That’s where virtual assistants come in, also lovingly known as VAs. They’re essentially the elves working behind the scenes to keep track of details so you can focus on what you do best -- the writing. Yes, strange as it may seem, there are some people who actually thrive on keeping track of those details, bless their freakishly organized hearts :)
When the Seekers asked me to write about my experience as a virtual assistant, I developed four essential questions to help you decide if this arrangement would be a good fit for you. Regardless of where you are in the publication process, if you’re a writer with an internet presence, marketing and social media responsibilities, and busy, real-life responsibilities, these questions are for you to ponder.Does it make sense for me to hire a virtual assistant?
As an author, you should consider yourself a small business owner. Many of my clients are small business owners in a range of fields, but being an author is just as much of a business with an overwhelming number of details to manage. Having a virtual assistant makes sense for you if you have the leeway in your budget to delegate the small but important tasks that otherwise have the tendency to fall through the cracks.
Consider it investing in your career. The return can be invaluable if you and your virtual assistant devise a plan to increase your marketing and online presence, reach new readers, and continue to connect with the ones you currently have.
You may, like many, have the mentality of those who dream of all the ways housekeepers could make life easier -- except in this case, there’s no pressure to have everything in order before they arrive. If you’ve identified a need that could enable other aspects of your career to thrive, then you’re set. That’s where virtual assistants step in and handle the details according to the level of control and liberty you give them.
What specific ways can a virtual assistant help me?
This depends on what kinds of responsibilities you have, where your strengths/preferences lie, and what your virtual assistant is qualified to handle. If you’re in the middle of a blog tour, for example, a virtual assistant can help you format posts, create graphics, and promote the guest appearances on your social media outlets. If you need help with time management, an extra set of eyes for your deadlines and work commitments could be beneficial. If you’re about to go on the road for a speaking engagement, a VA could create a visual aid (like a PowerPoint presentation) to accompany your talk.
Other duties may include creating content for your social media accounts, researching new avenues for readership and promotion, managing your blog or newsletter, answering basic email inquiries for you. As in every business, you should maintain a level of personal interaction and intimacy with your readers, but there will always be some tasks you’d rather spend less energy on so you can focus on your writing instead. And that’s absolutely okay.
What should I look for in a virtual assistant?
The top trait you should seek in a virtual assistant is trust. Of course, if you don’t know this person, that trust will have to be earned, which is why I recommend discussing a (paid, of course) trial period up front. Can you trust this person to maintain confidentiality? Can you trust this person to work diligently, particularly if you’re operating on an hourly pay structure? Can you trust this person to represent you coherently with good grammar, spelling, and sentence structure?
Virtual assistants come in a variety of shapes and sizes and strengths. They may be college students, freelancers, or stay-at-home moms looking to bring in a little extra income. Aspiring authors are a great resource because this inside exposure to the business of writing can be invaluable to them, as well. But regardless of your potential VA’s story, he or she should be trustworthy, have impeccable attention to detail, possess strengths that fit your needs (graphic design, social media, etc.) and have a personality that meshes well with yours. That last aspect is especially important because, as the characters in your stories often illustrate, good communication is vital. Plus, life is too short to work with people you don’t like.
What are the logistics of having a virtual assistant? How does it actually work?
Before you enter into an agreement with a virtual assistant, it’s important to discuss expectations and be upfront from the very beginning, even if you have a non-confrontational personality. He or she needs to know what kinds of tasks you will assign, how quickly you will expect turnaround on projects, and the best way to communicate with each other throughout the week. My friend Casey Herringshaw, who is also a virtual assistant, recommends asking the virtual assistant to maintain clear records of tasks performed and the amount of time spent on each, so both parties have the knowledge to plan for the future and make any necessary adjustments.
As far as pay is concerned, before you even consider hiring, evaluate how many hours a day you are spending on the tasks you’d like to delegate to a virtual assistant. Then consider how much money you can comfortably set aside to invest. Knowing this information will make the discussion of compensation as simple as possible. While VAs operate on a variety of pay schedules, my personal favorite is a monthly (or sometimes weekly) structure with a maximum number of hours. This is easier for you, as an employer, to know that you won’t exceed your budget, and it also builds in protection for the virtual assistant to know how much time he or she will need to devote to the tasks you assign.
On that note, communicating expectations is vital. Any stylistic preferences for a given task should also be expressed as early as possible so the finished product is as close to your vision as it can be. While last-minute opportunities/emergencies are a natural and understandable part of any business, giving reasonable notice for projects, along with providing feasible timetables for completion, shows respect and appreciation for your VA’s time.
I hope this foray into virtual assisting got the wheels turning in your mind and these four questions help you decide whether retaining a VA is the right move for you. With a healthy amount of trust, respect, and communication, your VA can save you time and help your career immensely. Thanks again for hosting me, lovelies of Seekerville!
Do you work with a virtual assistant? In your dream world, what ways could a virtual assistant help you?
She is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers and a regular contributor at TheWritersAlleyBlog.com. Her work is represented by Rachel Kent of Books & Such Literary and earned the ACFW Genesis Award in 2013 (Contemporary) and 2014 (Romance).
You can connect with Laurie on Facebook, Twitter @LaurieTomlinson, and her website.
In honor of Laurie's visit, Seekerville is giving away a $20 gift card to get you organized. Staples or Office Depot. Winner's choice. All you have to do is comment today and you are in the drawing. Winner announced in the Weekend Edition!