My number-one secret to a good vacation? Befriending the hotel concierge.
Concierges know the ins and outs of the area you’re staying in. They can give you personalized recommendations for activities, get you a table at the hottest restaurant in town, and help you solve unforeseen issues.
Now imagine having someone like that for your business. Someone with the expertise to help you with tasks you aren’t skilled at, don’t enjoy doing, or no longer have time to do.
Good news—these people exist! They’re called virtual assistants, and today, I’m helping you understand what they are and whether you’re ready to hire one.
What is a virtual assistant?
Virtual assistants (VAs) are remote workers you hire to help with specific tasks for your business. They aren’t in-house employees working solely for your business. Think of VAs as contractors who you hire to work on an hourly or retainer basis.
What does a virtual assistant do?
Virtual assistants are modern Swiss army knives, ready to jump in and help with a variety of tasks.
Here are some popular jobs VAs help creators with:
- Email marketing: Consider enlisting the help of a VA to write email newsletters, nurture sales leads, schedule your newsletter, or draft up new email sequences.
- Email management: Save time by letting a VA reply to emails that don’t require your specific input. You can have your VA forward any important emails to your inbox while they handle the rest.
- Podcasting: Record your podcast and send the raw recordings to a VA to edit, polish, and publish to popular platforms.
- Tool setup: There are many tools to help you run your business—like social media schedulers to help you post consistently or email marketing platforms to let you build an email list. If configuring software isn’t something you want to do, save time by hiring a VA. For example, at ConvertKit, we have a list of vetted expert VAs who will help you migrate to ConvertKit.
- Social media management: If social media isn’t your jam, pass the reigns off to a social media VA. They'll help you create content, schedule it, interact with your followers, or reply to DMs.
- Blogging: Many small blog-related tasks—like keyword research, writing, editing, and uploading the article to your content management system—can be outsourced to a VA.
- Photography: If you need product photos, search for product photography VAs who can photograph and edit your product images and get them ready to post.
- Bookkeeping: Hire a VA to help you manage invoices, collect payment, and record your financials. You’ll be ready to go the next time tax season rolls around!
- Website upkeep: Websites need continual maintenance like plugin updates and troubleshooting. Find a VA to make sure your website remains in tip-top shape.
This list isn’t exhaustive, but it gives you an idea of where a VA can fit into your daily activities.
5 benefits of adding a virtual assistant to your team
1. More focus on big picture goals
When you’re worried about a ballooning inbox or which hashtags to use on your next Instagram post, you’re not focusing on strategies to grow your business or improve your skills.
Lynda Le, a nail technician and founder of the blog Polish Perfect, hired a VA to do administrative tasks like emails and calendar management. She said that because of her VA, she “gets the chance to enroll in courses for personal and business development.” Without her VA, she wouldn’t have time to take courses.
2. Have an expert on-hand
A few months ago, my website went down. I don’t have a VA to help with web stuff, so I had to spend several unbillable hours ironing out the issue. It was a headache and left me cranky and tired, especially as I fell behind on client work and emails.
However, when you have a VA, you don’t need to waste time figuring out things you don’t know—your VA will help. As a bonus, you might even learn new things while working together!
3. Avoid burnout
Creator burnout is a real problem and can happen when you feel out of control and overwhelmed. If you’re drowning in tasks, a VA will lighten your load.
With burnout, prevention is critical. Before you begin to feel exhausted, enlist the help of a VA so you can step back and focus on your mental health.
4. Save costs
In-house employees may need training, a work area, equipment to do their job, health care, benefits, paid sick days, or vacation days. But with a VA, you don’t need to worry about covering those costs. Outsource Access estimates companies can save 78% by turning to VAs instead of in-house employees. Your VA works everything they need into their fees, so you just pay them for the work they do.
5. More time to do what you love
We all have tasks we don’t love doing—for me, it’s bookkeeping and accounting. Have a VA take tedious tasks off your plate so you can spend more time working in your zone of genius.
It’s also worth noting that when you get help from a VA, you can also use your free time to relax—not everything has to be about business!
How much do virtual assistants cost?
The cost of a virtual assistant varies between countries, industries, and their level of expertise. According to Upwork, the median hourly rate of virtual assistants is $10-$20.
I also polled the VA for Hire Facebook group, asking what their average rates were. Most were $25-$50 an hour.
The difference in rates tells us one thing: there’s a good chance you’ll find a VA within your budget.
How to know when you’re ready for a VA
Some days you might feel like you have enough time to get everything done, but other days are more frantic. So when is it time to hire help?
I decided to ask Julienne DesJardin, who knows a thing or two about being a VA. Julienne started freelancing in 2010 for nonprofits and political campaigns in communications and development. She’s grown considerably, and in 2020, she and her team served 44 clients.
When I asked Julienne how to know it’s time to hire a VA, she said she often hears people don’t have enough work to give a VA. To help them figure out if that’s really the case, she recommends a task log:
“I recommend that business owners start to keep a “task log” when they begin thinking about hiring a VA. I suggest they open a Google Sheet or an Excel doc and make two columns – Task and Frequency. As they go about their daily work, they should consider, “is this something I could outsource?” When they've identified something, jot it down and mark if the frequency would be daily, weekly, monthly, or yearly. At the end of a week or two, they'll see just how many things they have to give away. This exercise often helps the people I'm working with to see if they need to hire someone on a monthly retainer, or for periodic, quarterly sprints.”
– Julienne DesJardins
How to hire a virtual assistant for your creative biz
Virtual assistants aren’t hard to find. Still, it takes some digging to find one that’s right for you. To help narrow down your search, I’ve compiled a list of places to find VAs:
- Facebook groups
- Referrals from other creators
- Virtual assistant websites
- Our list of ConvertKit experts
- The Virtual Assistant subreddit
- Searching for Virtual Assistants on LinkedIn
You can also search for specific virtual assistants on Google. Search “virtual assistant” AND [the task you want help with] to bring up VAs who specialize in the area you need help with. For example, I searched “virtual assistant” AND tech support. The results are a mix of freelance VAs and VA agencies.
Aside from finding someone with relevant experience, it’s good to gauge how you feel when talking to your potential VA. Before adding a VA to your team, interview them. Ask for things like references and their portfolio to see if they’ll be a good fit for your biz. Virtual Assistant Julienne touches on why this is important:
“I believe “fit” should be the primary concern for a business owner [when hiring a VA]. In my opinion, a VA should make their potential client feel reassured and steady. The potential client should feel like they have a safe space to speak, and that the VA wants them to succeed. In my experience, it's inevitable that you'll get vulnerable with your VA at some point. This is your small business, and it's intricately tied to your hopes and dreams. You're going to need to feel like you can be honest when you're disappointed, and that the person you're speaking to wants what is best for you.”
– Julienne DesJardins
After finding the perfect VA to add to your team, make time to create processes and documents to get them up to speed with your business. Michael Peres, a journalist and entrepreneur, often hires VAs to help with tasks. He says:
“As a business leader, if you want to hire a VA, you'd have to be extremely organized with all the documents to guide your VAs. You'd have to prepare training sheets, guides, and a plan of action.”
– Michael Peres
The procedures you prepare depend on how your VA will help you. For example, if you’re hiring someone to help with email marketing, you should give them documents like login information to your email management system and a brand voice guide.
And Jessica Clark, who's been a VA for ten years, tells me that as a business owner, you should only accept the best:
“If you aren’t happy with your VA, it is ok to find someone else that better suits your needs. Your business is important and you should only accept quality work.”
– Jessica Clark
Jessica makes a good point. Turning down a potential VA might make you feel uncomfortable, but you need to do what’s right for your business. If a VA isn’t the right fit for you, you’re bound to find others who are a better match.
Streamline your business with a VA
Handing off tasks to someone else can feel intimidating at first, especially when you’re used to doing everything by yourself, but the right VA will put those fears at ease—you might even wish you hired help sooner!
Offloading tasks creates more time to focus on what you love doing. Whether that means spending more time with your family or working towards your big goals, having a VA on your side will help.
Want an easy-to-use email marketing tool for your VA? Try ConvertKit! Sign up and try for free.