Overwhelmed as a Blogger or Influencer? Hire a Virtual Assistant.

Having been self-employed for the last 3 years (and freelancing since 2010), I’ve had my fair share of, shall we say, “original” remote teams.

When you leave the corporate world where there’s a strict hierarchy of VPs vs. SVPs and and admin assistants vs project managers — weirdo, almost organic business structures seem to emerge.

This type of experience has come in handy as a blogger, as well as an influencer marketing consultant (and coach for other bloggers). “Influencer Land,” as I like to call it, is a new-ish space. There are women out here running 6 and 7 figure businesses(some much more!), who started out solo and had to figure out how to scale all by their dang selves.

Saying “No thanks!” to how things have always been done.

Many of these creative geniuses don’t have a corporate background, which frees them from outdated expectations — but also makes it hard to figure out what they need to spend their time on. These women (and it is mostly women!) got to where they are now by being DIY *mavens.* They (you!) understand a crap ton about editing, styling, social media algorithms, contract negotiations, email marketing, building online communities, and and and (basically everything).

Whew. Are you one of these women?

I know I am.

Figuring out how to scale a brand, when the brand is YOU is tough. You want to be the one replying to DMs and comments, but you also know that time is a finite resource. Time spent doing X thing means that editing that video or look book is going to have to wait for another day. PLUS pitching and negotiating with brands can be a timesuck!

“This would be so much easier if I could just CLONE MYSELF!” my clients tell me.

And I always smile when I hear this. Because I know my client is READY to hand stuff off.

You totally can clone yourself!!

Okay, kind of. We’re not going to get Jurassic Park level with geneticists and cloning, but you can duplicate your effort with the help of a handy dandy virtual assistant.

What the heck is a virtual assistant?

A virtual assistant is generally a 1099 contractor (read: not an employee) who handles various administrative tasks. You know how in Working Girl there’s a fleet of women with big hair typing away at desks? Those are administrative assistants or secretaries.

And now, in the age of remote work, we can hire assistants who work VIRTUALLY. No need to have a building IRL for them to come to, or an office in your home. They can do everything via the internet, from just about anywhere.

Now, before you get excited and post, “I’M HIRING A VIRTUAL ASSISTANT” across platforms — let’s talk about what they can/can’t do, where to find them, and how to start using one.

We both know you’re kind of a control freak (it’s okay!!), so knowing how to onboard and assign tasks to a virtual assistant is KEY.

What can a virtual assistant DO?

A virtual assistant can do just about anything, from booking your travel to researching summer camps for your kids. But the value in hiring a virtual assistant lies in understanding the “80/20 rule.”

The Pareto principle (also known as the 80/20 rule) states that, for many events, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes.

Put another way, 80% of your success comes from 20% of your key efforts. So, as the owner of a growing business, you need to understand that key 20% and either stop or hand off 80% of what you’re doing.

Don’t freak out, we’re not going to start with 80%! Let’s start with 5%.

How can you save 3–5 hours a week with a virtual assistant?

Below, I’ve shared some common tasks successful bloggers and influencers should consider hiring help for. These tasks contribute to the overall cashflow of your business (read: not “nice to haves), and they’re low hanging enough that if you avoid a huge business meltdown if you happen to hire a not-great-VA for a test. (More on testing below.)

Take a Moment to Write Down What You Hate Doing

What part of your work do you dread or put off? What do you know you “need” to do, but can’t get your butt in gear to do?

Take 5 minutes right now to jot down a quick list. Don’t let my ideas below sway you — take a moment to get real about stuff you’d like to hand off.

Seriously! Pull up the Notes App on your phone and write some ideas down!!

GENERAL Tasks to Consider Handing Off:

  • Manage and organize your photos! Do you have all your photoshoot photos dumped in a drive somewhere, with little organization? Been there. Have a VA organize by photoshoot name and date to make it easier to keep track of all the photos you take!
  • Calendar management. Do you have dates that you need to submit photos for a brand partnership? Need an IG post to go live on a specific day? Have your VA put alllll of those dates in a new google calendar.
  • Analytics Reporting: Have your VA track your engagement rate and social media stats, compiling a weekly report for you to review. NOTE: Do not give your VA the password to your IG! I recommend getting them a login to a platform like Sprout Social so their access is limited.
  • Researching new sponsors to pitch. Ask your VA to compile a “List of 25 companies similar to X and Y Brand,” and get a general contact email.
  • Planning Travel (research flights + hotels). Ask your VA to “Find 5 flights to (destination) that are within $X. Send me the link to these flights in a google doc.”
  • Planning family tasks that take time — but don’t need your brain! (Example: Sending flowers for a birthday, planning a bachelorette party, etc)
  • Order Groceries: Outsource the stuff you hate that takes up your time!
  • Tracking returns
  • “Sanity Check” Your Online Life: Your VA can go through comments on your social media feeds, and ensure you got to them all. Sometimes a post goes weirdly viral, and we miss it!
  • Testing Email Subscription: Have you checked to see if your email welcome series works? Recently? A VA can do that!
  • Pet Care: Setting up dog groomers, walkers, etc
  • Organizing Email: Your VA can go through your email on a daily basis, and create an actionable to-do list for you. My clients like to have a call with their VAs every morning, going over what emails need to be responded to. The VA will sort by type, ie: Sponsor inquiries, billing reminders, questions from followers, etc.
  • Upload and schedule content for social media: Notice I said “schedule” not “create”! More on this in a second
Does this post have you fired up? There’s more where that came from! Check out my course, The Art of Negotiation for Influencers!

NEXT LEVEL Tasks to Consider Handing Off:

These tasks should only be handed off if you have an ironclad contract that protects your interests. I don’t give access to my banking, actual Instagram or other sensitive information, but I have clients who do!

  • Creating and sending invoices using a system like FreshBooks
  • Getting affiliate links for products you’re promoting (Note: If they have your affiliate login they will have access to the earnings section. Tread carefully!)
  • Booking for travel and paying for items using your card (you will likely want to get a secondary card for this, with a hard spending cap — just in case!)
  • Replying to DMs from brands on Instagram
  • Send inquiry emails to brands

Legal Notice: I’m not a lawyer, a CPA or an IT consultant. Hiring a VA can be a great business move, but (like hiring any freelancer) it does come with risk. Be sure to do you research and CYA! There’s no way for me to cover all eventualities in this here blog post, so move forward knowing you, and you alone, are responsible for making a VA partnership work out!

What DOESN’T a virtual assistant DO?

One of the problems with hiring a virtual assistant is having different definitions of tasks. While some VAs have diverse experience they can pull from, I often see bloggers try to hire VAs to create social media or online content — or to manage finances.

Y’all. That is a TOTALLY different job title.

Some VAs (and online business owners) treat VAs as a can-do for all types of tasks. Avoid people who say they’re good at everything. “Apprentice of many is an a master of none,” and all that jazz.

Are you looking for a social media marketer (SMM)?

If you’re looking for someone to write blog posts and emails from scratch, reply to comments on social media and create graphics for Pinterest and other social channels — you’re looking for a social media marketer. NOT A VA!

I wrote a blog post on figuring out what kind of social media marketer you may need here, and I also offer social media and online marketing services!

Info here.

Are you looking for a bookkeeper?

Do you need someone to keep track of your business expenses, invoices, payments to contractors and all things money? That’s a bookkeeper or accountant, babe!

Are you looking for a graphic designer?

Do you want someone to create beautiful and unique graphics, for anything from t-shirts to an infographic? That’s a graphic designer!

Hiring and Testing a Virtual Assistant

The #1 mistake that people make when hiring a virtual assistant is NOT ALREADY HAVING A SYSTEM IN PLACE TO HAND OFF.

If you have hundreds of unread emails, you’re not gonna be able to hand off email management system. If you don’t have your photos uploaded to the cloud, your VA will not be able to sort them.

So, instead of burrowing down and avoiding allllll of that, pick 1 test project to have a VA do.

I recommend hiring 3 VAs for a test project, and paying minimum $25 USD per hour. You are just not gonna get good results for less, unless the person is living in Thailand (and that adds legal considerations).

Remember: You’re trying to clone yourself, and YOU AREN’T CHEAP!!

Some VAs charge per project, and that’s fine!

Put together a 3–5 hour test for each of them. Test out how communicative they are and successful completion. Ideally, create the same test for all of them to be fair.

Managing a VA

  1. Write out your specific goals and expectations for a VA. How long do they have to reply to a text or email? Do you expect 24/7 access? If so, are you willing to pay for it?
  2. How will you measure success? Write this down and include in documentation. It’s hard to exceed expectations if your VA doesn’t know what they are!!
  3. Set up a weekly 1 hour meeting. Do or die. Every week.
  4. If your VA is working for you 20+ hours per week, set up a daily check-in call. This could be 10 minutes or extend to an hour.
  5. Encourage your VA to implement a project management system they like (if you don’t have one). Asana, Trello, etc.
  6. Include in the contract that they send a report 2x a month or 1x per week on all of their activities and what they worked on. This will help you prioritize the work you give them.

Where to Find a VA?

There are lots of VA services out there, and if you post a general call you’ll get a lot of interest.

I only hire a VA at the recommendation of someone who has used them. Hiring a VA takes a massive time investment. Ask fellow bloggers, small biz owners and friends on social media for recommendations.

Be sure that their VA is offering the same types of services you’re looking for!

(Need a rec? Tweet @the_huntswoman! I’ve got a few.)

Security Tips for Hiring a VA

I’m not an IT consultant or tech security brainiac, but here are a few things to consider:

  1. A virtual assistant will have access to a lot of your proprietary info, so be sure to have them sign a contract.
  2. Set up a new email account for your VA. For the love of GOD, do not have them use their own email. *YOU* need to retain access and control.
  3. How will issues or displeasure be communicated? Nobody is perfect, so discuss how you will talk about issues and solve them. (ie “If an issue arises with the VA’s work, or the VA has an issue with the client, the issue will be brought up via email/phone call/carrier pigeon/etc. A solution will be agreed upon and sent via email to confirm.”)
  4. When starting out, only give access to your social channels via a social media manager like Sprout Social. You don’t want a mad VA to delete your Instagram if they’re fired. If you decide to end a contract, be sure to change all passwords AND connected emails on your accounts.
  5. If you do want a VA to make purchases on your behalf, give them a card with a low limit, and set a weekly time you’ll check their purchases.

^^These tips are NOT meant to scare you. They are meant to protect you, and these are considerations ALL growing businesses make.

Babe. You. Gotta. Let. The. Fuck. Go.

Your VA can only be successful if you’re willing to hand things off. Being a micro-manager will just drive you both nutso!

Build trust with your VA over time. They don’t have to start at 40 hours a week! If you give them a task trust them to complete it!

BONUS: How to Become an Influencer — Book for $7.99!

I’ve coached a TON of people on how to become an influencer, and I found tht people had the same questions:

  • How do I make an invoice as an influencer?
  • What do I charge as an influencer?
  • How do instagram influencers make money
  • How do I plan a photoshoot?
  • How do I pitch brands as an influencer?

Seeing this, I decided to write a book about becoming an influencer, with ALL of the information I wish I had access to! Check out this book HERE! $7.99!

Want More Bri? (That’s Me!!)

We can hang out on Twitter, and you can check out my coaching and course offerings here. If you’re jazzed about this topic, you’ll probably want to take my, “The Art of Negotiation for Influencers” course, where I teach influencers how to increase their income through pitching and negotiating sponsorships and using affiliate marketing.

I really love money!

You can also find my lifestyle blog here, my Instagram here aaaand my consulting website here.

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Queer feminist and activist. Designer via @Stanford. Freelance creative & consultant. Here to raise a little hell. www.thehuntswomangroup.com

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Brianne Huntsman

Brianne Huntsman

Queer feminist and activist. Designer via @Stanford. Freelance creative & consultant. Here to raise a little hell. www.thehuntswomangroup.com

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