A lot of us tend to be solo entrepreneurs and you hear a lot of people talking about working with a VA. You know that delegating all the stuff you don’t like is going to help your business grow but you don’t even know where to start.
If you’re like me and you consider yourself a “perfectionist”, it can be nerve-racking to hand over your to-do list. What if they suck? What if you have to redo it and then you’re not only out the money and time it took to do it yourself but you also feel like an idiot? I’ve been there and hopefully, I can help you avoid the same pitfalls.
What is a VA?
A VA (or virtual assistant) is someone you hire to help support you in your weak spots. They are typically freelancers who work remotely, usually from home. VAs range from a general VA who is like a secretary or personal assistant to specialized experts in things like Facebook ads, graphic design, and programming.
When I’m working with my VAs, I like to use the Clockwork system. If you haven’t already, read this book. I highly recommend this system for streamlining your business and boosting your productivity.
In a nutshell, Clockwork helps you identify the main thing that propels your business forward. What gets you the most sales? What do you do that grows your audience the most? What is “the thing”? You want to start working with a VA to help you with that.
Let’s say you have a blog, a YouTube channel, and a podcast. When you ask your people how they found you, the most common way is through your podcast. That would be your “thing”. That doesn’t mean you ignore your other traffic sources. It just means that you put more of your efforts into your main income or traffic stream.
Next, take some time to pinpoint what takes you the longest when it comes to your thing. Where is the bottleneck? Once you’ve identified your weak point, that’s where you want to focus on when it comes to working with a VA.
For us, the Inbox Besties podcast is our “thing”. The bottleneck was creating blog posts to go along with each podcast episode. I wanted to turn my podcast episodes into blog posts but it would take me forever to do it properly. Before I started working with a VA, I would just shove the show notes and the podcast player into a post and call it a day. By doing that, I was cutting off another means of traffic. Show notes and embedded podcast episodes aren’t exactly great for SEO or getting new email subscribers from my blog. Now, I have someone who listens to the podcast and then writes a blog post that actually reads like a blog post (like this one you’re reading now).
Where is the biggest bottleneck when it comes to your business? Where do you feel like you’re drowning in your to-do list? What do you keep putting off because you’re just not into it? Hire around that.
A mistake that some people make when they’re first working with a VA is to hire a general VA without knowing what you want to actually have this person do.
By knowing where your biggest money-making activities are and then identifying where the bottleneck is that keeps you from getting more done, you’ll be crystal clear on exactly what you need to hire a VA to take off your plate. For some people that may mean they need someone to tidy up their inbox. If you have paid products, taking care of refund requests or tech support might drain your energy. Whatever your own bottleneck is, there are VAs out there who would love to take that off your plate.
Hiring Your Team
You can work with a VA for a one-off project or you can work with a VA on an ongoing basis. A lot of people start off with a “general VA”. That’s someone you can throw pretty much anything at and they can help you with but they aren’t necessarily an expert. That’s nice at the beginning when you’re learning how to work with a VA. When you’re ready for more specialized support, you can find someone who is focused in one certain area like Facebook ads or Pinterest management.
When it comes to finding the perfect VA to work with, you can always ask your peers their recommendations for a great VA. Some popular places to find both general and specialized VAs are Freelancer.com, Upwork and Fiverr, and even Facebook groups.
If you’re specifically hiring someone to help write content for your blog, ProBlogger is a great option. ProBlogger charges per word so you want to be super specific on what you’re hiring for. It also helps to find someone who is already knowledgeable about your industry. If you’re running a health and wellness blog, you don’t just want to hire a freelance writer, you want to hire a freelance writer who specializes in writing for health and wellness.
So, where did I find my team?
The very first person I hired was a recommendation from a client. Because she is based out of the Philippines, she was super-affordable but it didn’t work out. There was so much hand-holding that it took me just as long to walk her through everything as it would to just do it myself. I was literally spending two hours to show her how to do two hours’ worth of work. It just wasn’t there. Also, I was new to working with a VA so I wasn’t very good at it. Me being a control freak made me nervous and it just wasn’t’ a good fit.
The next person to join my team was a student of mine in Love Your List. She’s in charge of editing the podcast and creating the blog posts. It took me a few tries to find the right person for that spot. You will find the same thing – your first hire may not always be a winner – which is no different than working in a brick and mortar environment. It was hard to find someone who could capture my voice and who realized the difference between the flow of a podcast and a blog post. There are still some things I’d like to improve on but like everything in business, it’s a work in progress.
The next addition to my team was referred to me by my podcast editor/blog writer. I had been looking for a while for someone to be my “right-hand lady” and she’s knocking it out of the park. She takes care of all the little details that I could never seem to get around to. She helps manage some of the day-to-day tasks, coordinate my travel & speaking engagements, organize my inbox, and much more. I call her my “work wife” because she’s literally in charge of Kate.
The latest addition to Team Kate is someone to help with my social media. My main VA and I were overwhelmed and it was holding us back from growth. I ended up hiring a family member, which can be tricky. However, I knew this person’s work ethic and knew what they are capable of. That being said, I knew I would have to completely train this person 100%. Going into it, I had the mindset and expectation that it was going to take some time to sit down and train them on exactly what I needed. Now that we’ve gotten everything going, it’s a lot smoother.
When you are finding people offline, you can expect to pay less but you are going to spend a lot more time training.
When you are finding people offline, you can expect to pay less but you are going to spend a lot more time training. You’ll also pay less outside of the Facebook realm but just know that you’re going to invest more time in training.
Tools I Use When Working With My VAs
Right now, the main tools I use are Trello, WhatsApp & Loom to manage my business and communicate with my VAs.
As you all know, I love Trello. After all, I have an entire course around it. While Trello has been amazing so far, at this point, my team is outgrowing the functionality of it. Because of that, I’ve been stepping out a bit and looking at other systems to make working with my VAs easier and more streamlined. I’ve been looking at Notion and ClickUp so far but I haven’t made a firm decision just yet.
ClickUp has some advanced features that let me assign multiple due dates to multiple team members for the same project – which is a big deal when you’re working with a VA for social media and another one for blog posts for the same project. In Trello, it’s clunky to assign different due dates to different VAs so I’m having to do some of these things manually.
Within Trello, I have several boards to help make working with my VAs easier.
One board is strictly for Inbox Besties podcast. Every step of production is mapped out from the content ideas, to editing, to creating the blog post, to social media. It’s all on one board that everyone is a part of. Plus it’s fun to see all the moving parts and watch the cards move from one task to the next.
Then there’s my big board that my main VA is on. That is my business hub where I keep track of all the moving parts, my launches, my goals, future content, and everything else that’s going on behind the scenes.
If you’re looking to use Trello to make working with your VAs easier, there are lessons in Trello Magic that goes over how to use Trello to work with your VA.
If you haven’t heard of Loom yet, it’s a free screencasting video service. You can use it to record yourself talking to the camera, record your screen, or you can do a combo where your face is in a small circle at the bottom.
I’ve created Loom videos and instructions with each Trello board so my team can always refer to them as a reference. That makes working with a VA much smoother because I only have to explain exactly how I want things to go one time. It also helps me get super clear on what I want and expect from my team. Another benefit of this is that if I ever need someone else to take care of something like if someone goes on vacation or I end up having to replace someone, the instructions are already laid out.
Google Drive & Dropbox:
When you’re working with a VA, you’re going to need somewhere to store shared files. For Inbox Besties, we use Dropbox for the podcast episode audio. I upload the raw audio to the Dropbox folder and my podcast editor can grab the file from there, do her thing, and then upload the final version as well as any other files that go with that episode.
For everything else, I use Google Drive and the rest of the G-Suite. We use Google Sheets to keep track of affiliate links, podcast episodes and that sort of thing. Blog posts are first created in a Google Doc before they are added to the blog. We also use GMail for our inbox. Honestly, the whole G-Suite is vital to the operation of my business.
When you’re working with a VA, communication is crucial. Since my team is global, using WhatsApp makes working with a VA overseas much easier. My primary VA lives in Spain so regular texts or voice notes won’t work. Within WhatsApp, you can also have group chats so you’re able to communicate with as many people on your team as you need to.
How Much Does it Cost to Work With A VA?
Now that you’ve identified your bottlenecks and have decided that working with a VA makes sense, you’ve got to figure out how much of your business budget is going to your team. How much do you pay them?
Like anything, there can be a wide range of normal. From $2 an hour to $200 an hour and everything in between, it can be kind of confusing to navigate how much to pay your VA.
When I was working with my VA from the Philippines, I was paying $5 an hour. She was creating pins for Pinterest and following people on Instagram for me. To be honest, there was no real strategy behind it and it wasn’t the best use of my resources. I’m going to chalk that up to growing pains and a learning experience.
On the other end of the spectrum, my content creator is who I pay most per hour. It took a while to find the right person who really understood what I needed when it came to turning a podcast episode into a fully fleshed-out blog post. Since it’s a more specialized project, you can expect to pay more for a good content creator.
A specialized VA can range anywhere from $25-$75 (and even more) an hour, depending on what you’re needing to be done. Hiring someone to help edit YouTube videos, develop an app or a fully functional sales funnel is going to be much more per hour than hiring someone to help you manage your inbox.
My general VA is somewhere in the middle of those two. She’s almost a project manager at this point so she’s on the upper end of what you would expect to pay for a general VA. Anywhere from $15-30 an hour is pretty normal. Any less than that, you’ll probably have to do a lot of training and hand-holding.
When it comes to social media, you can expect to pay anywhere from $15-$50 an hour. Right now the person I’m working with is closer to the lower end of that since I’m not looking for strategy or anything, just implementation. Strategy is always going to cost you more but if that’s your weakness, it’s smarter to get someone to help you with that and pay a little more than to pay someone less and it not really go anywhere.
Make sure to not overpay when you’re first starting out. If you do, you’re going to always have in the back of your head that you are being taken advantage of. You’ll quietly wonder if they are really worth the money and it’s going to have some bad mojo behind it.
Do your due diligence. A good place to do some research about what price range is normal is to scope out some Facebook groups where people are looking to hire VAs. Check out those VAs websites and see what they are charging. That will help you get a good idea of what the usual range is for the task and skill level you are looking to hire.
Keep in mind that like all things, there are going to be people just starting out who you can hire for less and people who are experts in their niche who will charge a premium for that experience. You’re going to trade off training time for expertise.
It’s a good rule of thumb to hire VAs who are in your range as far as experience goes.
If you’ve been in business for 6 months, hiring someone who has been doing this for 10 years isn’t usually going to be a good match.
What Can I Delegate?
Curious about what ‘Team Kate’ does to help my business run more smoothly? If you’re new to working with a VA, the possibilities can be overwhelming so I’m going to share exactly what each person on my team does. Keep in mind, there are service providers for literally every single thing you do in your business.
For my team, here’s what each person does:
My content creator/podcast editor:
- Edit the raw podcast audio
- Upload it to Podbean
- Creates the show notes
- Writes the blog post
- Formats the blog for WordPress
- Optimizes for SEO
- Finds relevant blog posts to link to
- Finds high-quality stock photos (she supplies the stock photos)
- Creates the primary Pinterest graphic
- Schedules the podcast and blog post to publish on the correct day
Social media manager:
- Create alternate pins
- Create the headlines
- Posts the pin from the blog post that goes out
- Manages Tailwind
- Schedules pins with Tailwind
- Create audiograms
- Schedules content on Instagram and FB
- Create captions
- Shares pins from old blog post in tribes
- Branded stories for Instagram
General VA/Assistant/Work Wife:
- Failed payments
- Refund requests
- Coordinating travel
- Arranging speaking gigs and conferences
- Calendar management
- Inbox management
- Manage podcast guests
- Podcast outreach
- Arrange meetings
- Light tech (set up Zoom meetings for example)
- Facebook group management
- Transcribing voice memos to emails or action plans for my 1:1 clients
- Project management
- Day-to-day operations and admin
All of these team members were hired from the bottleneck principle from Clockwork. That’s how I decide where I need help. If something is holding me back, I see who I can hire to help me with it. Everyone has a Trello card for each task, so they are literally checking off each piece as it’s done
The main areas you want to look at when it comes to working with a VA are:
- Sales & conversions
- Admin work
- Client or student success
Look at areas where you’re dropping the ball. Which one is going to make the most difference? Start there and hire someone to help you clear out your business bottlenecks. Most people want to start working with a VA for admin tasks but that might not be where your bottleneck is. If you haven’t launched your product because the sales page never seems to get done, hire someone to help you.
Realize that everything is going to take time, you’re always going to have growing pains and you’re going to get some bad apples but when you are clear on what you want and you almost over-explain what you expect from your VAs, you’re going to have the most success.
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Love these ideas! I’m no yet ready for a VA but when I get there it’s awesome to know what I should look for and be willing to pay for.