I’m convinced that I’m not just getting older, I’m getting busier.
Life felt hectic when I had a toddler, but these days I hardly have time to blink. I’ve written before about how I am not embarrassed to admit that I have a cleaner. Today, though, I’m talking about another person on my team – my virtual assistant, or VA.
I’m convinced loads of my friends who work online, as writers, bloggers and marketers, would benefit from a VA.
The idea of a VA is to pay someone to do jobs that don’t necessarily NEED to do be done by you. The time this frees up allows you to do MORE of the work that DOES need to be done by you. So you can earn more money, or buy more free time.
Finding a VA isn’t hard, but finding the RIGHT virtual assistant can be. You might ask other bloggers for recommendations, ask around in Facebook groups, or use sites like PeoplePerHour for recommendations.
I sometimes think bloggers don’t like to admit to using VAs.
It’s as though it’s letting people peek behind the curtain. We’re admitting that no, we aren’t actually this Wonder Woman who has discovered the secret to combining full-time parenting, full-time work, an Instagram-worthy cushion arrangement on the sofa AND having regular sex.
Well, if having a VA is cheating, I hold my hand up. I’m a big, fat VA-employing cheat.
I have used virtual assistants for the past four years or so. I’ve hired three VAs during that time, each doing slightly different jobs, depending on what I needed at the time.
I thought it might be useful to share some of the jobs that a virtual assistant can do. I’ll also share some tips for making the most of working with a VA. If you have any suggestions to add, or questions, then I’d love to hear them in the comments.
Invoicing and Admin
My strengths are in working with clients and writing copy. Keeping information organised in spreadsheets? Not so much. My VA helps with issuing and chasing up invoices. At times, my VA has also helped prepare information for tax and VAT returns.
I don’t currently use my VA in a technical role as we have our own company developer. However, a VA with strong blogging skills can take on managing domains, applying updates, and making back-ups. I know some bloggers have worked with VAs on creating and running online courses, downloadable content and even apps.
Social Media Promotion
This is a biggie. Trying to single-handedly promote content and engage with users across Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Instagram Stories, Snapchat, YouTube and God only knows wherever else is humanly impossible. I’m 100% sure of this.
A VA can take charge of sharing content across networks. They can make images for social media sites, and help grow your accounts by tracking who follows you, and finding new people to engage with.
At several points in recent years, I have handed over my inbox to a VA, who then helps me to organise and prioritise inbound messages.
My VA can flag things that look urgent each morning, respond to standard queries (requests for media packs, diary reminders etc), and delete spam messages, while unsubscribing me from newsletters I’ve inadvertently signed up for. My VA will also organise emails into folders so I can easily log in each morning and see all customer queries in one place, and financial emails in another.
If you’re a WordPress user, then you can easily create an editor account for your virtual assistant, so they can log-in and add SEO tags, titles and the like to your posts.
I know some bloggers who write new posts and save them in drafts. Their VA will then complete all the various SEO boxes, add images, and schedule the post – using YOAST is a great way to make this easier. Alternatively, you can ask your VA to work their way through archive posts, adding tags and titles to posts that you wrote before you realised what SEO was…
Write a lot of evergreen content within a niche? If you’re a craft, activities or food blogger, then it makes sense to create regular “round-up” posts of your own (and other people’s) content, helping to boost traffic to those older posts. So your VA might go through your archives and find 10 posts with Winter activities, find 10 posts on other blogs and hey presto, you have a new “20 Winter Activities” post to share on Pinterest.
Chances are you’ve written a lot of reviews over the years you’ve had a blog. One job a VA can do is to trawl through your content, and add affiliate links and images into your old review posts – definitely worth doing if it’s a post that’s doing well in Google searches.
10 Tips for Working with your VA
- Ask questions before you hire. I need a VA who understands Outlook, who uses Hootsuite, who knows WordPress inside out. If you use QuickBooks for invoices, make sure your VA knows it, too. Make a list of apps and skills needed, and interview potential VAs to see how many they match, and how quickly they can get up to speed with the others.
- Don’t be tempted to outsource writing posts to a VA. Your blog is all about your voice, your content, your topics. By all means have your VA research potential topics and keywords, but make sure you keep control of the words.
- In the early days, I once hired someone to do a job that I thought would take about 8 hours a week. After a month, they sent me a bill – for 40 hours a week. That was an expensive mistake (and the end of my working relationship with that particular VA). These days I give VAs a list of tasks and the time I think they’ll take. I might say, “Do this for a week, then let’s talk about if my timings are realistic.” Sometimes it’s a case of supporting your VA and offering them tips on doing things faster, so they feel they’re being paid a fair rate for their time, and you feel you’re getting value for money.
- If your VA is replying to comments on social media or blog posts as you, PLEASE ensure they’re briefed fully and are native English speakers. There’s nothing more clunky than reading a comment on a blog post that is obviously not written by the person it’s supposed to come from.
- Be careful what you share access to. Don’t ever give your VA access to your C Panel, don’t give them access to your blog’s admin account, that sort of thing. Keep a log of what your VA does have access to, and if they move on, ensure you delete those user accounts, and change passwords.
- Do have a clear written agreement that spells out the jobs done by your VA, and the rate you pay them. It should also include a written agreement of confidentiality, copyright compliance, and a non-compete clause (where appropriate). I also tend to insist that people working for me have professional indemnity insurance so that if they slip up, and make an expensive mistake, they’re covered.
- Use third party tools where possible. If I’m using a VA for social media, rather than giving them my Twitter log-in, I add my Twitter account to Buffer or Hootsuite, where I can set up a virtual team. That way I don’t have to change my Twitter log-in if I change VA.
- Set limits. What your PA might think is super efficient and assertive might just be aggressive and rude from the perspective of your clients. I know of bloggers who have VAs that have cost them customers because of just this issue. Be sure to discuss how far you want them to go when following up payments for example, and discuss what is and isn’t okay for them to say.
- Make life easy for your VA. I’m guilty sometimes of making my VAs wait until I get time to answer queries. But for the most part I try and use Dropbox to share batches of images, ensure they have all the log-ins they need in one place, and ensure I’m on hand in the early days to feed back on how tasks are done, and my preferences.
- Track what your VA does. If you’re not a fan of a job, it’s tempting to leave it entirely to your VA. The risk here is getting to the end of the year and realising your invoices all skipped charging VAT, or something similar. I try and use Google Drive to share regular updates from my VA on what’s been done and what’s outstanding, for this reason.