An Etiquette Guide for Best Outcomes with a Virtual Assistant Service

An Etiquette Guide for Best Outcomes with a Virtual Assistant Service

A virtual assistant service can seem almost magical—opening doors and expediting tedious tasks. 

But even a genie that magically grants wishes requires careful and precise communication. 

We’re not sure if that was actually THE lesson of Aladdin, but the comparison here is just too good to ignore because the principle applies when it comes to our brave, highly confidential, supremely talented—and 100% human virtual assistants. 

To everyone who wants the secret sauce to getting the most out of your virtual assistant experience, here are some super simple dos and don’ts to know by heart before handing off your next task.

At the end of the day it is your money. The more accurate the communication, the less time our assistants spend on figuring out how to tackle your tasks, the more things we get done for you. Saving our assistants’ time, saves your time, and you get more for the same amount of money.

1. Just in case, over-communicate. 

When it comes to completing tasks, the assistant’s nemesis is Too Little Information, followed by Too Much Silence when we ask our follow-up questions. 

Just in case, over-communicate. 

PRO TIP: A wise person once said, “Communicate until you’re sick of it.” Regarding task hand-offs, more is more. We want to know everything (...um, within tasteful bounds)! 

As an excellent example of giving us enough detail: a total hero of a client once sent us a screen recording to explain a task in detail! 😍 That’s a moment we remember to this day. Also, if you submit several tasks at once, make sure to highlight which is the priority, or else the VA will have to make that call, which may or may not be what you had in mind. 

2. Do a quick check-in after assigning a task.

Do a quick check-in after assigning a task.

You’ve sent in a task—“I need it by X date,” you state. We ask you to clarify certain parameters so that we can begin working on it, but then we receive no reply to our questions… Truth be told: this happens frequently. 

We want to get your task done quickly and efficiently, but occasionally we need certain points clarified in order to execute correctly. 

PRO TIP: After sending in your task, keep an eye out for questions posed by your assistant and follow up with answers so that they can get to work. 

3. Close your first task before assigning your next task. 

Here’s what often happens: Before your first task is done, we receive another task. This causes confusion on our end because we don’t know the order in which to work on tasks. 

PRO TIP: When assigning multiple tasks, make sure to let us know the order you want us to work. This is particularly true for multiple-user accounts. If each person in your team submits a task all at once, we’re going to be like…

Close your first task before assigning your next task. 

4. Do top up your hours when you get a prompt so we can complete your task. 

Say you request a task that will take 30 minutes to complete. But you only have 10 minutes left in your account. At this point, we’ll send you a prompt to pay for the additional time. 

Until you complete that step and top up your hours, our assistants’ hands are tied. 

PRO TIP: Make sure you have enough time in your time reserve before assigning a task, particularly when you see that you only have 10 to 15 minutes left. Also, when you see that email prompt asking you to pay for additional time so we can complete a task you assigned to us... you know what to do. 🤭

5. Don’t send multiple urgent emails all at once. 

Don’t send multiple urgent emails all at once. 

This is a risky topic to address, but we’re going to go there: If you frequently have a high volume of tasks you wish completed immediately within minutes or a few hours upon asking—our services are likely not for you. Instead, a full-time bilingual employee or staff might be better suited to your task-load and immediate turnaround needs. 

You see, the virtual assistant relationship is quite different from the relationship you might have with an employee. With an employee, you own all their working hours. With a virtual assistant, you get a certain amount of time reserved for you, kind of like a timeshare of their skills, which you further share with other users. 

PRO TIP: If you have cases where you send 3 urgent emails all in the space of 1 day, and this is consistent, your needs might warrant hiring a full-time employee. 

However, for most cases, users simply need to be reminded that multiple “URGENT” emails are kind of uncool and abuse the framework we have created. Please do try to limit your URGENT requests to once a day. And if you feel you aren’t getting the attention you deserve, perhaps the next step is moving 1 plan up or a talk with David. 😊

6. Do send us originals when asking us to proofread translated text. 

“You know how when you make a copy of a copy, it's not as sharp as... well... the original.”—Michael Keaton as Doug Kinney #3 in Multiplicity (1996).

When clients send us Google-translated text that we’re supposed to proofread and check for errors, the original text serves as our point of reference which we require in order to check your document. 

PRO TIP: When you want us to check a translation for errors or proofread any translated text, we really do need the original source text, not just the Google-translated version. 

7. Do observe working hours. (Or keep in mind that urgent emails on the weekends and after work hours will be processed during work hours.) 

 Do observe working hours.

Our assistants work from 9 AM to 6 PM JST, 5 days a week. Their well-being is really important to us. Like, really, really important to us. If they burnout, our assistant service is jeopardized, so we guard them to guard our service, which in turn benefits our community of users. 

Assistants are under explicit instructions to NOT work on Saturdays, Sundays, and after work hours. At the same time, your needs are why we have a service in the first place. So it’s all about finding that beautiful balance… ✨

PRO TIP: You can send stuff in after hours or on weekends, just understand that assistants won’t work on it during off times. If that’s clear, we’re all good here. Moving along…

8. Do provide background when requesting interpretation for meetings.

Do provide background when requesting interpretation for meetings.

We get a fair few meeting interpretation requests. However, the request often arrives without any background information. 

In order to do a good job and create a winning impression on your behalf, we need to know the purpose of the meeting, attendees, desired outcomes, etc. Without knowing these basic elements, it will be really difficult for our assistants to do a good job. 

PRO TIP: Give as many details as possible when requesting interpretation for a meeting. Remember Point #1: "Just in case, overcommunicate"!


Bonus tip: Practice care when saying, “Choose something you think is appropriate,” “I trust your judgement,” or “Do whatever makes sense to you.”

We’re glad you trust us! But "common sense" and what is “appropriate” varies from person to person and from culture to culture, proven by every “You won’t believe what happened next” type article you’ve ever come across. 

We don’t want you to be like...

Bonus tip: Practice care when saying, “Choose something you think is appropriate,” “I trust your judgement,” or “Do whatever makes sense to you.”

We recommend trying the following hack when tempted to use one of the aforementioned phrases. 

PRO TIP: Specify Google ratings or some other success metric by which to make the choice. Give us a parameter that you care about, and we’ll be better able to hit that sweet spot you’re aiming for. For example, “Choose a vendor that has the best customer ratings on X platform within X budget.” 

Occasionally, of course, there are times when you really don’t know the metrics by which to make a well-informed choice. In which case, we recommend saying something like, “Please research this and then give me 3 options from which to choose.”  

And then be sure to review the results for each task and consider how adding parameters or metrics to the next assignment could vary the outcome.

you've got this


To summarize, here’s how to get better outcomes for anyone using TokyoMate’s virtual assistant service: 

VA Communication best practices

1. Just in case, over-communicate.

2. Do a quick check-in after assigning a task.

3. Close your first task before assigning your next task.

4. Do top up your hours when you get a prompt so we can complete your task.

5. Don’t send multiple urgent emails all at once.

6. Do send us originals when asking us to proofread translated text.

7. Do observe working hours. (Or keep in mind that urgent emails on the weekends and after work hours will be processed during work hours.)

8. Do provide background when requesting interpretation for meetings.

Bonus tip: Be careful when saying, “Choose something appropriate,” “I trust your judgement,” or “Do whatever makes sense to you.”

“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”—George Bernard Shaw

“Good communication is the bridge between confusion and clarity.”—Nat Turner 


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