The first thing you may be thinking is, “What in the world is a Virtual Assistant?” Commonly known as a VA, a Virtual Assistant is just what the name implies-someone who acts as your assistant, but virtually. They don’t come to your office and answer phone calls. But they DO answer your emails, post to your social media accounts, do research for upcoming posts…whatever you task them to do. Many, many things a blogger deals with every day can be handled by someone else behind another computer screen. This frees up the blogger (or really any kind of entrepreneur who’s too busy to sit behind a laptop all day) to focus on writing, photography, or just get dinner on the table in time!
Hiring a Virtual Assistant
I came to the point in my blogging “career” where I decided I’m just going to have to spend money to make money. I didn’t have time to answer all my emails and chase down all the leads out there for sponsored posts, so I was losing money. Instead, I was spending a minimum of two hours every morning linking up with Facebook groups, sharing things on Google+, pinning other bloggers’ work and a myriad of other social media jobs, just to get my posts seen. This is a necessary evil, but it can be a time-sucker. So I bit the bullet and hired a VA.
For me, it was actually a simple process because my brother, who runs several websites and has an online business on the side, had already hired a virtual assistant through Virtual Staff Finder, run by Chris Ducker, the KING of virtual business. My brother no longer needed all twenty hours per week that she was contracted for, so we began to split her hours. You can hire a virtual assistant through a service like this one, or find someone via word of mouth. There are a lot of great bloggers out there that also do VA work. (Honestly, I have no idea HOW they find time to run their own site as well as their clients, but they do!)
After you have found someone to work with, I believe it’s a very smart idea to hire them on for a trial three-month period. During this time, you should track all your social media stats, your blog stats, and your engagement. There are other, less tangible things to consider as well. Do you have more time to do the things you love? Are you spending more quality time writing or photographing, or do you still feel chained to your computer? At the end of three months, give yourself and your VA an honest assessment and decide from there if you need to increase hours, lower hours, or go back to doing things yourself.
Tasking a Virtual Assistant
All of this prep work brings you to the point of actually getting started. Where do you begin? My VA is primarily handling social media for me. We communicate through email, although Skype is an option if we need it. You can also do Google Hangouts if you like to converse face-to-face. When I was ready to get started, I sent several emails with Google Docs explaining exactly what I was expecting her to do and how to post my content on each social media platform.
We sent a few emails back and forth and solidified exactly what was going to be done and when. One thing to consider is the time difference between you, especially if you are using your VA for social media. You want as much to be done live as possible for better reach and interaction. My virtual assistant now lives in Mexico, so she’s just two hours ahead of me. I set my posts to go live at 5:00 AM my time and she’s ready to go each morning. I will email the short link and any necessary photos to her the night before, along with instructions for the next day. If you are more on top of things than I am, you could send weekly emails instead of daily ones. I just never know for sure if I am going to move things around on my calendar and whether or not a sponsored post is going to come through, so I keep it on a daily basis for now.
The most valuable tool you will need when getting started is Last Pass. On Facebook you can assign someone to be your page admin, but you can’t do that anywhere else. If you have the paid version of HootSuite, you can add a team member and they can share using that, but many of the sites don’t do well with third-party sharing. Last Pass allows you to share your log in information to any site without actually sharing the passwords. This way your information remains secure, but your virtual assistant can get into your sites and post updates, share links, answer tweets or whatever you ask them to do.
The last thing my VA does each day is report her hours on a Google Doc spreadsheet. It just lists the date, hours clocked, tasks accomplished and any notes that may be necessary. As things come up, I create more docs to keep track of things. I have a spreadsheet for all the submission sites like FoodGawker, CraftGawker, etc. and she spends a lot of time submitting my posts and updating that doc for me. That’s something that I knew would bring more traffic to my blog, but I was unable to get done each day. It’s so nice to have the behind-the-scenes stuff done for me! Roundups are now her responsibility completely, from finding the links, sourcing them properly, to putting the final post together.
I could go on and on about the benefits of a virtual assistant, but I think you get the idea. 🙂 Ask yourself, what is it that I’m doing INSTEAD of what I want to be doing? Can a VA take care of some of those tasks for you? How much is that worth to you? It’s surprisingly affordable to hire some help and you can focus on taking your blog or business to the next level!