New tasks require some time to master. How long you need to get the hang of things depends on several factors such as your schedule, the complexity of tasks, and your understanding of the concepts involved.

Learning new things is more challenging for a virtual assistant because I don’t work with my client face to face. So we normally set a schedule to meet online to discuss. The meetings are usually done through Google+ Hangout or Skype, or even through a regular phone call through my Google Voice.

Learning about my responsibilities and tasks online does not come easy. My experiences have taught me some practices to make sure that I get acquainted with new assignments efficiently and handle them effectively.

Show Commitment and Focus.

Due to time zone differences, my clients and I agree to schedule meetings at the most convenient time for us. There are instances when meetings fall out of my regular office hours, and in cases like this, I try to be as flexible as I can to make it especially when an important aspect of the work is involved.

Being on time in meetings, and for any appointment for that matter, is a must. 9 PM is never 9:05 PM. Punctuality shows so much of your personality, discipline and commitment. Always strive to come not only on time but also prepared.

We usually use Skype during meetings because of its screen sharing functionality that makes the discussion much easier. Seeing how the task is done straight from your client’s screen is a better way to learn than simply trying to imagine how things look like when done.

Most clients don’t have the luxury of time to discuss every single detail with you, so paying attention during the conversation is essential. In my case, I politely ask them once in a while to slow down when things get confusing. This is also a time to ask questions to avoid messing up with my work later on.

Videos and Screenshots Help.

I once worked with a real estate client who gave instructions for new tasks through YouTube video tutorials. That proved to be a helpful and easy way of following instructions as I could actually see what options to click, where to go next, and a lot of other important details. Using screencasts is a good alternative if your client has a hectic schedule. It works like Skype screensharing and Google+ Hangouts only that there is no real-time interaction involved.

Some of my clients prefer to give instructions via email. When this happens, asking for screenshots to be included would be useful especially if the task is complicated.

In both cases, I pay extra attention to the discrepancies between the video or the screenshots and the actual execution of the task. These differences happen because of factors like user access and location limitations, and more. Informing my client about these disparities will lessen confusion and ensure that we are on the same page.

Be Observant.

I also have a client whose tasks include data management, ecommerce and order processing. This requires a number of emails to check, a couple of websites to open, and several spreadsheets to update. Good thing that Gmail has filtering and labeling functions which made the sorting of emails easier.

Unavoidable things happen once in a while. For example, product orders with wrong prices, duplicate emails, and missing tracking numbers. By letting my client know about these errors, it gives him the chance to verify any price changes or sales promotions. This could also allow him to check for changes in the usual process and possible issues in the system.

Learning and mastering tasks in a short period of time is a required skill for every virtual assistant. You just have to effectively utilize the tools at your disposal and display the right attitude to get things right.

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Christian works as a real estate assistant at Xilium. He specializes in back office support, content writing, social media marketing, and administrative assistance. Follow him on Google+.
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