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SPQ 053: Virtual Assistants: How is Outsourcing Used in a Self-Publishing Business?

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Businesswoman drawing job allocation concept on whiteboard

The Question

K asks: Based on your own experience in getting set up, how do you use virtual assistants in your self-publishing business?

Biggest Takeaway

Steve’s Answer

Using virtual assistants and freelancers is a major part of Steve’s business. He does almost all of his own content creation, but he uses teams to take care of a lot of the moving parts. Unless you systematize everything you do, you’ll make mistakes if you try to handle all of these tasks yourself.

If you are successful with your book-based business, you’ll move from author to authorpreneur. Instead of doing everything yourself, you’ll be an entrepreneur who has a lot of help with your business.

It’s a matter of scaling your business. You need to figure out how to grow your business without having to do everything yourself. Steve thinks of scaling in two ways:

  • Scaling gives you an opportunity to create more assets.
  • You can also scale by getting more time. Virtual assistants and freelancers give you more time to focus on writing.

Steve recorded this episode the day he left for Africa. His team will edit the episodes, format them correctly, and publish the show notes while he is away. All he had to do before he left was record the episodes and put them in Dropbox.

So how does Steve use virtual assistants and freelancers? There’s a five-step process.

  • Identify your core genius. These are the tasks that only you can do. As an authorpreneur, you should be creating content and marketing content.
  • Value your time. Track the amount of money you earn in a month and then divide that by the number of hours you worked that month. If you make $1,200 and worked 40 hours, then your time is worth $30 per hour. Anything that costs less to outsource is something you should delegate.
  • Find help: Hire for a specific task, or hire a general virtual assistant. When you hire for a specific task, you’re not paying the person on a part-time or full-time basis. Examples: editor, cover designer, formatter, translator. A general virtual assistant handles a variety of tasks and usually works part-time or full-time. You should hire someone who can help build your platform and assist you with books.
  • Create standardized operating procedures.
  • Use tools to manage the entire process.

Here are some ways Steve’s virtual assistant helps him with his business:

  • Sort and filter emails before Steve looks at his inbox in the morning
  • Research tools and resources to use in his blog posts and books
  • Create tracking links for the Amazon Associates program
  • Turn Steve’s book content into slideshow presentations
  • Create notes for the audio versions of Steve’s books

How do you find people to work on specific tasks?

How do you find a virtual assistant?

  • Search on Virtual Staff Finder
  • Describe what you need; Virtual Staff Finder presents three candidates
  • Interview the candidates via Skype
  • Pick the right person for your business
  • Virtual Staff Finder does background checks and all the work necessary to ensure you get the best candidates

It’s difficult to manage employees, so standardized operating procedures (SOPs) help you keep everything organized. Steve addresses four types of tasks in his SOPs.

  • Daily tasks
  • Weekly tasks
  • Monthly tasks
  • Occasional tasks

Figure out the tasks you need to do yourself; then try to remove yourself from all the other tasks. Steve uses Dropbox to manage the whole process.

There are some tools you can use to streamline the process of working with virtual assistants and freelancers:

  • Microsoft Word for creating documents
  • Jing for creating videos
  • Dropbox for sharing documents
  • Trello for project management
  • Slack for chatting
  • Edgar for automating social media activities

You can’t do everything yourself. Focus on important tasks such as writing and marketing your books. Virtual assistants and freelancers help free up time for you to work on the most important activities in your business.

Resources and Links

Odesk: Find freelancers to edit or format your books, design book covers, or do foreign translations of your content

Elance: Elance has thousands of freelancers available for editing, design, programming, translation, and administrative tasks

Virtual Staff Finder: Virtual Staff Finder helps you find the right person to work as your virtual assistant

Jing: Create videos to share with your virtual assistant

Dropbox: Share files with multiple people by syncing your Dropbox folders

Trello: Use this tool to manage projects

Slack: Chat with your virtual assistant using the Slack messaging system

Edgar: Take control of your social media efforts with this automation tool

  • Great suggestion Steve,
    I do transcriptions so just a quick question. Do you think along with an intelligent transcript (show notes and resource links as above) if you also had a complete transcript, would you get better SEO love (especially for long tail keywords) ?

    Also, I charge $0.85/min for my transcription, does an intelligent transcript (as above) cost more?

    Thanks in advance and have a blast in Mt. Kilamanjaro

    Hi Gloria,
    Great work on the show notes on the audio books
    Love them 🙂

  • Thanks Russell. That might work as well…. for now, I just know that not too many people read the show notes. But down the road might do both. At this point, I’m trying to keep things as simple as possible. 🙂

  • Semina

    Interesting article! Although I do believe that there are tools that have all the above in one! It’s much easier to have a full collaboration platform to facilitate all the above than have a lot of tiny little apps to do this! For example comidor (www.comidor.com) is a powerful Collaboration platform which combines Project Management, CRM and Business Intelligence functionalities.

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