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Well I took a 2 week hiatus from the blogging tips series to focus on moving to a new condo. I figured I should avoid getting too many comments to respond to. Plus the blogging tips post sometimes take me a while to put together.

So I’m not quite done with the blogging tips series. I could use some guest posts for this series though.

If you’re new to this series, check out some of the previous blogging tips posts:

This week’s post is focused on a topic that I get plenty of questions about….virtual assistants.

Hire a Virtual Assistant to Free Up Time and Take Your Blog To The Next Level

With my online businesses I’ve always been big on outsourcing work. Sometimes there’s work that is just beyond your skill set and sometimes it’s just too time consuming. Since running a blog is so time consuming, we could all use a little help. This is where virtual assistants come in.

What Is A Virtual Assistant

While the word ‘virtual’ may confuse people about what a virtual assistant is, their role is actually quite simple. Their job is to basically do any online work that you assign to them. Whatever you need help with, they are there to assist.

The great part about virtual assistants is that most are in foreign countries where US currency goes a lot further. So they are willing to work for much lower wages than someone would accept in a more developed country. It might sound like exploitation but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Really it is opening doors for people in other countries and giving them jobs that they might not have had otherwise. Not only are they earning money, but they are developing valuable experience and sometimes picking up new skills.

What Can a Virtual Assistant Do For My Blog

It is a bit unrealistic to expect a virtual assistant to excel with everything you assign them. You have to remember that they likely have specific skills and experience. So you usually want to hire an assistant with some previous experience in the main areas you want to focus on. If you are able to train them in some areas that experience might not be necessary. Depending on how easily you can train them, this is often the cheaper route. Helping an employee gain new skills might keep them happier too.

Technically you could get virtual assistants to manage every aspect of your blog, but you really should be involved as much as possible. Ideally you are not employing them to free up lots of time to watch tv. If you’re not properly managing them and putting some effort in yourself, you’re likely being a bad boss and your blog won’t be as effective as it could be.

Here are some tasks that you could consider assigning to a VA:

  • Social Media Management
  • Social Bookmarking
  • Post Topic Research
  • E-mail Management
  • Blog Commenting
  • Quality Assurance

How Do I Hire a Virtual Assistant for My Blog?

If you do decide you need an assistant to help out, I suggest you try to wait until your blog is making some money. You don’t want to invest much unless you can prove you can make money from your blogging.

There are many different websites that you can use to hire a VA, but for this kind of outsourcing I recommend using oDesk. That site is more focused on foreign workers offering very cheap wages. Because blogging isn’t super profitable early on, you need to get the most bang for your buck. You can try other websites, but this happens to be where I’ve had the best experience with hiring cheap employeees. Other sites tend to be much more expensive or they don’t have sufficient tools to track their time.

Before you sign up for a site like oDesk, take the time to create a list of everything you’d want your VA to handle. Think in terms of which tasks take up too much of your time and which tasks will ultimately help you the most. Explain each task in detail to the level that someone would understand with minimal questions. This will give you a good idea what strengths you should be looking for. Perhaps you need someone concentrating on marketing or social media. Or maybe you do need one that would be a jack of all trades.

Now you should be ready to post your job listing online. I would say explain your requirements in depth, but unfortunately most applicants will not read your entire job posting. To them it is a numbers game of applying to lots of jobs while spending minimal time on each application. It’s not quite the same as applying for a traditional job but don’t hold that against them.

So keep your job description brief and focus on specific tasks and experience you are after. The shorter it is, the more likely you are to get qualified applicants since they are more likely to read it all.

Actually choosing an applicant can be tough. First remove any that are outside your budget. You can always go back to those ones later if someone lower priced doesn’t work out. Next remove any with limited experience or low ratings. Then thoroughly go through the remaining applicants. Pay attention to their previous employers’ comments and the type of work they’ve been doing. Watch for ones that mention the specific type of work you need done.

Once you get the list narrowed down to several potential candidates, send them each a message. Beware that many applicants will just try to say what you want to hear for questions about things like experience. So you might want to quiz them a litte bit or ask for specific examples of experience. If you’re lucky one candidate will stand out as being qualified, motivated and a good communicator. Most importantly, you need to be able to trust them.

Getting Started With Your New Employee

Don’t rush to get them started on all of your tasks at once. Things will go more smoothly if you gradually get them accustomed to your requirements and expectations. While they may have done similar work in the past, it may not have been exactly what you want done. So be patient and try to helpful as they learn the ropes.

I won’t get into how to be a good boss to your virtual assistant, but keep in mind that you might want to consider providing some kind of additional incentive. I’m not the type to rule with an iron fist. I’d much rather work on getting my employee to respect me and like me as a friend. That approach won’t work for everyone though.

You also have to remember that your VA likely has other responsibilities. Unless you can afford to keep him or her working full time, they may have another contract or they might be actively looking for one. So be understanding if they cannot put in as many hours as you may like. If they do good work, think of ways you can encourage them to put in more hours on your project.

If their time really is limited, there is always the possibility of hiring someone more available or taking on a 2nd assistant. I find this is a good way to split up tasks between different skill levels or expertise. That way you can pay less for the really easy work. Ultimately you can get more work done too.

Don’t insist on forcing a situation though. Some employees just don’t work out for one reason or another. Don’t stress out over it. Just move on and find someone else if necessary. I’m not saying you have to give up on them easily, but be realistic when the situation will not work.

Summary

A virtual assistant may be just what you need to better manage your blog and take it to the next level. Just don’t expect any miracles as your success is still up to you. It is your choice what you do with that extra time. It is your choice what you assign your VA to work on.

Do you have a virtual assistant helping you with your blog? If not, it is something you are considering doing? If you do have one where do they focus most of their time?

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