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When to Hire a Virtual Assistant (and how to know if you can afford it)

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Hello, overwhelmed gigging mom. There comes a time in the life of every freelancing mom when she gets so busy making loads of money that she has to decide if it’s time to hire help. Yeah, but when is that time? Would it be better to do the work yourself, pocket the money you would have spent on help, and just stuff your savings account? Will hiring help bring any value to your freelance business?   I got you.

When to Hire a VIrtual Assistant Pinterest pin

If there’s one thing I wish people knew about freelancing, it’s definitely the fact that it’s a very different image from the laid-back and ‘vacationy’ one that’s often sold to us.  “Work from anywhere,” they say. Yeah, sis… but’s it’s still work. Chances are, you’ll get to a point where you’re so booked up (fingers crossed) that you can barely recall what vacationy feels like.

A bunch of emails to respond to…

Deadlines coming at you faster than your body goals…

A tantruming toddler…

A client who absolutely doesn’t give a hoot about anything other than her own brand launch…

Not to mention, finances can sometimes be a significant bummer too, and the thought of adding an extra bill to your already strained budget might not sit well with you. Sound about right?

Stop Trying to be a Superhero

I still remember my pioneering freelancing days and how pressured I felt to fly a million kites. Looking back, I still cringe at how I managed to stick to those unreasonable deadlines that had me working almost around the clock, handle my finances, run a mom blog, and even wear the bumpy hood that is motherhood. My mindset was basically: Stick it out, buddy. Why hire help when you can do it yourself?

Well, why would you want to do it all yourself? In hindsight, I think I was just afraid that no one could fit in my shoes as well as I did. What if they did a lousy job? I’d have to redo it, and I will have lost all that time! I subconsciously carried my newly-found career path like a porcelain glass puzzle that would crumble if I dared try to hand any piece of it off to someone else.

Little did I know that wanting to do everything by myself would only steal my time, tamper with my focus, and diminish my psychological cushion against stress. I ended up dawdling on small tasks that ate up the time I could have spent with my family or resting. And these weren’t even my big-money tasks!

 My take-away? Amazing though we may be, moms aren’t above exhaustion and burn-out. At some point, you will need to outsource some of your more time-consuming, less lucrative tasks.

Signs You Need to Hire a Virtual Assistant

“Well, obviously, I need help because I’m tired!” I can only imagine the extent of your annoyance as you rumble these words through your nose. I get it. Trust me, I do. But what if I told you that tiredness isn’t enough of a reason to hire help as a freelancer? And if this is your sole-reason, I don’t in any way want to discredit it. But the thing is, your tiredness could be stemming from other things unrelated to your latest gig. If you’re tired from juggling being a stay-at-home mom being a work-from-home mom, then you’re better off hiring a domestic manager or babysitter.

Here’s how to know you need to start eyeing Upwork for a virtual assistant… even if you’re a virtual assistant yourself.

  • You’re earning consistent income as a freelancer without the horrifying dry spells.
  • You’re spending a lot of time on little tasks that you’re not being paid to do. A lot of projects come with little tasks (like if you’re building a new website, it should come with blog posts – that doesn’t mean YOU have to write them).
  • Those little tasks are keeping you from focusing on the big thing you WERE hired to do.
  • The little tasks are hard for you to do – you suspect it wouldn’t take a design geek five hours to perfect one Instagram post.
  • The little tasks are keeping you from building your business – stuff like finding new projects, accepting more work.

How Can I Afford a Virtual Assistant?

To be honest, we’re all trying to get our freelance businesses to grow. And While the term “growth” is to a large extent subjective, I’m as sure as I’m sitting here that in the context of freelancing, growth has something (read everything) to do with getting more money in less time.

Perhaps, you long for the day you’ll smash your income goals and afford the life you fancy. Or you simply make enough money to stop telling your kids that “there’s food at home.” Ermm…who am I kidding? The latter is a response that’s set-in-stone for all moms, but you get the point?

How do you attract more income when your 24 hours are already jam-packed? You can increase your rates, sure. But can the market bear it? Sleep for fewer hours every night? Okay, then how effective would you be as Mom (without becoming one of Disney’s infamous mommy villains?) Outsourcing the little things will probably free you up to do higher-value work.

Sure, your best bet is expanding your clientele base. You can do this by hiring someone to handle mundane tasks to give you ample space to focus on your big fish. For instance, If I have a client that’s paying me $40 hourly to manage their social media and another one that’s offering $10 for a 1000 word blog post, I wouldn’t think twice about picking the former and letting someone else handle the latter. Yet, both of these tasks would take me the same hours to complete.

Are You Making Enough to Hire a VA?

Are you making enough money freelancing to hire help? Probably, yes! See, we’re no longer sailing through times when hiring assistants was reserved for upper echelons of the executive world. Today, getting an assistant is based on the convenience that comes with it, and not necessarily, the ego-massage that accompanies responses such as “my assistant will handle that.” As a result, hiring help is easier, faster, and cheaper than ever before, more so with the new, sweeping wave of remote work.

Technically, you have two options. You can choose to either hire a perpetual virtual assistant to offer admin support or randomly onboard freelancers to help with spontaneous workloads that keep popping up. Whichever options you opt for, freelancing platforms like Fiver and Upwork can be crucial in helping you to hire someone fast.

So, let’s do the math. It’s possible to find a virtual assistant to handle basic administrative tasks for about $5 an hour if you’re game to employ global talent. That same skill set would probably cost more like $15 to $25 an hour if you go with a North American or UK provider.

I personally like the idea of things getting done while I sleep, with maybe an hour or two of overlap around 10PM my time when I can reach and instruct my assistant as needed. I’d also be reluctant to pull $300 to $500 a week out of my business to hire help. But I could definitely see investing $80 to $100 a week (which may end up being just one or two of your billable hours) into bringing in someone who can free up 15 to 20 hours a week for me.

On the other hand, if you don’t need someone on an ongoing basis, you can hire someone to perform one-off projects for you. For instance, you may need a freelance writer to help curate content for your blog posts. In this case, their pricing system might be, let say, $0.03 per word, or $50 for every 2000 words. This is fair, considering you may not necessarily need content every single day. The advantage of using gig platforms like Upwork and Fiverrr is that you can specify your most preferred payment system. Whether it’s paying per word, per hour, or for every completed task.

Here are a few questions to answer to help you determine if you’re in a financial position to hire help:

  • Are you making enough from your freelance business? As a rule of thumb, make sure your freelance business is at a point where it can comfortably pay an extra person for 60 days without digging into your paycheck. For instance, can you pay your bills comfortably? If hiring help will chip away at your monthly income, then it’s wise to stall your plans for a bit and bolster up your finances. Another thing to muse on is whether your freelance business is in its busy or slower seasons. Personally, I realized that my freelance workload peaks just before the holiday season (November and December), then it slows down a bit as we approach April and May. Inevitably, this ebb and flow determine when I need help and how often.

If you find that your freelance business isn’t doing well enough to let you hire, go back to the drawing board. Your market value could be too low, and you’re probably undercharging clients, or your unbillable hours are adding up big time. If this is the case, start including the little activities that lead up to performing a task in your billable hours. Heck, they are still part of doing the job. Whether it’s the intensive research before penning an article or sending out invoices, make your pricing system accounts for all these.

Alternatively, you may have a complicated business cost structure that’s eating into your earnings. For instance, do you really need a shared office space? Is that membership subscription serving you anymore? If not, scrape them off to make room for extra hire.

  • What’s your Budget?  You need to crunch the numbers to determine how much you’re willing to spend on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis.  The thing is, ‘bird-boxing’ through budgeting might set you up for a troublesome hiring process, because you know what? Freelancers and virtual admin assistants are can pretty much charge whatever they feel they deserve. So, it doesn’t make any sense to pay someone $300 a week when you’re only earning $600 a week yourself.

Therefore, make sure your candidates are in the loop about how far you can stretch your financial muscle.  Start by reviewing the list of tasks you’d ideally need them to handle. Next, scour through hiring sites like Glassdoor to find out the market value of virtual assistants or freelance writers.  

  • How frequently will you need to hire help? The best way to find out is to review your daily task list and identify cracks through which you’re losing time. Such cracks include skill-gap, limited time, or a heaping workload. These can leave narrow wiggle room to focus on other high-value aspects of your business. Is it replying to emails? Managing blog content? Or do you need someone to help you manage your finances and taxes better? The more expansive your task list is, the higher you may need to pay whoever is assisting you. Also, your task list determines whether you’ll need a general helper with a rich wealth of knowledge, or a specialist.

With your financial house in order, you can now jump the gun on the onboarding process. The most straightforward path is to write and post an Ad on multiple job boards. Make use of sites such as Upwork, Fiverr, Flex Jobs, and Freelancer.com.

First, certify that your ad has a size and a shape. In other words, clear the air on the gravity of tasks you’ll need to be completed, and how many hours your ideal person should put in every week. Most importantly, pinpoint with a high degree of accuracy what success means to you. Whether you expect a short learning curve, regained productivity on your end, or a work style that blends in with your way of doing things, let them know.

For someone who’ll be working with you regularly, don’t hold back on a rigorous interviewing process. This is your chance to lay your cards on the table, so don’t hold back on getting real. Get many applicants, then sift through to get what you’re looking for. Possibly, give them a test job to dig your heels through their style of work and their willingness to learn. Also, Don’t let the ink dry on an applicant who’s parallel with your instincts. If, during the interview process, something about them seems off, let them go.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                

Good luck finding an assistant of your dreams!