5 Things Writers Should Do before Hiring Virtual Assistants
You have to juggle a lot of different tasks as a writer. On any given week, you’ll need to tackle writing and editing, publicity, formatting, and any number of other chores that you take on to maintain your readership and public appearance while producing quality books. Isn't it time you got a maid?
I'm not entirely joking. In truth, virtual assistants for authors are a growing trend as self-publishing continues to promise a strong future for fiction writers. These professionals can handle any number of tasks, including maintaining an email list, formatting books properly, and arranging for book blog tours and podcast appearances. Anything that doesn't involve actually writing your book can be done by somebody else, and that means that writers who hire assistants can spend less time publishing and more time writing.
Sounds good? It is, and every year sees a new influx of virtual assistants eager to work remotely and giving you more opportunities to thrive as an author.
Before you skip straight to hiring a virtual assistant, however, there are some things you want to keep in mind and get done so you'll be ready for the hiring conversation to start.
1. Learn your schedule.
You already have a good idea of what it takes to be a successful writer, but how many of the fine details of your day can you articulate? Before making your next move and hiring a virtual assistant, spend one week tracking everything that you do throughout your day. How much time do you spend writing emails to your list? What about social media? Book optimization and publicity?
Tracking your time like this will allow you to know specifically what areas you need a virtual assistant to work with. Since different virtual assistants have different specialties, you can get a good idea of what kind of assistant you need to handle what tasks throughout your week.
2. Determine whether you need a virtual assistant.
Although most authors could use a virtual assistant at some point, there's a question of whether you actually need one. If you're just getting started in writing, or if you're working with an extremely limited budget, a virtual assistant might not be worth the money and investment. Likewise, the time that you spend learning the ropes yourself can help you make smarter publishing decisions in the future. Think ahead!
You also might find that you only need a virtual assistant to help with one project or over one stretch of time. Temporary virtual assistants are definitely a thing, and they can be much more cost-effective than hiring someone to help you out full time if you are only concerned with getting a single project off the ground.
3. Decide what you want your VA to do.
Different virtual assistants have different areas of expertise in different levels of knowledge they are comfortable working with. When you're looking at what you would want your VA to do, keep a list handy of what traits and abilities you’re ultimately looking for. These abilities might include comfort at working on a Wix site and handling Mailchimp, or the ability to reach out to media platforms to arrange interviews, or something completely different like access to publishing and layout software that you might not have yourself.
This is an area where flexibility is key, and you want to make note of what you want your virtual assistant to focus on over what you want him or her to merely help out with.
4. Research several different VA’s.
Once you have an idea of what you would like your virtual assistant to do, it’s time to start digging. VA’s can be found anywhere. Many have their own sites available online, and some can be hired over freelance gig setups like Upwork.
Review several different assistants before you make a decision. Skill sets vary highly for this kind of position, and personality also has to be taken into account.
Bonus tip: If you’re looking for a good bang for your buck, you might be tempted to hire a VA on a steep discount, as on Fiverr. I recommend against this, since most of these assistants have much broader and more generalized skill sets that don’t necessarily apply to writing and publishing. You’ll get a better return out of someone who can prime your site to readers specifically instead of someone who only knows SEO site optimization in general.
5. Make a consultation call.
A consultation call with a virtual assistant should not be a sales pitch either on your part or on the part of the assistant. Instead, it provides a chance for you to talk over the phone and see if the two of you would be a good fit.
During your consultation call, be honest about what kind of work you would like your virtual assistant to help you with and where you want to go as an author. The virtual assistant in question can then share more effectively what he or she has to offer and how your own load will be eased in the hiring.
If you can tell you’re not a perfect match, that’s all right. You’re the one doing the hiring, here! Try someone else! If you click and feel like old friends, and if you can’t wait to get to work, you’ll know you’ve found the one.
Do you have experience working with a virtual assistant? Please share it in the comments below or join my Facebook group for self-publishing fiction writers for more discussion.