Drowning in Details? It’s Time for a Virtual Assistant

If you’re like me, your freelance business is a one-person shop.

A lot of details come along with owning your business and making sure it operates efficiently. It’s a lot of work. But, you must get it done. If you do, you’ll make a lot of money. If you don’t, your ship will sink.

Can you relate to my to-do list?

  • Keeping up with my current assignments, including writing copy and billing
  • Updating my website, including my free lead-generation piece (to get new names for my email list which I use to send marketing messages out to)
  • Posting to my social media — Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn — to initiate online business relationships, make important connections, and get my work and name known
  • Making sure my self-promotion packet is up-to-date
  • Reaching out to new clients
  • Reaching out to current clients for more business
  • Reaching out to old clients who could once again give me business
  • Bookkeeping
  • Depositing payments
  • Writing checks for my bills or paying them online
  • Emails — the business ones — NOT emails with my friends

Are you tired yet . . . from just reading all that?

Make your own list. Right now. Go ahead. What do you have to do every day to make your business happen? Write down what you do. And, more important, what you don’t, or can’t, do that needs to get done.

Write it all down. I’ll wait.

Is your list like mine? Is it worse? Are you scrambling all day long — and into the night — to get everything done?

It’s probably long. And, you don’t love a lot of things on it. And, even if you do, you drive yourself crazy trying to do it all yourself.

Guess what? You can’t do it all yourself.

Nope — you can NOT do everything it takes to run a business all by yourself.

I tried, I really did!

For example, there was the time I spent so many hours trying to post a blog entry with a photo that it wasn’t even funny. I had an idea in my head of how I wanted it to look — headline, photo with the text in a column next to the photo, running the height of the photo. Then, the text widens under the photo so that it runs all the way across the page.

That was clearly NOT going to happen while I was posting. Not knowing HTML, and not having the time or desire to, I spent too much time doing the same layout over and over, but it never would “take.” I was doing something wrong, but it wasn’t obvious to me what that was.

My first blog post never looked how I wanted it to and I was so busy working on other things that I didn’t have time to learn a solution. Plus, that was clearly not an activity in my “zone of excellence.” It was the top winner for my “awful” zone — what I’m terrible at, have no desire to do, and what I hate doing.

It was a task that took hours and hours of my time, one I did very poorly, and one that left me feeling very badly about my work abilities.

Not a prescription for success. And, a great loss of time.

That’s just one example of how I was scrambling on my own, before I hired my first Virtual Assistant, or VA.

Yes, I said “first” … because I, like many solopreneurs I know, need more than one.

Ta-Da! Time for a Virtual Assistant

For the uninitiated, VA’s are virtual because they’re located virtually anywhere, always off-site.

Your communication happens through emails and phone calls. They’re virtual because they also often work on online projects for you — adding to your website, sending out your emails, posting to your social media accounts, making sure your online, or virtual, world is near-perfect.

Some VA’s do other things — design logos or product materials and presentations you’ll be giving, bookkeeping, making appointments for you, fulfilling customer service.

These Virtual Assistants are the detail people of today’s business world. They’re an important part of your team if you can’t hire a part-time or full-time person to put on your payroll.

The VA I hired four months ago — I found her on Facebook — has become basically a part of my systems, allowing me to work with more clarity in my genius zone, which is working on the business itself and working one-on-one with my coaching clients to improve their businesses. Her impact on my company is that I’m now free to do the big things that make a big difference in moving my business forward.

My VA is aware of changes to my business from copywriter to business coach and how everything will be affected — the website, the email and social media post slants, the marketing plan slant. Here are some specific projects she’s handled:

  • Made my business’s Facebook Page
  • Made web page changes in copy and some in design
  • Posts my blog posts
  • Sets up and schedules my emails announcing the blog posts
  • Writes my tweets and Facebook posts
  • Is writing my Twitter and Facebook marketing plan
  • Changed the cover for my opt-in e-book
  • Changed the opt-in box layout
  • Added more opt-in areas to each web page
  • Announced and carried out a Facebook Page contest

What can you expect from working with a VA?

Usually the VA will want to work with you for two to three weeks to see if you’re a good fit. Sometimes he’ll make a plan to get an idea of where your business is overall and how he can fit into it.

After a few weeks, the VA can gauge your workload and recommend a monthly retainer geared to your current assignments or to ones that have been discussed as likely to come up.

He’ll present you with a package plan for monthly services for a set amount of time or a set number of projects to be completed.

Some of the benefits of hiring a VA are:

  • They’re contract workers with their own businesses so you don’t have to generate tax forms for them or pay benefits.
  • You don’t need office space or equipment for them, they have their own.
  • They’ve gone through training so they know what they’re doing.
  • Often they’ve done this kind of work for years, either in another office or on their own.
  • You get billed for time they actually spend on projects, not for having people around doing nothing part of the time. A really good VA can charge anywhere from $30 to $60 per hour and is very much worth it.
  • They have an overview of your business so they can help you reach your business objectives.
  • They take a load of work off your list and get it done in half the time (or less) than you’d take to do it.

Sounds great — so who are they exactly and how can I afford one?

There are several ways that ideal VA’s enter into the workforce. Some have worked in corporate jobs for years, running systems, working as project managers, or as high-level administrative assistants. They’ve either decided to jump ship and go out on their own or they’ve been downsized.

Or, they may have learned how to be a VA from one of the many online businesses teaching VA skills. Or, a combination of circumstances.

Then the question becomes, “How can I afford one?”

I’ll ask you a question right back — how can you NOT afford one?

Which would you rather do: spend your top-level talent at what you do best, bringing in a professional-level income or waste your talent doing things that take up loads of time but can be done faster and more cheaply by someone who’s in their zone of excellence when doing this detail work?

You can’t do it all … and you don’t have to

Doing what you’re not good at or what you hate to do, or getting bogged down in “grunt work” is not time well spent for you. This is where a VA can make a major difference in your business.

If you spend your time doing your best work — quickly and efficiently — outputting great content and earning a lot, then $60 an hour (at the most) for an executive-level VA is a bargain. A VA who, like you, can produce the work quickly and with very high quality.

If you want one of the 21st century’s biggest tips, here it is: You’ll definitely get ahead much more quickly if you have a great Virtual Assistant at your side, helping you reach your dreams.

Editor's Note:Jan Schochet is an AWAI-trained web copywriter and a business coach. You can learn more about her at: www.gentlethreadmarketing.com.

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Published: November 11, 2011

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