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Hiring Virtual Assistant to Help Administrate Your Blog

Speed-Posting@jb108 asks – “how do you feel about VA’s, do you use any, how many, how much work and what type do you delegate to others.”

I love the idea of VA’s (virtual assistants) and can see a lot of tasks that I could potentially have one do for me – however I’ve never really felt completely comfortable with the idea and don’t currently have budget set aside for one.

I do have Lara help me with comment moderation and a little other admin work when I have a project going on that I need assistance with but apart from that I don’t personally delegate much work.

Of course at b5media we have quite a sizable team of staff to do a lot of the administrative stuff to keep our blog network running (I think at last count there were 12 full time staff).

followup question from @jb108 – at what point in blogging career do you recommend delegating to VA’sI think it partly depends upon ylife situation. I know one bloggers who works a full time job and runs multiple blogs. He doesn’t want to give up his work so he’s always hired VAs to do everything except write content on his blogs.

It probably also depends partly on your own skill set. If there are parts of blogging that you don’t enjoy or can’t do very well then I don’t have a problem with hiring someone to do them. If it’s going to take you 3 weeks to do a job that someone else can do in a day then that’s 3 weeks that you can work on something you are good at.

I’m probably talking more about outsourcing things like setting up a blog, design etc – but the same thing applies to ongoing jobs on your blog. I know that Having Lara work an hour or so a day for me means I’ve got an extra hour to write content each day – something that is important to me. I guess it’s about priorities and what you feel you can do with the time freed up.

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. Sheamus says:

    Tim Ferriss of course is a massive advocate of the use of VAs to outsource the minutae that eats into the working and even personal lives of many modern professionals. I think it’s great idea… now.

    Ultimately, the fact that by default it can only cope with a finite level of demand from a relatively low percentage of people, plus the inevitable reality that those currently operating as VAs will eventually want to outsource the work they are taking on themselves means it can only go for far for so many people. Down the line, there’ll be a trickle-down effect that will, I feel, result in a significant drop in the quality of the work that is outsourced.

    In other words: get in there now, while you still can. :)

  2. Sandy says:

    One day on NPR radio, the author of “Four Hour Workweek” (or a name similar to it) mentioned the use of virtual assistant to actually make more money than you can do it yourself. According to him one could virtually delegate the work to a virtual assistant and generate money from the tasks !! Cool idea but could be expensive to try!!

  3. Steve J says:

    VAs are a fantastic idea but of course it comes down to whether you need one and whether you should pay for one.

    It’s a trade-off ultimately: you should only get one if you can earn more than the costs of the VA by doing something else with your available time. Or, alternatively, if you feel that your free/personal time is worth more than the cost of the VA.

    But either way, they’re great for those mundane tasks that you’re just not interested in! :)

  4. Frugal Dad says:

    Sheamus – I was planning to mention Ferriss, too, because I am currently working through his book, The 4-Hour Workweek. I believe outsourcing any task that costs more for you to do than to delegate makes sense on the surface. However, there are other non-monetary considerations such as quality of work, maintaining a consistent “voice” in all your communications, etc. It is something I would look in to, but only as a last resort based on time constraints, resources, etc.

  5. Steve J says:

    Frugal Dad – great point about maintaining the “voice”. Especially from a blogging perspective where it often all about whose “voice” it is, delegation to VAs probably shouldn’t be done to the point where it takes away from the “voice”. :)

  6. Lara Kulpa says:

    Hey all, I like to think that the work I’m doing for Darren isn’t taking away from his voice, because I respect him and his work far too much to allow that to happen. I had a wonderful time working on the 3rd Blog Birthday Bash Giveaways, and I do respond to comments and answer questions when I can, but only in a way which I know Darren would a) approve of and b) likely do himself were he able to at that moment. (Otherwise, I email him the comments when only his exact voice would do the trick.) But I work hard at maintaining that voice when I’m trying to help readers understand something, and that could only have been learned through communication with him and my taking the time to completely understand what he’s doing here and why.

    The reason our arrangement works so well is because of that though. We met each other at an event in NYC and over time got to know and respect each other in both business and friendship. The more we worked together on things, the more we realized that we make a pretty good team!

    The point I’m trying to make is that hiring a VA is more than just finding someone to delegate to and pay – it’s just like any other job, where the VA needs to know, understand, and value what you’re doing like they would even if they were going to work a 9-5 at some corporate conglomerate. I wouldn’t do the work for Darren if I didn’t appreciate him and believe in his efforts – and granted, not all VA’s are going to be like that, and just like any employer/employee situation, you may have to sift through a few to find one that works with your needs and has a desire to help you succeed in your online efforts. This goes for hiring a web designer for a one-time deal, or an email filter-er, or a comment moderator who works continuously on your blog.

  7. Sheamus says:

    This recent April Fools Day Ferriss convinced a lot of his readers that he’d actually been outsourcing his blog posts for the past year; many of them didn’t respond well, even after he revealed it was a spoof. :) A lesson learned, though – I don’t think the delegation of actual content is ever a wise move. After all, once that has taken place, what is left?

    Lara’s closing paragraph is, of course, absolutely right. Nobody hiring a VA – or anybody, for that matter – can expect (or afford) for the person to just miraculously be perfect from day one with little to no effort on your part. Again, Ferriss addresses a lot of these concerns in his book. The point isn’t to just delegate responsibility and walk away; it’s a relationship that will only work if you put some effort in yourself, certainly in the early days.

    As you learn from each other over time ultimately the VA can provide a greater degree of assistance which of course was the opening goal.

  8. I hired a VA when the blog hit 1000 subscribers and posts were averaging more than 30 comments. She’s somebody I’ve met online and who I know quite well personally, and it’s been a great fit. She’s doing things like going back into my archives to change link text and dealing with my Twitter followers. It’s been insanely helpful, especially with the stuff that I know distracts me.

    If I were to be going back through my own archives I’d be clicking on people’s comments to see how they’re doing now, I’d be sending emails to people I hadn’t heard from in a while, I’d be visiting trackbacks I might’ve missed — it would be the worst time suck. She’s great because she is totally uninvolved emotionally — she just does what I tell her to do and doesn’t get too involved in details.

    Granted, she’s American, so I’m paying a fortune for the privilege. if she was offshore and I was paying her less I’d be able to delegate more and keep her busy 10 hours a day. I have comment databases I’m trying to create, email lists to set up, comment strategies — it could get insane. :-) But I liked hiring somebody who already understood the vernacular and nuance that goes along with blogging.

  9. Ryan McLean says:

    I wish I could afford one
    …not yet though

  10. Loretta says:

    As a Virtual Assistant a lot of the stuff clients ask me to do is for their blogs. Usually because they want to focus on marketing and product development and it’s just easier for them to ask me to do the little things.

    Having a VA, and having clients, are difficult things sometimes. I think a lot of people are nervous when they first starting working with someone virtually like that. You have to build trust and a relationship of sorts and it’s sometimes more difficult with all this cyberspace floating between people!

  11. I pay someone a set monthly fee to manage all the technical odds and ends and blog stuff that I don’t want to deal with. I could figure it out, but it would take me weeks! So I am happy to “outsource” a list of tasks and wouldn’t have it any other way. I hope that as my blog grows I will have even more work for him to do. You have to figure out how much your time is worth an hour and if it is someone is willing to give you five hours of their time (and accomplish that which would take you fifty hours) it is well worth it.

    That’s just how I look at things though…call me lazy! Practical, efficient…those might be more positive words.

  12. V.A.’s are great for many reasons. The most important for me is that it frees me up to WORK on activities that generate cash…definitely not admin tasks. Outsource as much as possible in my opinion.

  13. Farfield says:

    I don’t have any problems with the technical stuff or the design of my blog, I can do that myself. That’s good because I can be quite picky when it comes to design and stuff.

    I can imagine though having someone who could do some research for me on certain subjects I want to write about. And then give me a summary so I can write my post myself.

  14. I’m a VA and do support a number of clients with their blogging needs and so do many of my team of VAs. My longest term client has been with me over 11 years.

    People make comments about ‘wishing they could afford one’ but the reality is, if they outsource to a VA the things that are not directly income producing but need doing to keep on track (like all the admin stuff) then it frees you up to spend that time to keep generating income.

    I know that my clients’ incomes have increased because they can spend more time marketing and promoting and selling and leave things in my hands to keep it running.

    So good to hear you have a reliable VA Darren! And as Lara says, it’s important for the relationship part of working is allowed to develop – VAs are not a one-off option for the odd job here and there – they should be considered for the long haul.

  15. ilaxi says:

    I am a VA; rathar we call Official Blogger managing web contents as well as all incoming-outgoing correspondence related and admin. In fact, I feel we have the freedom and work best as VA – managing, maintaining, marketing and promoting. This, otherwise is difficult in a print media where u don’t have the powers like we do online. It’s all Trust and free hand to the VA … it can work wonders for all…

  16. I can totally, totally understand someone like Darren (or anyone that has a very successful business) feeling wary about letting someone into their business to help them. It’s going out of a comfort zone and taking something that is very precious to you and entrusting it in someone else’s care. That can be unnerving! :-)

    For any successful probloggers who are cautiously considering partnering with a VA or online business manager you might want to think about these things:

    1) Get to know the person first outside of a work environment (that’s what it sounds like Lara and Darren did). I usually take a month or more (sometimes several months or even a year!) getting to know a potential client before starting to work with them. It gives us both a chance to feel comfortable with each other in a relaxed, no-pressure sort of way.

    2) Look for someone who is creative, who views themselves as a fellow business owner (rather than a hired employee) and who will actively come up with ways for you to improve the operations and efficiency of your business. Don’t work with someone can only do task work.

    3) Work with someone who specializes in your niche, someone who knows about blogging and lives and breathes it on a daily basis. If they already understand how the blogging world works, then you’re a million steps ahead :-)

    4) Work with someone who believes in what you’re doing, who can encourage you, make suggestions, and share the ups and downs of your business. Don’t work with someone who is just there to make a wage–you want someone who truly cares about you and your business over the long term.

    5) Be willing to pay for quality. Again, if you have a business that is precious to you, you don’t want to go for a bargain basement price tag. You get what you pay for :-) Always, always invest in quality, and look for someone who sees this as a long term partnership.

    Really, when you find the right person to partner with, it can decrease stress (big time!), help you make more money, and totally re-energize your business!

  17. Hi Darren, thanks a lot for answering my question. Also, thanks to all of the commenters above – I’ve learned a lot from reading your insights and the most important point I’ve gotten from the discussion is that it’s all about building a relationship instead of finding someone to do quick tasks, a VA that you might not ever work with again.

    I can also relate to Naomi’s comments, that her VA helps her by doing tasks that would otherwise completely sidetrack her – a VA could really help me in the same way since they wouldn’t be emotionally attached to my tasks.

  18. Cheryl Allin says:

    What’s critical first is you examine your current process – take a day and write down every task as you do it (i.e. launch Twhirl, check email, finish proposal) and then examine that list and look for opportunities to outsource.

    What if your VA could check your email remotely an hour before you wake up and delete all the spam, schedule any requested appointments, reply to any easy inquiries and then send you an A.M. update email? That would save you an hour each morning – about 20 hours a month. If you’re worth $100 an hour – that’s $2000 a month. What if it only takes your VA about 10 hours a month to do this task and his/her rate is $30 an hour? (U.S. VA rates average about $35 an hour, foreign VAs about $15) That’s $300 a month cost – take it from the $2000 you save and you profit by $1700 a month.

    The second critical step is doing your due diligence when choosing a VA – decide whether you want to hire a US or foreign VA. Often, the foreign VAs will require extra work on your part to ensure clear communication and expectations and often there are language barriers. A US VA can often hit the ground running as they’re already experienced with internet marketing (being virtual, they have to be) and will take on more of a partnership role with you.

    When I say “US” VAs, I generally mean native English speaking – there are terrific VAs from Canada, Australia and the UK – so consider, too the time difference and you could have a new partner where you assign projects at 6PM and it’s all done by the time you awake the next day.

  19. I’ve been a virtual assistant since 2003 and I know my support has contributed to the growth of my clients’ businesses.

    If you’re thinking about hiring a Virtual Assistant but feel a little unsure or skeptical, I recommend starting with a small project that you’ve been wanting to complete but just haven’t been able to. Something like assisting with creating products, setting up an online system, managing the regular ezine, article marketing etc. – these are all things business owners are comfortable in delegating as a first project. As your business builds and your relationship with your VA strengthens, you will more confident with adding additional roles and responsibilities to their plate.

  20. RussCo says:

    Does anyone know if there is a blog out there that covers VAs from the standpoint of those that use them. I tried to find some on my own but all I could find was blogs of VAs themselves. I am trying to find though if there are any blogs out there from the other side of things, written by someone that has used VAs for a while offering tips on how to find one, how much to pay, etc.

  21. Freck says:

    Hiring a VA is good idea, but you need to be careful in choosing the right virtual assistant. Virtual assistants provides you many services only the thing is, before hiring virtual assistants be very specific, what work you are assigning and check whether he is capable or not and then handle it.

  22. One way to get the opinion of others who have worked with VA’s and can possibly make recommendations is on business networking sites like Biznik, Ryze, or LinkedIn.

    Also, many, if not most, Virtual Assistants will have client testimonials available and should be willing to provide you with at least one past client you could talk to.

    Ask to see examples of past work done that is similar to the work you are interested in. This should not be a problem either.

    Think of the process as similar to hiring a lawyer or a new auto mechanic but this is an interview process that is more similar to hiring a service provider and not an employee.

  23. Glad I found this post this am! I’m not surprised that the cost stumbling block turns up yet again. I think an important thing to realize is that the cost of your VA can be whatever you want it to be. Set a budget of what you CAN afford and find a VA that fits into the skills you need and get started using them. Maybe you only want to spend $100 a month at first, but that can buy you an hour a week probably. And in one hour a VA can do so much!

  24. Outsourcing blogging work to VA’s saves a whole lot of time, effort and money.

    I, too have a VA who works with me in helping me set-up blog rings and do blog commenting. I have some tips over at my blog about outsourcing if you guys would love to read more. :)

  25. Russco (and others) if you go to my blog you’ll find it is about how to use a Virtual Assistant as well as provides guidance to those who want to become VAs. The blog is over 3 years old and was designed to educate people about the Virtual Assistant industry.

    One of my clients also writes a blog and she often writes about outsourcing and the use of VAs. We both periodically cross reference one another on our respective blogs.

  26. Tab says:

    @Cheryl Allin I dont think you will have language barrier with foreign VA’s. and its not about the location. Its about the knowledge.
    May be you are expert in something but other VA’s may be better than you in some other work.

    So the bottom line is dont under estimate foreign VA’s and their capability.

    -Tab

  27. Francine says:

    As a VA company it is great for us because we love what we do. As it is previously mentioned above the cost of retaining a VA is really up to you and the quality of the work will be the same. Outsourcing work that is time consuming to VA’s saves a whole lot of time, effort and money.

  28. Remya says:

    VA’s are very essential for the business ……