this is by creating and enforcing rhythms in virtual teamwork. This is how to manage a virtual team well from the get-go.

When you hire someone, make sure that you have a training program available for them to go over before they start work. Videos are great for educating new hires about your company and the way that you do things. Put effort into getting them up to speed and adjusted to your company and to learn how you expect them to perform in their role. 

Note that not every person applying for work as a freelancer is actually cut out for remote work. Additionally, not everyone who has the skills that you require will fit your team’s personality and your company culture. You need every new hire to fit in, so you need to make sure that they are the right fit. If you have hired someone you are not sure of in this area, it’s best to iron out this detail as soon as possible. Sometimes the best answer to how to manage a virtual team is to get the best people in place early on.

Tip #2:  Choose the Best Communication Tools

There are so many communication options out there today that you can use to make your virtual team more efficient. First, you need to choose a communication style that works best for you and the team. There are so many channels that you can choose from or use together (video, chat, email, etc.) The right combination will help you to stay in contact and collaborate effectively from remote locations. 

Collaborative technologies have also come a long way in the past decade. There are shared workspaces, multi-point video conferencing, and more that can make virtual teamwork easier. The newest or most feature-laden of these technologies is not automatically the best. Reliability and usability should be your main focus. The team should not struggle to get connected or waste time getting a tool to work. 

Establish multiple communication tools as well so that you have back-up channels and different channels to use for distinct purposes. This way, the team will always have a way to communicate urgent business to the right person immediately. It also unifies processes like what you will use for conference calls versus screen recordings, etc. This helps to create a feeling of togetherness even when everyone is working from a different location. The easiest tip for how to manage a virtual team is makiung sure that they can always find each other.

a computer screen showing the members of a group video call

Pro tip:  Have every team member commit to a communication charter. Communication on virtual teams is less rich than face-to-face interaction because there are fewer contextual cues and information about emotional states. The way that you can ensure its effectiveness is to always be extremely clear and disciplined in the way team members communicate. Establish norms of behavior for team members when they communicate virtually. For example, set standards for background noise, side conversations, listening attentively, and clear speech. 

Tip #3:  Consider Flexible Work Hours

Always endeavor to treat people in different time zones fairly. If your business is adapting a new virtual work plan, you need to remember the time zone differences among your hires. Working in different parts of the world means that not everyone you hire will be able to work the exact same hours. Don’t automatically expect someone in a different time zone to be available during the working hours that you are used to keeping. If you need them to attend meetings, make sure that you discuss this before you set the time and day for the meeting.

Be more flexible with remote work hours so that you can accommodate different time zones and help the team maintain a comfortable work/life balance. They’ll be happier, and this means they’ll also be more productive at work. Sometimes, the key to how to manage a virtual team is just being considerate.

To stay on top of this, you can develop a system of tracking when each individual team member likes to work and who is working on what at any moment. This will also show you who is currently available to take on a new task. Then you can see when the schedules overlap and be more easily able to set up real-time group activities (like meetings). You’ll also be able to measure productivity levels and see where bottlenecks happen and avoid time-wasting activities.

Pro tip:  No matter what time zones the team members are in, try as much as possible to have an overlap of at least a couple of hours a day when the team is online. Even in cases where team members won’t likely need each other to complete tasks, being online at the same time fosters closeness and provides you with the opportunity to meet with them and solve problems more efficiently.

Tip #4:  Define Work Systems

Freelancers will tend to develop their own ways of going about tasks. Setting standards will help them to integrate into a team better and faster. Defining repeatable work systems will also reduce the number of questions they will need to ask about tasks and give everyone a better idea of how long certain tasks should take. These tailored work systems will help the team achieve maximum effectiveness while allowing members the necessary freedom to complete tasks to the best of each one’s ability.

Systems are always important to ensure that a business does not easily fall apart. This is particularly true for businesses run by virtual teams because they don’t have the same level of opportunity to talk to each other and look over each other’s shoulders to learn. On virtual teams, each person is usually in their own world unless you draw them together and help them with processes and procedures that mesh together. A documented, standardized way of working that you’re constantly refining will be a great help in effectively managing a virtual team.

Tip #5:  Define Tasks and Processes

a pair of glasses on a document

Don’t just clarify goals and roles when you hire a virtual team member. Telling a hire to do something is not a good way to manage a virtual team. Don’t go overboard either and start micro-managing. A great middle-ground is to give detailed descriptions of each task along with examples of what you want the final result to look like. Then give the team the freedom to execute it – after all, that’s what you hired them to do. Defining tasks and processes gives hires guidelines to follow so there are no misunderstandings, yet allows them the freedom to do what they do best. 

Get everyone aligned on goals, roles and responsibilities, tasks, and processes during onboarding. Then, keep them coordinated on the details of task design and the processes that you want them to use to complete those tasks. Keep the work as simple as you can so that tasks can be assigned without creating confusion. Doing reviews as tasks are completed is also a great idea, especially for new hires. This gives you a chance to evaluate how things are going and see if there are any adjustments to be made and where additional training might be needed.

Tip #6:  Track Team Productivity

You should always have a grasp of the hours being worked, team attendance, and other basic measures of individual and team productivity. For this, you need to define what the key indicators of success are for each role. Then you can see within a couple of weeks whether a team member is being productive or not. 

Metrics are important, particularly when you are tracking remote work success. This is what will help you to keep everyone on task and track the timing, quality, and success of everyone’s work output. Without tracking, you will not be able to easily see who is coming in each day and understand exactly what is going on.

The best hires, of course, are extremely disciplined and will show up on time, stay on task, and deliver as expected.  Most of the time, however, people need accountability to keep them on track. If you need software to help you with tracking, there are a number of tools available like Clockify, Asana, Hubstaff and Time Doctor.

Tip #7:  Reward Virtual Team Members

Just as important as tracking productivity is monitoring performance and developing the incentives to match. Rewarding virtual teams is so important for successful management. Remember, freelancers don’t enjoy the usual pats on the back that workers in an office environment enjoy. Virtual team members need to feel that they have the same opportunities as the people who work with you in-office.

The two most effective ways to reward team members are giving incentives for deliverables or for set hours worked. Either way, it’s vital to align these incentives so that they make management and monitoring easier, rather than causing confusion around expectations. As the manager, you should also be careful to avoid giving preference to the people you can meet in person. It’s easy to overlook the fact that human contact can very easily make you like someone more than another person you never shook hands with.

Tip #8:  Create a Team Social Space

a man on a videocall with a woman

Virtual teams are often spread out so widely that they are not likely to have the chance for social interaction and human contact. A solution to this is to encourage a space where they can hold informal conversations. On Slack, for example, you can create a channel dedicated to non-work chat. You can also schedule regular times for team members to get together for team-building activities like playing games.

When your virtual team members see that you have made the effort to give them the chance to share non-work related information and reinforce social bonds, they will appreciate you more. You can even integrate a little bit of this more informal social interaction in your regular meetings. This way, team meetings won’t become overly dry and task-focused, which can cause team members to avoid sharing some important information. Encouraging team members to be more social will also strengthen team cohesion. 

Tip #9:  Do Some Virtual Teams Training

Not everyone is a born manager. If you want to know how to manage a virtual team effectively, the best thing you can do is to undergo training for it. There’s more than one way how to manage a virtual team, so make sure that your style aligns with the training course that you choose.

Basically, there are three types of training available:  technology training, group processing training, and cross-cultural training. Technology training covers which virtual team management tools to use and when, including how to choose the tools that fit your needs and how to handle team tech issues.

Group processing training involves tackling various project-related challenges. It covers how to set goals properly, problem-solving, building trust among remote team members, and collaboration exercises to foster stronger work relationships

Cross-cultural training – which is vital for most remote teams – deals with understanding how to function well in a cross-cultural team. It involves anticipating and overcoming cultural differences, working according to cultural customs and work routines, and overcoming prejudices and ignoring stereotypes.

Tip #10:  Hold Regular Meetings

Schedule meetings to be held at the same time on the same day to create a routine for your virtual team. This provides the team with something to get familiar and comfortable with. This way, they will be at ease and feel less stress during meetings. We recommend using video calls for these meetings to maximize efficiency through recreating the routine office feeling that they don’t usually get.

Apart from these regular scheduled meetings, add a quarterly review with each team member to check in on them and see how they are coping, and share updates that concern them specifically. This gives them a feeling of importance in the ranks and closeness to you as their manager. Both are vital to increased and sustained productivity.

Tip #11:  Agree on a Shared “Language”

a happy man and woman high-fiving in front of a laptop

Even cultures that speak the same language – such as English – can come up against language barriers. Just think about the communication difficulties that the Americans and the British face. Virtual teams, being cross-cultural teams, will have even more pronounced communication challenges. Many times, they will think that they are speaking the same language – like English – but are actually not understanding each other well. 

The challenge of sustaining shared understanding across cultures does not have to be a pain. The key lies in getting on the same page about what language style will be customary for work functions. Also, encouraging team members to always ask for clarification when they are not 100% sure is super effective. This helps everyone to avoid different interpretations that can cause larger issues down the line. Take the time to be explicit, especially with regard to important words and phrases that are regularly used in the shared workspace.

Tip #12:  Use a Project Management System 

Project management software makes changes in work processes easier to cope with. It helps keep teams on the same page so work doesn’t slip through the cracks. Of the many platforms out there, you can be sure to find the one that works best for your company and team.

A project management system most importantly helps the team to keep track of deadlines. It will send alerts for assignments and reminders for deadlines, along with a quick overview of what needs to be done today, this week, and this month. You can also easily track when things need to happen, and who is in charge of them. You can also use tools in combination, like Trello and Google Docs, along with any time tracking software that you want to use.

If your team is smaller, you might be tempted to continue using email or chat for task management. This is really not a good idea, especially over the long run. Project management systems are there to help you organize documents and conversations in one place, under each project, so that it is easier to find everything later. 

Tip #13:  Foster Shared Leadership

Team members are most likely to stay focused and be motivated to stay productive when they have defined deliverables and a system to track commitments. What you want to add to this is a system that attracts them – rather than just pushes them – to perform better. Shared leadership means finding ways to involve team members in leading the team. 

Assigning team members specific responsibilities for special projects. You can start with simple ones like sharing best practices with new hires, coaching assistants in their areas of expertise, mentoring to help with onboarding; or running virtual team-building exercises. Share leadership responsibilities to increase engagement with and among team members while taking some of the burden off your shoulders at the same time.

Tip #14:  Prepare Ahead

Many companies already know how much they save on costs when they go with a fully remote workforce. The initial, basic computation does not even include the opportunity for talent pool diversification. If you are building a fully remote workforce for the long run, you will also be implementing a flexible work policy. 

a man at a whiteboard describing a system

You need to have systems in place that are scalable so that you can support a growing remote workforce. Do not gloss over things like onboarding materials and standard operating procedures. You will be using these over and over, and should put in good effort to make them effective and easy to update. This will help things to flow smoothly whatever internal changes you implement.

Tip #15:  Pay Virtual Hires Well

Especially these days, a lot of people want to work virtually. Many professionals with a ton of experience are even willing to take a pay cut to have the opportunity to work from home. This means that companies like yours can find lower-cost team members virtually. However, you must understand the long-term cost of lowballing applicants. 

Expecting great performance for low rates is a recipe for disaster. Someone who is desperate may grab hold of the opportunity, but is likely to drop you as soon as a better opportunity comes along. Someone who feels underpaid will also tend to do as little work as possible out of frustration, or simply to justify the low rate. They will also not feel motivated to share their best ideas because they don’t feel valued. These are just three of the most common pitfalls of paying low rates.

On the other hand, if you pay virtual team members well, you can earn their respect and trust, and ensure that the team works hard and sticks with you even when things get tough.

Final Thoughts on How to Manage a Virtual Team

When managing virtual teams, you need to make team building a conscious effort. Virtual teams don’t enjoy the natural benefits of team socialization and trust-building. Any virtual team manager must therefore provide them with ways to build rapport and bond to compensate for the physical distance.

Actively communicate direction to your virtual team and ensure that each member knows what they need to know. Ensure as well that they feel supported and appreciated. Remember that virtual team members do not have the benefits of the casual “water cooler” chat. As a manager, you need to organize these opportunities for them to foster team spirit regularly. This is how to manage a virtual team so that you get them best results.


Would you like to know how to be certain who your next hire should be? Or maybe you are having a hard time deciding what parts of your business can be outsourced with virtual assistants, right now. We can help you answer these questions, and help you to discover what new systems you should add to scale your business faster. Set up a free hiring consultation with us at Outsource School today – simply book here!


Virtual Assistants

Hiring Soft Skills for Attracting and Interviewing A-Players

Hiring soft skills are vital in attracting and interviewing candidates to spot the A-players. You need to apply soft skills like communication, flexibility, and relationship development to hire quickly and accurately. Hiring soft skills spells the difference between mediocre hires who waste your resources and getting the best of the best on the job straight away.

Here are the steps to take when hiring for soft skills that you can apply at each step of the process to attract and interview the best candidates for any role.

Hiring for Soft Skills to Attract the Best Candidates

When you create a description for a role, you need to be very clear and concise about what you want and don’t want in a candidate. These are the core soft skills to start with because you can only attract A-players if your description disqualifies mediocre candidates. This part of the process also requires keen decision-making skills.

Your Candidate Description

Start by describing the perfect candidate in as much detail as you can. Just go through everything you can think of, and sort it out later.

Candidate Soft Skills

Focus on the personal qualities of the person rather than their hard skills or experience – these latter qualities are easier to add in later.

If you find yourself stuck, just think about the qualities that you and your managers value in a person in general, in the work environment, and for the specific role you are looking to fill. 

These will guide you to creating your candidate avatar. Use the soft skills of clear feedback and critical thinking and observation to analyze what qualities make for a successful candidate in that specific role.

Don’t Rush It

Go over your description at least a few times in the course of a week to make sure you haven’t missed anything. Get input from department heads if applicable – the person who works directly with hires knows best what qualities the ideal hire should – and should not! – have.

It’s vital to get clear on the don’ts as well as the do’s – but you want to translate the don’ts to positives so you can keep the description positive. 

For example, if you don’t want someone who’s late for meetings, write that as “punctual”, or if you don’t want a team member who doesn’t engage, write that as “team player” or “collaborative”.

Organize Your Thoughts

When you’re satisfied, separate the hard skills from personal qualities – the candidates’ soft skills. These details will go in the opening paragraphs of your role description. The soft skills must come first because these are the key to making good hires – not their hard skills.

Now separate the hard skills from the tasks. The hard skills will follow under a bulleted “Skills” section and the tasks will be described next under a numbered list of “Requirements”.

Pro Tip:  You have to include exactly what tasks the perfect candidate must know how to perform at a high level. Then, differentiate these from the tasks that you do not need them to be experts at. This will help you to avoid disqualifying a candidate with excellent personal attributes just because they aren’t good at using a certain tool, for example. Remember, it’s a lot easier to have a hire learn a few hard skills than to teach them soft skills.

Your Role Description

The best role descriptions are presented in a way that can be easily digested. This requires writing skills that combine critical and logical thinking, communication, and design.

Format Your Description

You can find a lot of examples of formatted descriptions just by doing a quick Google search if you need a more detailed point of reference. Look for formatting that you find easy to go through. Formatting alone, however, is not enough to attract the A-players.

Market to A-Players

If you’re not good at marketing copy, I suggest that you hire an experienced writer to craft your easy-to-read role description. Yes, you need to market to the A-players if you want to attract them to the role you are trying to fill. A-players never want mediocre work. They will always find great clients and projects. And yes, you need to make it easy for them because they will not waste their precious time deciphering a complex bunch of sentences. You would expect the same from candidates when they send you portfolios and cover letters, right?

Pro Tip:  It’s not all about the experience-money match for A-players. They look for authentic clients who are an excellent match for the way they work.

Market to your ideal candidate, but always be ethical – honest and transparent. If they find things to be different after a week on the job, they will not be happy and you will experience high turnover. This wastes a lot of time posting descriptions and interviewing and onboarding one candidate after another. And you’ll end up with someone mediocre because A-players don’t settle.

The key is presenting the information in a way that elicits the response that you want from the candidates that you want. Marketing is, after all, attracting who you want and repelling who you don’t want. If you want to learn how to do that in more detail, check out the Outsource School courses or set up a free consultation with me.

Hiring for Soft Skills When Interviewing A-Players

The two most important steps of any hiring process are pre-vetting and interviewing. The key is to do them from the standpoint of soft skills.

Candidate Pre-Vetting

The best candidates will be proactive, providing you with information about themselves and their skills and experience. This may be on their website or in their first communication with you. Take note of that information and use your critical thinking skills to pre-vet each candidate against your description. Then you can rank the applicants and interview the best matches first.

Interviewing the Best

The interview is your chance to get to know the candidate a bit and to verify their skills. The focus here should still be on their personal attributes. Definitely ask about their hard skills and experience to check their confidence levels (which can clue you in on whether or not they’re being honest). But you won’t know for sure until they’re on the job. Their attitude, however, as well as their ethics, etc., will show through more clearly during this conversation.

Ask for feedback throughout this process. Listen intently to all the candidate’s responses and questions – they give clues to the candidate’s state of mind and what’s important to them. Make sure you’re on the same page there, too.

Relationship Building

First, you must build rapport with the candidate. The easier it is, the better – this tells you that they are a fit for your personality and working style. 

If you will not be working with the person directly, make sure that whoever will be takes the lead during the interview. You will need to practice critical observation throughout the interview to pick up on subtle cues.

Brand Values

Second, you will need to once again effectively communicate your brand to each interviewee. You gave them a glimpse of it when you described the personal qualities of your ideal candidate, and now you need to drive it home. 

The person who will be an A-player for you is the one who is in line with your values and vision. Make sure you get on the same page on that before you proceed. If it’s not a match, you should move on, and don’t forget to update your description to be clearer on this point so you get better matches the next time around!

Role and Expectations

Third, if all goes well up to this point, it’s time to go over the role once again. This is to see if the candidate needs more clarity on anything. This is also your chance to add more detail if you need to. Go over your expectations for the role as well, and in detail. This includes things like work times and measurable output as well as experience and skills. Don’t leave anything to chance!

The best candidates will always have good questions to ask about some part or other of the skills or requirements if they’re not clearly defined. They may ask things that never crossed your mind because they are looking at the role from a different perspective. Stay keen and look for any indicators of a good or bad match.

More Relationship Building

Finally, end on a high note. You want to reinforce your rapport with the candidate, whether or not you will hire them. Respect is highly valued among A-players, and it can only help to be nice. Use your networking skills here. The candidate may be able to refer you to a better fit if they’re not the one, and that gives you a better chance of success.

Hiring the Best

This is where your negotiation skills come into play. You’ll need them to evaluate the candidate’s capabilities versus their rate and your budget, and come to an agreement with them. Whether this is for a one-time project or long-term work, you need to get on the same page before you get them officially on board.

Final Thoughts

Hiring soft skills can make or break your hiring experience. They are what help you take purposeful action at every step of the process and get the measurable results that you need to make the right decision.

More than matching a candidate to your requirements, hiring an A-player means knowing the primary qualities of an A-player. No matter what role you are filling, make sure that you are looking for a person who values and pursues positivity, work ethic, motivation, constant development, collaboration, tolerance, flexibility, problem-solving, and resourcefulness. And, most importantly, make sure that you and your team live and work by these same principles. That’s how you attract A-players and keep them onboard.

About the Author:

Julia is a career freelancer and agency owner turned coach for those seeking abundance and victorious living. A professional teacher and decades-long lover of the art of words on paper and the stage, she loves sharing actionable advice on life-changing topics. When she’s not helping freelancers and other small business owners grow, you can find her sharing lots of laughs over little crazy things.