Recently on Facebook some virtual assistants (VAs) and personal assistants (PAs) were asking about how to get more work, or what they could do to grow their business. I’ve also talked a lot about using VAs, and have one right now, though I usually haven’t been good about having a clear strategy of things to do that will actually help boost my business. But in a comment I left, I basically mapped out the whole strategy that I should be using, but am not (who has time?) and for which I’d be willing to pay for. Thought it might be helpful for authors or anybody with a business trying to save time and get results, so here it is:
I usually capitalize, I have a PhD in Literature after all… but this was a Facebook comment so I didn’t.
Things I would outsource to a VA
★Taking my blog posts and looking for great content that can be turned into image quotes.
★Turning blog posts into awesome Google Slides presentations (which I could read on video for youtube) – I prefer google slides to powerpoint – and putting those up on slideshare with links back to my site.
★Sharing my content on more platforms like linkedinpulse or medium, squidoo (is that still around?) or other content distribution sites.
★Make some amazing infographics based on my posts, then share those on bigger blogs in my space (these can take time and effort… I’ve used Piktochart to make them. But… actually they may not be worth it, since the other types of posts may be more effective with less work).
★Do “expert roundup posts” like “top 100 quotes about book marketing from 100 publishing experts” with pictures and links to their site, then email them about it and see if they’ll share.
As an example, here’s one of mine, but these could be done much better if styled right, with a big quote from their blog or book.
★Asking if you can guest post for blogs in my space and writing guest posts that link back to my site. (I’ve tried guest posting but I’m too lazy and I hate asking for approval.)
★Maybe once a week put a great article up on reddit (in different groups with big audiences).
★For most of my blog posts, make a picture/text version of the headline and featured image, and pin those to pinterest.
★Research interesting stuff happening in my field or genre, write a “weekly roundup” post with links to news or great articles from other sites in my space. (Then email those sites and let them know their content was featured on my site).
★Facebook: share some of those interesting things you find that would be appreciated by my audience and share in my group. Also, while logged into my page (not sure how this works right now but I think I can make someone else an admin) go around and like and comment on things in other big groups similar to mine. Even if it’s just finding a popular thread about a relevant issue and going through and clicking “like” on a hundred comments… everybody likes to be appreciated.
★Twitter: basically same thing. Look for news or interesting things that would attract my audience, share the weekly roundups or the other content, my new posts, etc. Search by keywords and find new people to follow. Like their stuff and retweet some of it. Support others in my community and be a sharer (not sure I would do this on my main, personal account – and they would have to be well qualified, as in, actually interesting stuff, not just apparently interesting stuff.)
★SEO: I should probably get a VA or expert just to help with SEO, as in, going through my site and optimizing everything to get more natural traffic. But that’s probably a one time, big job, not long term.
You can’t usually hire a VA who is great at everything, so you may need more than one. Some are excellent at social media, some at design, some at coding, WordPress fixing, SEO… The list is what I think I need, and if someone offers me a perfect package at the right price, I’m in – but I’d want to check example of what they’ve written/designed/accomplished.
If you’re a VA (or want to be one and get more work), you could do all that with canva or wordswag, google slides and some design skills. (I would want my stuff to look great but I can make a template or you can copy the styles/fonts I use on my blog). You could skip the infographic and focus on picture quotes that look amazing.
I’d probably pay $100 a month for something like do all that for 5 articles a month (some content creation, some distribution and sharing and outreach.) Not a lot, but once you have the skills, that would probably take you under 10 hours. Get 20 clients, get some great testimonials, samples and experience, package it together with great branding, start charging $250 for the same service. Having a great service at a LOW price, like $100, is great to start because you’ll get a ton of traffic and links to your site… later you can keep increasing the price, whenever you feel too stressed out, raise your prices.
Eventually you’ll be the best at this and attract the best clients, or you can diversify, offer the same package but with multiple sales pages, for psychiatrists/dentists/doctors/bands and musicians/artists/anything you want. Most people feel overwhelmed and need help but they don’t know what they need or want. So if you’re a VA, package things together and charge a flat fee. You can set your own prices, but like I said, you need traffic and recommendations before you can charge high rates. Eventually, I’d probably have something like a $50 trial (they have to buy to test) and you give them 1 article or a day of your best work, and then they have to buy a $500/month package.
Specifically for authors
The VA I have now is brilliant and a great writer, but I don’t really need articles so I was having trouble. Finally decided she can focus on building up theYAshelf.com, a young adult community site (not my main author website) and helping out with my Facebook group for YA authors. Here’s how these ideas apply to authors.
Things I’m having her do:
In my Facebook group we keep track of member book launches, so she can make a bimonthly post on theYAshelf about upcoming launches, or new releases every month, like “the ten best young adult fantasy book new releases of August 2016” (lots of nice keywords, probably very little competition.) I also want to make big posts of “best books for teens” because that’s a hot keyword for young adult literature, so I want to make more posts like this:
With all the books and covers (and maybe a nice passage from inside). You can get great quotes from inside the books, if you go to https://kindle.amazon.com/ you can search for the ASIN number of any book, click on it and see the most highlighted passages, so you can just pull a quote from there quickly (you can also make BONUS content, like 106 best passages from the greatest young adult fantasy books of all time) – by doing it this way and finding the most highlighted passages.
Then, once that’s up and looks great, you can email all the authors and tell them they’ve been featured; you can take a screen shot of all the covers and titles (like the one above) and share it with the link on social media (Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest). I might also boost it on Facebook to my target audience. These posts are gold for driving traffic and getting links back to your site. The authors will usually share and retweet them… if they do you can embed their comments INTO the post, which boosts your credibility and brand recognition. (You can see how I did that by clicking on the mermaid book picture up above).
I know this sounds sketchy, like I’m “using” those authors, but the truth is most authors aren’t doing a great job of getting visibility for their own books, so I’m just doing their book marketing for them by putting all this together and including their books so they show up in search results. Also, I do screen the books I choose – I look through categories and search for keywords on Amazon (e.g. “mermaids”) and see what books have a good ranking, great reviews, a decent cover, and I read at least the “look inside” to make sure the quality is high.
Other things I’ve considered:
For non-fiction books, you can/should take the whole book and turn it into a series of blog posts and videos and powerfulpoints you can put on SlideShare. You don’t have to give away everything, but you can give away a lot – it could become a hundred good pieces of content. Nobody will ever collect them all to get the book for free, but they will mean all your stuff gets found when people are searching for those topics, your blog will start getting traffic because you have a lot of content, which will lead to more optins and book sales.
For fiction, I’ve considered hiring someone just to read my book, chapter by chapter, out-loud and post some of those to my fiction Facebook page or youtube. But that won’t work as well as the kinds of content I talked about up above.
How much would all this cost?
10 hours a week for $200 a month is about as cheap as you’ll get, but that’s only $5 an hour. It’s not a great job, so good VAs will want more, and as they grow in experience their rates will increase. If someone is really an amazing expert at all of this stuff and does it really well, they could be making $500 or $1000 a month doing it for a bigger business with more profits. Or if they’re good at business, they’ll package it together and charge more, on a nice looking website. They won’t need to chase your $5 tip because they’ll be earning a lot of money from well-paying clients. (On the other hand, there are very talented VAs who don’t have a website or service page and can’t actually find any clients… or they might be students starting out, etc.)
So it’s a balance. If you have a good VA, give them bonuses sometimes and don’t be too demanding. Also, if you hire cheap it may take 3 months or so before they really understand what you want and start producing results you’re happy with, so factor that in.
Who can do this for me?
I know some great VAs who work by the hour, so actually I would probably hire one from Fiverr or onlinejobs.ph (have found some amazing help there). But like I said, you’d need 3 months to train them; if you just want someone to help for a month or two, better to get someone who knows what they’re doing.
Salma Jaffri offers some of this but I haven’t seen any other similar services yet… though I’m sure they are out there. I’ll make a list of recommendations and add them here later.
I’m a philosophy dropout with a PhD in Literature. I covet a cabin full of cats, where I can write fantasy novels to pay for my cake addiction. Sometimes I live in castles.
Great post Derek. Thank you for sharing this.
Such a nice post.It will be very helpful for many people.
I’ve been thinking about hiring a VA myself – not there yet – but working on it. I started by creating a bullet list of potential tasks for the VA to do. Now I am writing a document for each bulleted task using the three Ps: #1. Policy – a paragraph about my policies/values (e.g. no coarse language allowed in blog posts). #2. Procedure – a paragraph about which tools/apps are to be used to perform the task, along with any login info needed to access those tools. #3. Process – step-by-step instructions for performing that bulletined task, including screen shots to enable the VA to train and/or refresh him/herself. Oh, I know, you’ll say “I don’t have time to write all that stuff!” Well, I thought the same thing too, until I got it though my thick head that I could never delegate tasks effectively until I do. Got quite a few done already, and it’s even helped me to do these tasks better myself – while I’m still looking for a VA. Even if I never hire a VA, these documents will be there in case of some kind of emergency – God forbid. Hope this helps!