Presented live on Tuesday, Nov 5, 2019
In this live Tutorial, we’ve brought in VA Sandra Booker to give you a quick run-down of:
1) unexpected ways she’s saved many a butt over the years,
2) how you can find a VA that’ll fit what YOU need (even if you’re not sure what that is),
3) tips for vetting them (so you don’t get a, um, dud)
4) how to make the most of your VA once you’ve got one.
This tutorial was originally designed for the freelance copywriters in the room who’ve been dragging their feet on better managing the unbillable admin stuff…
…but I’m also seeing an increasing number of entrepreneurs add a VA to their lives. To get back the one thing no amount of money can buy: time.
If you have more time than money, you probably don’t need a VA.
But if you have more money than time, you may be ready to at least CONSIDER hiring a VA.
Learn more tips from Sandra on what a VA can do for you.
And, check out this link, where Sandra answers listeners’ questions.
Joanna Wiebe: We have Sandra Booker in today to talk with us about finding a VA, hiring a VA, actually using a VA. Do you need a VA? Where VA means a virtual assistant, if you’re not familiar with the term. If you are familiar with it, you probably thought, “I want one.” Or you’ve thought, “Do I need one”, and all the questions. We’re going to tackle that today.
All right. VAs, VAs. I got my first VA a couple years into Copy Hackers. It was the greatest moment ever. I remember telling my hairdresser, “I have time to see you because I’m not going through my emails right now. Because my VA does that for me.” She was like, “What’s this VA thing you’re talking about?”
So, Vas. I tell everybody in the Tenex Freelance Copywriter, the very… One of the very first things I tell them is when you think you need a VA, you need a VA. You probably already did before that. So I’ve been… In the Tenex Freelance Copywriter, people are always like, “What? How do I actually find one?” I want one sounds good, but how do I actually find one? And then when I found one, how do I make sure I’m putting them to good use, et cetera, et cetera. That’s why Sandra Booker is here. Sandra is out in… On the east side of Canada by Niagara Falls and she is and has been VA to copywriters like Laura Belgray, Chanti Zak, and of course Tarzan Kay, who’s in next week to talk about how to save up money so you can afford a VA. But for now we’re going to talk about the thing that you want in the first place, which is a VA. And Sandra, you’re going to take over and talk to us all about that.
Sandra Booker: Wonderful. Hey everybody, so glad to be here. I’m looking forward to your questions and everything at the end. Today we’re just going to talk a little bit about virtual assistants, what they are, where they are, and how do you find and keep a good one. Virtual assistants are becoming more and more popular. They’re becoming more and more well known. Even when I started out just over five years ago, they were still a little mystifying for people. But now we have a lot of big names talking about getting a virtual assistant, so they are becoming more well known. But I still get some people, when I say a virtual assistant, they think Google Home, Alexa, Siri, or they think robot in my home baking me treats. But obviously what I’m actually talking about today are people. And specifically I’m talking about a general virtual assistant, a general administrative virtual assistant, because there are a lot of different kinds of VAs out there.
There are social media VAs and launch VAs and tech Vas, online business managers, project managers and integrators. The list goes on and on, people just tack VA on to the end of their title for various reasons. But there’s a lot of us and we have a lot of different skillsets. But like I said, I’m going to focus on the general admin VA because that’s typically what people are looking for when they first think, I need some help. A general admin VA, just to give you like a quick overview of some of the little things that they can do or some of the big things they can do.
You’re talking, most people understand that they can manage an inbox, customer service, they can manage your calendar, they can handle your client onboarding, scheduling, invoicing, all those things. They can handle research work for you and data entry work, provide basic pre… proofreading. Why can’t I say that word… Of emails and blogs, they’re not typically professional proofreaders, but they’re definitely a good second set of eyes before you send anything out. Loading and publishing those emails and blogs. I wouldn’t necessarily say launch emails. Some VAs can do launch emails, but those can be tricky sometimes as you know. So you typically want like a launch VA or a launch manager to help with those. They can create basic graphics in Canva. Not everybody has a good eye, but they can typically put together a nice little graphic for you.
They can help follow up with your pitches. If you’re trying to get on podcasts and you’re pitching people, you want to make sure you’re doing the followup because that’s the big thing with getting on podcasts is the follow up or guest blogging, making sure you follow up. They can help you with that. They can write meeting notes either on the call with you, with your clients or subcontractors or afterwards listening to a recording. That’s what a general admin VA can do. A good general admin VA can typically do those things, policies, procedures, processes, stuff like that.
A great one can also manage your projects and team, making sure that things are happening when you expect them to happen, and making sure that you have what you need when on a project at any point in time.
I had a client who had agreed to do a training to a group and I’ve worked with the client for a little while, so I kind of know what her ebb and flow is work-wise. A week before the presentation I sent her a slide deck that I had mocked up because I knew she hadn’t started one yet despite being reminded. So I had mocked one up for her based on something she had done before. It made it super easy for her to just finish off that slide deck in an hour rather than the five or six hours that she was facing.
They can help build your reputation with your audience, if they… if you’re having them manage your inbox. They’re going to be one of the first people they interact with and they can provide really great customer service for you.
They can act as a great sounding board for you as they get to know your business and your industry. They’ll be able to highlight things that you might not necessarily see and help rein you in when you start freaking out about things. I had a client who… She had a launch. It went okay. It wasn’t as well as she wanted it to be and she started thinking, “Oh maybe I have to give more stuff or charge less money.” And so I was able to say, “No, actually, based on the survey data that we’ve received, charging less money is not the problem and having more stuff is not going to be the answer. They actually want less stuff. Your audience is this way.” Being able to talk her back from doing a lot of extra work or making less money was a big bonus to her.
They can also help lay out your path to your goals. Most of us might have a business coach or you might be in a paid group that’s helping you move forward in your business, and they’ll say, “Oh you should do this thing”. And then your next question is, “Well, how the heck do I do this thing?” Your VA can usually help you plan that out and they can track it all in your project management tool and make sure that everything is moving forward so you can really rely on them as they grow and get to know you and your business to really take on more and more. The goal is to expand your relationship with your VA.
And they can have your back in unexpected ways. I know in the email… One of the emails Joanna sent out, she talked about her assistant upgrading her Zoom account right when she needed it. And that happens a lot. I ended up having to do that for a client as well on a Zoom webinar. We were hitting 90 people and as you know, at a hundred, people will start getting blocked out. We weren’t expecting that many people, our show up rate was amazing for that one. I immediately just had to pop in there and quickly upgrade and… No asking or anything, just this is what needed to be done. So your VA would do it.
I’ve also had a situation where right before a launch, a client of mine… I hadn’t seen the sales page yet, I wasn’t working on the sales page, I wasn’t supposed to be involved in it. And I decided to just double-check for my own personal peace of mind that everything was good there. And it turns out none of the checkout links were working and we were two days before the launch. So that was… Thank goodness that she had an assistant that wanted to double-check everything was working properly because otherwise that could have been a disaster.
Those are some things that people… That your VA can do for you. There’s a lot. VAs, we are the Jacks of all trades. We can do a lot of things. You don’t want to necessarily get an all-in-one, but we can do a lot.
Joanna Wiebe: Interesting. I think because, and Samantha just chatted this over to panelists only, but said, “So you’re basically a guardian angel on Earth”. And what’s really interesting is, the idea of a VA sounds like, oh, okay, so you’ll manage little things, but in fact this is a lot more like business ops stuff. You’re really in that, but you don’t call yourself that. And it sounds like you don’t start doing that out of the gate, just once you get familiar with people. So I’m just wondering about… Anyway, it’s curious to me that there’s so much that a VA can do when a lot of people, I think wouldn’t ever come close to expecting that that’s what they can ask a VA to do.
Sandra Booker: Yeah. And every VA is going to be different too, right? Some… not everybody’s going to come to you with all of those skillsets. Not everybody’s going to come to you knowing what a launch… how a launch runs and what to double-check. The first time I did a launch, I wouldn’t have known to double-check all that stuff unless I was working on it. The one thing I do see over and over is people who, they hold back from their VA, they don’t think their VA can do it. They’re not sure. So they don’t ask. They don’t ever give it up, give things over. They… And also they’re worried about cost and like, Oh, I don’t want to go over. So they hold back and as long as you’re holding back, you can never expand.
The goal of your VA is to have them grow with you and expand with you. And yes, you want that bill to eventually increase because the more they take on from you, the more time you have and the more space you have to do the thing that you love to do.
Joanna Wiebe: Love it. Cool.
Sandra Booker: We tend to do a lot and you just have to be able to, and I hit on this near the end, but communicate with your VA and make sure that you get to know them really well and they get to know you really well.
Joanna Wiebe: Cool.
Sandra Booker: Then the next question is obviously, well, where the heck do you find this magical unicorn that can come in and save your business or save your time or save you money or whatever it is you’re trying to do. And honestly, we’re fricking everywhere. We’re literally everywhere. You can’t throw a stone without hitting a VA or somebody that wants to be a VA or somebody that was a VA. We’re all over the place. You can find us on Fiverr and Upwork and in paid Facebook groups and coworking spaces. There’s associations you can go to like ivaa.org, or associationofvas.com, or canadianava.org. There’s… You can just look up virtual assistant associations and find a lot of them and on those association websites you can put in an RFP, excuse me, sorry, request for proposal, and you can find a VA that way. The best way people find VAs are referrals from other people in their industry, other people who have worked with VAs and just putting out calls.
Where are you find a VA is not as important as how you vet them. What I see a lot of people do is they come in and they just need a VA now. Everything’s falling apart in their business, that they don’t know what to do. They just need some time. They need some space, they need to breathe. I need a VA like yesterday, I hear that all the time. And people come to me and they only talk to me. That’s… I’m just the… This is the only name they know. They don’t bother trying to find somebody else. They talk to me and then they want to hire me and they want to hire like that. And honestly you want to hire slowly. Hire slow, fire fast. You don’t want to just get one referral from a friend and then hire that person because they seem to have had a good experience.
Not everybody is for everybody. I’m really fricking good at what I do. I was a fantastic virtual assistant. I’m an amazing online business manager, but I’m still not a fit for everybody. I have my own personality, I have my own little quirks, how I… things that I do and that I don’t do. So I am not going to be a fit for everybody. It doesn’t matter how good the VA is, it’s a matter of how great the fit is. That’s what you need to work on.
When you’re trying to find a VA, you want to make sure that, excuse me, that the first thing you do is you know what position you’re hiring for. A lot of people think, oh I need a VA, I’m so busy. But then when they get on a call with me, we break it down. We figure out they don’t need a VA at all. Some people need… What they need in their business right now is actually somebody to manage their social media and content. Or I’ve had people that all they really need is somebody to do their bookkeeping. And I’ve had people where the big thing that they needed is to get off social media because they just needed some time management skills and they weren’t actually ready for a VA. They didn’t have enough work to give a VA or the money to pay a VA. So you have to figure out what exactly is the position you’re hiring for.
Pretty much you’re going to look at where are you right now in your business? Where are you trying to go? What are your big goals for the next year or two, three? You want to hire somebody that’s going to stay with you long term. And then figure out that position. If you’re looking at everything you’re doing right now and the only thing that’s holding you back from getting to where you’re going, getting to where you’re trying to be is that your social media game, all of your content is a mess, you’re never consistent. You don’t, you’re not great at making graphics or whatever. Then maybe you don’t need a VA right away. Maybe you need a content developer or social media manager or something like that. Really look at what it is that’s holding you back from getting to the goals that you’re trying to get to and then develop a role for that and then that’s what you’re going to hire for. It’s not always a general human being.
Joanna Wiebe: Okay.
Sandra Booker: Then you’re going to do your research, find 10 to 15 people. I know it seems like a lot. You don’t have to interview them all, but you do have to do your research on them.
Looking at their websites, getting… Seeing what testimonials they have, looking at their social media, what are they posting on their own company stuff, on their own company accounts, looking at their LinkedIn, getting to know them a little bit that way. And then reaching out and you can even ask them… So one thing that I do when I’m looking for an assistant is I give them a little test before I get on a call with them. And that test is super, super simple. It’s literally I say, “Can you tell me how to add preview text to a ConvertKit email?” And the reason I ask that question is because all they have to do is Google that question, just copy and paste it into Google. And they are literally going to get to the exact article by Elizabeth Goddard. That will tell them the answer.
But I’ve had people that say “No”, or “No, I have no idea”. And it’s like, well those people aren’t problem solvers. I don’t want to work with them. And then I also have a lot of people that do find the answer, but then even how they give me the response is a really good look into what it would be like to work with them. Do they just copy and paste it from the page and leave all the formatting the way it is, so it’s really, really hard to read in my email? Or do they just give me a link to it or… How do they present that information and make it easy for me to get the information I asked for. Giving a little small test question that’s not a lot of work can be a really good indicator before you get on a call.
And then, obviously you want to actually get on calls with more than one person. I recommend getting on with at least three different people. Three to five you shouldn’t be getting on with more than five, but three to five different people and just really like getting to know them a little bit and see how the fit is and how you guys even communicate together.
Things to watch for. If they know nothing about you, they don’t even know your website and they haven’t asked beforehand, that’s a little bit of a red light. That’s the kind of basic stuff they should know. At least they should have at least looked up your website before getting on a call with you. If they’re late or even after the call, if they said they’re going to give you a proposal on said date and then they’re late giving you that proposal, that’s a red light.
If you feel like they’re not listening or they constantly interrupt you, that’s just a good indication of what it’s going to be like to work with them. Just make note of it. Pay attention to those things. If they’re in their PJs or they don’t look put together. We all work, well, a lot of us work from home and that’s fine. But when you get on a call with a client, you really should look put-together. Your space behind you should look semi-decent and I’ve been on calls with people in their bedrooms with the dog on the bed doing what dogs do. And it just doesn’t look the best. So not that that’s a huge red flag, but it just, it does make me just wonder about how they’re going to present themselves in my business, if that’s how they present themselves in theirs.
If they seem defensive or hard to talk to. If you’re like, “Oh, I think you misunderstood me”, or “I think, you know, you misunderstood what I said”, or something like that. And they’re like, immediately, “No, no, no, you said that”. That’s also an indicator of what it might be like to work with them. A lot of people just kind of like fluff that stuff off, but pay attention to it.
Some green lights are that they ask about your goals. A VA that gets on a call and wants to know where you’re heading is a VA that’s interested in helping you get there. They ask informed questions about their business… about your business, sorry. Maybe they say, “Hey, I saw that you were just on this podcast. Are you looking to get on more podcasts? Is that something that you’re hoping to do?” If they know things about your business and ask about your business in other than just, “Oh, where are you located?” That’s a real good green light.
If they suggest how they can work with you. Throughout the conversation you’re going to be telling them a little bit about what’s… Your struggles and things that are happening. And if they can say, “Oh, well you talked about this. Here’s how I can help solve that problem. You talked about this. Here’s what I can do here,” they’re already helping you. They’re already telling you what they can take off of your plate, which is always… People think of that as a to do list. Like, okay, now I’ve got to think of what to give this person. Well if they’re already taking that to do list off your plate, that’s a green light.
If they lead the call and manage the time well that’s a really good thing. I always try and let them lead the call so that I can see what they’re like on a call and how well-prepared they are and how well they speak. Trying let them lead the call rather than you leading it. Those are red and green lights while you’re on a call.
And then three tips for a successful relationship. I’m going to just blast through these because I know we’re coming to the end, but communication is key. Making sure that once you bring a VA on that they know your vision, they know what your business stands for, what you’re working towards. Making sure that you have a set meeting schedule. Weekly tends to be too much depending on how… But it does depend on exactly what they’re doing for you, but you should have at least weekly little check-ins, whether that’s through email or or Slack messages or something like that. But you should be meeting on a regular basis every two weeks, every month at least. And don’t miss those meetings.
Make sure you have a method of communication set. I highly recommend it be your project management tool that you may or may not have, but you should have as soon as you start working with the VA, if not before. And have a backup method as well. So in emergencies so they know if you call them or if you Slack them, then you need an answer right away. Voice messaging is not the best way to communicate as a primary method of communication just because it’s not searchable. If I get Boxer messages and everything like that, unless it’s documented right away, it’s not searchable, so you can miss things pretty easy. So make it email or a project management tool as your basic method of communication.
Tip number two is to delegate outcomes rather than tasks. Instead of saying, “Oh, can you do X, Y, Z”. Instead of saying, “Hey, can you please take this blog post, put it up on WordPress, make sure that all the bolding and highlighting and all of that is there, the links work, the SEO is there”. Instead of giving away all those tasks, just say, “Hey, I have some blogs already up. I have a new one that needs to be posted. Can you please, can you just start doing this on a weekly basis?” Whatever it is, they should be able to look at what you did before and make it happen again. If you focus on the outcome, I want my blog posts to all look the same and be sent out on a similar, on a regular schedule, that’s the outcome. That’s what you should be delegating to them. And then just let them do it the way they need to do it.
And then the last thing is to make sure they know the level of autonomy you want them to have. And this will change depending on the project or the task that they might be doing, but making sure that you communicate how much autonomy you want them to have will help them just be able to do things. If you were to give them a research project, maybe you’re changing email providers and you’re like, “I just need to know what’s out there”. You can say, “Hey, I want to change email providers. Can you make a list of what’s out there and bring it to me?” Or, “Can you make a list of what’s out there and then recommend one to me?” Or, “Can you make a list of what’s out there? Figure out which one I should use based on what you know my objectives are, and then just go and buy it for me and get it set up.” Making sure they know how much autonomy they have to do something is going to make it easier for them to actually move forward in their role.
Joanna Wiebe: Very cool. That’s… I think a few of those things were scary. They were scary for me. Like, whoo, delegate outcomes, but what if they don’t pay attention to things. That’s amazing. And I know we’re running up against time so Carrie just chatted out this link showing here now, so if you want to head over there to get more of what you’ve just heard. Of course the replay will be available later. What can they expect at anyoldtask.ca/copyhackers, Sandra?
Sandra Booker: That is going to be a big list of everything you could possibly, well not everything you can possibly, but a huge list of things that you can have your VA do, as well as a few things I recommend never having your VA do.
Joanna Wiebe: Nice. Sandra that was amazing. Everybody has been saying amazing things in the chat. Thank you so much. We have that link for people to go and get more from you. And if you had a question that didn’t get answered, Carrie also chatted out Sandra’s email address. Thanks again so much Sandra. And if you are interested in how you can get to a place where you have $70 an hour to spend on a great VA, then tune in for the next Tutorial Tuesday where Tarzan is going to talk to us about money management. Okay. Have a good rest of your day, guys. Thanks everybody.
Sandra Booker: Awesome.
Joanna Wiebe: Bye. Bye. Yeah.