I bet you guys are starting to get weighed down by the minutia… or is that just us? When Steve and I started on our self-publishing journey, we had no idea just how many moving parts were involved in writing, publishing and launching a book, until we had to do all of this ourselves.

The thing is, when you start out writing your book, you have no idea just what’s in store for you. The publishing and marketing side of your book can turn into huge time suckers (money too!), to the point where you’re looking at everything you’ve got to do and throwing your hands up in the air shouting, “it’s just too hard!” <– still just us?! Come on now, don’t lie to us and yourself… it’s ok to admit that this stuff get’s away from you, because it is A LOT OF STUFF.

Enter Your Saviour: The Virtual Assistant

“I get by with a little help from my friends…” sing it along with me… 🙂

Getting a virtual assistant to help you with some of the minutia will stop the hair-pulling and yelling… at least for a little while. We take no responsibility for any future hair-pulling and yelling you might do.

But before you run off and start hiring someone, there are a few things you need to do and put in place, otherwise you WILL be pulling out your hair and anyone else’s you can get your hands on.

#1: Decide what they are going to do

There is no point hiring a VA if you don’t know what you’re going to get them to do. This is often where author’s fall down or say a VA isn’t worth it, because they aren’t clear on what it is they are going to have the VA do.

Here’s what Lise & Steve’s VA’s do for them:

  • Update keywords each month
  • Monitor category rankings and overall store rankings
  • Promoting books via social media accounts daily (using Buffer)
  • Tracking book sales
  • Submitting to Facebook groups and Promo sites during launch
  • Submitting blog posts to other platforms like reddit and Medium
  • Track book expenses in Freshbooks
  • Setup autoresponders in Mailchimp

So before you rush out and hire someone, make sure you’re very clear on what you’re going to get them to do, AND make sure that you have the processes well documented so that you can hand this to them and they can hit the ground running.

#2: Document every part of the process

I find writing out each little step on a piece of paper or inside a blank note in Evernote works best. Once you’ve got this all done, you can then turn it into a process document.

I use www.sweetprocess.com to create all my processes and I also record a screencast-o-matic video of me doing the actual task. This allows my VA to see and follow along the process — it makes the whole task a lot easier for us both. Reduces the amount of questions!

#3: Decide how you’ll share information

This is very important. Email is no longer a great way to share information, particularly when your book interior file or book cover file is larger than 4MB, which is about the limit for most email programs in terms of attachment limits.

Instead, use a file sharing service like Dropbox or Google Drive. Then all you have to do is share the file link rather than attaching a file in your email.

If you use Google Drive, you can also collaborate on documents, particularly if you’re creating spreadsheets and having your VA track sales for you. Lise uses Google Drive with her VA for this reason, much easier to collaborate.

Both offer free and paid services, but do yourself a favor and opt for the paid service, it’s just easier further down the track.

Ok, now that we’ve covered all bases, now you’re ready to find someone to shine a light into your dark, author world.

Finding Your Awesome Virtual Assistant

It’s time to put your money where your mouth is and delegate! There is no point going through this exercise and then doing nothing about it.

We understand… you don’t want to hand over your KDP account details or share passwords with a stranger, but guess what?! There are services for this too!

We personally use www.lastpass.com and this allows you to share your login details with another LastPass user, and by default, your password is not visable to them (although you can opt to show them this). So you never have to share your passwords again. This is free, and while there is a paid version, you’ll not need to purchase this unless you want access on your phone via the app.

Here’s how to find your awesome virtual assistant:

  1. Think about who you know that could help you out with this. Is there someone you know that is savvy with social media and know’s there way around a computer? Perhaps they would be willing to help you out.
  2. Failing anyone in your network being able to help, you’re gonna have to go to an outsourcing site like Upwork.com. You’ll need to set up your own profile first, so do this (just follow all the steps and verify your account, this can take up to 2-3 days to do) asap and then jump to the next step.
  3. Decide on the tasks you’re going to assign your VA and then decide on what skills they should have to be able to do the tasks they assign you. Typically, you’ll want someone who has great English skills, can handle social media platforms, understands a little about self-publishing (or is willing to learn) and knows their way around a computer. It’s important that you stipulate the operating system that you use so that they are the same. You don’t want to work with someone who has a Mac when you are on a Window’s machine. Nightmare on Elm Street!
  4. Write your job posting. List the types of tasks you’d like them to do and also include a code word that the person should provide in their response back to you. This ensures that they’ve actually read your job posting and aren’t just an automated job response from an agency (plenty of those around). Have the code word at the bottom of your job posting, to ensure people have to read your ad to see it.
  5. Typically, you should expect to pay anywhere from $8-$15 an hour for a good VA. My VA work’s 10 hours per week for me, although we are looking to increase that in the next few months. For you, you might only need someone 2-5 hours per week. Make sure you stipulate that in your job posting as well.
  6. Once you’ve gotten this all down, post your job and then wait and see who applies. You should get some bites within a few hours.

How to hire your virtual assistant:

Once you start to get some applications in, you’ll want to short-list them. The best way to do that is to only work with people who meet the following criteria:

  • They are an individual and not an agency (you don’t want to work with an agency as they’ll charge you higher fees)
  • They have at least a 4-star rating
  • Their English language results are at least 4-stars
  • They have 90% of the skills you listed
  • They mention the code word where you asked them too

That’s how I arrive at a short-list. Aim to get a list of 3-5 people. Once you’ve got that you’ll want to jump on a quick Skype call with them. Now it’s up to you whether that is a phone or video call. My preference is a video call, but some people can be a little hesitant about this.

The purpose of the Skype call is to make sure that their English is good, that they are who they say they are and that they understand the tasks. Mention to them that whomever you decide to hire, it will be on a one-month trial, so that you can make sure you both work well together.

I like to keep these calls casual and just get a sense of how we’ll work together. Sometimes you just client with someone and you know they are the right person.

Be very clear on deadlines, how you’d like work to be delivered and what the best way would be for them to communicate with you.

Make it easy for them to understand what your expectations are and you’ll have less questions and less failures.

The one-month trial is really important, so when you’re setting up the job posting, make sure that you list that it will be a one-month trial and that if all goes well, this will be an ongoing task. If you’re not looking for someone to help you with ongoing work, then simply keep their details and when you need them again, you can reach out to them to see if they are available or interested.

Working with a VA is one of the most rewarding things you can do for your author business, but you need to make sure you know what you’re going to have them do. If you don’t, confusion will ensue and you’ll both be frustrated and annoyed.

So what are you waiting for? Jump on the VA wagon and start delegating so you can get back to what’s really important, writing your next book!