Do you feel overwhelmed by business tasks that drain you or seem to take an inordinate amount of energy? Has building your business moved into your life like the demanding roommate you never wanted? You’re not alone!
And, if you’re not there yet, you most likely will be! At some point, every business owner will need help to grow their bottom line, even if the business is small, perhaps especially if it’s small.
Thanks to the growing gig economy and remote workers, you don’t need a big budget or big overhead to hire help. Virtual assistants are increasingly meeting a need for businesses of all sizes.
So is it time to hire a VA for your business?
First, fully consider your DIY and inexpensive online productivity options. Here are a just a few:
1. What kind of VA do you really need?
You can hire a virtual assistant to help with a wide variety of business tasks and management. A lot of companies, large and small, hire VAs to help with general administrative tasks but the list of what VAs do is comprehensive and includes things like customer support, content writing, research, digital marketing, social media, web design and development, video production… the list goes on.
According to Chris Ducker, virtual CEO, author, and founder of Youpreneur.com, the following is a good exercise to determine what kind of VA you need. Take a piece of paper and write three column headings across the top.
- Things you hate doing every day
- Things you can’t do yourself
- Things you shouldn’t be doing
Evaluate the tasks that make up your day and add to the appropriate columns.
Ducker calls this exercise a “roadmap to working with a VA” and maintains you can leverage your time better by hiring a virtual assistant to take over work in any of those three columns.
“Having a VA is SO beneficial because I can stay in my zone of genius. I don’t have to think about the things that I am not passionate about, which drain me physically. I can focus on what comes from my heart and delegate the rest.”- Dawna Toews
Marc Pitman, executive coach, speaker, and CEO at The Concord Leadership Group has worked with three virtual assistants over the years. His most successful working relationship is with his current assistant, in part because as he says, “I stopped trying to hire people like me.”
Remember, you’re hiring someone to free up your time so you can be more productive on the things you’re really good at doing. Maximize that efficiency by hiring a VA to the stuff you don’t, can’t, or shouldn’t be doing.
2. Do you need a Social Media VA?
For many small businesses and solopreneurs your social media presence doesn’t need to be grand, but it should be strategic. Anything less is a waste of valuable time and resources.
Pinterest alone has more than 335 million users every month, and its active user base grew 26% last year. It’s the third-largest social network in the U.S. and is rated as the 10th most relevant brand, just behind household names like Apple, Spotify, Android, and Disney.
Across all platforms, active social media users have passed the 3.8 billion mark. With these kinds of numbers, most businesses can’t afford not to be on social media. So back to those three columns. Does social media management show up on any of your lists?
Creating and posting new content, checking industry mentions, responding to comments and mentions, analyzing metrics, connecting with followers, etc. It can all be outsourced to a social media virtual assistant.
Maybe you technically can take photos and write captions for Instagram, post content to Facebook, create Pins, and update Twitter. And maybe you don’t even hate it. But does that mean you should? Is that the best use of your time?
Managing a marketing channel can be extremely time-consuming. Fortunately, social media management is something many virtual assistants do.
3. How to find a VA
Virtual assistants have become an important human resource for many solopreneurs and small to medium-sized companies.
Here’s a list of 30 different companies that help match employers and virtual assistants. You’re probably familiar with a few of them, especially if you’ve looked to hire other freelancers.
Remember that a VA is a freelancer, so you may find qualified people on freelance sites even if those people don’t describe themselves as VA’s. The key is to know the task you want to be done and hire accordingly.
There’s a place for referral and hiring sites, and they are without a doubt helpful if you don’t have referrals to draw on.
However, a lot of small business owners and entrepreneurs find that word of mouth and asking other people who’ve successfully hired a VA can be a very effective way of finding the right person for your business.
Marc Pitman, the CEO who stopped trying to hire people like himself, has had the most success when hiring virtual assistants based on colleague referrals.
If you don’t know anyone who’s hired a VA there are a lot of services to help you. And if you do know someone with a great VA, ask for a referral.
4. Can you afford it?
Virtual assistants may charge a flat or hourly rate. And what they charge will depend on the type of work they do, their experience, and location.
For a VA with a specialized skill set and experience, or for an executive virtual assistant who helps with business proposals, project management, and company events you can expect to pay executive assistant rates, upwards of $40 per hour.
According to PayScale the average hourly pay for a virtual assistant is $15.75, or between $10 to $30 per hour. Many social media and digital marketing virtual assistants would fall in this range.
Like hiring anyone for your business, you’ll have to crunch some numbers to do the cost/benefit analysis. Here’s a formula that can help:
- Your value per hour $ _____
- Typically, how much of your day do you spend on work you could outsource to a VA? (for example: administrative, technical, and social media tasks) ____ hours.
- Your value per hour $ _____ x _____ number of hours you are spending on non-billable tasks you can outsource = $______.
Let’s say your value is $100 per billable hour and you spend 2.5 hours a day on administrative or social media tasks. You could outsource those tasks to a VA and be earning $250 more per day if you spent those hours on income-generated work.
That $250 would more than pay for the VA, who charges only $20 per hour for those same tasks. It’s very possible that you will make more money by hiring a virtual assistant.
Just remember, like any new employee, you’ll need to account for the inefficiency of onboarding a virtual assistant. Pitman found that he had to be “explicit in my instructions: what I valued as a company, how we treated customers, and exactly how each step was completed”.
But as he acknowledges, once your standard operating procedures (SOPs) and other repetitive and routine task lists are established, not only are there cost savings to hiring a virtual assistant, but there is also greater peace of mind that you are spending your most valuable resource, your time, wisely.
5. What if you just can’t hire a VA
Here’s the thing, even after doing the math you still might not be able to hire a VA right now. It’s wise to only hire help when your revenue stream can support it or you really can’t live without it. You might not have enough billable hours or revenue-generating work to justify the expense.
That’s ok. All small businesses have been there. And maybe you’re just a freelancer yourself looking to spend a few fewer hours on your social media and administrative tasks. A situation many of us are familiar with.
There are services, both free and low-cost to help you better manage your social media and digital marketing strategy.
Think about our list of DIY tools above. If you aren’t already using them, you may want to start there. For example, Tailwind’s Instagram and Pinterest social media scheduling apps will help you get real results in less time. You can do all of your visual social posts in batches, and let Tailwind post for you.
Bonus 1: You can set it and forget it, spending your time on the tasks most important to you.
Bonus 2: You’ll get better results! Tailwind’s SmartSchedule picks the times when your audience is most engaged.
Boomerang for Gmail also offers this type of batch work flexibility for email. You can draft your emails and then schedule the send for later in the day or the week.
Bonus 3: Your clients don’t have to know that you are working on their projects in the middle of the night!
Placeit offers templates to simplify graphic design. Instead of starting a design project from scratch, you can choose a template, which includes backgrounds and fonts that go well together, and save at least 2 hours of trying to make something look good.
Without a doubt, a virtual assistant can be a real benefit to your enterprise or team. Now’s the time to weigh your options and get the help you need to grow your business. Use online tools to help you make your life much easier by getting most of the work off your hands.
About the Author
Renee Tougas is a blogger and online content creator with an extensive background in education. Her work invites readers and podcast listeners to consider new perspectives and broaden their horizons with memoirist storytelling and photography. She also works part-time on the marketing team at Tailwind, a Pinterest and Instagram scheduling app. An avid outdoors person, Renee is happiest in the woods or on a mountain summit. Follow her adventures on Instagram @reneetougas.