While the basic concept has been around for as long as the human race has been doing business, it’s only within the last few decades that outsourcing has become one of the most popular business buzz words and activities.
Today, you’d be hard pressed to find a thriving business that doesn’t use some form of outsourcing in their operations. But if large international conglomerates are the only things that come to mind when you hear that word, you’ll be happy to know that your self-publishing business can also benefit tremendously from a little outside help.
You don’t have to have a multibillion dollar business operation to harness the power of outsourcing. You don’t even have to look outside of your own neighborhood for potential candidates if you don’t want to (although the internet has made recruiting from anywhere in the world a relatively simple task).
Outsource with Virtual Assistants
Self-publishers just like you are reaping the benefits of outsourcing by utilizing virtual assistants to supercharge their results and get more done in less time than they ever thought possible.
Having a well-trained virtual assistant (VA) is like having another set of hands that can take on the things you can’t or don’t want to do.
In other words, they can do the mundane tasks that tend to swallow up a lot of your time, so that you can focus on things that are more important to moving closer to your self-publishing goals like writing more books.
So, what exactly can virtual assistant help you do?
The list of possible tasks is pretty long and includes things like:
- Book editing
- Marketing and promotional activities
- Author blog maintenance
- Article writing
- Guest blogging
- Social media management
- Mailing list maintenance
- Keyword optimization
While these are probably the more obvious tasks you could assign to a virtual assistant, the reality is that you can use them to do just about anything that would help make your life easier. This includes activities like coordinating your travel for book tours and scheduling interviews on your behalf.
How to Find a Great Virtual Assistant
But how do you find a quality virtual assistant when you’ve never used one before and have no idea where to begin the hunt?
Here are some of the most promising sources for starting your search to find the right VA for your self-publishing needs.
- Recommendations and references from friends and business associates
Once you’ve found a good source of potential candidates, the next steps you take should be to ensure that you find the person that best suits your needs and to set yourself up to get the most out of the partnership.
- Be very clear about the kind of help you need.
In order to find the best virtual assistant, you need to be crystal clear about the kind of help that you want.
By precisely outlining the kind of assistance you’re looking for, you not only attract the best possible candidates for the job, but you simultaneously discourage applications from people who are much less likely to possess the type of skills you’re looking for.
Seeking someone to edit using the Chicago Manual or APA Styles? Looking for a VA who knows advanced SEO techniques? Interested in help for creating more Social Media presence?
Be sure to mention everything you want to ensure that the ideal candidates respond.
- Interview as many candidates as you need to before settling on one.
Finding the best virtual assistant for your business can be a very time-consuming activity. However, the time invested upfront will pay back in spades if you actually do end up hiring the ideal VA.
While time always is of the essence, try not to rush through the selection process.
Feel free to interview as many people as you need to before you select someone who has the right balance of practical skills, good communication and interpersonal chemistry.
If you can find a VA that fits into that sweet spot you’re on your way to a hugely beneficial arrangement.
- Set your expectations upfront.
Once you’ve hired the best candidate for the position, another key to making the most of your VA is being very clear about your expectations upfront.
Along with letting your assistant know the specific tasks you want them to do, you should also establish the short, medium and long-term goals you want them working towards. Setting expectations about the level of professionalism you like to see as well as the communication style and frequency you expect is also important.
Try not to leave anything to chance to help avoid future misunderstandings by figuring out exactly what you want and communicating your desires to your VA.
- Don’t be afraid to delegate.
If you’ve never hired a virtual assistant before, one of the hardest things you will have to learn is how to delegate, and even more importantly, how to relax and let your VA take over the reins.
Think about it.
What use is having an assistant if you constantly feel the need to check and cross check every single thing they do while they’re in the middle of doing it?
To make the most of your VA, outline your needs, set your expectations and then have the confidence to let them do what you hired them to do.
- Be available to provide feedback.
When you’re ready to set your new VA off on their first assignments it’s important to not simply let them loose and leave them hanging.
Unless your VA is some kind of psychic perfectionist, chances are that there will be questions they have regarding the work you want them to do and exactly how you want them do to it.
This is especially true when you’re still in the initial “getting to know you phase” after hiring someone.
Because your VA is very likely to have questions that need to be answered, it’s important to make yourself available to help and to provide valuable feedback while they are still in the process of learning the ropes.
Over time, if things go well, the questions will dwindle and your VA will be better equipped to perform closer to your expectations.
- Communicate regularly and effectively.
As with striving to create and maintain any other quality relationship, success with your virtual assistant requires good communication. This is particularly important when your goal is to free up as much of your time as possible by rerouting specific tasks to your virtual assistant.
Developing a communication style early on in your partnership is important. It may be a bi-weekly email outlining upcoming assignments or a weekly skype chat to go over the previous weeks items along with laying out the plan for the coming days.
Whichever method you decide to use, make sure that it is optimal for you and for your VA. Take factors such as different time zones into consideration when communicating, particularly when important deadlines are involved.
- Always ask for input.
Speaking of effective communication, perhaps one of the most valuable and underrated uses of a virtual assistant is being able to get valuable feedback about the way you do things in your business and how things can be improved.
Even though your VA’s responsibility is generally paying attention to things you don’t want to spend time focusing on, they can be a big help by giving you hints and tips on the best ways to make the most of their help as well as getting you to your goals faster.
Every so often, make the time to ask your VA for ideas on how to improve your processes based on the tasks that they have completed. And also ask if there is anything that could be done better and how they would approach it.
Virtual assistants can change your business overnight by helping you to enhance your level of productivity and results. After all, the more you can focus your efforts on writing and releasing new content the closer you are to achieving self-publishing success.
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