A trusted asset who takes away your frustrations by completing the tasks you don’t want to do, letting you focus on what you love.
It can be so hard when you’re starting your own business, or running a ‘side hustle’ alongside your main job, or even trying to stay up to date in the rapidly changing online world. For Gen-X people like me (born 1963 – 1980) or older, it’s particularly challenging since we haven’t grown up with the Internet, Social Media and the Online Business World like the younger generations have.
Proficient ‘digital literacy’ isn’t part of our basic, native skill set, unless we’ve been educated and worked specifically in the IT fields. When I see how easily my 6- and 3-year-old boys navigate an iPad or computer, or how easily a ‘Millennial’ navigates their way through the online world, I realise how much things have changed since I was growing up and how much we’ve had to learn and adapt to stay afloat.
There have been so many technological breakthroughs during our short lifetimes
… from the emergence of home computers, to fax machines, to E-mail … from ‘floppy discs’ to recordable CDs to USB memory sticks … from record players to tape cassettes (and ‘Walkmans’), to CDs and then to MP3 players … from Analog TV with four channels to cable-TV with 100+ channels … from basic old Radio to ‘online streaming’ … from videocassettes to DVDs and eventually Netflix-like systems. It’s been one continuous stream of technology upgrades that requires constant adaptation to stay ‘up with it’.
Still, I was proud that I always adapted well to all the technology changes. I embraced social media in 2007 and was doing fine in my previous career as a Consulting Engineer, mastering all the software and technology systems we used to do our work efficiently.
I thought I was doing pretty well at keeping up with the times…. Until I started my own business.
And then I realised oh how very little I actually knew about anything in the online digital world. Of course one of the first things I had to do was develop my own website, which meant finding a domain provider, a web host, choose a website builder, develop a logo and brand colour scheme, choose an email marketing host (which one?!), build an email list, understand digital marketing, develop digital products for my marketing, make sure my website was SEO-friendly (what’s that?!), choose business management software. People were recommending all kinds of different platforms/scheduling tools/business ‘must-haves’.
To say my head was swimming in this sea of endless information would be an understatement. There were times when I just felt like curling up into a ball and retreating back into my old corporate career where none of this stuff was necessary.
I’m usually pretty good at figuring stuff out. But at some stage, I had to admit that I was well and truly LOST. There were two things that helped me navigate through all the noise and FINALLY find my way in this seemingly impossible world of digital information:
1. A great business coach.
2. My Virtual Assistant (VA).
My business coach helped me “see the wood for the trees”, helping me figure out what was important at that stage in my business and to choose systems and strategies that would work for me. We developed a business strategy for my small coaching business. This gave me an enormous boost of clarity and was a big help in moving forward (if you’re stuck, I really highly recommend working with a good business coach).
My business coach often suggested that I start employing a “V.A.” to help me out with all the tasks that were needed to set up and keep things running. When she first said “V.A.” I didn’t have a clue what she was talking about. And when she explained what it meant, I resisted the idea enormously. I was just starting out and hardly making any money, so how could I afford to pay someone to work for me?
But it’s the chicken and egg thing.
Do you continue spending your time doing things that are well outside of your own ‘zone of genius’, or do you hire someone who’s incredibly savvy in the online world to do these things for you in the blink of an eye? Do you first need to make money before you can pay someone to help you? Or do you need someone to help you before you can start earning money? It’s been my experience that it’s the latter.
A Virtual Assistant is someone who is right on top of everything in the online world. They’ve either been trained or educated in the world of web development, software and/or digital marketing, or they’ve worked in these fields their whole career and so it’s second nature to them. So things that feel hard and clunky for many of us feel very easy and light for them. Their genius is website development, social media engagement, digital marketing and more … all the things that are clearly NOT my genius.
And hiring a VA is not as overwhelming or daunting as it might seem.
You can initially hire someone for just a couple of hours a month to help you with the most basic tasks you need covering. And as your business grows, you can increase those hours as you need. But it’s certainly been my experience that they can at the very least help you GET THE BALL ROLLING, and once it’s rolling, they can help you keep it rolling smoothly (as possible).
So what kind of tasks can a Virtual Assistant do for you?
Here are some examples of what they can do for you:
- Website changes, web page development, sales pages, website analytics to measure your site’s performance;
- Set up your online payments or accounting/invoicing systems;
- SEO-optimisation for your website;
- Social media graphics, social media scheduling, social media analytics to measure how you’re performing;
- Email community newsletters, Email broadcasts for particular promotions;
- Product launches;
- Blog broadcasting and distribution;
- Manage your Email inbox,
- Set up your Client scheduling system, manage your schedule … and more.
Anything you need to have done in the online world, they can do for you.
The biggest challenge I find is in having the courage and foresight to DELEGATE. This has never been a strength of mine, but I’m working on it and it feels so good and so efficient when I manage to do it well.
What have been the BIG POSITIVES I’ve found in working with a Virtual Assistant?
- I learn so much from my V.A. As I work with her I’m learning so much about all the different aspects of online business and my own knowledge and proficiency are increasing exponentially. Just one example is that she taught me everything I need to know about SEO (a concept I ignored for the longest time because I had no clue what it was). It stands for Search Engine Optimisation and it’s just a little bit critical to running a business. Thanks to my V.A., if you now search for keywords related to my business, you’ll actually find me. I hadn’t appreciated how important that is. If people are looking for a service you offer, they need to be able to find you!
- She allows me to focus on the core elements of my business – i.e. the coaching, writing, and content development – rather than wasting my time doing things that I’m terrible at.
- She figures out ways to do things that I am just completely stuck with. She saves me time and energy and handles the online things with way more elegance and finesse than I would ever be able to.
- She has helped me professionalize my online presence and as a result, I feel more professional and can deliver services that are more professional.
It can take some time to find a good VA.
It took me some trial and error to find the fantastic V.A. I now work with. I tried a couple of girls in the USA because the whole concept of V.A. is much more widely accepted and implemented over there (relative to Australia where the concept is still emerging). But due to the time zone differences and currency exchange (with the US dollar being significantly stronger than our Australian dollar), it was ineffective and expensive for me.
You may need to try a few different people before you find the right one for you. Sometimes you’ll have a very different working style to your V.A., which can become an obstacle to a good working relationship. But when you find someone who you work well with, hold onto them because they’re worth their weight in gold!
With my wonderful V.A’s permission I’m going to share her details with you (very begrudgingly because I don’t actually want to share her with anyone – lol). But she does have some spare capacity at the moment and would be able to help you out if I’ve managed to convince you that you need one!
Her name is Alex Hammett at Lemon and Lime Business Solutions. I couldn’t recommend her more highly so please do reach out to Alex if you need some virtual assistance.
I really hope this insight has helped you and if you’ve been unaware that you can hire a V.A., or if you’ve been sitting on the fence about getting one – please do go ahead and find one as soon as possible. You won’t regret it!
Empowering you to live your brightest life,
Katie De Jong, Ph.D
Global Career Coach for Thriving Professionals
Inspired Careers International