I am taking a plunge – again. I need to streamline things. I need to start ditching things. I need to outsource. That means I went looking for a virtual assistant. Here are a few things I’ve picked up along the way that I’d like to pass on.
First of all, it might be that you think you’re not ready to hire a VA. If that is the case, then at least keep it in mind for later because you’ll probably get to that point. Especially if you take on blogging and the Internet as a profession. There are a LOT of routine details that go along with this job. A lot of them end up being maintenance activities and not true money-makers. And that makes them IDEAL for a VA.
Finding a Virtual Assistant
I had a VA a year or so ago and I ended up getting rid of her. There were two things at work here: (1) I was underutilizing her due to my own disorganization and (2) I was hoping to have my wife do it. My wife is better suited to her own profession than what I do for a living and we’ve pretty much figured that out. I will also say, simply, that mixing a husband/wife relationship with business can be kinda tough (I’ll just leave it at that).
As 2009 gets going, though, I realized that I needed to tackle this. So, in a very modern approach, I turned to Twitter. I simply tweeted out that I was looking for a VA again.
As it turns out, virtual assistants are ALL OVER Twitter. 🙂 I had several reply to me fairly quickly. Before I had much of a chance to follow up with them, somebody emailed me in response to the tweet. She seemed to understand blogging well and actually has the intention of being able to do what I do for a living on her own. I thought that was cool because it means she would be interested and motivated rather than me just barking orders at her.
Now, if I didn’t have luck with Twitter so quickly, I would have probably turned to LinkedIn, Elance, maybe even VA Networking (which is where I found my last VA). But, I was really impressed with how well Twitter worked. It goes to show the power of social media, not only to connect people, but to potentially provide jobs. I love it.
Getting Started With a VA
First, I am not speaking here from a platform of having succeeded at this. My past experience with a VA was not successful. The VA was fine. The barrier was ME. My intention is to organize better this time around and cope as I go.
The first thing I did was send her an NDA. Secondly, I sent her an email with the first task. I made it very clear that I fully expect her to have questions. I don’t expect anybody to be able to step into a scene like mine and just start being me. And along that note…
Documentation! I had enough foresight a few months ago to begin documenting some of the common tasks in my business. I actually set up a WordPress blog, password protected the entire thing, and I use it as a repository for procedures and policies. My goal is to make every single “hat” in my business occupiable by anybody. To the extent that the particulars of a certain task are in my head….to that extent, I am STUCK with it for life!
So, my strongest suggestion with your own online business (and any business for that matter) is to plan ahead. Even if you don’t have employees or VAs, plan ahead as if you will eventually and start documenting what you do and how you do it. Only when that is done can you physically separate yourself from that task and actually have it be done by somebody else.
Not having documentation means (1) you’re stuck with it and (2) you’re going to be working so hard you’re losing your mind, being pulled in all directions at once.
My own documentation is far from complete, but I will be working on it. My assistant is also going to document procedures as she learns them so that her post is occupiable by others in the future. It is the only way to be safe and not be dependent on certain personnel.
I was very clear with Lisa (that’s her name) that I’m figuring this out as I go. I have gone for a long time being primarily a one man show. Rich works for me as a writer on PCMech, but pretty much everything else is done by me. It is hard to give up those reigns and it is a challenge communicating exactly how I do things to somebody else.
It is a process, though. And one that is strange while it is happening but will surely be something I’m glad I did.