This is part three of a three part series on working with author assistants.
Sara’s answers to questions about working with an assistant:
Why would an author want a VA?
A virtual assistant helps me get more done. I have plenty of tasks that I can hand off to someone else, which frees up more time for writing.
How do you decide it’s time to hire one?
For me, I felt it was time to look for an assistant when my administrative tasks were taking more and more of my time. It got to the point that I was spending about the same amount of time on admin as I was writing. Tracking how you spend your time for a week is a good way to find out exactly which tasks are filling up your day. It will also help you figure out a starting point for how many hours you can outsource.
How do you find a VA?
See answers in Part One of this series.
What qualifications are you looking for?
It will vary with each author, but I was looking for someone familiar with WordPress/website updates, light graphic design, ebook sales submissions, and running giveaways.
What are warning signs that you should NOT hire a particular VA?
I always checked the assistant’s website, and if they didn’t have one, I felt that wasn’t a good sign because I wanted someone to help me with website updates and posting drafts of blog posts. It also made me feel that the assistant wasn’t serious about their business. Another warning sign was someone who didn’t reply to my initial email. I figured if they didn’t reply to my email then they wouldn’t be reliable later.
What about contracts between you and your VA?
It’s always a good idea to have duties and responsibilities defined clearly in a contract. A non-disclosure agreement can be part of the agreement between you and your assistant. If someone is reluctant to sign a contract or non-disclosure agreement, then I’d take that as a warning sign.
What work is appropriate to hand off to a VA?
For me, right now I want help doing basic tasks, which are mostly admin. I still upload my book content to the vendors and reply to reader emails and social media comments. I feel that if people take the time to email me or comment on a post, I should reply myself. I have had my assistant help with moderating a Facebook group, but I introduced her to the group, and she always commented under her own name. My assistant has helped with a lot of the tasks related to book releases and book promotion.
How much of your workload do you hand off to your VA?
Right now, my VA is working for me a couple of hours a week, which is enough to remove some of the admin tasks from my schedule. As I work with an assistant, I hand off small tasks and eventually work up to larger things. For instance, I’ll have my assistant set up the sign-up forms for my reading team first, and I’ll handle the emails to them. Later, I may hand off the management of the reading team to my assistant. My work flow changes with my schedule. When I have a book release coming up I have more tasks to hand off. During my slower times, I’ll have my assistant help with other things, like updates for my online course.
What does your VA do for you?
Formatting worksheets and PDF files
Google sign-up forms for my Reading Team
Mail merge for labels for printed ARCs
Facebook group moderation
Adding links and formatting posts to website
Book submission to promotion sites
Goodreads giveaway set-up (before the price went crazy high!)
Spreadsheet creation (data I need to keep up with like contract expiration dates and ad keywords)
Creation of a PDF checklist of all my books that readers can download
Audit of reviews to look for potential keywords and tag lines
Coordinate update of my online course – gathered testimonials, author photos, and uploaded to course website
Update bibliography on book sties like FreshFiction.com, FantasticFiction.com, and cozy mystery sites
Update the “Books” tab on Facebook Author profile page
What non-embarrassing mistakes have you learned from that came from working with VAs?
It’s smart to be specific in what I want and when I need it done. So far, the biggest problems have been technical issues such as logging into accounts and setting permissions so that my assistant can actually get in and work.
How frequently do you recommend VAs (in general or your own) to other authors?
Anytime I hear of an author looking for a VA, I recommend that they give it a try and will pass on my assistant’s contact info. If it’s not a good fit, the author can try someone else.
Do you feel like your VAs have significantly helped you grow your business?
Having an assistant lets me offload tasks, which frees up my time for writing. It also gives me more headspace for thinking about writing. It’s a relief to know someone else is handling the other details.
Hello! I’m Adriel Wiggins, wife, mother of three, fur mom, bibliophile, art geek, and all around student. I’ve been on a quest all of my life to learn as much as I possibly can about everything I possibly can. This has helped me tremendously in what eventually became my life’s purpose: to help other people become the best version of themselves. It is in that line that I became an assistant. You can check out my credentials and experience on my website. Stop by and see what books I’ve been reading!
Adriel’s answers to questions about working as an assistant:
What would VA’s like for authors to ask them?
One of the biggest mis-communications between VAs and Authors interviewing each other is a clear expectations of skills and duty fulfillments. VAs wish that Authors would clearly line out what they’d like done from the very beginning. While some VAs are willing to learn new skills, others prefer to avoid certain tasks. But the Author will never know that if they don’t ask the VA at the beginning.
How do you decide you’d like to work with an author?
Each VA decides to work with authors based on their own preferences. Some VAs choose to work with only authors in a particular genre. Or only authors who are making a certain amount each year from their writing. Other VAs prefer new authors who don’t want to handle the business side at all, but just want to write. For me, it’s a mix of personality and desire to make their work a real business. Although I’ll do one-off jobs for many different authors, the authors that I choose to work with long-term are all serious business owners whose business just happens to be books.
How do you handle communication and scheduling with your authors?
I’ve learned the hard way how best to communicate with multiple authors on multiple projects! I use a mix of Google Drive Folders, Google Calendars, Asana (for an author that prefers that), Trello (for an author that prefers that), a variety of messengers/video conference calls, and emails. I’m flexible with what an author prefers, but I keep track of things for myself with Google Calendars.
What’s your favorite thing about being an author assistant?
I absolutely love meeting interesting people (both the authors that hire me and many other authors and assistants within the course of business) and getting to read so many books!
What’s your least favorite thing about being an author assistant?
Since I get to choose who I’ll work with, there are very few things that I don’t enjoy about my dream job. But there were a few growing pains when I first started my business, and learning the ropes about how to pick an author that I’ll work well with.
Got more questions? Leave them in the comments and we’ll answer.
Check out Part One of this series for tips on how to find an assistant and Part Two for tips on getting started with your assistant. Or, check out Part One of Adriel’s Becoming an Author Assistant series.