Off your plate: Why you should hire a virtual assistant (VA) today

Written by: Karl Sakas

When I help coaching clients set monthly goals, I help them choose 3 “must do” goals. Those are the “$1,000 an hour” items that will have the biggest impact on their business in the least amount of time (a la the Pareto principle or “80/20 rule”).

But since they have more than 3 things to do each month, how do they get it all done?

A key approach is delegating low-value items to team members. For instance, you might need to gather info from your team to finish a proposal. Or you need to update your website with a particular item. Or you need to find a new printing vendor but don’t have time to research options.

Those are things that need to happen—but they’re not things you need to do yourself. Those are perfect candidates for delegation.

Why to delegate to a virtual assistant (VA) instead of an employee

Yet what if your team is already slammed? Or you want them focusing on billable work? That’s where having an assistant comes in. Most agency owners can’t afford (and don’t need) a full-time assistant. That’s where hiring a virtual assistant (VA) comes in.

A VA helps you stay on track, and they can handle followups that are important but that you don’t have time to do yourself.

Part of the reason you have trouble accomplishing all your goals is that you have other things that take priority—especially over administrative items. Your VA can get those admin things done, because his/her priority IS doing admin things.

Admin work IS their top priority

One of my clients shared that she wants to grow her agency, yet she’s having to turn away sales inquiries because she doesn’t have time to follow up on them. It’s not just a matter of time—it’s also the mental bandwidth to handle the sales opportunities.

That’s where having an assistant comes in—they handle your administrative work so you can focus on higher-value work.

Hiring an assistant—virtual or otherwise—is a multiplier effect for you and your agency. How so? Delegating to your assistant frees you up to do more of the work you enjoy, while also completing the things that have to happen.

Just do it

Actually finding the VA is a future article—you ultimately need to find someone affordable, reliable, and competent. For now, let’s focus on what they can do. Why? Many of my clients would benefit from hiring a VA but aren’t sure what they’d have a VA do—which leads to analysis paralysis, which leads to them not hiring a VA.

I’ve had VA support since 2015, with a focus on direct hires. This has ranged from 5 hours/week to 15 hours a week. More recently, I hired my assistant full-time.

Want to save time in your VA hiring process? Consider going through a VA agency, instead of a direct hire. My clients have enjoyed hiring via Don’t Panic Management, and I like their in-depth vetting process.

Specific things you can delegate to a VA

Here are just a few of the things I’ve delegated to Katie Connors as my [previous] VA.

Presentations: I follow the best practice of using mostly photos instead of bullets in my presentations. For my upcoming INBOUND 2015 talk (“Scale to Win: How to Grow Your Marketing Agency Without Breaking”), I described the types of photos I wanted to each slide and Katie found 1-3 options for each one. She also put my draft talk into HubSpot’s official INBOUND template.

Email marketing: When people sign up for my email newsletter at talks, Katie adds them to our CRM and sends each person an individual welcome email. We’ve coordinated the process so that she’s already sending followups before I’m driving or flying home.

Social media: During my talks, I pre-schedule tweets to go out as I speak, to make it easier for people to share what I’m speaking about. Katie loads my tweets to Buffer (based on my preferred timeline) so I don’t have to worry about it.

Proofreading: Katie proofreads my client deliverables (she’s under NDA), blog posts, and proposals. She’s also proofread my forthcoming book, The In-Demand Marketing Agency. I can proofread myself, but Katie’s faster at it—in part because she’s not emotionally invested in every word I wrote.

Data gathering: When I do client surveys, Katie transfers the raw data from SurveyMonkey into the destination report. This lets me focus on the value-added analysis rather than cut-and-pasting. This also saves clients money since (in my case), I bill her at a fraction of my rate.

Relationship-building: I like mailing notes and articles to clients and colleagues. These are valuable, but also low-urgency—which means that if I have to handle it all myself, it might take a week or two to send things. Based on that, I share those with Katie at our weekly meeting (in-person; not quite virtual!) and she takes it from there—addressing the envelopes, buying appropriate postage if needed, and so on.

Sales support: Katie reminds me to review my sales funnel, to ensure I’m following up with people. When a prospect asks you to check back in two weeks (or three months, or the end of the year), you want to be sure you do it.

Research: Katie’s researched everything from new software options to venue options for an event. I describe the parameters and she follows up with the results. I love that I can define the project and then forget about it ’til Katie comes back with actionable information. This let’s me focus on the decision, rather than the data-gathering.

Summary for your agency

Hiring a virtual assistant (VA) lets you focus on doing the things you enjoy doing, while preventing annoying-but-necessary admin tasks from falling through the cracks.

If it has to happen, but you don’t need to do it yourself, you should probably delegate it to a VA. Your VA can remind you about priorities, research options to help you make a decision, do behind-the-scenes client billable work, send marketing and sales followups, and more.

Ultimately, having a VA makes your life easier—and more enjoyable—as an agency owner. Here’s how to evaluate the impact; look for a future article on how to find and hire a VA. And here’s a resource on what to pay your VA.

Question: Have you hired a VA? How did it go?

Book cover: Work Less, Earn More (by Karl Sakas)

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