One of the most popular topics that comes up with intermediate and advanced freelancers pertains to hiring a Virtual Assistant. These freelancers are curious and want to know when should they hire a VA? They are also curious about how do they know it's time to bring a VA into their business? Another piece of the puzzle is knowing how any freelancer can properly leverage this person.
I have lots of different things to say about hiring a VA. There's no way I can cover it all in one brief podcast episode. So this episode is going to be focused mostly on when it is time to hire a virtual assistant in your freelance business. We are not going to dive too much into the process of doing it. So this is really designed for you if you don't have a virtual assistant yet in your freelance business. It’s also for you if you may have hired one in the past and didn't have a good experience. This episode is also for you if you've never worked with a virtual assistant before to get those creative juices flowing about the different types of things that you might be able to use a virtual assistant for.
Now being fully booked is also a sign that your rates are too low and that they need to be increased. But when you're fully booked and your plate cannot handle any more projects on it, you have officially capped out your revenue. At this point in your business, you cannot take on any other projects and you cannot realistically expect your business to grow.
When you have filled every single hour of every day and you're racing against the clock it is time to hire a VA. You may even be finding at the end of the day that you're barely getting your deadlines done. You might even be even falling a little bit behind. So when you are fully booked, you can’t afford to be spending time on tasks like:
These tasks are taking up valuable space in your calendar. It's also draining your energy and pulling you away from those processes in your business where it could be handled by somebody else. It’s also unlikely that these kinds of tasks you’d outsource to a virtual assistant are in your own zone of genius.
But this person handles tasks digitally and does them for you either by when they're being paid by the hour, being paid by retainer, or per project. You don't have to start in a big way to bring in a virtual assistant. You can start with just a couple of hours per week with inexperienced VA, even a new VA if you're willing to train them on the process. But being fully booked is that first key sign that you have too much going on and you're actually at risk of dropping one of the balls in your business and starting to make mistakes or miss deadlines.
Deciding what to outsource to your VA is important- learn about the risks of overloading your VA in this blog post.
A lot of us don't really know and tend to underestimate how much time we are dedicating to administrative tasks. So what I encourage you to do is to track your time for a full week. You can do it loosely in a notebook or you can use a tool like toggle that's toggle.com which will help you set up different categories and labels for your tasks. And then you can figure out what you're spending your time on. There's also another great tool called rescue time, which will essentially analyze what you're doing on a weekly basis and send you reports as well as red flags of key issues.
So one of the things that really opened my eyes to needing to delegate and outsource more was when rescue time sent me a report about spending 12 hours a week in my email inbox. That's not something that I want to do. I don't think that's something that anyone wants to do. But it was my first real wake up call that I was going to have to do things differently. To find a way to get on top of my inbox management,I had to hire somebody to help me with it and implement some different systems and tools.
So if you've tracked your time using toggle or some other way and you're finding that you're spending more than five hours a week in administrative tasks, you are doing too much of those tasks. You are limiting your revenue and your business growth potential. So if more than five hours as being dedicated to that, it's time to take a step back and say, “What of these things can I outsource to someone else?”
A lot of people and freelancers are nervous about passing that on to someone else in their business. That's probably the last thing you'll outsource to somebody that you really trust and have been working with for a while. You can still leverage a lot more of your time by choosing to outsource something else.
For me, social media is a huge drain on my time. I don't enjoy doing it. It's far too easy to go down the rabbit hole with social media and end up looking at things that weren't the reason I hopped on there. Right? We've all done that. You might get on social media to schedule something and then you find yourself distracted. I'm always looking for ways to more efficiently use my time.
I have had an extension installed on my internet browser for probably four or five years now called kill the news feed. When I sign in from any of my computers, I cannot see any of the news feed that makes it so tempting to scroll. You still see all of the rest of Facebook. You can navigate to your groups, you can view your notifications, and you can even click on your own page to get there and update things. But that has been instrumental in saving my time.
When I did that, I also realized that I didn't love doing social media. So I searched for a virtual assistant who could help by planning and scheduling posts to keep those types of things off my plate. So I saw that I was spending more than five hours a week on social media. I was spending more than five hours a week in admin. Those are perfect things to outsource to a virtual assistant. It’s a great place to get started.
Now you don't owe it to any virtual assistant to pay them forever. You can work out your own payment terms and maybe bring them on for a couple of hours per week or for a limited engagement to start. But you want to be making relatively consistent revenue to where you don't feel like your not able to pay them.
You don't want to set up a situation where you bring this person into your business and then you're not able to pay them several weeks or months in. I've seen this happen before and it can be really frustrating for the virtual assistant who essentially pulls time out of their schedule to help you figure out how to get everything organized. They do all of the onboarding work. They get to know you and your clients and the different industries that you work in. And then if you're not making consistent enough revenue for whatever reason, it gets very frustrating for the VA because they essentially have to step right back out of being able to work with you.
That's not a situation that anyone wants. So do you need to be making 5,000 or $10,000 a month to justify a VA? Not necessarily, but I would recommend consistently making at least $3,000 so that you can dedicate a portion,possibly $200 or $300 a month to start. And you can scale that as your business grows, but you want to make sure you have that money to pay your VA..
Consistent revenue is also a sign that your business is poised for growth. So that is your signal to start thinking more clearly about how you dedicate your time with what you do on a daily basis within your business. So the more you can be critical of how you're currently spending your time, how you divide that up, and how you decide if this is something you could potentially outsource is an excellent way to feel more confident about how you go through with this different with this process.
And that's when you're ready to hand over control. Hiring a VA does not mean that you have to hand over complete control of your business, but it does mean that you have to take a step back. You have to decide how you can remove yourself from some of the processes of your business. Ultimately, this is going to help you learn to be more effective. It's going to help your business scale. You're going to get more of your time back that you can spend.as you want. But at the end of the day, you are still going to have to give up some level of control.
You're going to have to share password information with somebody who is new to your business. That's always going to be nerve wracking. It's going to be nerve wracking to hire someone who's going to do something that is facing the front of your business. So talking with potential clients etc, but that will always be there, right? Because you've put so much energy and time into establishing your business and it's just scary to kind of hand that over to another person.
But it's also something that is really important to think about. There's a lot of different benefits that you can get from outsourcing to a virtual assistant and knowing how you're going to leverage that Think about what the benefits are for you and your business and even your clients. It will give you a lot of peace of mind.
Now there's many out there, some of the most common that a freelancer might be hiring are:
They might design your sales pages, opt in pages, landing pages, and edit your graphics for social media. A content manager is someone who is helping you to write press releases, newsletters, directory submissions, or creating, editing or posting your blogs on your behalf. I have a VA on my team who helps to make sure that all of the content that I create is ready to be published live.
Now, the category of general virtual assistant can also include social media VAs. You might sometimes find social media VA's working outside of the general VA term because they won't take on generalized projects. They'll specifically do social media. But general VAs are where most freelancers are going to start when hiring their very first project working with their very first virtual assistant.
General VAs can do things like data entry, preparing PowerPoint presentations, light transcribing of audio and video files, creating templates for documents, creating forms, online research, sending client invoices, basic bookkeeping, putting together training materials, personal errands, doing research, or finding hotel/travel reservations for you. They may also be able to add images and tags to blog posts. They are acting somewhat like a receptionist, managing your calendar, creating your social media accounts, or uploading your videos on YouTube so you can see how there's a lot of different tasks that fall under that umbrella of general virtual assistant.
For a freelancer, you have to hone in on what it is you do best that only you can do in you business that is writing for clients and that is specifically speaking to clients. Outside of that, there's a lot of tasks that you could do, but I don't really need to do. That's why it's a good idea to be able to outsource it to someone else on you team.
It changes based on the projects that I have going. Some of my VA's are with me for the long run and have been with me for years. I have VA's that work on my YouTube channel, on my podcast and it's corresponding show notes, VA's that work on social media and a VA that runs one of my other businesses for me completely and prepares all of my PowerPoints. And I have someone who posts my blogs for me and post a lot of my LinkedIn articles as well. So there's all kinds of different ways that you can leverage virtual assistants.
Freelance writers, in particular, might even consider using a virtual assistant to do some research. That's a great way to still keep integrity with your writing process, but still ensuring that you're making the most of all the time that you have.
What you do with that time is up to you. You might take more of a break and reduce your working hours. You might scale and spend some of that time trying to bring in new clients. That's really up to you. Deciding why you're going to hire your VA is going to be important. That way you can measure your success. How will you know when a relationship with the VA is successful? When you have two or three more hours a week to plan and do certain things.
So if you've been thinking about hiring a virtual assistant and you're sort of stuck and don't know what to do next, a future episode, we'll go into some more detail about the process of hiring a VA and what you can specifically expect. This is your teaser to start considering how you might be able to leverage a VA in your own freelance business. I'll tell you that I do not know any six-figure freelancer who does not use at least one virtual assistant. So if that's where you are aspiring to go, if you're looking to make more money and get more of your time back, hiring a VA should be the next thing on your radar.
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