In my career as a translator and copywriter, I have felt that I am spending too much time on general administrative tasks that I don’t always enjoy doing as well as never finding enough time to pursue my professional and personal goals.
After a few years of trying to shrink my to-do list to the bare minimum (never worked), I decided it would be beneficial to hire a virtual assistant to get a little extra help.
Why hire a virtual assistant?
Virtual assistants are finally being seen as less of a luxury and more of a necessity, even in very small businesses. With the Internet bringing us all closer and adding that certain level of connectivity, working with a virtual team has become a cost- and time-effective way to run a business, big or small.
Hiring an employee is very time-consuming and involves several costly procedures to on-board that individual. Time-consuming are the interview process, orientation, and employee training. On top of that, many freelancers and small business owners don’t have the necessary equipment and workspace.
As I was looking for solutions to free up time in my busy days, I found that hiring a virtual assistant would be an easy and cost-effective path, as virtual assistants are responsible for their own equipment and office space, file storage, software and hardware, accounting, taxes, among many others. They are also busy people, with excellent organizational and multi-tasking skills.
How to hire a virtual assistant
In my particular situation, working and communicating in French, English and German, I have found it can be quite a challenge to find quality virtual assistants who are comfortable with working in several languages.
Hiring multiple virtual assistants who are each comfortable in their own language is proving to be a successful way for me to get the extra assistance I need.
Where to find a virtual assistant:
• LinkedIn or other social network for professionals such as XING in Germany or Viadeo in France
• Google search
• Your own local network
What to look for when hiring a virtual assistant:
- someone who is qualified to do the tasks you have on your to-do list
- someone who matches your personality (virtual or not, you’re still working together). For me, the first impression given by their website definitely guided my choice.
- someone who genuinely enjoys the work you’d like to delegate
- someone you feel you can trust: I believe that building a long-lasting work relationship is essential. That is why I never used VA services where you get a different person working for you every time.
Things to outsource to a virtual assistant:
Here are a few examples of tasks I recently outsourced to a virtual assistant:
• Research: this is probably the most interesting benefits of working with VAs I’ve identified so far. Research is a huge part of copywriting work. I ask a VA to gather information from trusted sources just in time for my projects.
• Admin tasks, such as making a list of accommodations for work travel
• Blogging: research, proofreading and editing, integrating content in the CMS
• Website updates
• Editing Word files created from PDFs
How to find time to outsource?
One of the biggest challenges I’ve encountered so far is finding the time to delegate!
Here is how I proceed:
• For every new task I add to my to-do list, I ask myself whether it can be delegated and to whom.
• A few times a week, I review the list of “delegate” tasks and send instructions to the VA.
• Writing instructions often helps me to better understand what I need and how to proceed to reach my goal.
For some tasks, writing instructions may well take almost as much time as doing the work yourself, especially during on-boarding.
However, I believe that in the long run, this will not be a waste of time. VAs have helped me get started on projects that had been on my to-do list for a very long time – such as updating my website and blog! I have gotten better at giving instructions and explaining what I want. And getting work done while working for my own customers and creating value for them is very fulfilling.
Finally, the fewer background and behind-the-scenes tasks I have to worry about, the more time and energy I have to focus on growing my business, along with learning more, creating new services, and spending time with family and friends.
Do you work with virtual assistants? What are your biggest challenges? Share your experience in the comments!